It’s a choose-your-own-adventure, except that instead of an exciting mystery to determine the fate of the protagonist, it’s a battle of the minds, emotions, and wills to get my kid to do something not very fun. Today it was “I don’t want to go to school—don’t make me!” First from the 7-year-old, then from the 10-year-old. The second I hear those words my mind kicks into gear, going through all the techniques I’ve learned over the years—and tried sometimes with success—in the last month.
Sometimes I forget that at any given moment, life can take a sharp, unexpected turn. And as a parent, there’s probably a higher statistical chance that that will happen. Yet, we sail along with the usual small bumps in the road, and it’s easy to start cruising. This morning at 6 a.m., we encountered one of those sharp turns.
Keana woke me up a little after 7 a.m., she had already been sick, and now the pain was too much to lie down or get comfortable. Sharp pain in the gut, lower right. She was light-headed, dizzy, and on the verge of passing out. Sarah took one look at her and said we gotta take her in right away.
It’s seems important to have markers—points along the continuum to clearly state something has ended and something has begun. And even though most people seem drawn towards delineations on some level, there’s something about having kids that really pushes the demand for recording the beginnings and the ends.
It starts with birth and quickly becomes first foods, words, and steps. Just as you record one marker another has already passed and pretty soon you just can’t keep up. But today was a clear marker that’s pretty easy to name but hard to consolidate into a concise description that captures everything that was experienced.
School has begun. Again.
One thing I’m constantly grateful for in my job is that I’m surrounded by education-related content, and even better than that, I have opportunities to meet with educators from all over the U.S. At our spring meeting in DC, while catching up with my teacher friends, the one question almost all of them asked was, “How’s unschooling going?!”
There’s two things I loved about that: 1) they were genuinely excited and curious, and 2) it was an opportunity to share perspectives and get ideas. Some of them are familiar with unschooling and some aren’t, but all of them had great ideas for me to bring back home—innovative, engaging ideas from their own classrooms that work well with their kids.
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.
Today we sat down for the first family meeting we’ve had in a long time. Sarah and I thought it would be good to start them up, probably regularly, to keep us all in sync with what we want our family life to be like and what everyone’s responsibilities and expectations are. It seems like it will be especially important and helpful to continue these as the kids get older, more independent, schedules become fuller, and autonomy increases.
We had a “co-captain pre-meeting” to figure out how the meeting might go and what topics we wanted to try to focus on. We wanted to keep it sort of brief, leave it open for the kids to have a chance to suggest other topics, and have room for everyone to ask and answer questions. I think the biggest challenge of the pre-meeting was figuring out how to strike a balance between structuring it so it was productive and useful, and not having so much structure that it seemed like we, the parents, were just laying down the law or dominating the process.
I wrote my first post about unschooling and how we were thinking about ways to homeschool a little less than three weeks ago, and pretty much right after I wrote that, it became clear we would be jumping in head first, sooner than later. As the testing began and the pressure rose for our first grader, her days became more miserable and her nights filled with stress and anxiety. We found ourselves thinking (again), surely there must be a better way. So we took the plunge and pulled her out of school.