We spent the afternoon at Riverside Park today, at the usual Wednesday gathering of home and unschoolers. One of the women there, mother of four kids, looked over at me and said, “Do you ever get tired of reading about education?” I laughed. Yes, absolutely. “I mean,” she went on, “I got to a point yesterday where I just thought I never want to see another book or article on how the brain works, or how people learn.” And I had to agree. Sometimes it seems that when you have kids, particularly when they are not in school, you attract all things education related. Everywhere you go you see books and articles (much of which are counter to what we do). People constantly ask us why the kids are not in school. It can all add up to the perfect recipe for education overload.
But then I thought about it, and I must say that although I write about learning and education and think about it a lot, in my kids’ lives it’s a different story. Because we unschool they rarely need to think about their ‘education’. It’s just part of their lives, not distinguished into a separate category. I’ve said before that when you unschool, one of the hardest things for the parent, especially if they were brought up in a traditional school setting, is to let go of the idea of control. Controlling what they learn and when; controlling their daily activities; controlling when they eat and sleep. Guiding is fine. Control, which equals coercion, is not. (And it doesn’t work and leads to power struggles, arguments and even tears. Not a fun way to spend the day).
I’ve written about Ben’s sudden plunge into ‘real’ reading, but there are other things that happen when coercion is absent that wouldn’t fall under the umbrella of ‘education’ in a traditional sense. As an example, for the last 2+ years, Ben has slept on a mattress in Maya’s room. They shared a room on our second trip to Ireland, and upon our return asked if they could continue to sleep in the same room. Which they did. As far as ‘bedtime’, I gave up a hard and fast rule on that at about the same time. As long as they were in Maya’s room, they could stay up as late as they wanted. Lately they’ve been staying out in the living room longer, which is also fine as long as they do their own thing. Then, three evening ago, Ben announced that he’d like to start sleeping in his own room again. So we moved his mattress back to his room, and he’s happy to be there. Last night I told the kids they didn’t have to go to the bedrooms till ‘later’, but at about 9:30 Ben walked over to where I was writing and said, “Mama, I’m tired so I think I’ll go to bed.” Which he did, and was asleep before 10. (This is early for him, as when he was in Maya’s room they would often talk till much later.) He also used to often fall asleep in whatever clothes he had on, but now will go into his room at some point in the evening and change into pajamas. This has all occurred without any ‘suggestions’ from me or Joshua. In fact, I’ve noticed that the less we demand, the more things happen easily and of their own accord.
And that, too, is part of unschooling.
So although I spend a lot of time examining peoples’ ideas on education and comparing methods and outcomes, my kids don’t. They happily live their lives, secure in their own growth, knowledge and being-ness. Without education overload of any kind.