Friday, October 16, 2009


This is what stuck with me the most.
At Crunchy Christian Mama's blog, she said that someone around her said she wasn't an Unschooler any longer. The reason given was that she led her children.
Which I smile at.

But of course it also raised lots of feelings and questions for me... at the top of the list was "Are we unschoolers?"
Not in a panicky, judging, let's-tear-this-apart way, gnash my teeth and get down to the bare bones sort of way, but in an objectional, "hmmmm.... let's stop for a minute, look around, and take notes" sort of way. I've exposed enough nuclei and quarks on this issue lately to be comfortable with the How we do things... but this time I wanted to examine the What.

So, I had the idea for the Experiment.
The first thing was to take the issue to Trev. We talked about homeschooling, and unschooling, and how that's different from school, and the way other people do things. We talked about the things he likes to do. We talked about having diversity in our days. We talked about finding lots of different things interesting. Even pilgrims.

I wondered if I was doing right by my children. I wondered if I was opening books on Early America in the name of exposure and diversity, or because I wanted to feel like A Good Homeschoool Mom. (Wretched title, for me, by the way. Feels like a minivan. No offense intended... just not my style.)

So I talked to Trevelyn. And gave the next day to him.

Admittedly, it was hard!

About an hour after he was given the reigns he didn't want them. I briefly considered giving up the idea, but I wanted really wanted to see the thing through.
He decided on the planetarium for a film. Under the Sea 3D. I asked if we could see Extreme Planets, too-- I really have been wanting to see it. He relented, I took it back, he said "no, it's okay, we can see it, too, Mom," I was still trying to decide if I was cheating or not, and in the end we were going to have to rush, and I decided not to.
See? Hard to stay out of it.

To the park, not to the park, Maddie demands "yes!!" to the park...
again... hard for us all to stay out of it.

I didn't really know how long this experiment would last.
The plan was 'Trev leads'.
Then 'Maddie leads'.
Would our days look totally different from our usual experiences?
Would we sit and watch Trev play his game all day?
Would we have tea parties?
Would books be banned? ;)

Not quite.
Turns out that it was pretty familiar.

I wondered at first if it was because Trev was disinterested. Or if he was feeling pressured, and couldn't think.
And as the day wore on, I wondered if I should have offered more ideas. If I shouldn't have just left it at "If you could do anything in the whole world, what would you do today?" (though I did offer some ideas.)
Maybe I should have mentioned Classic? (even though we went yesterday.)
Maybe I should have mentioned the dollar movie to see Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs? (In my defense, I didn't think of it 'til later.)

But... ding. We do these kinds of things every day. I'm not opposed to a dollar movie. I'm not opposed to spending four or five hours at the park or skating rink. That's business-as-usual for us.

We Enjoy Lots Of Different Things.
Not only that, but We All Lead.
Moment to moment, day to day, we pack in things that are interesting to each of us. Some are boring to some of us. I about cried of boredom a couple of times during Little House In the Big Woods. But my babes liked it, so I kept going. I'm not as enthralled as Maddie with puzzles. But we play. Sometimes I'm led to the roller rink. I would never choose to go there by myself. I have a good time because my babes have a good time.

My point is not that "I suffer, therefore it won't hurt my children to be bored over something, either," but that there is an ebb and flow to our days and moments.
We lead, we follow.
We live together, we love, and we learn. We are inspired by lots of different things, and we are influenced by lots of different things.
Our lives are lead by other things sometimes... as free as we are, we are not free in every moment. There are appointments sometimes, there are children, phone calls... needs. Things that can be viewed as disruptions. None of us live independently of others.
We're influenced by weather, society, the calendar, seasons, events in our city, and the money that's in our pocket.

The joy in my life comes from many different things-- creating, exploring, discovering... space to live and breathe and just Be.
Toward this end I make offers to -and sometimes lead- my children.
And toward this end I follow.


Phyllis said...

I have been thinking about Crunchy Christian Momma's entry too. I was thinking how I don't think I can be classified as an unschooler or a Charlotte Mason homeschooler or...whatever...because I take elements from each that fit our family, and leave the rest. I guess what worries me more is the issue that it seems that many of us seem to want to label and reject those that don't fit the label. This can also be said the same for politics or religion or many other issues. I understand that there is some comfort in feeling the oneness, the feeling of belonging to have an umbrella of like-mindedness. However, I think that one can miss out on a lot be being tied to anything that keeps you from thinking and doing what is right for you and your family. I guess this is just me agreeing with you. I agree that one can't be afraid to try new things...and one shouldn't be afraid to do what they feel is right for their families...even if it doesn't exactly fit the mold.
Just my 2 cents,

MamaLou said...

Great post. I think you are what I am. A structured unschooler. An oxymoron some would say. So lets reword them, we strew structurally...hmmmmm.....We take a look at our kids, their interests, their maturity, their evrything and we make suggestions based on what they may want to do, and then do them. For example: 'hay, let's listen to story of the world while driving' (starts with egypt, pharohs, pyramids etc - I tried a year ago, no go, NOW - they like it!), later: Kids demand I read entire book on Mummies and Pyramids to them. Did I force them? No. Did I strew constructively? Yes. Did it work? Resoundingly! Do the kids want to make carrot food coloring? YES. Did I introduce "Little House in the Big Woods" where Mama makes this in the 1st chapter? YES. How can this be wrong. Strewing is the same as leading, but leading based on kids taking the lead from you and galloping with it.....

Andrea said...

I think the ebb and flow is really accurate. Sometimes we are "true" unschoolers, but sometimes that flows away from us a for a little while. No worries here, as long as we are all OK with what is going on. Don't get me wrong, there are no workbooks or sticker charts around here, but sometimes my "strewing" gets more intense than others. I think we are like a flock of birds, alternating who takes the lead. And I think that is OK:) Great post.

Theresa said...

I think what you've expressed here is an example of the fact that you have to do what is right for your whole family and if you do, then it is right for your children.
What some unschooling "purists" forget is that children are part of a family, and that family is the functional unit, not the individual. Moms do not have to sacrifice all of their desires to those of their children, nor do children submit their will to their parents. We ALL sacrifice and we ALL receive so that it does not feel like sacrifice at all but just love, pure and simple. That is life. That is a family. And THAT is what makes unschooling (and homeschooling in general)so special.
Besides,despite what some may think, there is NOT one single agreed-upon definition of unschooling except that it is not "school". Anyone who tells you differently has an agenda of their own to push.

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

I am late seeing these posts! I admire your effortful Experiment, and I think it would feel quite the same were we to do it! Somehow I imagined that your kids really were just demanding to do experiments all the time -- LOL. How silly of me. Of COURSE they need you to dig some ideas up for them.

I like the idea of "structured unschoolers." Because some of need (just a little) structure. Like, ya know, a plan for the day, so we get to do what we hope to do, and still manage to eat before getting cranky. ;)

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

What an interesting experiment, however you decide to label yourself, I think what is most important is that you are putting your children and their interests and needs first.