Home Schooling: Is it for you?

When we first meet someone new and tell them we homeschool our children, they say, "doesn't that take so much time," or "what a big committment." We respond with, "not really, we don't have a set curriculum - we learn from everyday life experiences." They seem amazed that schooling can be open and that education is what we do every day. Education doesn't happen just because our kids get on the bus each morning. Education is acquired in a lifetime, and learning is a life skill. We are all learning together, all of the time. For us, it is family learning.

We did not come upon this philosophy on our own. John Holt, an educator, and author of numerous books and articles in the 70s, started a newsletter called "Growing Without Schooling" from Cambridge Massachusetts. He coined the term unschooling, when after many years in the public school system, he saw that change was needed in the way we educate our youth. In the Dec/Jan 1995 issue of "Growing Without Schooling," editor Susannah Sheffer stated, "at the beginning Holt simply used 'unschooling' as a synonym for what we now call homeschooling." She adds, "By issue #12, which I'd date at June 1979, you can see that the magazine was using 'unschooling' and 'homeschooling' pretty much interchangeably, and gradually the term 'homeschooling' became the more common one." The philosophy is founded on the belief that children learn what they need to know within the bounds of secure, loving and caring adults.

Another invaluable resource for us was Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax. This book helped us clarify our philolsophy about the environment we wanted to create for our children. From the book: "Although most aren't unduly concerned about it, parents who send their children to others to be taught relinquish control over what their children will be taught, and when. Most people -- and especially professional educators -- presume that there is, indeed, a body of knowledge to which children must be systematically exposed as they progress through the grades. But close examination of this notion reveals that it is more of an organizational housekeeping consideration than a pedagogically sound concept. Most parents, we contend, are more than capable of providing their children with a better education than they could obtain elsewhere. All that is necessary are appropriate learning materials and opportunities, on the one hand,and a nurturing environment, on the other."

Children are born with an innate sense of curiosity. How many times have you heard parents describe their children as "sponges?" This is what makes "unschooling" so easy and so rewarding for the child as well as the parent. There is little problem with motivation. Kids learn because that is simply their response to interest in a subject. They study/read/think/play about what interests them. Sometimes they say they are bored. Parents might make a few suggestions, but it is up to them to be bored or to find something that interests them. Now you say, but what about discipline!!! Aren't they hellions running wild in the streets. Of course not, they live within boundaries with rules. They know what is acceptable behavior, because they live in a family that models acceptable behavior.

 

Am I saying we are perfect parents? Certainly not -- but we are "good-enough" parents. Another term that we did not come up with ourselves. In his book, A Good Enough Parent, Bruno Bettleheim states "perfection is not within the grasp of ordinary human beings ... it is quite possible to be a good enough parent -- that is, a parent who raises his child well." He goes on to say, "the mistakes we make in rearing our child -- errors often made just because of the intensity of our emotional involvement in and with our child -- must be more than compensated for by the many instances in which we do right by our child." This is our goal in parenting and unschooling. 

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