Maybe you’ve been reading about unschooling and you like the thought of it. Yes, it sounds good. But you’re not sure you can do it. It will take a lot of trust. You’ll have to think about things in a new way. Maybe you’ll need to make a lot of changes. It could feel very uncomfortable.
“What if my child wants to sit in front of the computer all day?” you ask.
“Yes, he might want to do that at first,” someone says. “He’ll be catching up. Later, when he realises you’re not going to restrict his computer time, he’ll relax and move onto other things.”
But what if he doesn’t? What if he sits there for hours and hours. He might not go outside and get any exercise. He could miss out on all kinds of other experiences.
“Perhaps computers are his thing. Shouldn’t kids be allowed to spend as much time as they need on their interests? No one tells adults how long they can spend working on their passions. Why should it be any different for children?”
This is all very true. I imagine being deep in my creative writing world. The words are flowing and then someone comes along and says, “That’s enough writing for one day. It’s time you did something else. You need a balanced life. And exercise. Go outside.” How frustrating to have to return to the normal world when we’re deeply immersed in our work.
But despite our concerns, we gather up our courage and say to our kids, “Yes, you can use the computer,” and then we stand back determined not to limit their time. Even if they spend all day there. Which they do. And they’re still there the next day and the one after that. Deep down we’re not really happy about this and we get anxious. Do our kids notice? Do they know we’re not really comfortable with the whole idea of letting go of control? Maybe they’re waiting for the moment when we grab back the reins. In the meantime, they might as well spend as long as possible on the computer while they’ve got the chance.
Even though we might be doing our best to let go and unschool, maybe we don’t really trust our kids and so they don’t trust us. No one is happy. And eventually, we decide we won’t unschool after all.
But what if we only let go as far as we’re comfortable? What if we approached unschooling in tiny steps? Let ourselves get used to it bit by bit? Not jump in the deep end but instead adopt a gradual approach?
You know what? I reckon this is the best way to move to an unschooling way of life.
Yes, we can listen to people who have more unschooling experience than us. Ponder what they have to say. Maybe push ourselves a little bit out of our comfort zone. But we shouldn’t do things that we’re not happy with just because we’ve been told by others that this is the way to go if we want to unschool properly. If we do, maybe we’ll end up rejecting unschooling altogether.
And who knows where a step-by-step approach to unschooling will lead? If someone had told me a few years ago that we’d become radical unschoolers, I would have protested loudly, “Oh no, I could never let go to that extent. I’m not even sure I should. It doesn’t feel right.” But here we are living the life I said we would never live.
It’s hard to change our way of life overnight. Perhaps we need time to ponder and absorb and work things out for ourselves. If we do that, our motivation for change will come from deep within us and not from other people. We’ll want to unschool because we truly believe, right to our cores, that this is the best way to live.
Images: Sophie, Imogen, Charlotte and Gemma-Rose. We arrived at unschooling in a very gradual and roundabout way. I never stop feeling thankful that I can live this way of life with my family.
So what do you think? A gradual approach? Or is it better just to jump in the deep end and leave behind an old way of life all at once? Or maybe different approaches suit different people? I’d love to hear your thoughts!