I was never happy in school. From the start (grade one, I think), I tried to miss as much school as I could. And, when I was in school, I was sad, withdrawn and almost a shadow of who I really was.
I was determined to have my kids have a better school experience than I did, to help them understand the ways that school could work well for them, but after years and years of seeing my oldest son repeat the same patterns I had – trying to stay home all the time, sad at school, frustrated and not thriving with learning even though he’s incredibly smart, I knew we had to do something different.
There was one day in particular when my feelings about trying to make school better for him changed. I realized that I was trying to teach him how to get through school the way I got through school.
“Just don’t pay attention, it’s fine. Think about other things and you’ll learn it later when you’re not in class.”
So, my advice was to go and sit in a classroom all day, bored and distracted, and learn what needed to be learned out of class because it would be easier that way.
What kind of terrible advice is that?! Why should he sit around all day wasting space, just because we think going and spending all day at school every day is the thing we’re supposed to do? The ultimate goal is to actually learn, right?
But I don’t want to teach him to be a quitter!
We’ve all been taught school is a part of life. You go to school because you learn the things you need to learn to get a job – how to get things done on deadline, how to learn, how to be at a place all day, how to be evaluated, etc., etc., etc. We don’t question this, it’s just how it is.
When your kid is miserable at school, letting them not go to school may feel like you’re teaching them that it’s okay to quit, but I want you to think about this – if you were in a job you hated for YEARS, wouldn’t you quit and find another job? Would that be a bad thing or something you should be proud of yourself for? (My vote is proud btw.)
Real life isn’t all fun and games
Another argument for school is that we need to learn what it’s like to live in the real world, and it may not be fun, but it’s life.
True. But also, there are ways that you can find success without working a regular 9-5 job and sitting at a desk all day. *I* created my own career and that’s a thing a LOT of people do now and it’s is going to be more and more common. Having a career doesn’t need to look like what work used to look like, so why should school have to look the same it’s always looked? The answer is, it doesn’t!
The points I’m making, they’re basically what I had to tell myself as my husband and I struggled through figuring out how to support our son. I caught myself, time and time again, thinking that the goal was to “fix things” so that he could love the school system. Finally, I just realized he didn’t have to love the school system, we just needed to find what worked for him.
Turns out, homeschooling isn’t even what I thought it was
Whenever I tell people we’ve started homeschooling their eyes go as round as saucers as they say, “how do you have the time?!” and my answer is always “well, it turns out that homeschooling doesn’t have to look like me actually sitting down at the kitchen table and teaching my kid stuff.” Which is 100% what I thought it would look like. I thought I’d be trying to figure out the curriculum and how to teach it and when to teach it and we’d all be sitting at the kitchen table sobbing in frustration that we had to do it, that it sucked, and that none of us understood any of it!
Turns out that’s not how it has to be. We’ve embraced unschooling and self-directed learning and just learning that learning doesn’t have to hurt! (I will say, it helps that because I created my own career and I work from home, that it absolutely makes it easier for me to take this on compared to someone with a traditional job).
My kid takes classes on Outschool (that link will get you $20 off your first class btw, and we’ll get a $20 credit too) and takes all kinds of workshops and classes (like rock climbing) and goes to drama class and loves to learn about programming and creative writing. He spends time with other homeschooling kids and he’s seeming happier and happier.
I don’t know if we’ll homeschool forever, but for now, I love that this is something we can do, that I am applying all that I believe about how we can create our own lives to the lives of my children, and that we don’t need anything to look a certain way just because that’s what it’s always looked like. I’m a homeschooling mom trying to teach my kid that he can create a life that works for him and all of his amazing strengths, and it doesn’t have to suck all the time – and I’m pretty proud of that.
Do you homeschool or unschool? Leave a comment and share your experiences.