Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Options in Schooling

A deep nagging feeling about the curriculum I've chosen to use has been simmering inside me just below the surface.  Schooling my children is an exciting endeavor.  On the other hand, I'm hindered in my joy by my views of what school ought to be like, even if it's at home.  Therefore, it has caused more strife within me than confidence.

In addition to this, I live a very unconventional life.  Our entire family doesn't do anything 'normally.'  Every one of us is independent, curious, creative, and self motivated.  Living off grid, far from standard lifestyles has caused me, all of us, to realize nothing can be done on a standard 'city' schedule as found in families in town.  We live on what I call 'homestead-time.'  Nothing is predictable, and you must adapt to the fact that the best laid plans can and most likely will change on a dime. 

You can plan and keep a schedule, but that schedule is likely to be accomplishing one item on the list rather than several in a single day.  The reason for this is it takes lots of time to get from one place to another, no conveniences of town exist nearby to speed up preparations of meals or auto repairs or anything else.  If it breaks, we fix it, not a hired plumber or electrician.  If it is threatened or attacked, we protect it ourselves, we do not have animal control, a fire department or a police department.  It can be quite a culture shock, even still, how much time it takes to accomplish anything yourself.  It is a different set of rules, different time-frame, different work.

My husband is far wiser than I am.  He has a sixth sense that allows him to get to the heart of nearly any matter.  As I struggle with the impact this reality has on our homeschool, he reminds me of our different life.  I lament that I cannot keep a schedule, that I must be a failure, that I have no commitment skills whatsoever, and that my children's education is suffering as a result.  He ever so patiently listens to me.  He then reminds me that the children are learning just by living.  The experiences they have out here will be with them forever.  They will be able to think creatively through varying problems that most city kids wouldn't have a clue as to how to get around or through.  "What about keeping them on schedule with their reading, writing, and math?" I ask breathlessly.  He says with emphatic resolution that they are indeed learning, and that like every other child on the face of the earth, they learn these things on their own time, their own way.  He isn't worried.  He's confident I am doing exactly what I should be doing.  I just need to relax and allow each one to learn on his own terms.  He doesn't see our life here as a hindrance to keeping a schedule, because according to him I am placing too much emphasis on schedules.  He has faith that they will learn what they want to learn and need to learn naturally. 

He's right, of course.  So very right.

Nothing is perfect.  Our ideas of 'perfect' are just that, ideas.  They are not standard.  They usually don't conform themselves to reality.  We can use ideas as goals to strive towards, but not as standards!

As I mentioned above, the nagging feeling I have over the curriculum I chose must be addressed.  I chose what I did only because I thought it was a good way to keep myself on track and thereby avoid robbing my children of missing out on learning what, when and how they 'should.'

My perfectionism must end.  I must not be overcome by the desire to cover every subject deeply.  Or every subject each day, for that matter.  It is an impossible goal.  It's not real life.

I started doing some research on a term that has piqued my curiosity.  "Unschooling."  What I quickly learned was that my husband must have been the founder of unschooling!  Unschooling is student directed, not instructor directed.  It's a terrifying concept for a control freak like me.  But the Lord leads us to and through the things we must learn.  The idea is that if you have faith in the human being (young or old), and if that individual is safe to be himself, he will naturally learn because of his own desires, needs and curiosity.  This even applies to reading, writing... and yes, math too!

The hardest thing is the unknown.  I don't know what to do without a schedule.  By the same token, I can't live within the confines of schedules either!  I do not wish to pass on my addiction to accomplishment as a means of validation on to my children.  I want them to experience the joy of being who they are, irregardless of how much they do or don't know.  The ultimate gift I can give them, and to the world, is to let them be who they are going to be.

It's time to think outside the box.  No child was ever forced to learn anything until they started school.  They were learning just fine before then.  We force them to think in narrow terms.  These terms are soon connected to self esteem, self worth, that if they perform a certain way it equals love.  But then they must choose if they will perform according to an arbitrary 'professional' standard, giving up on their own path, or pay the price of being true to themselves.

From what I've learned so far and experienced with my children, I have a hunch that we can go with unschooling which allows for our unique family and individual experiences.  They are artists, scientists, dancers, chemists, readers, writers, astronomers, naturalists, engineers and mathematicians already.  I've allowed them to ask questions and helped them find material to expand their knowledge already.  It's frightening to me, but the most natural thing to them!  I can still gently suggest and guide them without coercion!  I can still be there to facilitate their explorations.  We can still use a curriculum for a subject if he and I believe that is the best way to approach a certain subject for them.  My job is to love them, believe in them, and allow them to grow into who they are now and who they will be.

Kind of takes the pressure off doesn't it?

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Send up a prayer for us as we embark on this fascinating journey!

And if you have any thoughts and ideas of your own you wish to share, PLEASE DO!

Join the frenzy! It's fun!


  1. Oh do I know how you feel. I am always struggling with the thought, I'm failing. I make out schedules, but then can not keep them. I guess I sometimes think school has to be as it is in the public classroom, but how boring is that? I didn't really like "school" when I was young so what makes me think my children would either. I'm trying to learn to relax and enjoy the journey, knowing that they will learn what they need, when they need. If I can teach them to love learning, verses just knowing facts, then they will always be able to find the information or facts they need. Thanks for sharing your heart about schooling your children and know you are not alone. Maybe I need to write more about our school experiences, and we can all learn from and encourage each other. God Bless!

  2. I can relate too! Even after ten years I still worry sometimes... Lately what has been helping me is to have faith in the path we chose so many years ago.. I seem to keep us all on a better track if I follow my " intuition" for what to do next. Children grow so fast. Before you know it they are into a different phase. You children will be done well by an unschooling approach... you have set the scene... now JUST BELIEVE! After all, you are growing a second generation of homesteaders.. How can that possibly duplicate SCHOOL?!
    kEEP UP THE " GOOD WORK"...and.. I'm so glad you are enjoying the hop! Its' so fun!

  3. PS. they are a couple of cute little cowboys you have there!

  4. Hi there! I just found you from Farm Friends Friday. I appreciate your honesty. I am also a controlling, perfectionist. :) I smile as I say that because it is both a blessing and a curse. The concept of "unschooling" is interesting to me and I will have to look at it.

    My son is 10 months old and I am amazed at what he learns by play, self discovery, and what we show him. We do live in a city but I almost fear the public school system. The values and eduction are not what I want for my son.

    I did say a prayer for you. Your sons look so cute and it looks like they are learning TONS. Alot more than video playing kids in the city...

  5. No matter what approach we choose for homeschool. we will be nagged by doubt. You just pray and do your best!
    Thanks for sharing your heart. It's tough work being a mama.
    Have a beautiful weekend!
    Love, Kristin

  6. In public school or home school, the key will always be good parent involvement. I think you are on the right track for your circumstances, and the "unschooling" approach sounds very similar to Montessori. Very interesting! After reading this Wednesday, it struck me that the approach could also be duplicated in a way when the kids go to college. They can choose the direction that interests them most, and most likely complete their college education all online!

  7. Thank you so much to every one of you who left a comment. I appreciated the support, encouragement, and your wonderfully unique thoughts. Happy Momma said something that I can totally relate to, is that if they can ENJOY learning, then they will be able to find the info they need when they need it! This means they will be proactive, independent, and capable. I loved your comments too Deborah Jean about intuition, and to BELIEVE in your path and the unschooling process! Lauren confirms I am not the only perfectionist, and that it is a blessing and a curse! Arm yourself well about the quality of schools in your area and be determined to be involved in his schooling (like Natalia said) then you may have a good experience in public school. However if it is not a good fit for your philosophy of education, don't let that stop you from going an alternate route! Kristin's reminder to pray is excellent. You all have no idea how good I feel after all your comments! Thank you so much! To repeat Deborah Jean "I love all this bloggie encouragement!" :D

  8. What a wonderfully honest post. I don't know any parent, whether homeschooling or not, that doesn't wonder if they are doing the right thing for their children.


  9. You have some really great points and so does your hubby! I, personally, love to have my curriculum schedules, but, at the same time, I don't force myself to do every little thing that is scheduled. If I do, I would probably go crazy! But I understand your struggle with perfectionism, because I struggle with that also, and when I first started homeschooling I also tried to get everything on the schedule completed but it was too rigid and inflexible!