Reactions To Unschooling

Over the course of the last week, I have gotten very mixed reactions to people when I have told them my decision to unschool my son. I'm not quite sure how to react myself to some of the reactions I'm getting, but so far, we've been alright :)

The strongest reaction so far has been that of my mother. While I do have other dynamics to our relationship that make this reaction much more dramatic than it really is, needless to say, she is not exactly on talking terms with me. Her "I can't believe you are doing this!" reaction has effected me the most, and it honestly does bother me. Not that I am second guessing my decision really, but it bothers me that she can't trust me and let me do what I think is best for my son. She still thinks it necessary to hold my hand through everything, and is upset if I decide not to do things her way.

As it is "back to school" time, of course the conversation of just about every stranger we encounter goes a bit like this:
Them: "How old are you?"
Shane: "I'm 5."
Them: "Oh, you're starting school! Are you excited for school? (Are you ready for school... etc.. ya know, school related questions)
Shane: "I'm not going to school!"

I said nothing further to the checker at Wal-Greens, only let Shane carry on the conversation. I neither confirmed nor denied that he was, in fact, not going to school.

Shane has also responded with "I'm homeschooling!"
I get the look of ... well, I'm not sure what the look is. Disapproval? Disbelief? Disappointment? I don't know. But it never seems to be a positive look.

The argument I have heard the most: "He needs the social aspect of school to develop his social skills, or he's going to be socially awkward." Mmmm... yeah, no.
Do people not think a social life exists for kids outside of school? Do you really think that unschooling = locking my child up and forbidding him from being social? Seriously?

Today my aunt had a big-ish family dinner for my cousin's birthday. My aunt asked Shane about school, and Shane proudly answered, "I do school at home." It was a big moment for me, as I knew I would get those looks.
What made you decide to do that?
Well, Shane doesn't want to go to school, so he's not going.
My aunt replied: "I'm sure he can handle Kindergarten.."

I really wasn't sure what to say.

My cousin's wife, whom I was just meeting for the first time, talked about her experience of being homeschooled. We talked about the awful "A kid's gotta learn social skills" argument, and I asked her if she has ever had regrets about it. She firmly answered: "NO."

I realize this is an entirely different way of life compared to some people. I realize people are not going to understand, are going to doubt and question it, and maybe even try to sway me back toward public schools, toward the "right" way.

I also realize that what they think doesn't really matter or effect me, my son, or our way of life. 


The Last Day

"Next to the right to life itself, the most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control our own minds and thoughts. That means, the right to decide for ourselves how we will explore the world around us, think about our own and other persons' experiences, and find and make the meaning of our own lives. Whoever takes that right away from us, as the educators do, attacks the very center of our being and does us a most profound and lasting injury. He tells us, in effect, that we cannot be trusted even to think, that for all our lives we must depend on others to tell us the meaning of our world and our lives, and that any meaning we may make for ourselves, out of our own experience, has no value."
- John Holt

Today is the last day of Kindergarten registration. I know that I can drop in at any time during the school year and register my child (I think?), but today, my stomach is in knots. Aside from the other things going on in my life, I have this: I am not registering my child for school and I am not sending my child to school.
And I am okay with that.

What my stomach is in knots about is what other people will think, and how other people will judge me or Shane for the way we choose to live our lives.
I have discussed this at length with both Shane and Ron and we have reached the decision that unschooling is for us! When asked if he would like to go to school, Shane said "I want to try it, just once. But not now."

My hesitation, I realize, comes from the fact that school is what is "normal." It's what society tells us to do, it's what people are used to, and I know I am going to encounter people in my life, even in the next little while, who will be criticizing our decision. How do I answer someone in the store who asks "Why isn't your child in school?" What will Shane say when people ask him "What grade are you in?" or "Aren't you excited to be in school now?"

One of my biggest fears is simply what other people think. I know, it doesn't matter, doesn't effect me, or my life.. but there is anxiety there that I will just have to deal with as it comes.

I think... or, perhaps, I know that this experience will be a great thing, not only for my son, but for me as well. For all of us.



Awhile ago I had considered homeschooling my son. I really wanted to pursue that route, but because of down talk from family (read: My mother), I decided to trash that idea. I'm not sure if it was completely absurd to her that I wanted to keep my son out of the public education system, or if it was a lack of faith in my abilities to educate him myself.. either way, her disapproval smashed my confidence and drive.

But then I think, wait.. this is my child we're talking about, not hers. Do I need her approval? Hell no! Although, the borderline in me says otherwise... because me being me, I need reassurance from a multitude of people before I make a big decision like that.

Anyways, in my internet travels yesterday I stumbled upon unschooling. I'm not quite sure how I missed it while researching homeschooling, but somehow I did.
And yesterday, it was just like... a light bulb turned on. THIS is what I want to do.. this is what I want for my child.

Elementary school, as I remember it, was BORING. I'm not just saying that to say it, it literally was almost painfully boring. The only interest I got out of it was once a week when I went to a difference school for my "advanced" learning class. I was always "above average" on standardized tests.. I was reading before Kindergarten.. and I started doing most of my school at home in the 5th grade. Of course, that was due to health problems (migraines) preventing me from functioning in the classroom, but still. I didn't really go back.
The next three years, my middle school years, were mostly done at home, and I taught myself. I had a teacher bring me certain assignments and then I did those assignments on my own. I guess in a sense I was homeschooled, but I homeschooled myself.

My freshman year came around, and I registered for school. Then the first day of school came, and went. I didn't go. By then, of course, I was suffering from severe social anxiety, depression, and all that fun stuff which probably heavily influenced my decision not to go back to public school. Halfway through the year, I decided that I needed a diploma, so I enrolled in an alternative highschool, because I really saw no other option. I didn't want to get my GED because, .. honestly, it wasn't good enough for me.
Had I known I would have been fine with my homeschooled education, I would have skipped highschool and jumped right into some college courses. But I was told, as we are all told, without a diploma, without a highschool education, you will be nothing. You will amount to nothing, and you will never be able to get a job. Right?

Did highschool prepare me for my future?

I will tell you what I learned in highschool.
I learned to smoke cigarettes. I learned about different things you can smoke marijuana out of. I learned all about popping pills, huffing, and hard liquor. I learned that you can't trust anyone - even people who say they are your friends. I got pregnant, got arrested, and started hating myself more.
But did I get a diploma? You bet your ass I did. And that's all that matters, right?

I have no faith in the public education system. I do not disagree with it and I do believe that it does more good than harm. But is that what I want for my child? Do I want him to spend the next 12 years of his life being taught what they think he should know, what they think is important in order to mold him for a future in the working class?

I am all for education. But I think our public education system needs to be heavily revised and it just tears me apart inside to think about putting my son in public school when I feel so strongly against it.

I have proposed the idea of unschooling to Ron, who wasn't exactly thrilled about it. I have said nothing to my mother, as this is still something I am mulling over..
And Kindergarten registration is literally the next three days.. maybe it's a last minute sign..

Or maybe I will cave and let society tell me what's best for my child.


A Work In Progress...

This blog will be a work in progress over the next little bit... and this is mainly a test post :)

I'm in the process of overhauling the blog and turning it into something new...