Life Learning

Homeschool. One word invokes such strong feelings in so many people. Fear, dread, anger. But for us, much stronger than any of those feelings, hope. Of course we’re planning a more radical approach than merely schooling at home. We’re traveling the unschooling road. For us, we believe, it’s the best fit.

We’re not afraid that our children won’t get into university. Partly because we don’t believe university is the answer for everyone. We know that if our children express interest in a career that requires a university degree, we’ll assist them in finding what they need in order to get in. We’ll also use a school board that both supports and has experience in the style of schooling our family uses.

Nor are we afraid that our children won’t learn what they need to know in order to lead productive lives. We already see their passion, their drive to learn. There’s no reason to believe that’ll change as they get older. Some people wonder if children will ever learn to read, write, tackle higher order mathematics, or finish ‘school’ with  a well round education.

We’re not concerned. We don’t belief someone else should decide what ‘well-rounded’ actually entails. Is it really important to learn American history? Some might say yes, but what about people living in Australia? Do they learn American history? If so, do they learn the same as Americans? Probably not. Living in Canada it might be important to learn about the Canadian political system, and at least some Canadian history, but it isn’t really necessary. But since Ryan and I are moderately interested in politics and are open and vocal about what we’re watching/reading/listening to, the girls are exposed to that. As for world history, again because Ryan and I are moderately interested, the girls are also exposed. If they choose they’ll also pursue more information. But it doesn’t matter if they choose not to. If they’re really interested in pursuing a career or lifestyle that requires them to know certain bits of history, then they’ll find the knowledge they need, and if they choose not to, then it really wasn’t something they were interested in enough to focus their life work on it. The same goes of any other subject,including math. Certainly it might be better, in some ways, to tackle math easily without the aid of a calculator, but people are perfectly capable of living productive,happy lives without knowing how to do calculus. As for basic math, we see the girls already tackling it. Adding and subtraction is necessary in order to play games they enjoy, in order to know ho much money they have/will have in order to purchase items. Math is used in day-to-day life, and as long as we don’t force it on them, they will learn it.

Even within school some subjects are left behind. There’s nothing wrong with skipping certain areas of information. There’s nothing wrong with focusing more heavily on one area, less on others. It is wrong to have someone else arbitrarily decide what areas to focus on, which to leave behind. In school, it doesn’t matter if a student wants to read every work by Jane Austen, what does matter is what the teacher wants the students to read. Some students may pursue their preferred areas of interest on top of school curricula, but not all of them will have the energy. Not all will have the drive.

Which brings me to another point of concern many people express. What about the child that just doesn’t want to learn?

Ultimately I don’t believe that child exists. Certainly there are students that hate school, that refuse to do homework, that disrupt class, that fail. Time after time. It doesn’t mean they won’t pursue what they’re passionate about. It does mean they’re not passionate about the subjects being fired down their throats. When allowed to follow their own path right front he start, students don’t lose their drive. They follow their interests and naturally learn about so many different subjects.

It so happens we were singing songs from my childhood. “Yankee Doodle’ illicit squeals, and sparked interest. Ella wanted to learn more. She wanted to know more about why who Yankee doodle was, about General Washington. She’s since been learning about the American revolution, slavery, women’s rights, and asking tough questions. These are subjects that many students don’t approach until seventh grade, yet at less than five she’s interested and wants to know more. She has the time and energy to pursue many of her interests each week. Gymnastics, horseback riding, dance, sports ball, French. All of these, plus focusing on learning her letters, writing, learning about mammals, cellular biology, earth worms and how they help the garden. These are just a few of the interests expressed in the past week by one child. Each child will be different, but ultimately if an adult allows them the freedom to learn, they will.

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