Friday, May 9, 2014

Why We've Decided To "Unschool" Our Child

Ever since the day I had found out I was pregnant, I knew that eventually a big decision would have to be made about my child's education. But, my husband and I both knew that we wanted something different for him. My husband had attended public school, whereas I was a mix of being home-schooled, attending charter school and public school. As Syrus got older, we both began to think more and more about possibly homeschooling him, until one day Jeremy had stumbled upon an article about un-schooling.

I have to be honest and admit that when I first heard of un-schooling, I was very confused and felt like it was kind of weird. But I fully own up to my ignorance, it was rude to judge something that I knew absolutely nothing about. It took a few years of talking about it with my husband, a lot of research on both of our parts, and many discussions about how we felt. Then, the subject kind of died for a little bit, as Syrus was still too young to even think about it. But, our little guy is going to be four years-old this year. (I'm really starting to believe that whole 'blink and they're in high school' thing.) So of course, the topic came up once more of what we are going to do when it comes time for him to go to school. The decision that we had finally come to was to un-school him. But it wasn't a decision that came lightly for us. We weighed out pros and cons, compared and contrasted homeschooling vs public schools vs un-schooling. When we did that, the choice was clear as day. Here are a few of the many reasons that we decided to choose un-schooling for our son:

  • Flexibility: There is something that I find extremely important, and that is teaching my child that each day is a brand new experience, one to be relished, filled with brand new opportunities. For me, public schools don't offer that for our children these days. The days are filled with mediocrity, sitting at desks for hours on end, with our children merely ingesting information and regurgitating it for a test or a pop quiz. Learning should be fun. Learning should be exciting and a happy experience, not one that a child comes to despise. Information sticks so much better when learning about it in a fun and engaging way.

  • Timing: The wonderful thing about us un-schooling Syrus is that we can work around his schedule, not a school's schedule. Everyone's body and mind work differently, some people being night owls, others being early birds. But that's the awesome thing, Syrus can choose to learn what he wants, when he wants. At this point, obviously, he is still a bit young to regiment himself on a schedule, so we will be doing some educational activities during the day, just to get him acclimated to what it will be like when the time for kindergarten finally arrives. But the wonderful thing is, if he works better during the evening, then he can choose to work on schoolwork then. It all depends on what he wants and how he feels! No eight hour days, and he can take breaks when he needs to.

  • Freedom of Expression: If there is one thing that I absolutely despised during my time in a public school was the fact that I wasn't allowed to keep asking questions. What if I wanted to learn something more about what they were teaching us? Granted there were a handful of teachers who would gladly let me stay after class and ask more questions if I wished, but they were certainly far and few in between. Most of school was about being forced to learn something whether we wanted to or not. I don't want that for Syrus. I want him to come to me or Jeremy and tell us what he wants to learn about, not the other way around. It's not going to just be about force-feeding him information, but rather nurturing his curiosity and natural inquisitiveness. It is so important to me that my child never stops questioning anything. I want him to question everything and learn all that he can.

  • School Became A Chore: I think this is something that every person who had to "go" to school can relate to. School was something that we were forced into, and it became somewhat of a chore. We'd look forward to our "days off" on the weekends, or our Summer and Spring breaks. For my child, I want everything to be a learning experience, from the moment that he gets up, to the time he lays his head down to sleep at night. Everything can truly be a lesson. The key is making it fun for the child to learn, not to simply force them to learn something and have them regurgitate the information onto a piece of paper. Each and every child has a different style and speed of learning, and in my opinion, so many public and private schools don't offer any sort of accommodation for each child. Learning is about so much more than simply ingesting information from a cold hard textbook. It's an exciting experience that will stick with your child for the rest of their life, it's a life-long adventure, exploration and examination of the world around you, it's not about shaping and molding your child to fit into the mold you've chosen for them, but rather them finding their own mold, their own path in life. We're simply here to help them along when they need it. Not to make them go faster or slow them down. Instead of leading our children, we should walk next to them on that path. Explore with them, see what they see, learn what they are learning. See the world through the eyes of your child, and your own perspective just may change as well. 

  • No Bullying: This is more of a bonus thing, but I'm throwing it in here anyway. Since we are choosing to Un-School Syrus, he won't have to worry about being bullied. It's become such a huge problem in schools today, that children are afraid to express themselves in any way at all for fear of being bullied by other children. Other children are acting out and bullying because they too are afraid to be themselves. It's a huge vicious circle that seems to never end.
All in all, my husband and I are very excited to begin our un-schooling adventure with Syrus, who also seems thrilled to be "doing school." It's such a beautiful thing to see the enlightened expression upon my son's face when he learns something new, or we do an at-home science experiment. That child-like innocence is such a beautiful and wonderful thing, and I want him to keep that for as long as possible. I think this "un-schooling" thing is going to be one hell of a wild ride, and I for one am thrilled to be on it!

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