Saturday, 8 September 2012

Another year of unschooling :-)

This week lots of children round the country are starting school for the first time, others are going back for a new year, some are going up to 'big school'. Mine, like thousands of others, are not. There's no school to go back to, since they never left it in the first place.

Our life at home is one continuum, with it's own rhythms, milestones, challenges and achievements.

I think back to how I felt that first September that Finn would have entered school life, had we gone down that road. And how I feel now, five years on. Back then I thought we'd be doing school-at-home, that our homeschooling would be very bookish, and resemble something like the classroom, with a very Montessori flavour. The kids however, had better ideas!

Five years on, homeschooling looks very different to how I imagined, and it's richer and more colourful than I could ever have guessed.

We are part of an really vibrant, fun-loving, supportive community of home educators, who meet regularly, in different settings, be it at each others houses, in parks, at woodlands, at halls, and all kind of random places. We meet up in different combinations of families, from just a few families meeting together to a grand gathering with with lots of mamas and papas and grandparents and friends and kids of all ages. We are a mixed bunch with different religious and non-religious views, different styles of learning, different ideas, philosophies, priorities and our own unique flavour of home edding to suit our own individual families. No two are exactly alike.

The kids form friendships that are not dictated by the fact they are a boy or girl, or by what age they are. They play with who they want to, and tolerate or ignore those they don't. (Although there's not often situations where kids really fall out).

Interesting people from all walks of life are drafted in to play 'teacher' for the day, usually in a group setting, always someone skilled or talented, and above all else, passionate about their craft. It might be a historical re-enactor, an artist, a surgeon, a scientist, a storyteller, or just an enthusiast well known and loved by someone in the group. 

As a family, we are free to explore or meet with friends at places outside of the crowded times - parks, woods, beaches, museums - no need to go in the middle of August with twenty thousand others!

The children can mostly follow their own rhythms, including preferences for when and how they learn, when and how they sleep, when and what they eat and so on. This is not to say everything always goes their way. Sometimes they plain hate having to do something but that's tough!

When the children are 'open' to a subject they soak it in with total ease. It doesn't happen according to anyone else schedule though or at their supposedly 'developmentally appropriate' age. Sometimes they learn faster than they're 'supposed' to, and sometimes they take their sweet time. 

The beauty of homeschooling is that kids can figure out who they are and where they fit into things at a pace which respects them and nurtures them. It doesn't mean never pushing them out of their comfort zone, never challenging them to reach for something better - but it does mean they can be relatively free of being constantly judged on their 'performance' or 'outcomes' - two concepts which I find vile and corporate and which have no place in childhood. The purpose of educating a child is not so they can 'perform' or do tricks for the adults to prove themselves. The purpose of education is for a child to grow in their understanding by questioning everything, by exploring freely, by having a relationship with the world by call and response. it is an inner activity, entirely personal, and not belonging to the teachers or the world at large. The child's interaction with the world and participation in it is actually enough in order for them to learn. It is egotistical of adults to assume they must dictate and spoonfeed education to children - when children are pretty good at learning when they are given a chance to just live and be and do. Just because they don't participate in school doesn't mean they aren't participating in society - just one section within it.

I often find the arguments for the necessity of school quite laughable. 

"Kids need school so they can be employable"

"Kids need school so they can learn to socialise with all kinds of people"

"Kids need school so they can learn everything they'll need to know as an adult"

None of these is strictly true.

Hows about a quick read of these? 

I'm not knocking school here. Truly I'm not.

I'm just saying there is also another way. 

It's a good way.

It's not that crazy.

It's not that hard (Sometimes it is very hard, but overall.... nah!)

It's fun and nice a lot of the time.

And the kids love it!

All it takes is a bit o' love, a bit o' magic, a bit of imagination, some big cojones, some good friends to share it all with, a great network of interesting people livin' life to the full and shining from doing things with passion, and a willingness to be playful on a full-time basis - lots of adults find that one very hard to do!!! 

Life is short and we're not just put on this earth to be employable - we're here to do good stuff, love each other, find what we're passionate about, and enjoy the one life we have. 

Some people do that at school, some people, like us, do it wherever they happen to be each day.

I'm truly grateful that we are home-eding our kids for another 'school year', and excited about what the next 12 months will bring.

Yay - bring it on!


  1. Love it x big shout going out to you all from campsite almost on top of nudey beach this morning in glorious sunshine suffering lack of sleep due to rave going on til dawn. Pitched next to a teacher who i am just waiting to ask me the question! So thank you Mf for this great and most welcome post this morning. Miss you all up there. Unschooling rocks x

  2. Heya Angela- ah shout out back atcha on top of the nudey beach! Go join in the rave I say ;-) hehe. Finn says to say hi to Summer, and that he loves her :-)

    Anonymous - glad you liked what you read here today!

    Xx MF xX

  3. Lovely post! We're into our second year now. Woohoo! :)
    Was great to see you on Thurs. thanks again for the lovely package! xxx

  4. It was really grand to see you and your bambinos Laura. Hope your back is feeling a little better! Love P X

  5. Oh so good to hear as I take baby steps into the world of home edding, having seen children through state and steiner was so good to read this thanks!

  6. Hey Henrietta - lovely to see your face dear mama! I've missed you. Hope you are enjoying your home ed journey so far :-) xx