“Unschooling” & Home Grown Granola

Education has been on my mind. This is what happened: Micah’s been sounding out words for a while and I thought it would be fun to give him a beginning book to start off with (translation = slowly and painfully sound out words together, “d, d, d – OOOOOOOOOO – g, g, g – ddddddooooggggg – DOG! DOG!”).

We went to the library, duly borrowed a conservative three books, level one. Got home, sat down to begin the sounding out.

Micah read through the books without stopping. By himself.

 

Let me say this again:

he read through the books – at complete ease, with no sounding out – from front to back.

HE READS. THE KID READS.

My arm hairs stood on end, I walked over to our home library and pulled out books and had him read through them, testing him.

I’d say he’s easily at kindergarten level but more likely, first grade.

AND HE TURNED 4 YEARS OLD IN MAY.

This does not fill me with joy. I am actually kind of scared, for two reasons:

  1. It’s a lot of responsibility to have an academically advanced kid
  2. It can be really lonely to bean academically advanced kid

Dovetailing this reading revelation was the fact that Preschool enrollment is calling.

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This is the thing about Preschool:

  1. It’s not that great
  2. It’s expensive – but way, way cheaper than an actual “good” school, along the Waldorf/Montessori lines
  3. It’s not that great
  4. Micah LOVES it
  5. It’s not that great
  6. We are leaving next year
  7. It’s not that great

It’s frustrating for me to feel that I’m paying someone to do a job that I can do far better. I mean, I graduated from university twenty years ago with an elementary teaching degree and went right off and taught kids. I did this – why? So that I’d be able to teach my own kids.

If the preschool was a really great program, I could more easily see the financial sacrifice as worth it. But it’s not, it’s really not.

And now…with his reading. It’s pretty clear he needs actual stimulation.

And yet!

He loves school!

The kid is intensely social!

Mikey and I talked a long time about what makes sense right now. We’re going to be leaving – is it fair to get Micah even more attached to school? We’re leaving – doesn’t it make sense to get started on homeschooling now?

That in mind, I started looking around to see what’s available. It turns out there is a LOT.

Lots of homeschooling groups, and then the whole range of homeschooling – to the radicals who believe in “Taking Children Seriously” to the milder “Unschooling” proponents.

“Unschooling” at first sounded to me like this hippie-skippie thing about letting your kids roam free, developing their dreadlocks and accumulating dirt under their fingernails at a rapid and never-ending pace. Wild-children! 

But it doesn’t seem like it is, really. Seems to be more in line with providing your kids the full spectrum of opportunity, letting them roll with what resonates.Experiential education, in other words.

Of course you are probably asking, “how can a kid know? they are going to choose to not do anything!” Because we have this idea in our culture that knowledge has to chase kids, that kids will never chase knowledge.

But here, I beg to digress.

You  see, I ran an experiment when I was a teacher. It was a long one – over 6 months – and I was only able to do it because I had the best supervisor in the whole entire world, it was a Baha’i school and it was in Macau. That kind of thing would fly like ice in hell, here in the US!!

My experiment: I set up the classroom and the kids would choose what they wanted to do. I’d record their choices. Over time, I definitely saw patterns emerge, but more interestingly for me, I also saw the kids choosing to balance themselves out with a ready perception of their areas of strength and weakness. 19 year old me was fascinated. Absolutely riveted.

And let me tell you something: I’m in contact with a lot of kids from that experiment, made 20 years ago when they were 7 years old. I can literally see who became a rock star, an accountant, a receptionist. It’s the coolest thing ever, to have both my memories of the experiment and the documentation of it (I hoard in that way) – and to literally know what they choose or allow to develop, 20 years later.

*****

Back to the present.

After learning about “Unschooling”, I learned about “Taking Children Seriously.” “Taking Children Seriously”  is a radical form of unschooling – it’s where parents don’t coerce their children to do anything; absolutely everything that comes from the child is self directed. Personally, that’s not for me – and in my experience working with kids, I don’t think it’s for most kids either. Kids love (love!) parameters, structure. Regularity, the predictable. They love (love!) steadiness.

I do like the title though, simply taking children seriously. I think that spirit – of taking our kids seriously, coupled with what “unschooling” essentially is – experiential educations – makes all the sense in the world.

So, we’ll see:  we are going to be engaged in meeting people from all camps, hopefully making friends, hopefully able to set up something that suits my social little boy.

I’m scared – God, am I going to mess this up? Say I’m not going to mess this up! – but at the same time, it does feel like the right choice, a solid choice, even though at the edges of that choice I feel about as crunchy as it comes, baking my own granola and all.

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For more information, here were some interesting articles I found:

Taking Children Seriously

– Livestrong

– Utne Reader

Unschooling

Natural Child Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
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@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
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