Last time I shared a tiny bit of my spiritual journey. (If you missed that post, you can see it here.) I started here because I believe that how one defines the mystical or spiritual element of life dictates how one views pretty much everything else. In short, I needed to share a piece of my foundation with you before I started sharing all the branches that make up my tree of life. To go into the details of my foundation would be like describing all the particles in soil. Its not necessarily an enjoyable, or helpful, read and should probably be limited to conversations over beer or on a shrink's sofa, either way keeping some things out of print.
That said, here is a tiny bit more.
I was homeschooled. Those of you in my age bracket understand the stereotype that came with that statement in the early 90s: socially awkward, quiet little church-mouse, overly protected and/or sheltered, etc. This stereotype, while not in itself is necessarily a negative, does not fairly fit all homeschoolers. It is nonetheless what most people I've encountered think of when they hear "homeschool." Fortunately, some of you in my age bracket are spending a great deal of time and energy changing that stereotype and considering - or doing- homeschooling for your own children. Because of this shift, homeschooling itself has changed. Multiple varieties of "doing school" have become the norm. While not everyone comprehends all aspects of each variety, the fact that homeschooling is discussed at large is a huge step forward from when I was teased about it as a kid.*
So with this new perspective, I've given up my vow of never homeschooling my kid in exchange for a dedication to reevaluate our options every year. Currently, I guess you could say we are "Unschooling." A regular week for us includes art projects, sewing projects, cooking, grocery shopping, chores, board games, reading, playdates, animal care, gardening and mickey's clubhouse. If I took the time to separate all this into government approved subject headings, as some states require homeschooling parents to do, we're covering all the basics of school curriculum. Once the weather warms up we'll get back in the pool and see if swimming lessons are needed. This kind of let's try it and see what happens mentality is the basic curiosity that we are all born with. I don't want to squash it by adding deadlines to learning just yet. So we take it one day, month, year at a time and do our best to be present, while thinking of the future, and see what happens. We ask a lot of questions and search out answers together. We spend too much time in front of the tv for a few days and then spend the next few days or weeks doing everything that crosses our path. From what I've read, that's fairly standard human behavior for first world homeschoolers.
Coupled with my spiritual belief that a specific religious expression doesn't work for everyone, Unschooling also believes that a set way of learning doesn't work for everyone. We all learn and remember the subjects we are interested in. Spending years grinding on subject matter because someone says it's important but it is not interesting is a disservice to children who are built to run around, explore, touch, smell and be thoroughly immersed in their curiosity. My goal is to keep this love of life alive in my child and give ourselves the freedom to admit when this approach to learning isn't working for us anymore. I assume that around the middle school years, when the overwhelming need to feel included in a peer group starts to surface, we may start looking into homeschool co-ops, reevaluate the happenings within the public (government run) school system, or really encouraging sports or fine arts classes. If I were to guess today what those arts and sports would be I would say guitar lessons, dance classes and swim team. But I'm open to interest shifts ;)
If you're interested in learning more about Unschooling, pick up a book written by John Holt (Like this one) or the Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith.
You may also find this website interesting: http://www.holtgws.com/unschooling.html
For more on homeschooling in general check out this empowering overview The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child, by Linda Dobson.
* My sincere hope is that I did not offend anyone with my take on how I was stereotyped growing up. Homeschooling can and is for anyone who wants to make it work, no matter their view on life, opinion of proper public etiquette of children or religious affiliation. I am extremely grateful that this is no longer the picture that jumps to the forefront when the word "homeschooler" is thrown around as I spent a great deal of energy trying to "prove" myself as a outgoing, fun-loving, open-minded artist in a hugely middle-class Christian suburb. I was so adament that people knew the Real Me and not Me the Homeschooler that I often didn't tell people I was homeschooled to save myself the trouble of having to disprove the stereotype. That said, anyone can do anything, if they put their mind to it, including homeschooling your kiddos.