I sit down to write this post about unschooling, and a sense of burden settles over me. Ack! What’s that about?
Here’s what it’s about: I didn’t sit down to write some Introduction to Unschooling, or to take up the job of defending it. I just wanted to say something about my beautiful kids. And I guess I want there to be space for that.
Ok, pardon my introductory mind-clearing. I’m ready now.
Unschooling: a very quick definition
Unschooling is life without school. It’s connected with homeschooling, in that my kids are home during the day, when other kids are at school. It’s a “form” of homeschooling, but only because schooling is what’s expected. In our day-to-day lives, we aren’t schooling, or homeschooling, or even unschooling. We’re just living.
I remember when I was a new mom, reading stories about homeschool kids who were superstars. Went to Harvard at 15, won an olympic medal, four siblings who all became doctors… Those stories worried me a little. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid. And a parent.
But they aren’t the real measure of whether homeschooling “works”. The real measure is in the juicy stuff: beauty, love, joy, truth. And in creativity.
Creativity and Joy
So here’s what I sat down to write about my kids: Wow.
I am so amazed, so delighted. None of them are on an obvious track to the big leagues. But all of them are following their own real calling. All of them are creative in very specific, completely unique ways.
One is into systems. He’s a talented programmer, and loves math and science. He’s taken some college classes, and will take more, but his learning is very much his own. For example, he taught himself Calculus, rather than take it in school.
He also loves teaching, and has begun finding work as a tutor. He’s quite good at it, coming at it, as he does, with no sense of coercion or pressure, but instead with a deep love of exploring and understanding things.
He’s studying artificial intelligence, and is developing some serious mentor relationships that don’t depend on his having a college degree, or even being enrolled.
What’s most interesting to me is that he follows his own inner light. In other words, he’s a little obsessed. And out of that obsession comes brilliant, creative thinking. I love watching that!
The next kid is a visual artist. He has lulls occasionally, but mostly, he can’t can’t stop drawing. There’s that “obsessed” again.
His stuff is clever, interesting, and sometimes captures human experience in a way that brings tears to my eyes.
The younger one was humming tunes before he was six months old. I think he can play back every song he’s ever heard in his mind. His adoration for music is delicious, contagious. He loves to play with all kinds of instruments.
He’s really resistant to formal instruction. I’ve spent some time worrying that we “should” have pushed lessons on him from a young age. I imagine that he has the talent to be a celebrated performer. But I don’t think lessons would have helped. I think they’d have done more to dampen his passion.
As it is, he lives in a swirl of music, from when he wakes to when he sleeps. And like his brothers, he kneads and molds his experience into something that’s all his, not like anyone else’s.
Other unschoolers I’ve known have had their own passions. One is a dancer. Another has had a life-long love of horses, and wants to major in business so her horse business will thrive. Yet another has always loved cars. He became a talented mechanic, then decided to enroll in an elite BMW mechanics school.
Oh, and meanwhile, all of these kids are very close with their siblings. They would never consider doing something to hurt one another, hitting, name-calling, etc. They are best friends with their sibs, and with their parents.
Does that sound crazy?
Here I am, talking about unschooling, and maybe defending it. That’s not what I wanted to do.
What I wanted to do was to celebrate how grateful I am to live in the world with these kids, how beautiful they are, how excited I am to be a part of this beautiful, creative life. Maybe how grateful I am to be free from the whole schooling world.
I’m only just learning to live the way they do, in my mid 40s. Papa and I have spent the last few years really living this, and discovered that we also have the sort of calling our kids have. Turns out I’m a fiend for love & beauty. Thoroughly obsessed with it. I’ve discovered that I actually know things about how to increase compassion in the world. I know things about how to be less angry. I know about what love can do. And I’m learning more all the time about those things.
Papa is similarly obsessed with patterns. Well, not sure how to describe it, but the way to his heart is through a good fractal. He’s a functional programmer, a problem-solver, and a practical epistemologist. And if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry; He does. And I’ve seen it—even if I can’t do it, I can tell it’s beautiful.
So that’s what I wanted to say. w00t! Yipee! The world is beautiful, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
I’m grateful for freedom, grateful for creative juice, grateful for the love of my family, grateful for all the sparkly bits of life that appear when we get out of the way.
And, yeah, I don’t much like school.