“I want their learning to be INSPIRING to them!”
“I seem to fall back on the way I learned in school.”
“What am I supposed to DO?”
Parents come to me all the time WANTING the educational experience with their kids to be creative and full of excitement. But even when they start out that way, the familiar school approach pops up and they begin to question it all. Worries about “staying caught up” or if they’re learning “enough,” come flooding in and crowd out all those fragile little thoughts of creativity and discovery.
It’s ok. You’re learning something new. All of your life, up to this point, you’ve been conditioned to keep conforming and believing in the fallacy that there’s only one right way to learn. But that’s what we’re here to help you offset, right?
So let’s jump into the ideas that trip up a lot of people.
- You don’t need to teach.
- You don’t need to plan.
- You don’t even need to have “excellent follow-through.”
I know, shocking, right? You’ve probably been beating yourself up over that one for quite a while!
Unschooling embraces spontaneity. So if you’re an in-the-moment kind of person, that’s exactly what your kids are going to need from you! Even if you're not a particularly spontaneous person, the kids need you to meet them where they are each day… wherever that may be. This enables you to see what their interest is and what the next step should be - without being distracted by expectations of completing assignments or following through.
Do you ever go to bed with big plans, but wake up forgetting what those were! I know *I* did that for a really long time! It’s not that you’re forgetful or airheady - it’s that those plans weren’t really that meaningful for you. Or maybe the story in your head about what the day was going to look like when you wake up was drastically different from the reality. Those stories in our heads can really create more problems than we ever realized!
Instead, how about waking up to see what the day has in store for you?
- What’s the weather like… that may give a hint as to what kinds of things can be done today.
- Which kid looks like they’d enjoy a little more connection time with you? What would that look like?
- What’s a general structure in your family’s day - morning people or night owls? Maybe some of each?
- When are they hungry? When is their most energetic time? When is their slump?
When we’re in school, none of those questions matter. Everyone has to do what everyone else does in order for the wheels of the system to turn... rain or shine, no matter what the mood. But you’re a family, not a system. And that means you get to pay attention to the ACTUAL needs and preferences of the individuals IN your family.
Schools throw around words like “individualizing” the learning and the experience - but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what families can do when it comes to individualizing!
Instead of thinking in terms of school academics - that’s so limiting! - what do they ENJOY?
What do they want to DO? How would they like THEIR days to go?
The learning will happen AS they are doing these things. It’s unavoidable! When we want to get better at something, we discover we may need more skills or competence. And then that directs our next moves. Humans enjoy challenging themselves. It’s just that we can’t always see what’s going on in someone else’s brain and we don’t really know what part of a particular activity is more challenging than another - or maybe which they simply have to tolerate to get to the outcome they’re looking for.
Learning is an inevitable byproduct of living immersed in your daily activities!
PLUS, they’ll have the added advantage that they’re acquiring confidence in their own abilities to direct their course in life. They’ll get opportunities to practice seeking out the resources needed to get what they need/want from their lives. This is the start of all of that. This also may help you feel better about the idea of the activity they’re engaging in. You might consider it “fluff” or not of any real consequence for their life. But the “soft skills” they are acquiring are VERY important. Again, not always something we can witness and check a box - but they’re capabilities they will take with them into another activity that may or may not even be related to where they first picked up the skill.
I can hear the next questions…
“Ok, what kinds of things are we supposed to be doing?
“What if they never stop playing ____?”
Well, your lives are not going to look like school. It might look more like a Saturday or a Summer Vacation that never ended. The kids aren’t going to reach over for a textbook after a certain appropriate number of weeks of decompression. That was never the point of deschooling.
Life doesn’t really divide itself up into neat and tidy subjects. That only happens in schools - and your kids don’t go there anymore.
So instead of focusing on doing math, reading, history, spelling, etc., unschoolers focus on interests. And that’s how their days fill up.
And then, if fear still has a hold of you and you’re still knee-deep in your own deschooling, you can look at their activities and make mental notes of the subjects that weave throughout their activities. It’s usually not limited to one, like in a classroom.
But it’s more like multiple subjects weaving together, sometimes heavier in one than in another - like thread in a tapestry!