Unschooling Is Not Our Goal. Here’s What Is. ~
Written by Lusi Austin of That Homeschool Life
A note from Jamie: I’m so thrilled to officially welcome our newest voice here on Simple Homeschool, joining us from Down Under: Lusi Austin!
I’ve been around homeschooling circles a while now. Early on, I had a friend tell me that when I got more confident and was able to let go of things, I’d get to the point of being able to comfortably “unschool” my kids.
She was right. And wrong.
Prefer to listen instead?
Don’t get me wrong – we happen to lean towards unschooling because it suits our kiddos and our family. There’s nothing inherently wrong with unschooling or any homeschool methodology.
Unschooling is not our goal.
But unschooling our kiddos has never been the ultimate goal of our homeschooling journey: meeting their needs has. Time has definitely taught me this.
So where was my friend wrong?
What I want all homeschoolers to feel is FREEDOM – the freedom to find their own rhythms, to do things their own way. This is the blessing and gift in the homeschooling life! Don’t feel you have to mimic school-at-home because you don’t!
Don’t feel in order to ‘arrive’ you have to unschool (or whatever homeschooling method your friends are currently following) because you don’t! You have the unique opportunity to do something that I doubt any school room (logistically and practically speaking) can achieve: you can meet your child’s needs in ways that best suit them (and you!)
Is it the best thing for all of you?
I want families to feel like they can do worksheets if that suits their child best or have the freedom to let their kids build with Minecraft for hours and learn skills through that interest.
I want families to be able to say with confidence, “We do it this way because we feel it is the best thing for us all.” To me that is the penultimate in the homeschooling experience.
How this has played out in our lives
In our family of five homeschooled kiddos, I had a real mix of children with different passions. My eldest (now working as a librarian) always LOVED reading, writing and had a bent towards structure. I gave her the chance to read and write as often as she wanted.
We bought her journals. I took her to various libraries. We made sure she had the opportunity to create her own book collection at home and encouraged her to take writing classes as she grew into her teens.
My next eldest (now an apprentice in carpentry and joinery) always LOVED working with his hands. As a dyslexic, autistic person with ADHD, asking him to write anything was often akin with pulling teeth! I worked this out very early on (after meltdowns, observing continual reluctance over writing and heart to heart conversations) and so we encouraged him to demonstrate his learning in hands-on ways.
He would be happiest making things, and he was still showing us he was learning. I remember one day reading about how waterwheels worked. Two of the other children were writing a summary sheet but our second-born went and created a water-wheel out of building blocks.
We gathered around the bathroom sink and he showed us how it moved. It was amazing and a fantastic feat of engineering for his young mind.
Needless to say, over time I relaxed as I allowed my children to show me how they best learned to absorb information in their own ways.
So where was my friend right?
She said that in time I would become more confident and on this she was right! It took me a while to realise that my kiddos have certain ways they like to learn.
Unschooling is not our goal, but I have definitely become more confident in letting go of things that no longer serve us and holding fast to the things that do, REGARDLESS of what others think.
Don’t just follow the homeschooling crowd
Sometimes the loudest voices have the best messages, but sometimes they are just that: the loudest voices. Don’t feel you have to follow the crowd or the loudest voices in your homeschooling circle. YOU DO YOU.
And by that, I mean do what sits best with you and your family.
How? If you are on the road a lot due to medical appointments, you might adapt by incorporating more podcasts and audiobooks into your learning.
Say your child loves writing, you might help them join a writing club.
What if your child is into sports? Finding ways to attend games might become a necessity for your child to find friends and competitors with similar interests. But trying to make your child who loves sports attend a writing club JUST because your friends tell you it is “awesome” and that their kids “love it” may not work out well.
Give yourself permission to do what works best for you and your child, regardless of what those around you think or endorse.
With only two kiddos actively homeschooling now, I see how quickly time flies. By nine am most mornings, my house, which was once a busy little hive of activity, is much quieter.
Now I don’t waste time comparing myself to other homeschoolers and focus on finding our own flow.
Sometimes that means taking the whole day to reset the house because we need to do that. Alternatively, it might mean reading one more chapter of our read aloud together.
Friend, allow yourself the freedom to find the things that work best for you and your little crew. And once you find what works? Hold fast to it…and to your kiddos.
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