Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.
~ Albert Einstein
As home learners we are sometimes faced with criticism or questions about where our children rank among others. People ask about testing and wonder if our children are learning at the same pace as others in their age group. People’s expectations of our children often seem much higher then other children and there often is a voice of “concern” about our children’s learning. Honestly, I wish people would just mind their own business.
There are many reasons we choose not to send our children to school and those reasons have evolved over the years. I know that there are many homeschoolers out there that choose to homeschool for very different reasons then we do. The majority of those, do school at home. Working from a set curriculum, recreating a more personalized school structure in the comfort of their own home. We, however, do not.
One of the main reasons that we choose not to send our children to school was because we don’t agree with the system. Not just the school system itself, but the whole way that learning is approached conventionally. In a past post I explained how unschooling is different in that the focus is not about teaching but about learning.It is about leaving behind the idea of teaching separate subjects and instead about the child understanding the world as a whole.
Where our children rank, is of no importance to us. Not because we don’t care, but because we are confident that they are learning what they need and what they want to learn. We are using a different system of learning that can not be measured in the conventional way, nor do we want them to be measured it in the conventional way. Through letting our children learn at their own pace we are letting them be geniuses in their own right. Their passions shine through every thing they do and their knowledge is always expanding.
When I was a student, I was awful at math and I hated math class. It was not that I didn’t like actual math and logics, I actually loved it. But the way that the subject of math was taught in the schools that I attended didn’t coincide with the way that I understood math in my head. I would get the right answer, but I was never able to show the “correct” way that I got to my answer and because most of the marks were focused on that, I would often fail and I did fail… or actually, I should say, the system failed.
We all have our strengths, we all have our ways of understanding things, not all of us are set on the same path in life, not all of us have the same passions, same goals. I see unschooling, life learning, as a way to celebrate and bring out my children’s strengths,as a way to set them on the path that they are destined for. I believe that not teaching them in a conventional way will open the path up so that they can learn and advance in their own way. As a child I was taught that I must conform to fit in, to succeed, if not I was teased, I failed classes or felt like an outsider. I often failed to see how separate school subjects related to the real world, or related to each other, and forgot about them as soon as I passed the test, only to need to relearn them later on if the need (or want) came up. I was taught that I must live up to the expectations of others to succeed. It was only when I was out of school that I was able to find myself. I want my children to be themselves now, to live up to their own expectations, to have control over the own success.
So no, where my children rank among others, is of little importance to us. We see that they are learning every day. We see that they are advancing, that their interests are evolving, that they have confidence that they can be successful at anything they put their mind to, and that their genius shines through every thing they do.
Kim L asked this from Facebook:
Do you think people make comments and ask questions out of curiosity or that they feel what you’re doing is wrong?
I am intrigued by it, the more I learn about it the more I agree with it but there’s that voice in the back of my head (the one who spent 15 miserable years in conventional school) that does ask where they will rank with others when it cones time for university, if they choose it. I’m over the “where they rank now” because my oldest who’s in 9th grade in public school is struggling with her courses and highschool life in general. She used to love math and science but now she ‘fails’ and it makes me wonder that if she was away from textbook learning and left to pursue her interests on her own, how she’d be doing now. I honestly feel public school is my biggest parenting mistake and not one I’ll be making with my younger children. But how we’ll approach learning is still undecided.
Here is my response:
I think people question for many reasons depending on their relationship with our family. Family members definitely have different motives then strangers.
I actually wrote a post a while back about “unschooling to University” http://paxye.com/blog/unschooling-to-university/
I truly believe that at that point in a child/young adult’s life they have the drive to figure out what they need to accomplish their goals. Even those that are in conventional schooling might go take extra classes so that they can meet requirements. Unschooling doesn’t mean that a child will never choose to learn in a conventional environment if they feel the need to.
Melissa, great post, and I love that quote at the top. It isn’t one I’ve seen before, but is so very true.
“Get out your measuring cups
and we’ll play a new game
Come to the front of the class
and we’ll measure your brain
We’ll give you a complex
and we’ll give it a name”
— “Measuring Cups”, Andrew Bird
This post is so very timely for me. I know that I’d like to follow the unschooling path with my boys but the hubby comes from a very rigid “school is IT” background. He’s reluctantly (sort of) agreed to let me start homeschooling when the time comes but he still expects me to follow a strict curriculum mainly because he doesn’t understand the value of life learning. Though he’s quite smart, he’s a typical ‘booksmart’ individual and can’t see past what he considers required ranking assessments and standardized testing… I still have 1 .5 years to work on him though. Baby steps…
Wow, this is great! Your description of math was ME 30 years ago… and now as an unschooling parent I am giddy as I watch and learn math all over again with my kiddos. And we DO not have to explain how we get the answers 😉
I really enjoy your take on things… I look forward to following along.