I’ve got a horrible cough at the moment which keeps me awake at night, so I read the whole of ps pirro’s ‘101 Reasons Why I’m an Unschooler’ from about 2-4am. It lists the usual reasons, although nicely argued and handy to have in one place. It’s a slim volume that you might find useful to have on hand to dish out to skeptical in-laws or others! I warn you, its rhetoric is strident, which I personally love. It’s not, as she says, “a gentle exegesis on unschooling”.
I particularly wanted to share three of her points. One is about the fact that, pretty much indisputably, most teaching is to pass a test. The curriculum therefore has to be easily testable. Easily testable things are of course facts, figures, formulas, dates and so on. This learning is the most easily looked up on the net, at the library and elsewhere. As ps pirro (sic) says, “The things that are harder to look up are the things that school does a poor job of teaching: context, nuance, complexity, meaning, interconnectivity, ethics. These things are best learned over extended periods of time through deep immersion in the real world.” The day before I’d read this, I was chatting about the same subject with some other homeschoolers/prospective homeschoolers. One of my main reasons for choosing unschooling as my preferred homeschooling approach, something I discovered through introspection and research after I started homeschooling, is the fact that these early years are a prime opportunity to influence your kids’ morals and behavior. This is the time they are most susceptible to learning how to operate in the world in a fair, kind, ethical way – through me (hopefully!) modeling how to or discussing it with them in situ, in real-life context.
When I get anxious that I’m not doing enough book-learning, I consider the fact that we spend a lot of quality time together, living in the real world (or as ‘real’ as we can be in rather artificial Dubai) discussing how things are in the world, cuddling up and modeling happy family life. I know that as the kids get older, they won’t be quite so open to my influence, although everything I read about homeschooling and unschooling in particular, does give me a lot of reason to hope that things won’t change too drastically. That we will remain a close and loving family who enjoy each other’s company I consider the chance to help my kids learn about “context, nuance, complexity, meaning, interconnectivity, ethics” as a golden opportunity which homeschooling, and especially unschooling, affords. pirro finishes her book by saying, “We can clear the path so that our kids can be what they were born to be, alive to themselves and awake to the world. And in doing so, we can awaken and come alive ourselves…We can accompany them on a spirit-filled, soul-deep immersion into the amazing world we share.” This year has been a huge rush for me. I have found my reason for being. I have never felt so spiritual (except perhaps after both my kids’ births, but then this feeling sort of faded away, reoccurring this year). If that isn’t a sign that homeschooling/unschooling is the right path for us, what is?!
The second point I wanted to share discusses power. pirro (sic) says, “For unschoolers, power is aligned with ability, willingness, and the ownership of one’s own time. It is power to. For those in compulsory schools, power is aligned with authority, coercion, and inequality. It is power over…To the school student, power is adversarial, exploitive, a force of manipulation. To the unschooler, power means self-reliance, determination, a force for creative expansion…The unschooler spends a lot of time understanding power, owning power, putting power to use.” I love that – ‘power TO’ instead of ‘power OVER’. I hope that by raising children that feel powerful, they won’t feel the need to emasculate others; they won’t feel threatened by other’s power and will in fact work to increase the powers of others alongside their own. The world could definitely do with more of these kinds of people.
The third point I like is the way pirro links unschooling with joy and pleasure. She feels that traditionally schooled people, “…think fun is what you get to do on weekends, when the drudgery of the work-week is done. It’s surely not something on which to base your life. Life is serious, after all. Buckle down. Straighten up…Fortunately, it’s never too late to discover the pleasurable pursuit of living and learning.” I often feel like I can’t be doing this homeschooling thing right. After all, I am constantly told I must be so ‘brave’ to do it, it must be ‘such hard work’ but it doesn’t feel like this to me. It feels like so much FUN! The only thing that isn’t fun is the self-doubt but I understand most homeschoolers, whatever their approach, feel, to a greater or lesser extent. And the lack of time to do anything without kids in tow, which would be nice now and then, including supermarket shopping! But when I follow my gut, homeschooling this way feels right for my kids, for our family. It could definitely be improved upon but the general approach is the right one for us and likely for you. As pirro says, “Kids aren’t kids for very long, and we don’t get do-overs. If you think school is damaging, if you think unschooling might be liberating, there’s no time like the present to find out. Plant the tree. Watch it grow.”
And please keep in touch with me, with all this blog’s readers, during your journey. Please do check in to see what inevitable wiggles I will come across. Please share your personal victories. It would be great to hear from you here or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLING MIDDLE EAST, welcome! If you are interested in reading about our homeschooling adventure, I recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this adventure into homeschooling has been a rollercoaster; philosophically and emotionally, which you might learn, seek solace from or even be thoroughly entertained by. It started in Bahrain on 22 February 2012 and continues in Dubai. My kids are Edward aged 8 and Petra aged 4. 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 we share, 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!
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