Unschooling isn’t a popular “method” of teaching especially since there is little known about the subject and the consequences (?). However, I believe we as a species have been UNSCHOOLING much longer than any kind of traditional teaching practice… ever.
I DIDN’T START OUT AS AN UNSCHOOLER
Way back when our eldest son was Preschool age, my husband and I were in the Amway business and we were surrounded my quite an amazing group of out-of-the-box thinkers. It was like belonging to a book club… ON STEROIDS. (Multi-vitamins to be precise).
This association exposed me to all the wonderful aspects of homeschooling. Choosing your hours, breakfast table worksheets, and park day play dates. All was fun and good and our Jeffrey was proving to me what a bright little guy he was. He was reading at four years old and was (in mom’s book) a genius!
It wasn’t until Jeffrey was six years old and First Grade age that I began to feel pressured from all sides, “What will you do for Jeffrey? Jeffrey is six now shouldn’t he be in school?” In order to make these questions and this exterior pressure stop – I did what any parent would normally do. I enrolled our son in Public School.
A TED TALK… ABOUT WHAT?
One day while my husband and I were out to breakfast we were sitting across from a couple telling them about our family. We told them how our oldest son has been a Pastry Chef in training since he was 15, how our second son has been training with the Stanford University Club Diving Team to go to the Olympics since he was 12, how our daughter had been recently promoted to pointe in ballet dancing since she was 8, and how our remaining children have shown interests in acting and science.
The couple seemed astonished at all of our children’s individual achievements and determination. Jeff and I merely shrugged because as parents we have done nothing but read and follow that spirit of intuition, God’s voice, and focus on treating our family as the ultimate “START UP” a family of innovation. After our discussion with the man he asked us if we would ever consider doing a TED talk about what we do.
My answer now would be an ABSOLUTELY YES but before talking to the man, I was just doing the things I thought I needed to do in order to be the best parent I could be (not accomplishing anything special)… now I understand living an “unschooled and unscripted” life is a unique and beautiful thing.
SPECIAL EDUCATION & ADD
I would like to go on record RIGHT NOW that I admire and appreciate all the hard working parents, caregivers, and teachers that work with special needs children. My heart absolutely goes out to you! You are AMAZING <3!
Just as special needs children need advocates, so do children who are natural day dreamers and who can ONLY focus on what they find interesting. This was my son Jeffrey. I will never forget when his second grade teacher pulled me aside and informed me our Jeffrey would need to go into testing after school due to his “Absent mindedness in class and desire to always go to the bathroom.”
This is when I really needed to start praying to God about what to do in regards to schooling. Since I had been home with Jeffrey until he was six, and since I was his primary teacher through Preschool and Kindergarten I was thoroughly confused. How could my “little boy genius” be so “out of it” in class? How could the teacher be holding him after school EVERYDAY for at least an hour to finish the work he was supposed to do in class?
HIS FAVORITE SUBJECT WAS RECESS
I think if I had not been in prayer and meditation about what to do with Jeffrey, I would have gotten worried about him and taken him back to the school and I would have gone through all the testing the system had presented. This was about twelve years ago and the Pharmaceutical companies were pushing drugs pretty hard-core. It was all in the news, and something in my heart wasn’t right about the push and the sudden stigma that “day dreaming” wasn’t an ok/normal thing for a kid to do. Before I made any further action, I had to talk to three people…
God, my son, and my husband.
The biggest prayer I have for 2016 would be that parents would start talking to their children more. Even eight year olds can give you great insight into solving problems if you just ask them. The Bible says in Matthew 18:3 “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
THIS WAS OUR ACTUAL CONVERSATION:
“What’s your favorite thing about school?”
“The teacher said you like to go to the bathroom a lot, why?”
“Well, the teacher has a stuffed cat on her desk and anytime you want to use the bathroom, you just take the cat off the desk and go.”
“And what about the elections, this is an election year what are you learning?”
“Well, we had a pretend election in class and I voted for John Kerry* – he seems like a nice guy.”
After this conversation, and the conversation I had with God about what to do next (He had said to talk with Jeffrey) my mind was made up. I was going to pull our son out of school and take the responsibility of educating all our future children from there on at home. I talked to my husband to see if we were on the same page, and as I suspected – WE WERE.
*I have nothing against John Kerry or George Bush. It was of my opinion at the time, and it still is TODAY that the subject of creation, sexual education, and politics should remain out of the school system ENTIRELY and only taught to our children by parents or as an optional and unbiased classroom elective (completely covering both sides and all points of view). Schools were originally instigated to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic – it is my opinion that is ENOUGH. This conversation PROVED to me what a smart child our son was and how quickly and instinctively he was able to manipulate “the system”. His favorite part of school was hanging out with friends, so he did that while everyone was available (leaving the school work to be done after-school with all of us waiting including his teacher) and whenever he was bored in class he got up and literally… WENT. A bathroom is a great place to “hang out” when your teacher is droning on and on.
HOMESCHOOL BY TRIAL AND ERROR
The next eight years of education started at the kitchen table and ended in a kitchen! As Jeffrey grew, and as I relaxed a bit with getting into a rhythm of educating our children, I came to realize I am much less about books and much more about life experiences.
Taking the children to the zoo, seeing trees in the park, baking food for math class and having elongated conversations on how the earth rotates on its axis and other interesting things to talk about was much more my style. I am happy to report by the age of twelve our children could walk to the store, buy groceries, use my debit card and purchase the most economic for the value item they had been sent for. (Always sent in pairs, and always with a phone). I have complete confidence our children can manage a household when they come of age, it is what they have primarily been taught how to do!
This whole way of living hasn’t come about without mass contemplation and external condemnation. I constantly questioned God about what I was doing and wether it was the right thing to do for Jeffrey (and all other children following).
God showed me two things – and if you battle with Homeschooling like I did, this might help you.
#1 God let me know if He had wanted our children to become Doctors and Lawyers… He would have given them DIFFERENT PARENTS!
#2 The Lord told me to consider Jesus. He instructed me to look through the Old Testament and had me read about Jesus as a child. He said to me:
“Jessica… do you see anywhere in this book a mentioning of Jesus as a child?”
“No Lord, not much.”
“The first time in detail my son is mentioned is when he is twelve years old and teaching in the Temple. His father was a carpenter, his mother raised a family. Jesus was a boy left to learn about Me by the example of his mother, his father, and the Temple. He was given plenty of time to play and was free to grow and learn. Raise your children like that. Something special happens at twelve years old – until that age, don’t even worry about them. Just play and enjoy.”
Today’s key takeaway: Don’t let others bully you against a gut feeling or a Word you have from God. He speaks to you when you seek Him! It might not be the answer you expect, but through trial and error – all things are possible. What freedom! What a relief! Even today I am encouraged by His Word to us in regards to how we have decided to raise our children! One day, I would love to do a TED talk and this is EXACTLY what I would talk about!
(Jeffrey and Joseph started their first business “The Cookie Boys” selling cookies door to door when they were 8 & 10 years old, it was a project we had designed in order for them to learn accounting and business. Today Jeffrey has been recently promoted (at 18) to the head AM BAKER of a local French Patisserie. He has been interning full time – in accordance with the law – since he was 15 years old. He desires to have his first restaurant by the time he is 19)