I got home after spending the morning and afternoon running around with my little friend Madeleine, and in my Inbox was an email of "Help!".
I remember Naomi Aldort saying something once that when she gets asked to write an article on a particular subject, she starts hmmming because it's inevitably something she really needs to examine and learn. I can totally appreciate that.
It's a sort of "being called on the carpet" by the Self.
Those moments are pretty high on the list for me.
Get on with it, Missy.
So I was responding via email - though I knew very well that it could possibly take me two days to process the whole thing through - to this question that really had asked "How?", but for me, for my whole life every beginning and every first question has always been the biggest one of all.... dundun-duuuuun... "Why?".
And it happens that this lines up rather beautifully with this month's unschooling blog carnival topic of "Why Do You Do What You Do?" (Hosted by Enjoy Life Unschooling)
So here I am.
With the Unschooley story.
I pretty much supposed that I would put my babe in a charter school, as I knew that I wanted to be involved intimately in my child's everyday life.
At least I already knew that much. :)
I checked into charters (my little son was probably two or three at this time), and found out that my town didn't have a whole lot of them, and somewhere along the way, I started thinking "homeschooling"; I have two (younger) sisters that homeschool and that preceded me in the having-children department, I was introduced to the idea of home education early on.
Typical me-- since a charter was apparently out, pretty soon I was consuming and consumed by home ed.
I started seriously collecting things. Collecting, as in "oooh, this site has an extensive list of "What My Child Knows at Three Years Old, and Yours Should, Too." And four. And five.
And near a two foot's length of binders with "Trace these lines!" and "Oooooh, let's do a unit study this week on the Letter A!"
And of course all of the other treasures.... social studies for preschoolers, which look like little books you can print out and staple together of "people in the neighborhood", and all of those other lovely things.
Thousands of pages of these things I have, friends.
I was researching and studying and bookmarking and drawing up documents in Word and Excel.
I had Plans, I had weekly things to cross off, and I had in the pockets of my sturdy binders Gold Stars.
My sisters both swore by Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, so I signed up with my little boy wholeheartedly.
Somewhere during lesson one or two or five things came to a screeching halt.
Because, you know.... there was me.... screeching.
Not pretty, is it?
Loves finds its way in, eventually.
Somewhere in there I started researching. Charlotte Mason. Marie Montessori. Rudolf Steiner. Unschooling.
One thing all of my favorites had much in common was the new (to me) and radical idea of supporting the child's interest. Imagine that!! Letting a child choose what he loves!
I found my way, through my then Mamas Group to such life-changing things like liquid water colors and beeswax crayons.
I was led to Alfie Kohn's book Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments To Love and Reason, Naomi Aldort's Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, and John Holt's How Children Fail.
I watched, and fell in love with Animal School.
Maddie was born, and my mother gave her the beautiful book My Mother Gave Me the Moon.
I started moving from a place of Ego (much of home education is about fear and ego, I think) and into a much bigger and gracious one.... I started moving into "Unconditionally".
First, I think, was Magic and Joy.
It became my life and breath to offer and sustain my children with these things.
I wanted to change the world - fill up our lives with so much of the sparkly stuff.... move the special and spectacular Life Magic from the occasional and rare into the everyday - making it ordinary Life Magic.
The second part of this how-why question comes from examining the system itself.
('Why?' is a very useful question. : ) )
Thankfully there are some very helpful and amazing people out there... Sir Ken Robinson. Albert Einstein. John Taylor Gatto. They've done some intense work, and are willing to share their finds with us, if we'll only listen.
When looking and watching and examining on my own, I've found that The System just isn't... infallible. Or even very useful, to me.
I've written a few posts about school imitating life. Among them there's this one, which I wrote a bit over three years ago, and then more recently, this one, which is about living life jumping through hoops, written last year.
I just don't find school to be necessary - especially with our vast resources.
There are many shifts in Becoming and Being, as you know.
Trial and error.
Parenting and loving and educating our children are no different.
There were years of trying things out... co-op classes with friends (didn't - and still don't - work for my Little Son, who I suppose is like me and prefers to do his studying and learning in a very private manner); unschooling practices; finding my way (crying and kicking and screaming, sometimes) through questions of what was coercion and what was a matter of persuasion or enlarging the world... which is still cause for much soul-searching for a Mama with a little boy who lives in a crab's shell...
So there, at last, we have three reasons for the Why of it:
- for the Magic and Joy
- because Learning and Seeking are an innate need and we're naturally compelled, and in our home we appreciate having many resources
- And because spiritually I think Big, and I don't feel I have the right to get in the way of (deter, impede, oppress) my children's Becoming. I only wish to lovingly support, appreciate, and encourage their Grandest Self.
I think when you're so desperately trying to find your way, Unschooling can seem rather dogmatic and rigid. Ironically.
This particular space isn't where I am today, and I am really comfortable with the way we discover, explore, and learn.
But I know that taking on the title of Unschooler (or whether one is worthy of it) can be a rather emotional and disconcerting thing... self-examination under intense scrutiny is sometimes very uncomfortable.
And, presently, I am about unifying and loving the whole big wide world, not separating and segregating us into little or big islands of Same.
Sometimes I wonder about these things while I am here, writing.
I wonder if we're doing it (Life) well enough.
I wonder what this -very exposed- life looks like to others.
But mostly I don't,
because in the end, it's like the first question of Why, and we still just do what we do.
For the Joy and Magic of it.
Because seeking is what the soul does.
Because it's about Becoming.
And that's Everything.