That’s stupid. So I’m not going to do it anymore. {One mother’s journey toward unschooling}

I am a questioner.  I just am.

 

I see everything in layers and take practically nothing at face value.  I can’t stop myself, I question everything and constantly seek deeper definitions for simple things.

 

So you can only imagine what happened to my brain when I saw this this morning.

 

I am a sucker for logic.  And that there just makes a darn lot of sense.

 

Which brings me to this: there are a lot of factors that went into my decision to homeschool.  Some of them are illustrated (ha) above.  It started, as usual, with me questioning things.  Why am I sending my kids away from me all day?  Just because everyone else does?  Just because it’s normal and expected?  How long has public education been around, anyway?  What do I really want my kids to learn between now and when they grow up and leave me?  What do I need to do to make that happen?

 

Now, once I decide which side of a line I fall on, I don’t dawdle on making a decision.  I don’t dance back and forth or worry or spend a long time deliberating.

 

My process goes a little something like this:

 

“Hmm.  That’s stupid.  Okay, I’m not doing it anymore”.

 

The end.

 

I don’t really care that other people think differently or won’t really understand.  I’m an all or nothing gal, and once presented with a truth I have to act on it, 100%, immediately.  Like a few years back when I started learning about nutrition.  I walked away from an article on artificial food dyes and went straight to my pantry and threw all of that stuff away.  And more or less never bought it again.  The end.

 

So, that’s how my decision to homeschool came about, also.  Oddly, there was no last straw.  There wasn’t even a camel.  I just woke up one day and said, “This is stupid.  I’m not doing it anymore”.  I wasn’t even mad at the public school.  They didn’t actually have anything to do with my decision.  My decision was about me, my relationship with my kids, and my relationship with my God.

 

Now, bear with me for this next bit, because this is going to sound a little out there.

 

I did not bring my kids home to educate them.

 

Sure, that’s a side effect.  And I realize that’s a big motivation for some people.  Everybody knows homeschooled kids are “smarter”.  Score higher, spell better, speak latin, yadda yadda.  But that’s not why I brought my kids home.

 

I brought my kids home to disciple them.

 

I was becoming painfully aware of how quickly their childhoods were going to be over and what a sucky job I was doing as a parent to pass on to them what I actually thought was important.  None of which was found in this place called “school” that I was sending them away to 8 hours a day.

 

But of course, as soon as I took the first step into the world of homeschooling, … I started to question things.  Not things, actually, everything.   Why do I have to have a grammar curriculum?  Who says my kids have to do this kind of math at this particular age?  Do they really need to know about American Presidents, or predicates, or what year the pyramids were made?

 

Why should my kids have to keep an academic schedule that they played no part in picking?  Or even if they did help pick it, why do they have to do a history lesson right now on ancient Egypt that I’ve planned, when what they want to know about are worms?  Or to read a book, or to write a story, or to sketch a horse, or to climb a tree, or to build with legos?  And why am I going to make them cry by insisting on my pre-planned academic schedule when they’re just going to have a bad attitude now anyway, because it’s not what they’re interested in?

 

And why did I bring them home again?  Oh yeah, it didn’t have anything to do with Egypt.  It was to teach them what it really means to know, hear, and follow God.  It was to foster their unique talents and abilities.  It was so that they could live a life outside of marketing and materialism.  It was so they could care about people instead of brands.  It was to create an authentic loving relationship with them that would go beyond parent and child, to discipler and disciplee.

 

What does Abe Lincoln have to do with that?   What do comma splices have to do with that?  What do equivalent fractions have to do with that?

 

And that’s how I found my way to a little thing called unschooling.  Does it mean not teaching your children anything?  Absolutely not.  It just means letting learning happen naturally.  Which it actually will do if you just let it.  Will they still learn how to read and write and do math?  Yes.  Just not out of a workbook at an assigned time of day.

 

Does it mean letting them not bathe if they don’t want to, or not clean their room if they don’t want to, or not brush their teeth of they don’t want to, or letting them play video games all day if that’s what they want to do?  Absolutely not.  Unschooling does not mean child led families, or lack of structure, or a lack of discipline.  It just means not forcing certain structures and schedules and academia and curricula on them that so don’t matter.  And in the process, potentially sacrificing your ability to disciple them in things that really do matter. And possibly killing their creativity and their love of learning with a slow painful death while you’re at it.

 

In the past couple of weeks my boys have been really interested in puzzles.  And they continually impress me with how good they are at them, even the little guy.

 

The Four Year Old has been wanting to learn to write letters. On his own.

 

After watching an episode of CyberChase, my 6 year old brought me this:

unschooling math

And explained to me that 1/2 was the same thing as 4/8ths, and that 2/3rds was the same thing as 8/12ths.

 

Equivalent fractions!

 

Which, according to the math curriculum I ordered at the beginning of the year, is what my 4th grader is supposed to be learning right now, not my first grader. If the curriculum had it’s way, I’d be making him do worksheets full of adding problems right now. And honestly, he’d probably be crying. But instead, I took the opportunity to show him what fractions look like when they’re written down. And what the bottom number means and what the top number means.

Photobucket

 

Today he wanted to take his piggy bank down and count his money. Am I supposed to tell him that right now it’s time for our pre-planned science lesson, but if he’ll just be patient, in 2 weeks our math lesson will be about nickels and skip counting by 5’s? Why? Why not let him do what he’s interested in right now?

 

Photobucket

 

He skip counted by 10’s.

Photobucket

 

And Four Year Old counted everything by 1’s.

Photobucket

 

Then my sweet, generous, crazy haired boy…

Photobucket

 

…went with me to the Dollar Tree.

 

And used one of his dollars to buy a new puzzle for his baby brother.

Photobucket

 

And of course that little genius finished it all by himself in a matter of minutes, even though I didn’t think he’d be able to do it at all. I constantly underestimate them.

 

I want my kids to understand God, to love life, to care about serving others, and to use their unique talents and gifts to do all of the above. And if that means they never get around to a pre-planned lesson about Harriet Tubman, or never master muliplying by 9’s, I really don’t care.

 

I refuse to waste my life or the few precious years I have with my children focusing on things, and making them focus on things, that won’t matter 20 years from now, and certainly won’t matter in eternity.

 

Because…That’s stupid.  So I’m not going to do it anymore.

 

The end.

Photobucket

Comments

  1. I want to add a comment addendum to say, Please no one think that I'm implying children who are schooled in ways other than I'm choosing right now are incapable of creativity or loving God or any extremes like that.

    But I personally realized I could not disciple my children properly when they were gone from me so much of the day. Other people might be able to. And then once I brought them home I realized that I still couldn't disciple them properly because of a forced agenda (that i feel) really doesn't matter in the big scheme of things and I was really only doing because of social assumptions and pressures.

    And what can I say, I'm just not a conformist.

    Hence. the name. Of the blog.

    :)

  2. hear hear!
    ;)

  3. faithlikemustard says:

    I read this post last night before bed and it's been on my mind all night/day (especially since I had to substitute at the jr. high today).

    I've gotten to the "this is dumb" point (as have many of my teacher friends), but I haven't gone beyond that. I guess I've always chalked it up to "everyone else is having to deal with this" which, I admit, is not always the best argument. So, lots of thinking to do…

    I admire your decision-making skills. I'm the kind of person who has to analyze and reanalyze things to death before I act. It's exhausting.

  4. On spiritual matters (which I think discipling my children to be), I usually see things in a very black and white context of "Is this effective?" And if it's not, I just don't do it.

    I just got to a point where I realized, this is the only life I get. And wasting my time REALLY annoys me. So somewhere down the line, I just stopped caring about what society and tradition tells me to do. Because if what society and tradition are doing is ineffective, all the good intentions in the world won't change that. So it's stupid to follow suit, ya know?

    I strongly feel that people are wasting their time, life, and efforts on good intentions. And yes, I know that God sees into man's heart. But I just think it's stupid to spend one's whole life being spiritually ineffective, just because everyone else is…

    What can I say, I'm just weird. :)

  5. I'm with you on the importance of discipline for my kids. Though we do send our kids to school.

    But I do think learning to multiply by 9s, and education in general, is important. I suppose there are things my children may do that won't require that kind of education, but most of what they dream to do (their own dreams, mind you, the direction of God in their own lives), does require them to be educated. My brilliant (and I don't say that lightly) 9 year old has known for years that he should be a teacher. It's not just a "it would be fun to be a teacher" calling, but, in his words, "God gave me a great mind, and I think he wants me to use it to help others learn."

    in order to do that, he needs discipline, yes. That's my job. But he also needs education. And yes, I could do that at home, it just isn't how God has directed our paths right now. But home or at a school building, learning multiplication, Harriet Tubman, science–they are important. Not just now, because someone said so, but important 20 years from now. Multiplication facts provide building blocks for higher math. Learning about Harriet Tubman I think is critical–to understand what society used to be like, and to learn. To prevent it from happening again. To understand, in his world of privilege, how some people have had to fight and risk their lives in order to be free. And science, to understand how God's world works.

    It's a beautiful thing to be able to homeschool or unschool, and follow the lead of your child. But that's not to say that a more traditional educational system doesn't have value.

    That all said, I didn't get to watch the video, because it wouldn't load. I'll try to do so later.

  6. OK, watched the video. Loved it! I agree with most of it. We're in public education, and the testing irritates me. We had a situation where my very advanced kid (mentioned above) missed one poorly worded question on a benchmark test. Because of that, he spent 2 weeks in the "reteach" group of daily math, where he had to review the same topic over and over, for 30 minutes a day. Instead of the "enrichment" group, where they got to move on. Seems reasonable, right? That those who haven't mastered it yet would get some small-group time and various ways of teaching in order to learn it.

    Except this was a 3rd grader who was, in the math he does at home, working on 6th-8th grade math. And they couldn't move him, even though they KNEW he understood, because he missed that one problem. Totally ridiculous.

    Thankfully we got it sorted out (and, incidentally, moved him to 4th grade this week). We are able to, even within the confines of a public school, teach him as an individual, and I hope, still allow him to be a divergent thinker. I do agree that the system set up is not great right now, and education needs to be changed, and a radical shakeup of what we've got might be a great idea.

  7. I hope you do get to watch the video, for the illustrating alone!

    And you're right, everybody's circumstances are different and God leads as in different ways at different times. Who knows where we'll be in 3 years and how we'll be educating then. :) Situations change. Especially for a nomadic family. :)

    And mostly my point is that, I don't want to let things that aren't eternal, take precedence over the things that are. Which can easily happen. And they're only little once. *tear*

    Because I believe God can teach us all of those important things we'll need to succeed in life, including the math skills and history lessons we need, without it being cookie cutter, and without it being in the timing that some educator guy at some point said it should happen. :)

    So if my 4 year doesn't learn to read until he's 8, that's okay. :) In the mean time, I'll read to him. And try to teach him to love God with all his heart and all his soul and all his mind, and to love his neighbor as himself. I will feel successful if I get those two nuggets into his heart in the first 18 years of his life.

    (Oh, and I wanted to make sure that you understood that I was stressing in the post that I wanted to make disciples out of my children, not just discipline them. I wasn't sure from your comment. :) Of course, discipline does play a role!

  8. This was a long post, so I had to come back to read it. I need to wait for some kids to go to church before I can watch the video. LOL.

    Homeschooling has been on my mind since a few weeks ago, during school conferences. I was told that my 8 year old boy is probably the smartest in the class. He consistently only misses 2 or 3 words on the spelling PRE-tests, while other kids are missing over 1/2 of them. Apparently it's the same with math. Unfortunately, he is not technically "passing" because he struggles with homework. He struggles with GETTING IT DONE, not GETTING IT RIGHT. Honestly, if I knew the answers the way he does, I wouldn't want to sit for hours doing homework either. He spends all day at school and then has to come home and do homework? Not cool.

    Then there is the my daughter can't have any m & m's in her trail mix at snack time, because it's not "healthy". (The day this issue came up, there were like FIVE of them in there". Today she told me that they never have time to eat lunch. They get 20 minutes, but after 15, the lunch lady makes them throw their food away and line up to go outside.

    I am getting to the point where I think "this is stupid".

    I would totally unschool my kids the way you do. I am with you. Some things are "stupid". There are so many things they are forced to learn, that in the grand scheme of life WILL NOT HELP THEM ONE BIT!

    Unlike you, I am not a black and white person. I get trapped in the grey area.

  9. I think we all agree that the public school system has it's flaws. Last year my kindergartner was the best reader in his class, but he had a note in his folder every day because he could not finish his work. He's too distracted. And then he'd have that work sent home for the dreaded "homework".

    And when I tried to make him sit for worksheets full of math problems, he did the same thing. I finally realized it was silly to struggle and stress over teaching math in such an unnatural way, anyway. He's 6! Math can happen in our natural play. And then he won't hate it.

    Another example, my daughter is a terrible speller. But she always aced her spelling tests because she'd study the list of words. But in science (her best subject) her grades were poor because the teacher would count points off for spelling! I guess she was trying to negatively reinforce spelling, or something. :/ But I thought it was insanely stupid for her to get the science answer right, but get a point off for spelling. In science!

    The list goes on. I certainly don't miss the fighting in the morning to get everybody dressed and ready and out the door. And nobody misses the dreaded and terrible homework that eats up the evening.

    And again, what's funny to me, is that none of those things were exactly the reason for my decision to bring them home. But it does all factor in one way or another. A lot of that stuff was getting in the way of me teaching my children what's really important in life. There is so much less stress and bickering now!

    And no one is "failing" anything. :) Although my daughter is still a terrible speller and my 6 year old still can't sit still. But as much as that girl reads, the spelling thing will work itself out. And I get a feeling the 6 year old will grow out of being…a 6 year old. :) And not be penalized for it in the mean time.

    Gosh my responses are long!

  10. I love your long responses. I love that you read them all. I like conversation. You have made me think today. :-)

  11. Jessica, you are doing the right thing following the path you have been given. My husband and I are unschooling our 4 boys and it can be as frustrating as it is rewarding, but we wouldn't change it for the world. The boys are ahead of the learning game in a number of areas and anything they are "behind in", they are capable of learning in a fraction of the time their peers are forced to learn it. The Creator puts us where we need to be and I'm glad we are not alone! ;-)

  12. Thanks, Ital Mama! I am absolutely in love with how we're learning this year, it's so much less stress, and we're enjoying each other so much more than we have any other "school year".

  13. What an awesome post!

  14. Hey Jessica, little did I know when I read this post that I would be making the decision to homeschool in the upcoming months :)

    Mentioned you in this post-
    http://calvarygirl.blogspot.com/2011/09/homeschooling-unschooling-public.html

Trackbacks

  1. […] a cord with me because the reason I first decided to bring my children home was so that I could disciple them, not educate […]

  2. […] a cord with me because the reason I first decided to bring my children home was so that I could disciple them, not educate […]