Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I've Stopped Telling People That We are Homeschoolers

You know Homeschoolers, right?

Every September the Homeschool-Mama cranks up the curriculum machine, laying out plans for the learning patterns of her children.  She buys books, kits and activities.  She schedules lessons and playgroups.  She wears her school-at-home hat and the children sit at the table and do school-at-home.

And that's fine if you really are a Homeschool-Mama and your kids really do school-at-home.

But to be honest, I'm operating from a completely different paradigm.

I'm operating from the perspective of Trust.  I'm trusting my children to learn whatever they feel inclined to learn whenever they feel motivated to learn it.  I provide a rich, full life and then I get out of the way and I watch with amazement as my children demonstrate and assimilate their literacy skills, their gross motor skills, their imaginations, their compassion and cooperation, their joy and excitement, their meaningful lives.

Yesterday we were at the Ontario Science Centre.  On a Monday there are two kinds of people there:  school groups and moms with tots.  My older children stand out because they are not part of those two groups.  So inevitably, someone asks "Are you off school today?"  and they (or I) will answer "No.  We don't go to school."  And inevitably the next reply is "Oh, you're homeschoolers."

So I've stopped saying "Yes."  Saying Yes, we are Homeschoolers implies a whole lot of things about the parent-child relationship in our home that our NOT TRUE.  It implies that I am imposing something onto my children that I'm simply not.

Why was I saying "Yes" in the first place?  Because of fear and accommodation.  I was fearful of putting an idea out that other people wouldn't understand so I would accommodate them with an answer that would make them feel comfortable.

Well, no more.

My new answer is "No.  We learn together wherever we are."

It's a small thing, this decision to be authentic about our learning.  But it matters to me.  I can't show my children that I am unwilling to be honest just because I can't be bothered to give an authentic answer.  My children know about Homeschooling because we know families who choose that model for their home-based learning.  So obviously they know that it is a lie for me to tell people that we are Homeschoolers.  I have to be honest for their sakes.

But I also have to be honest because I think that it is important to let the world know that we who are the non-conformists will not be silenced or lumped together for the comfort levels of those who choose the status quo.  I don't hide that I breastfeed or that I believe homebirth can be a safe option or that I don't poison my children with colours and chemicals disguised as food.

I've never pretended that the parenting path I've chosen is easy.  It is hard to know that mainstream culture has no framework for understanding the paradigm I've chosen to live.  But just like it took the parents who said "We will not spank" to make the major shift in mainstream parenting that now frowns on spanking, it will take parents like me who say "We will not control and coerce our children's learning" to make a shift in the general parenting consciousness.

I'm will to contribute to that change, even if it takes me (and other people) out of our comfort zones.


  1. When my oldest was unschooled, I used to carry around a little explanation that I had printed about 20 copies of. It was about 1/2 a page that just defined what we did and why with the URLs of a few Web sites (including Growing Without Schooling) and the recommendation to read John C. Holt's "How Children Learn". I gave those little papers out whenever anyone asked for further information and we were in a hurry to get somewhere. It really helped to have that all prepared!

    My oldest decided to "try real school" when he was quite young and has stuck with it since. He's 13 and in high school now. He recently asked me when I was going to start homeschooling his little brother who is almost 3. I said, "He is learning."
    "No, Mom! I mean with books and stuff."
    "Do you ever remember sitting at the table and doing worksheets and stuff?"
    "Um... no."
    "How do you think you learned enough that they wanted to put you two grades ahead when you started school?"
    And, whenever anyone ever asks me how I *know* that kids learn what they need to know when they're unschooled, I just tell them about my oldest's public school entry tests. :)

  2. Very cool! Post AND comment! I've wanted to unschool for 8 years...my 3 year old (oldest) is just getting used to the idea that schoolbuses aren't for us . :)

  3. This is great! I'm unschooling my little ones who are only 2 and 3 and still get asked why they are not in preschool! I too don't like the homeschooling term but tend to use it as a way to get the conversation completed in a way that people can relate too, they still think it's strange but have some level of comprehension. However I have been clear with my children that our school is 'everywhere'. The other day my Grandmother asked about my daughters school to which she replied something like 'School is about life and learning from life' I was bursting with joy! I will follow her terminology from now on :-)

  4. I love it. The reality is that we are somewhere in the middle of homeschool and unschool. For me this allows me the chance to check in on what they are learning. It's also a safety net...I must be honest. Im still learning to trust that it will be ok!