Written by Purva Brown of The Classical Unschooler.
I live in an upside down world. I might as well admit it.
It’s the kind of world that gives me an invaluable perspective. One that moves along with the other more overtly visible world and yet is tilted a bit, well, sideways.
I want to talk about this upside down world because it surprised me when I started homeschooling. It took me a while to figure it out, to determine how to fight its particular brand of monsters.
My Enemy: The Monster of “Productivity”
The biggest, baddest monster I have had to wrestle as an unschooling mom is the one of productivity. My day is very different from my husband’s day. My work is different.
A case in point: most days, he wakes up early, gets ready and plants a kiss on my cheek I don’t even remember before he leaves. That’s because I’m fast asleep. I wake up much later, get about my day slower and even squeeze in an afternoon nap on some days.
For the longest time, I mentally tortured myself over this. In my head, I wasn’t as productive as him. What more, I needed to be. The drumbeat of work, work, work pounded on and so I tried to find things for myself to do.
I worked from home, forcing myself to use my downtime “wisely.” I learned the art, if you will, of jumping from one task to another with no rest.
But then it broke me.
I was tired and began to resent everyone else’s downtime. I neglected exercise and self care. Most days I was too exhausted to cook. I lost interest in the things I used to do: writing became harder; I couldn’t find joy in reading.
Finally, I had to admit that as an unschooling stay at home mom, my life was just different. My schedule, my energy needs and my contribution to my family were different from my husband’s and that was okay.
For one, I was usually working when others were resting. Secondly, my work wasn’t physical or – on some days – even visible.
My husband calls me the memory bank of the family. And he’s right. But I do more than just remember.
I plan, organize, take care of the little details like calls to customer service and dentist’s appointments and paying bills on time. I’m here to ensure our retirement is well invested and that we’re never out of things like milk and toilet paper.
My work is invisible, but that does not mean it is not valuable.
So I had to give myself permission to sleep in, if I needed the sleep. I had to learn to say No.
No to myself, no to busywork, no even to the constant voice in my head which asked what I had accomplished if anything at the end of the day, the voice that pushed me farther from what really mattered: my family and my sanity.
My Children’s Enemies: The Monsters of Busy Work and Boredom
When I tell people how little desk work we do as unschoolers, I usually get a shocked reaction.
“That’s it?” they gasp. “You have to double the time you spend on that!”
“But how?” I ask. “The kids have already got the concept. It’s just more of the same.”
And then they shrug, which I have come to realize is a very, very good thing. Because you know what? It is more of the same. It’s busy work come back in a different garb offering a pat on my homeschooling mom back that I dotted all my “i”s and crossed every last “t.”
So my children too tend to live outside the box. They tend to think differently. Not just that, they see the lives of their friends who go to a school building every day.
This gives them a unique perspective from the outside of children their age – how they live their lives, what they actually do all day and how much more freedom they themselves have as unschoolers.
Freedom to learn, to sleep, to zip through grade levels, to take the time they need to master certain skills.
But they have their own monsters to fight as well.
The biggest ones? Filling their days with things that matter to them. And sometimes, boredom. These are things their school-going friends do not see. This kind of learning never factors into the conversation about how many hours of desk work we do – the invisible upside down world of unschooling.
But you know what? Once you embrace it, it’s entirely worth it.
This upside down world that shirks unnecessary productivity, rejects conformity for the sake of conformity is exactly, exactly, the gift unschooling bestows on us.
It is the legacy I want to leave my children, and it is worth the effort it takes to slay the mental monsters that try to attack us.
Tell us in the comments – what monsters do you battle most in your own upside down world?