Thursday, September 19, 2013

Learning at Home: Part 9 of 9

Finally, we're at the end!  I don't know if you're tiring of hearing my voice blab on and on, but I'm mightily sick of hearing myself on this subject. last mention and then I promise to give my treatise a rest.

A significant concern I had in my transformation over the past few months was wondering what Geoff's perspective would be on a movement towards unschooling.  He had seen me struggling with h/schooling over the past year or two, but because he's not at home during the week days, he hasn't had any of the day-to-day experience of trying to teach where there's resistance or inability.  He is a huge proponent of education and schooling - in fact, this is something that drew us together in the early days.  We are both well educated and we both come from families where education is highly fact, Geoff grew up knowing that his parents emigrated to Canada in large part so their children could experience the advantages of being educated here.  We've been steeped heavily in the world of academics and the importance of schooling and I'd already experienced his early resistance to the mere notion of homeschooling several years ago (he's on board now!)...and now I was going to throw him this curve ball??

The bottom line was that I was pretty anxious that my transformation in attitude towards h/schooling would not be in sync with his perspective.  And I needed him to be on board with this change in direction, for at least a few reasons.  First and foremost, Matthew, Seth, and Lizzie are also his children and he, too, wants the best for them.  Being in accord is pretty vital for this reason alone.  Second, I know full well that I will need his support and encouragement and listening ear in the months (and years?) ahead, particularly as I continue to think things through and brave the transition.  I'm feeling pretty vulnerable and anxious these days.  Third, people ask him about our kids' schooling, too, and I felt that he also needs to be comfortable with what we're doing in order to be able to talk comfortably with others about it.

The truth is that I avoided talking with Geoff about this stuff for some time...well after the ideas had begun to percolate.  Finally, a couple of months ago, I braved the conversation - told him how our schooling hadn't been working and how I needed to make changes.  I poured my heart out to him about being so worried that we were letting schooling take precedence over cultivating passions and a love of learning.  I told him (and man, it was hard to push the words out of my mouth!) that I wanted to move towards unschooling and eschew more traditional means of schooling our kids at home.

I waited for the hammer to drop...the moment felt cringe-worthy to me.  I couldn't even look at him as I waited for his response.  I didn't even know if he knew what unschooling was.

Then the shock.  Real shock.  Geoff was rather excited!!  Surprised, but more excited than anything.  In fact, I've hardly seen him exhibit that much interest in my ideas for schooling at home.  My mouth may have been hanging open.  He immediately began to talk about how different his and my education and lives might have been had we been encouraged from an early age to pursue our passions rather than schooling and academic achievement as ends in themselves.  He talked about the pressure he'd felt as a child and young adult knowing that his parents had moved to Canada for his (and his siblings') education, and how he had unrealized interests, and how he wished he'd been able to follow his passions when he was younger (I didn't have the heart to tell him that his passion about being a rock star could never have materialized given that he is unknowingly tone deaf), and how it had taken him so many years to discover the things he was/is passionate about and excellent at.

He was pumped about how exciting it might be for our kids to move in a different direction, one in which they might have far more ability to pursue interests and to find their passions and strengths.

He was way more of the same mind than I ever would have still shocks me.

I am so thankful.

Together, we are now a ship attempting to change course...against the current.  We're talking quite a lot about it, praying about it and wanting God's direction on it, and we're committed to a different approach this year.

And so, with all of this in mind, we're shaking things up around here with an approach to learning at home that, frankly, if you haven't figured it out by now, scares the bejeebers out of me.

H/schooling in general has produced anxiety in me along with deep feelings of inadequacy...but the direction we're headed in leaves me weak in the knees.  It's exciting, but oh so daunting!

We are truly heading into a new kind of adventure, and one that I would never in a million years have imagined we would be experiencing!


This brings me, finally, to the end of my series on our transition to becoming an eclectic unschooling family, and to merely the beginning of the next chapter in our learning-at-home journey.  I'll still likely refer to us simply as h/schoolers, rather than unschoolers, because no one knows what unschooling is!  But you'll know what I mean.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, you will surely be hearing much more about how things are going, what we are/aren't doing, what the hard parts and the exciting parts are, and how we're faring through the change.

I am looking forward to continuing to share the journey with you.

Thanks for listening and, for those who have left feedback and comments and questions and other thoughts in general, additional thanks to you for your support and encouragement!!

(the end!)


  1. My experience is that a large majority of people feel like you and Geoff. They intuit the ways their own schooling was not good for them, perhaps even extremely traumatic and stopped them from becoming the person they could be, even while at the same time 'educating' them to be successful in the modern economy. But that's not the purpose of life, as you point out so many times in these lovely posts. The question of how to tell the ghosts of education past to stop haunting us is the challenging one! They pop up again and again, when you least expect them! The best thing is to find company for the journey, because you really aren't in it alone. Be courageous. See yourself as a learner and researcher in this... learning about how your children learn, figuring out the best ways to develop experiences and opportunities around that. Read a lot together. Write about what you're doing. Document it together. Help them practice being articulate about themselves and what they have learned. Don't try to do too much. And don't give up on something new you're trying too soon, unless it feels very very bad. Sometimes things take awhile to settle in.
    Best wishes!

    1. I've been having trouble with blogger accessing comments so these three are very late in being published...sorry!
      Thank you so much for the encouragement, always!

      I loved the phrase 'the ghost of education past.' I'm simply astounded at the number of assumptions I have made (and still make) about education and how it should happen..and the more I question things, the more I see many things as being simply that...assumptions! It's slowly getting a bit easier to ignore those ghosts...the voices in my head...mostly, I think, as I get a wee bit of experience behind me.

      The documentation part I struggle with - I've been thinking about that even as I've been reading up on the Reggio methods. I don't know how to add that amount of time to my day. Between teaching three very different kids at very different levels, and managing regular household stuff, and trying to have actual relationships with my kids and husband, and trying to fit little bits of (usually night) time here and there for blogging, I'm fresh out of time. And when I find bits of time, it's used to either grab a cup of tea or to clean or tidy a household tornado zone. It's tough to think of documentation...esp b/c I'm not a highly organized person and so my very thoughts are scattered about it!

      Anyway, I'm going to be (obviously) continuing to think about this.

      As always, Jackie, you're a gem!!!



  2. Hello Ruth,

    I can't imagine that anyone reading here would tire of your voice. Quite honestly, your passion astounds me. While I am somewhat familiar with the concept of unschooling, I certainly haven't had any sort of opinion on it. I have so enjoyed reading about your decision and what you are seeking for your children in both education and life. I cannot imagine that this decision will be an easy one to sell to others. While you really shouldn't have to, I am sure that some family or friends will weigh in. What I can see as an outsider (way outsider) is that if you put a tenth of the effort you put into educating them so far, your children will have received more attention to their education than most of the children I've encountered. It is truly admirable that you're willing to embrace a whole new style to promote learning in your family. I look forward to hearing how this progresses for your children. It's pretty exciting, Ruth, and you'll do great! P.S.- I responded to the 'Real Siblings' post, but I'm thinking it didn't get to you. -Charity (feel free to show my name)

    1.'re so sweet Charity!! Thanks for the boost!! And it's lovely to have you here again...I hope you're doing all right.



      PS. No, I didn't get the response to the 'real siblings' post, with apologies.

  3. Hey there! Even though it has been a week since you finished your great series, you still have me thinking. You may need to do some sifting through to sort out my thoughts, but I'll do my best to help with that. :-)
    Ok, so I know you had already decided that adoption would be part of how your family grew BEFORE you made the initial decision to homeschool. I totally get that now (yes, I have grown since my sister's decision about h/schooling). Having spent much time focusing on attachment I would love to be able to continue that without taking a long timeout Monday to Friday. My question is - and have no clue if you have ideas/thoughts on this - why does there seem to be a greater than average number of h/schoolers among those that made schooling decisions BEFORE the decision to adopt? Is it that that those led to adopt are the same "types" of people that are led to homeschool? Does any of this make sense? I've been thinking about this connection for a bit and figured that you just might have some ideas. Any thoughts?

  4. Hey Ellen -
    sorry your comment took so long to publish...had a bit of trouble viewing things properly with Blogger.

    So I have you thinking, do I? That's good to know, and nice to have someone along for the thinking ride!

    What great questions. I've wondered the same myself, many times. I've also observed that there may be a higher-than-average number of h/schoolers who chose that route even before adopting. And I also don't have any answers, though I think there may be something to the idea about 'types' of people who are predisposed to both. There are even websites and yahoo forums dedicated to parents who homeschool their adopted children, and I am a member of one such yahoo forum!

    Yes, we made the decision to adopt (well) before the decision to h/school. But in some ways those decisions were connected for us, I suppose. When we decided to h/school, one of the factors that we considered was knowing that we were likely to bring one or two more children into our family and that those children would likely be a little on the older side and that h/schooling could possibly be a huge benefit to attachment issues.

    Also, and this is a very personal thing to our situation and not to be extrapolated to other situations... We were forced to wait for a long time before children entered our lives. Fertility and adoption issues were huge in our first almost-10 years of marriage; Matthew was born almost 10 years into our marriage. By the time he came along, and by the time (7+ years after his birth) our family was finally completed through adoption, we'd had about 17 years to want desperately what we believed to be in the best interests of our kids. 17 years by the time our family was complete. By that point, Ellen, there was really NOTHING I wouldn't do in order to do what I believed to be in the best interests of my children. My own career, my own space, my sense of life balance...I was/am so willing to make sacrifices that I never would have believed 17 years beforehand that I would make. To be frank, I see this in a lot of other adoptive families - where their very perspective on their children is something different than I see in many other families, especially where fertility has been an issue. Perhaps, then, it's not such a big surprise that a higher-than-average number of adoptive families also choose to h/school.

    So...that's just a theory based on my own life's experience and how these things factor together in my own mind! I'd love to know others' perspectives on this as well!

    Blessings, Ellen, and thanks again.


    1. Sorry, I confused my words in the first part of my response...I should have said, on my third line: I've also observed that there may be a higher-than average number of adoptive families who chose that route even before making the decision to h/school. Sorry!