I enjoy reading blogs from other unschoolers. There is a lot of very helpful and insightful information available, and reading about other families who are choosing a similar path for their children is comforting.
It can also be very overwhelming.
I personally get overwhelmed when I read accounts of what other kids are interested in; how they taught themselves some kind of complicated science, or how the parent finds ingenious ways to include math in a natural and challenging way so that the kids love it and clamor for more. Just writing that I can feel my insides clench up.
Anyone with me on that?
My favorite blogs tend to be those that are self-deprecating and funny, or that talk about compulsory schooling vs. unschooling or similar education related subjects. But when a parent, quite innocently and rightly discusses the advances their own unschooled children have made and how they came about, my response (depending on the subject) is a mild sense of panic. Panic that I am not being as observant and creative as I should. Panic that I’ve not yet thought of a way to present certain equations or math so that my kids yell “Whoopee! Can we add more fractions please?!” Panic that all these other unschooled kids are into things like physics and marine biology, and my kids are mostly into making satirical videos.
It must be my fault.
And even though diversity is good (see last night’s blog), it’s a whole lot easier to maintain that position when your kid is the one whose entire purpose in life is to find better sources of green energy than when your kid is the one who thinks the sun rises and sets on those guys who create the nigahiga videos on YouTube. Sure my son also builds cool stuff with Lego; sure my daughter is a whiz with Sculpey; all I can think of is that kid Birke Baehr who travels the world talking about the evils of food additives and GMO foods and the benefits of organic farming. He’s 11.
Unschooling is not for sissies. Every family is different. Every child is different. Every parent is different. I can think of a hundred ways to make writing and reading fun. But numbers? If you want me to believe I’ve died and gone to hell, tell me that we are going to spend a fabulous afternoon doing sudoku puzzles. I have friends who love those things and tell me how wonderful they are, how soothing. I tried them once and all I could think was that there were about a million other things I’d rather be doing. Including eating a bowl of nails. I don’t do sudoku puzzles anymore.
How do I calm the panicked nerves and douse the feeling of being overwhelmed? Two things: acceptance and gratitude. I remind myself that I am grateful there are kids like Birke Baehr and that I am grateful for his courageous parents. I am grateful for all the amazing unschooling families out there. This is the community of which I want to be a part. I accept the fact that my kids are a lot more like me than maybe I’d even care to admit. They like to draw and write and photograph and video. Ben likes to build. Sometimes they blow me away with the stuff they create. Sometimes they don’t. I can’t be a different person and hope that they will then follow my lead and begin to love all things number and science related. I can strew science and introduce number games till the end of time and my kids will ask if they can go make a video instead.
It’s all good. I remember that laughter and art are every bit as important as science and math. I remember that my kids are quick to learn what they need to know when it comes to dealing with their own finances. They will not be unaware of the importance of math and science in their lives, even if it remains forever on a daily practical level. I am grateful for the boundless support among the unschooling community and the general lack of one-upmanship. Any panic and competitive-ness I might feel is my own doing.
I take a deep breath. Tomorrow is a brand new day.