Monday, 30 May 2011

Choosing To Live Outside the Box

This article popped up on the home schoolers hotline the other day: The politics of unschooling: Raising independent trailblazers or lazy free-floaters? Interesting title. There is quite the heated discussion going on in the comments, which I have decided not to participate in. When people have made up their minds about something, whether it is an informed decision or not, there is no changing it. In my experience my mind needs to be open to new information in order to make a proper judgement of it, and from what I am seeing most people that are leaving negative comments, have a closed mind.

I haven't really come up with a label for our style of home schooling, and have often referred to us as unschoolers, mainly because we don't follow a curriculum, and I don't make choices for my children about what they should learn. I'm more comfortable referring to ourselves as life learners though. Often people ask if I am my children's teacher. The answer is no. My children learn from the world around them. I am here mainly to guide them in their search for answers. I provide resources for them to find the answers to the questions they have.

As the mother of three very active boys, it is painfully obvious to me that the school system does not work for everyone. Our decision to pull Jai out of school at the end of grade 2 was for this very reason. He is active and doesn't like to sit still for very long, and this is disruptive in a class room situation. Heck, I find it disruptive when I am trying to read to him! We came up with a solution. I ask Jai to do a cross word puzzle, or draw, color, build something etc while I read so I don't feel distracted while I am reading to him.

Jai is also very easily influenced and I could see that he was being influenced by other children in a negative way. He is also very strong willed and doesn't like being told what to do. Hmmm. Sounds familiar. A lot like me actually. The difference is that I was also very insecure and terrified of authority figures, so I did what I had to do in school out of fear of letting my teacher, parents, and family down. Also, I was afraid of being humiliated and belittled by my teacher for mistakes that I made. You can imagine what I actually learned in school. It wasn't what they were trying teach me. Actually I don't remember most of what was being taught to me. I just remember doing what I was told, for fear of failure.

What I am experiencing with Jai being out of school has been amazing to witness. When he was in school we fought constantly. I thought I was crazy for pulling him out of school and choosing to spend all my time with him. What I have realized is that Jai was carrying all his anxiety and stress from school home, and then taking it out on all of us, because he didn't know how to communicate his frustrations. He also came home with huge wet spots on his shirts from chewing on his shirts all day as well as chewing on his fingernails. All of that has changed. Jai is so much happier and has gained confidence. We still have disagreements, but that's just normal when you spend so much time with any one person.

Jai has so many interests that he is exploring on his own and in a way that fits best with his needs. In school each subject has an alloted time slot and in that time your brain is only allowed to focus on that one topic. Take art, because this is something that would not appeal to Jai in school. How do you command your brain to be creative between 9:45 and 10:30, then having to turn it off and move onto History or Math. What? I feel like I am just getting warmed up in the first half hour, and I can't force myself to paint or draw if I am not in the right head space. This must be what was happening with Jai. In school he did no more than scribble on a coloring sheet that the whole class had the exact same picture of, and usually he used just one color. Now he spends days working on art projects. Sometimes weeks. This amazes me because Jai is an athlete. Sports are his passion and come easily to him. If he was in school he would be the jock. At home it's a big part of his day, but his day also involves building with Lego and Kapla, playing board games, and card games, inventing games, sword fighting, imagination, reading, reading, reading, watching Mythbusters, making food, making comics, going for walks, playing at the park, occasionally sewing, discussing finances, and the war, racism and the list goes on and on. He is learning and most importantly remembering what he has learned, because he was interested.

Maybe this seems far fetched like having a diaper free baby (which by the way we did with our two littles), but it works for us. Why do people feel so offended when others choose to live their lives outside of mainstream society? The way I choose to live my life is my choice, and I choose what works for me. I'm not trying to make a statement and stick it to anyone. I just want to be happy, because we all deserve happiness.

So that is my response to the very offensive, uninformed article that has been written. I like to question the world, which is not something I learned from school. I have always just believed what I was told as truth, and now I have learned to question the world around me. I think that is a good quality to have, and something I hope my children will hold onto. Learning can happen everywhere and anywhere, and is not restricted to a building. I also respect other parents decision to send their kids to school. We all make choices that work for our families and I don't think it is anyones business to criticize, at least not without being well informed first.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! I was homeschooled my entire school age life and then went to College to get my AA degree. I was able to play sports and still have a social life in highschool, but I did love having the freedom to learn at my own pace and expand my interests beyond what a normal classroom could offer. Our oldest son has special needs and while I am not sure I'm up for homeschooling him, I feel the same way about him as you do about your son...traditional schooling just isn't offering what he needs. That's so encouraging to hear how your son is progressing. :)

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