I’m enjoying reading an unschooling blog in New Zealand. Jane recently posted a question in it: How do you know whether unschooling works? I love that she’s very sure of her approach; it gives me a lot of comfort! Jane answers her own question ‘How do you know whether unschooling works?’ because her kids are happy and she feels it likely they will continue to be, into adulthood, because they are having the opportunity to find out about themselves, find their passion/s and hopefully learn how to live them. “I know so many adults who are searching for their passion, realising that the only thing that does really matter is to be happy. I meet so many adults who still don’t know what to be when they grow up. I talk to so many adults who come from a place of fear and won’t chase their dreams in case they fail, or they are too old, or don’t believe they can afford to.
All I see I am doing is giving our children a head start. They should hit adulthood running. Becoming adults who know themselves, know what they like to do, trust in their ability to create the life of their dreams. They won’t be needing to attend workshops and read self help books, they will be showing others and inspiring them to lead a happy and passion-filled life. Because they already are themselves.”
I made the following comment, “I’m finding my approach/my way based on my son’s happiness barometer (but a little on mine too, if I feel he’s OK with it, I might do something that makes me happy too).” I feel a bit worried about doing this. I worry that I’m steering him in one particular direction when I should be gently guiding him in another, but I honestly don’t know what direction that is, so I feel I have to offer him some direction at age 7. If he showed a particular interest in something, I would certainly encourage and facilitate that.
Jane answered, “I learned a big lesson my first year that unschooling is all about you! And being a great role model for your children by pursuing your passions too. That is a very healthy place to be operating from. Plus you, and your interests are a big part of establishing your family culture, which is unique and wonderful!”
This is very interesting. It’s not an idea of read about before, in all the unschooling material I’ve ever read. I hope Jane’s right! I would love to hear what other readers think. With young children, how much steering do you do, if they don’t have a strong interest in anything yet other than e.g. Lego and action figures, which is great, but not all day long! Actually, my son doesn’t want to do this all day long anyway. How much do you steer young unschooled kids towards your own interests if they aren’t yet clear about theirs?
For instance, I am really interested in art history and we’re going to Paris and the Netherlands this month which will be a great opportunity to see a lot of art. So it seemed a great opportunity to ‘study’ some art and then see it for real! I am open-minded about pursuing what art catches the kids’ interest. But at the moment, we’re looking at the obvious ‘favourites’ from the Mona Lisa to Impressionism. It’s all very gently done and the kids are very receptive but aren’t running off to draw their own pictures or anything.
So far I’ve found that the kids listen to a ‘lesson’/discussion and seem interested but don’t play with that interest in their free time – well ‘freer time’ really because all their time is pretty free and not imposed upon. I find this a bit unsettling because I hear so many other homeschooling, especially unschooling stories, of kids playing with their learning in their ‘own’ time too which seems to me to be a sign of real interest. Maybe it’s just early days? Or maybe Edward (and I) aren’t deschooled enough for this to happen. Or maybe I’m not unschooling enough?
As much as I’d love my kids to share my interests, because that’s such a bonding experience, I am totally open to not only supporting their own interests but also getting psyched about them too. All I can say is, with regards to these first months of learning at home, I have the best of intentions. I read. I research. I keep an open mind. I am enthusiastic. I am excited. I am happy. There are a lot of books around. We discuss life all the time. We spend our days together, cuddling and laughing and occasionally working out ways to navigate unhappiness as kindly as possible.
I say again, I have the best of intentions with regards to home educating my kids; to not foist my own expectations on them but to allow them to flourish as their own people. But there are a lot of negative quotes about good intentions, some better known that others (“Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too”, Aldous Huxley). They all say that good intentions are not good enough; you need to do the work too e.g. “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them” by Liberty Hyde Bailey.
But I’m going to hang my hat on this one instead, “I’m delirious with joy. It proves that if you confront the universe with good intentions in your heart, it will reflect that and reward your intent. Usually. It just doesn’t always do it in the way you expect.” by J. Michael Straczynski. It’s OK with me if “It just doesn’t always do it in the way you expect” because I try to limit my expectations to the kids growing up to be happy adults following a passion, as Jane says in her post. I confront the universe with good intentions in my heart, as I think I’ve made clear in my last post about what sort of people one should consider friends (not bigots and racists for example!). I want to do what’s right in the world by other people and especially my children. I care about what’s right. I care about doing my best. But in the case of home educating, those flowers (my children) should perhaps not be the subject of too much “patient labor and attention” but rather left to grow in their own direction – fed, watered, nurtured and given particular care based on the needs of the particular plant, but not expected to look like the perfect, stereotypical flower on the seed packet and perhaps left to go a bit wild at times in order to find its own perfect way, a way paved by the gardener’s best and most loving intentions. My children are my most precious flowers and I their gardener with most loving intentions. I hope this is good enough.
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IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLINGMIDDLEEAST, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!
Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you!