I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about our unschooling adventure. “How’s homeschooling going?” people ask, not realizing (or remembering) the difference. And what’s struck me is how strongly I feel the need to explain what we’re doing and how it’s going, as if to provide enough detail to justify the whole thing—and sometimes, I realize, it’s as much to convince and reassure myself.
After each interaction, I take a step back and question it. What am I trying to prove? Why not just say, “great!” and move on? I feel a responsibility to not only be honest, but to be specific, and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s partly due, I’m sure, to the fact that in my circles, education is a big deal and I wouldn’t want those around me to think it’s something we’re taking lightly. And of course, so many of us were raised in a traditional public or private school setting, that the idea of homeschooling, not to mention unschooling, is murky, uncharted territory.
It’s in this murkiness that I find myself struggling to find the concrete examples and proof that what we’re doing is “working.” The truth is, I have no idea. What we’re doing with our children’s education isn’t exactly quantifiable or assessment friendly. What, exactly, is learned from choosing your own path throughout a day and how you spend your time…climbing trees, baking, playing (physically and digitally), regulating screen time, riding bikes, going for walks, observing ant hills and birds? It’s funny, but I find myself wanting to throw out something familiar like, “Oh, they just read 50 pages in a level 2 book,” or, “she can now add double-digit numbers with 95% accuracy.” But as I reach for these familiars, I quickly remember exactly why we’re doing this in the first place. Education, learning, curiosity, growing…they aren’t about performance or measuring up—at least I don’t believe they should be. They often have been, and still are in most places, but it’s not what we want to be the emphasis for our kids.
So when people ask, I might feel the need or want to quote some figure or concise statement—and in my denial, happily believe that sums up my child’s progress and future in life—but that’s just not what this unschooling thing is about. It’s about letting our kids follow their curiosity and interests, and figure things out on their own and together. It’s about letting them decide how far they want to go with any one thing. In the end, we’re doing our best to do what we think is right, and that really doesn’t need to be explained or justified to anyone.