E-mail submissions to Unschooling Voices -# 7

These five contributions were submitted through e-mail and will be included in Unschooling Voices # 7.

When we pulled our children out of school almost 3 years ago, I was aware of'deschooling, so we decided to give it 6 months and see how it went. Well, it ended up taking about a year before both girls got into the groove of homeschooling and then a little longer for unschooling. As a parent I think I still find myself needing to deschool on certain issues. I read a lot about unschooling, mindfulness and parenting and am going through a huge learning/growth spurt. Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming and uncomfortable, other days invigorating. I am still astounded at how conditioned I had been by the educational system. My girls had been in school for 2 years and the eldest 4 years, and the eldest did take the longest to 'deschool' but I also think that is a personality issue.

I just pulled my teens out last year at ages 14 & 15 in some ways we are still deschooling, I recognized that we needed a time of healing.The kids panicked when I told them we wouldn't be doing assignments, tests, grades, etc. but within a few weeks they grasped and accepted what I was telling them. 15 y/o granddaughter stayed up all night on myspace, 14 y/o DS stayed up all night with video games. Both would sleep most of the day. I never said a word, just fixed them breakfast whenever they crawled out of bed. It has been only 7 mos. since they came home to school and I'm beginning to see them emerge from their "caves". DS now gets on the computer to reserve library books online almost daily and we make 2-3 trips a week to pick them up. Granddaughter studies what interests her, writes reports and turns them in to me. I DLed homeschool tracker so that whatever they are doing I can create subjects, courses, and assignments that will give them a transcript. By doing this with the kids, I've begun to heal as well and give myself credit for all the things I've learned in the 30 something years I've been out of school.

I find that overall, most of my life I have lead with much that philosophy....why did I need teachers setting a book in front of me and telling me to read chapter 3 and answer questions on the back of sheet. I felt like school was a way to keep us out of trouble for a couple hours each day, most of my learning came from passion, experience and simply put "life"!!
Deschooling came more when I went to college and learned how to study and gain knowledge from materials infront of me...not just following protecal but leraning on my own from my experiences with ppl and life.
I found such an enlightening bunch of "teachers" who knew how to approach life questions and such found science to be my outlet, my passion.
Thus looking into teaching as a profession, still believe that experience is the best teacher !! After having children, I swore never to teach mine the way I was taught, so to speak!!

When I first took my daughter out of school, I kept being told "Oh, she needs some time to deschool..usually one month per year at school" "eek" I thought,
"thats 7 months! I'm sure the local authority will love to hear that we are deschooling for at least 7 months." As it was the local authority didn't get in touch for a year..so by then we were pretty much deschooled..well we had a semblance of being deschooled at least. I think deschooling is what you do to get over the shell shock. The day my daughter left school we both were visibly shaking. We couldn't quite believe we had done it. As "mum", I put on a very chirpy face (after all this was originally my idea!) and I said " Don't worry..it's perfectly legal..what can they do to us?" But deschooling in the UK isn't just about getting school out of the system...it's also abut getting the system out of our system.
People don't just leave school..just like that..surely? Every policeman we saw walking up the high street made us quake. Every nosy shopkeeper made us want to curl up into a ball. Once we got used to staring police and shopkeepers in the eye, our worries turned to the work aspect. I ran out buying workbooks galore. I added 2 billion website links to my favourites..ALL educational!...I left the tv on the documentary channels...I put on BBC radio 4, even when nobody was in the room, in case osmosis was present in the house.

Whilst I was doing all this in between great bouts of worrying, my daughter was beginning to deschool without my knowledge. One day she would be picking up the workbooks, trying to fill them in, "IN CASE THEY COME AND BANG ON THE DOOR!"..and the next moment she would be playing on line with her website, learning html to get it looking good, without a care in the world. This would be interspersed with chatting to friends, making loads of pictures in "Paint", and writing poetry.
I wasn't too aware of the poetry until one day she declares, "mum, I won a poetry competition" "oh that's great!" I thought thinking that it would look good in the report to the local authority. " So what competition was it? When did you enter it? What is the poem?" I asked "oh just some national poetry competition..they are printing it in next months magazine..I wrote it one morning when you were sleeping" Winning a national poetry competition, and she won out of all ages even though she was only 10 at the time, is no mean feat, and I'm so busy trying to get her doing "stufff" for the local authority that I have missed the fact that my daughter is deschooling without me. She didn't write that poem for any Education Welfare Officer to see, she wrote it because she wanted to.
It was at that point I realised that I should stand back and let the deschooling happen and trust that when it does it won't be a disaster. The workbooks disappeared and we embraced deschooling and soon after that autonomous education. I don't think we have fully deschooled.. who knows if we ever will? I still get moments of panic that she doesn't know "enough" or she is getting "left behind". But this happens less frequently, especially as she is growing into a beautiful, intelligent young lady. If not being in school is detrimental to a person, then 2 years out would have been detrimental to my daughter. There are no signs of this at all. It is the complete opposite.Deschooling was just a natural part of our home educating experience. I was the time where we experimented with concepts that terrified us, the time when we had to be our bravest, and the time when we really got to know ourselves. It was the hardest time to date, but also the most enlightening and worthwhile.

When our son left school at age 8 he was broke little boy. Not spelling up to the schools standards caused him great grief and heart ache. The schools view of help was to remove him from class to the resource room for "help". This help brought on a chain reaction of teasing, depression and tears on a daily basis. Mornings were so stressful I would feel like I was back in school.
Following a February missing lunch and a call from the school we left for greener pastures.
Deschooling came so natural it almost felt criminal we were so free. Of coarse finding the unschool discussion list gave me the strength to plunge forward into this new world of hope.
Dustin played video games, listened to audio tapes, watched movies,read surfing magazines and went shopping among other activities. Proudly claiming to be homeschoolers every place we visited we were on a mission. Homeschooling was well known in the winter of 99 however in Maine unschooling was still unheard of by many and rarely spoken about beyond a few lists. The following year we did begin to feel the doubts that creep in here ad there. Our son needed reassurance and we needed it too. We headed for the only place at the time that seemed to be advertising, Sylvan.
We learned a lot. We learned that our son wasn't broken. (this still brings tears to my eyes knowing I could have been one of those parents who left him to lump it) We learned what we already knew.. he was just a child, our child. Armed with the knowledge that our past year of unschooling had helped more than two years(or more) of school could ever have we raced forward and to this day are now unschooling our other 3 children.. and ourselves.
Dustin is now 15 and helping to run the family business (his idea back in 1999 and also the creator of the business name) along with following his own interests of cooking, gaming and planning a cross country trip with friends.


Gem said...

Oh, I love that phrase "autonomous education"! It has a positive ring to it, and doesn't reference school at all. As we de-school, it would be nice to get rid of that school word all together, wouldn't it?!

Joanne said...

I totally agree! Good observation! :-)

Meg said...

Hi- I just started poking around your blog. I like what I can read, but the typeface is too small for me to spend much time here. Just thought I'd share because I'd really like to read more, but it's too hard!


Joanne said...

Thanks for letting me know. I just adjusted it...let me know if it's better now. :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh JoAnn,
I love this site and read all the inputs for this month from the families about the deschooling topic. I am in my second year of deschooling. I, myself don't worry so much about my kids learning, but my neighbors do. My kids spent plenty of tome on the computer, watching TV and play with their friend a lot of roleplays and building forts everywhere. Of course all my neighbors think that my kids don't learn, even sometimes my children doubt themselves, because they try to meassure up to one neighbor child which is homeschooled, but basically learns everything what a public schoolchild learns and also has to take tests. This child is enrolled fulltime in Florida Virtual School.........poor child. I feel soory at all the times for this child.
Greetings to you my dear Friend

Joanne said...

My kids love role playing also. They act out every new movie or place we go. I'm glad you're enjoying the submissions to this months edition of Unschooling Voices!!