When it’s just not working

What happens when a family decides to make the move to unschooling and then struggle to let go of all those ingrained ideas about education and learning and what a kid ‘needs to know’ at a given age?   What happens when, a year or so in, it’s just not working?

It’s a topic that doesn’t get discussed much, and I like to think that is because it doesn’t happen very often.

Of course every family will go through struggles and hopefully have the support and will to make it through.   Sandra Dodd had a great blog post several months ago on struggling, in which she tells people to turn away from the old thing instead of struggling with it.    This is easier said than done in some (many?) cases, but it is a wonderful thought to keep in the forefront of your mind on days when you feel that things are, for whatever reason, not going well.

So we all have off days, but what if those days turn into months?  What if a child newly out of school is overwhelmed by the lack of structure while at the same time resisting any efforts by the also overwhelmed parent to institute structure, no matter how loose it may be in comparison to their old school life?

What happens when the parent is surrounded by friends or co-workers who repeatedly reinforce the idea that they have to make sure their kid doesn’t “fall behind”?  That the child should be forced to read, forced to write and kept away from the computer as much as possible?

Even with a supportive homeschooling community, a family who has spent years in the mill of public/private education and whose insecurities are magnified by negative comments from the very people to whom they used to turn for guidance may have difficulty divorcing themselves from the idea that they must impose education on their child in some form or risk doing them a lifelong disservice.

For those of us who see the benefits of self-directed learning in our kids and who have overcome our own anxieties (for the most part, anyway) around totally bucking the conventional school system and ideas about learning, it is difficult to accept that there might be families for whom it just isn’t going to work, for whatever reason. I want to believe that any family, no matter their current situation or background, can make the decision to unschool and have it be a success.   I want to believe that, but in fact it may not be true.  Not in our society.   At least not yet.

But back to the family for whom it’s not working.  What should they do?  Of course we hope they’ll wake up one morning, have an “Aha moment” and decide to let their kid be – to ditch the forced curriculum until such time as the kid decides he/she wants to pursue it (if that time ever occurs), but what if that doesn’t happen and everyone in the family is miserable as a result?   Should their kid go back to school?

I don’t have an answer here but would love your input and suggestions; or stories of families who turned a struggle into a success.


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