Saturday, June 9, 2012

How We Decided to Unschool- part two

In my previous post I talked about why we started looking into other options besides public school for Josh. You can read about that here.

In this post I'll talk about what made us decide unschooling would be best for our family.

Starting out our research I knew of three options we had- private school, charter school, and homeschooling. We couldn't afford private school unless I went back to work, which would mean Bug would need to go to daycare. Neither Papa Bear nor I are comfortable with that. There are a few charter schools in our area that come highly recommended, so I started looking into those. Of course since they're great options, there is a high demand for a place, and waiting lists. I kept this option in the back of my mind, but I knew I wanted something for the coming school year and we'd need a solution in the meantime if we were waiting.

I will admit right now, I went into researching homeschooling biased against it. You all know that stereotypical "weird" homeschooling family I'm thinking about. Some friends of mine home school so I asked them for resources and was immediately overwhelmed. There are SO MANY options for curriculum, its seriously out of control. I started wading through information and in the process ran across the facebook pages of some homeschooling groups in the area, which exposed me to the idea of unschooling. Thank goodness for social media and the ability it gives us to spread great ideas!

Someone on facebook (I'm sorry I don't remember who it was to give proper credit) posted a link to an interview with Dr. Peter Gray talking about "School is a Prison". It really intrigued me and fueled my research into how children best learn. Feel free to watch the video below. The point I most took from it is that children learn best when they are allowed to choose what, when, and how to learn based on their interests and abilities. This is the fundamental idea behind unschooling.

The interview above was hosted by Stefan Molyneux of Free Domain Radio. He has years of videos and podcasts full of interesting philosophical material, including interviews with psychologists, biologists, and neuroscientists on the topics of parenting and education (as well as many more) which I am still listening to and learning from.

 Tangent, but it is relevant to our unschooling decision-
 I'd like to thank him especially for the following video he posted, which made me not only start questioning how we educate our children, but how we parent them as a whole. Thank you Mr. Molyneux, you have changed my children's lives for the better.

We have spanked Josh in the past. I was spanked as a child. Papa Bear was spanked when he was a child. After watching this video I recalled many points in my childhood. Society paints this picture of how carefree and wonderful childhood is, but after really looking back, you couldn't pay me enough to go relive mine (sorry mom and dad, just the truth). And in the world's perspective, I had it pretty good. I want better for my kids. I made up my mind there would be no spanking in our house, that our kids should never be afraid of us. I sat Josh down and told him I was sorry we had spanked him before. That it was wrong. That no one ever has the right to hurt him, especially not the people who love him. That we would never spank him again. His reaction shook me to my core. He cried, said "Thank you, Mommy" and hugged me.
(end tangent)

So I had all these articles, interviews, and personal stories in front of me that made me question our parenting methods and the education of our kids. Papa Bear and I talked about what we really wanted for our kids. We want them to be happy, healthy (mentally and physically), free-thinking men who are able to support themselves doing something they enjoy. Based on the evidence we've seen, unschooling is the best way for us to help them achieve these goals.

Unschooling is not just a means of educating, but an entire lifestyle change for us. We have to trust the boys to be the masters of their own learning. It's funny, really, how it's easy to trust a baby to learn but not older children. We never told Bug he needed to learn to walk or talk, or gave him lessons on either. He found both intriguing and learned them himself, all we had to provide was support and encouragement. We will have to relearn how to trust Josh in the same way. And we will have to learn to treat the boys both with the same respect we expect them to show us.

It is definitely going to be a journey and a challenge.

Some of the videos and books I've found interesting-

Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled Life by Rue Kream
The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child's Classroom by Mary Griffith
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
"Waiting for Superman" a film by Davis Guggenheim
"Declining by Degrees" a PBS documentary
The Element by Sir Ken Robinson 
The Philosophy of Liberty
Philosophical Parenting
Interview with Dr. Stuart Shanker
Parenting without Punishment
Why We Do What We Do by Edward Deci
Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn

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