My Unschooling Reality
My Unschooling Reality
I went to college to be a teacher, because I loved helping people learn new things. Taking the time to point out a new bird or plant to someone who’s never noticed them before, showing someone how to draw something just the way they want, teaching a toddler the sounds animals make… all make me glow inside. I first learned about unschooling shortly after I met Jacqueline in late 2003. At the time, I was finishing my Bachelors in Childhood Education, but hadn’t started actually teaching yet. Once I started teaching, I quickly became disillusioned with school. It was not the magical place I had hoped it would be. Instead of feeling like sharing and inspiring, it felt more like guarding prisoners. And more and more, unschooling seemed so much more like what I was trying to achieve.
People in the unschooling community often talk about the stages of unschooling. The first stage is of course discovering unschooling, reading all you can about it, and then putting it into practice. This phase often includes a time period known as deschooling: “mental process a person goes through after being removed from a formal schooling environment.” ( Wikipedia , 2010) (Some people have even applied the idea to themselves when circumstances allow them the opportunity to not have to work daily: deworking.) The second stage comes after the deschooling and is when you really get into the unschooling proper: following passions, not imposing arbitrary rules or requirements, going with the flow… The final stage is when it all clicks; it just happens. You see that everything is educational, that living and learning are the same thing.
When Jacqueline and the kids moved in with me there was a lot of adjusting for us all. I had never lived with kids, I had never seen unschooling on a daily basis, and the kids had never lived with anyone but their mom. Since Jacqueline worked at the time, and I was in school only a few hours a week, I became the primary parental figure. I set up a lot of schedules and rules for myself and for the kids, so the housework and my school work would get done. We all balked at the changes, sometimes with explosive angry outbursts, until we gradually learned how to respect each other. Then I started work, and Jacqueline was able to leave her away-from-home job, and we all had to adjust to the changes again. But Jacqueline had been a radical unschooler before, and the transition went much more smoothly when she stepped back into her role of mom and home-maker.
But while the family as a whole wavers somewhere between stage two and stage three of unschooling (some days are better than others), I feel like I’m still struggling through the deschooling of stage one. It is so slow-going for me, largely in part because I still *go to school* everyday! As a substitute, I am in no position to outright contradict my co-workers, but I do try to plant seeds when I can. For myself, I have learned to let go of expectations I have for the kids (both at home and in school) and find myself relaxing and going with the flow more often, following interests and passions.
Things aren’t perfect: we still have days where we get overwhelmed and stressed, and sometimes I get all wrapped up in all the things I need to DO that I forget to just BE. Then one of the kids will pop up and I’ll remember that *they* are the reason for the DOing and are more important. And I can see the ideal in my head now. I’ve met people who live it. So every day I try to do a little bit better than I did before.
Diana is a 30-something graphic artist, scrapper, crafter, writer, sometimes disguised as a substitute teacher, trying to figure out how to reconcile my passions with making a living. I live in the country with my partner and our four still-at-home, unschooled kids, three cats, and a Guinea pig.