When Your Unschooler Wants to go to School

WhenYourUnschoolerGoestoSchool

I began homeschooling when B was two years old. We started out with a lot of structure and over time evolved into unschoolers. Unschooling has many definitions. For our family, I define it as respect-based learning. We respect each other’s time, needs and interests.

B has never been a child who liked to stay inside of the lines. She is quirky and confident. Her own person, she loves the story of Stephanie’s Ponytail, by Robert Munsch and is known to make every day crazy hair day.

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At age 5, she attended her first sleepover, a slumber party at her gymnastics center. It was Harry Potter themed, so she packed Book Four along with her pajamas and other necessities. I questioned her choices. I mentioned that people don’t usually bring 700+ page books to sleepovers. She had made her decision, though, and off she went, huge book and all. As it turned out, the theme of the night was based on the tri-wizard tournament, and her extensive HP knowledge led her team to victory. She wasn’t a weirdo; she was the hero!

In February of this year, B said she’d like to try public school. This was difficult for me to hear. It felt like a failure on my part – what was I doing wrong that caused her to want to go elsewhere? Then the worry began. How would the school keep up with her learning needs? Will I be able to effectively advocate for her if they don’t? Will her creative spirit get shushed in the classroom?

Once I finished having my fear/pity party, I looked at her desire through the lens of her needs. She wants to try something that is novel for her, something the majority of kids get to do all the time. She feels the need for deeper relationships. She’s hoping to make friends, connect with someone. She’s looking for a new challenge. Her expectations are high. She is extremely self-aware and has analyzed the pros and cons of the public school setting as well as benefits and disadvantages to her personal lifestyle. This is what she has decided she needs right now.

I’m not certain that public school will fill these needs, but with a respect-based learning philosophy, I have to respect all of her learning choices, not simply the choices that I like. I will be sensitive to her interests and give her the space and trust she’s asking for, especially when it’s difficult. No matter what happens, she will know for certain that the next time she wants to take a leap and try something new, her family will support her every step of the way.

She picked out her clothes for her first day. This child, who wears her best dress to be properly attired for a friend’s barbecue, picked out running shorts and a t-shirt covered with hearts. Comfy for play, but unusual for the first day of a new adventure. I chose my words carefully. “B, sometimes kids dress up for their first day of school. Wear whatever is comfortable for you. I’m just letting you know since you haven’t been to school before.”

She wore her comfy clothes and didn’t bat an eye at what anyone else wore. She’s strong, brave and independent, and she makes me proud.

Listening to our kids’ needs is complex sometimes, especially when they don’t coincide with our ideas. What situations have you dealt with in which your desires and your child’s didn’t fit together? How did you find a middle ground?

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When the World is Telling You "Hush"…

I ran across this blog post from Paula Prober on the GHF Facebook page…

“Individuals with rainforest minds are often intense and quite bright. They love learning new things and sharing what they learn with others. But you may run into trouble when your cohorts don’t appreciate your long detailed descriptions or your esoteric musings.”

                                                                ~Exuberance and Unending Curiosity

                

It described me exactly. I love to find an article or blog or research paper about something interesting that has lots of other links to study it further. I read the links, I check the cited books out of the library, I soak it all up until the next subject is discovered. I love to share what I’ve learned, usually with my husband or sister, who humor me kindly.

Sometimes, I get so excited about it, that I forget to check my surroundings before I start spouting off.

One night, the husband and I had a Trivial Pursuit night with his best friend and wife. One of the questions reminded me of some random subject of interest that I had just finished reading about. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I do remember saying, “Oh! I was just reading something about that, and what actually happens is…” and it being so interesting to me, but the eyes of our friends began to glaze over. My husband started doing the “cut” sign across his throat. And the sound of crickets.

I may just be over-analyzing (yes, I do that too. Sigh.), but I believe that was the last time we were invited over to their house. The guys hang out all the time, but our families haven’t gotten together in a long while. Are we just all busy, or did I accidentally cross the line of letting too much of my wiring out?
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It’s so rare and comforting to run across someone besides my husband who “gets” me. It feels as is a big sigh of relief washes over my entire body. I can be myself. I can talk about my kids. I don’t have to pretend. Most of these people, however, I have only found online, and I am a proximity person. I typically need to see you often to be able to feel close to you…but maybe I will have to train myself to be different in this area if I’d like more real friends. I have been making a concerted effort to be more involved in a few of my online groups, and I’ll see how that goes.

When I was in middle school, I was part of a gifted program that grouped those of us that qualified together for language arts, social studies, math and science. Those school years were my best – I was surrounded by people who were so much like me. We had different interests, and we understood how exciting it was to share them with each other. Then came high school, and several moves, and we fell out of touch. Since that time, I have made a few friends that have lasted with me over time, but they are not “spill my guts” friends. And certainly not “spill my guts about my kids” friends.

Over time, I have just come to the realization that I am who I am, and I like who I am. I have become an expert at toning myself down and fitting my personality into the circumstance, but it’s so cramped in that box!

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As I watch my kids grow and develop, and see that they have acquired many of these same traits, it encourages me to not keep myself folded up in that box. I want them to love and appreciate themselves for who they are, and the best way to teach them is by example. Of course, they will need to learn some situational cues and behaviors in order to survive in this world, but I’d like them to be confident in themselves and not be convinced that they need to camouflage their personalities, as I did for 30 some years.

So, here’s to getting out of that box and exploring the rainforest.