Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Our Unschool Journey

When our eldest began her education she was home.  She learned to walk, talk, eat, laugh (i.e. develop a sense of humor), read, write, color, build, puzzle, question, live, and love.  When she was four we sent her to pre-school.  Why?  Because she was four and "all" four-year-olds (around us) go to pre-school.  Right?  When she was five she went to kindergarten.  Why?  Because she was five and "all" five-year-olds (around us) go to kindergarten.  Right?

At some point during kindergarten, her teacher realized O was "exceptional" and was absorbing the curriculum as fast as it was presented.  Miss D saw how much O enjoyed learning and began treating her with great enthusiasm; giving her more and more advanced material as she saw how quickly and voraciously O was adapting.  Kindergarten was wonderful!  First Grade was NOT.  In first grade, students are to put aside their childish/childlike ways and start conforming to "the system".  O was boxed up with the other children only to learn what was scheduled to be taught that more.  She was no longer *allowed* to read books "above grade level"!  It was time to look for an alternative to what "everyone else" was doing.

We left school.

Kindergarten was great, so we'd go back to that model...provide her with information she was interested in learning and accelerate it at a pace she was comfortable.  It worked GREAT for a few weeks, then it seemed pointless.  At the rate she was accelerating she'd graduate at age 10, but wouldn't *know* anything.  It was time to look for an alternative to what "homeschoolers" were doing.

We left homeschool.

Umm, hmm...

We weren't really sure what we were doing at that point.  At least we weren't sure of the *label*.  We knew what we were doing.  We were giving O the freedom to read, watch, talk, and learn about what she was interested in exploring.  Flash forward five years to January 2010.  The Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering (UWWG) information was posted to a Georgia Homeschoolers list and we decided to attend.  By the way, "What's an unschooler?"  Well, we headed off to Sandusky, OH and found out what an unschooler is.  Actually, we learned that there is no black-and-white definition.  The simplest explanations I've heard are:

"Living as though school didn't exist."

"Following your passion."

"Learning through life rather than curriculum."

"Trusting that you (or your child) will find whatever you (they) need to know for whatever is important to you (them)."

"Learning what has value to you."

"Following rabbit holes."

By the second day of the conference we had a label to describe our educational philosophy.  We took a deep breath and started exploring the logic of what we were doing and how the trust we had in our children's academics could be applied to other areas of their lives.  When we returned home we sought out others who embraced the autodidactic philosophy (we don't care for the term unschool because it focuses on what we don't do instead of what we do).  We found that we are a limited breed here in Georgia with only a couple dozen families in the state who have found this label.  So, we sought the circuit and now enjoy traveling the country to attend unschool conferences.

We would love to talk with you more about our journey and/or yours.

Be True To Yourself,

LIFE is Good

We just returned from the LIFE is Good Conference in Vancouver, WA.  Vancouver is just across the Columbia River from Portland, OR (PDX) which is one of my favorite airports.  I love flying into PDX as a was less exciting as a passenger.  When you're a pilot you have this amazing view of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, and the beautiful Columbia River!  As a passenger, well, you have a cramped view of clouds because it is, after all, OR/WA and always cloudy.

The conference was spectacular!  It served as a fueling station for us.  It fueled our hearts, minds, and spirits.  We are autodidacts.  Some use the term "unschoolers", but I don't like that term.  I'm not a fan of negativity.  Oh, sure, I've succumbed to it throughout my life, but I'm not a *fan* of it and I try to avoid it when I can.  I prefer to focus on what we *do*, not on what we don't do.  We live freely and joyfully.  Some say they "follow their passion".  I can't say that just yet because we're discovering so many interests that we aren't focused on passions.  So, these conferences feed us.

Our hearts are fed by seeing so many families loving each other and others, by enjoying uninterrupted focus on ourselves and our family, by soaking up the love of our tribe.  Our minds are fed by amazing presentations, circle chats, random hallway conversations, recommendations of books and blogs, and thought bombs exploding throughout the weekend.  Our spirits are fed through meditation, yoga, and what The Dog Whisperer calls "calm submissive" wherein we allow ourselves to people watch and be energized by the spirit of others.

We are officially on the conference circuit.  LiG was our third conference of the year and we're excited to attend at least one more (NEUC).  I'm always looking for more conferences and opportunities to connect with our tribe, so feel welcome to comment if you know of others!

Be True To Yourself,