My Unschooling Book Series (9)
The other day, I was talking about how, when we first started unschooling, I failed to take an active role. Instead of strewing and sharing learning with our children, I stood back, thinking I couldn’t get involved because I’d interfere with the natural learning process. What I wrote is true. I distinctly remember feeling disappointed when my children didn’t produce any impressive evidence that they were learning. Also, I remember thinking, “How will my children ever learn about Shakespeare and poetry and other things I enjoy if I don’t share them? What if they never stumble across them on their own?” It was such a significant thought that I even remember where I was when I had it.
I’ve just reread an old post written about our first year of homeschooling: Undercover Homeschoolers. I thought the story would confirm that, when we started unschooling, I lacked the knowledge of how it works. But it didn’t.
Here’s an excerpt:
When we set out along the homeschooling pathway, we didn’t know any other homeschoolers, apart from my mother. So we went looking for people we could connect up with. We heard about a homeschooling conference and, of course, we had to attend. I couldn’t wait…
… I’d spent the day in the company of pioneer homeschoolers, those brave and forceful mothers who’d lobbied and fought to have the education laws reformed, the women who read John Holt and Growing Without School and whose children learned and played and discovered and were brilliant.
Words danced inside my head forming sentences: Children learn all the time not just between the hours of 9 and 3. They have a natural love of learning. Children don’t need to be bribed to learn. They don’t need to be threatened with punishment to learn. They cannot help learning when surrounded by a rich environment. Life is learning. Let children lead. Trust your children. Help them. Listen. Respect each other. Enjoy. Have fun. Follow passions. Learn together. Be a family … So much to think about.
We became unschoolers…”
Yes, I remember going to that conference. I did indeed come home with my head buzzing with new thoughts and ideas. And according to this post, after I’d met up with these incredible unschoolers, I also returned with the knowledge that was essential for successful unschooling. So if I really did learn all about how unschooling works, why did I think I couldn’t get involved with my children’s learning?
Thinking back 25 or 26 years and working out the true story is difficult. I went to the conference, and I did indeed come home feeling excited and inspired. (That feeling would be hard to forget!) But was this because I thought my kids were going to do fabulous things and they were going to do it all on their own? I probably didn’t understand that it was necessary to help my kids by enriching their environments and sharing learning with them.
So why did I add the word ‘help’ and ‘a rich environment’ and ‘learn together’ to my Undercover Homeschoolers story? Because it’s easy to get all the details of when and what and why in a muddle.
This story illustrates how difficult it is to look back and remember the facts exactly as they were. At the time, I didn’t write anything down. I didn’t analyse everything in detail. Life was busy. We just did our best to get through each day, seeing to the needs of everybody, including babies and toddlers. We didn’t homeschool thinking, “One day I’m going to blog about this. And I might even write a book. I’d better remember exactly what we’re doing!”
So I’m sitting here sighing. I’m thinking that writing books that are true in every detail is very difficult. Should I give up? Will you lose confidence in what I have to say if you notice little contradictions? I hope not. Even though there are hazy points along the timeline of our unschooling journey, I do know what is true, and it doesn’t really matter how and when I learnt it, does it? For example, I’m absolutely sure of this:
Unschooling parents need to get involved with their children. They can’t stand back and leave them to learn entirely on their own.
Image: As I’ve been talking about the past, I thought I’d add an old photo. This is Imogen. All those years ago, who’d have imagined that one day she’d be making music videos for her own Youtube channel?!
I’ll add Imogen’s latest video Bright Eyes just in case you’d like to watch it. Enjoy!
Today, I also spent a long time working on a section of my book that begins:
There is no doubt that our kids will learn if only they are given the freedom to do so. The success of unschooling doesn’t really depend on the child. It depends on the parent. We might have to change our ideas about what education is and how children learn.
Are there any ideas you had to let go of before you could unschool? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d find them very helpful.
And I wonder if anyone else has trouble constructing the past. Do you ever get the details of how things happened in a muddle?