I know I have taken some time to write about this most significant aspect of our life – homeschooling Pari. Well, to be honest – it’s not just an ‘aspect’ of our lives but life itself.
For homeschooling (actually ‘unschooling’ and I’ll explain that in a bit) for us is not limited to Pari’s learning, but involves living life in a way that involves making choices every day, every minute. From learning to chores to food, bed time, interactions, conversations – unschooling begins with examining our parental and other attitudes even in the seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life. It begins with reflecting on our behavior that seeks to control, discipline and train.
Unschooling is letting go of our tendency to control our children (even spouses and other relations). It begins by trusting our children’s natural ability to learn and giving them the freedom to pursue their own ideas and passions. It lays utmost importance on building a loving, trusting bond with our children.
Read more about our unschooling story and experiences….
That loving, trusting bond is created when we as parents are not always looking for ways (even loving ways) to have our kids do as we want them to do. Even when our ways may be loving, if the underlying intention is to manipulate them into giving in to what WE think is right for them, without considering what THEY really want, our children can see through those intentions.
They are sensitive enough to know subtly that we’re deciding their life’s menu for them and not really empowering them to try out their own choices.
Unschooling seeks of us parents to open up our minds and hearts to see value in what our children want for themselves – their interests, their values, their passions, their dreams. Seeing those and then supporting them in achieving their own agendas. Not ours.
Yes, we must ask them if they want to do something. Like – “do you want to bake a cake with me”, “do you want me to read to you”, or “would you want to see some you tube videos about sketching/origami/water-colour technique (insert anything else the child is showing signs of interest in). By doing this, we are showing genuine enthusiasm for what interests them. Even what MIGHT interest them.
For example, when Pari is playing in her mud pie kitchen, I’m always excited to look for something that can make her mud bakery more fun. I go around rummaging through my kitchen cabinets to find something interesting that will multiply her joy.
A lot of learning happens this way – by way of parent being clued in to the child’s interests to be able to create interesting and creative ways for him to get more of that.
Here’s a really insightful article by Pam Sorooshian (I find her thoughts very inspiring) emphasizing how Parents play a BIG role in unschooling by helping, supporting and offering the child. Even recommending them what they ‘might be’ interested in, rather than waiting for them to say “I want to learn this”.
I’ve figured, there’s much stress and anxiety and power struggles involved in getting them to follow our agendas.
Whereas there’s infinite peace, love and trust in we valuing and respecting their goals and dreams. And supporting them in ways that are non-intrusive.
So, you may want to know why I chose to homeschool Pari.
Actually, I began with homeschooling but gradually gravitated toward unschooling. Before I delve deeper into the reasons why we chose to unschool, I’ll explain the difference between homeschooling and unschooling.
Homeschooling is teaching your child at home using creative, hands-on ways.
By making lessons and concepts fun. Homeschoolers generally use a curriculum. There are many types of curriculums out there that are based on different approaches of teaching. In India, homeschoolers use an IGCSE curriculum, CBSE curriculum, ICSE or NIOS. They even make their own curriculum by borrowing from many. They use text books, too. They might create a schedule, incorporate field-trips etc. They may conduct an occasional test or a year-end review or a mid-year review to see what’s working and what’s not. The philosophy is to facilitate a ‘well-rounded’ education that is custom-made for the child and not standardized as it is in schools. So, they will ‘teach’ Math, Science, History, Geography covering all aspects of what they think the child should learn.
And they use interesting ways to have the child study those subjects in a timely, age-appropriate manner.
Unschooling, on the other hand, is nothing to do with ‘teaching’.
It’s rooted in the principle that every child can learn in the most natural way, given a loving, nourishing, supportive environment – an environment that’s rich in text, play, creativity, curiosity, interestingness, freedom, choices. By natural way, I don’t mean to say learning in natural surrounding. Well, learning in the middle of nature IS the most natural way of learning. But, learning naturally means learning by following your own curiosity and exploring your interests.
Unschooling, generally speaking, does not espouse curriculums, text books, formal instruction. Text book may come into picture ONLY IF the child is interested in it and not because of the school-lish notion that learning happens through text books.
The parent is the child’s partner in learning and supports by giving her the freedom, offering the tools and means and enriching the environment around her. Whether it’s reading, writing or math – nothing is a ‘have- to’ as Sandra Dodd says. Unschoolers believe that all these come as naturally as crawling, walking or talking. No child is taught to walk. It happens when the child is ready for that stage.
So, when the parent places an intrinsic trust in the child, the child’s dignity and self-esteem blooms. He finds the confidence to explore without the fear of being looked down upon, judged or belittled.
When exploration happens due to own’s own motivation and curiosity – rather than because a parent or a teacher said it’s important to learn and understand that specific subject – learning happens in the most natural way.
I’ll take an example from our family.
For a few months now, Pari is beyond fascinated by the world of Disney Princess. Yes, Disney Princess specifically and not any other princess character. She insists that we call her Aurora. And her two other friends have been ‘renamed’ Belle and Sleeping Beauty. She’s so enamoured by everything to do with these characters that she wants to know how these characters originated, where, who wrote these stories. She wants me to sit with her at my laptop while she googles all this information. We watch You Tube videos of Disney Princess. She once created a little play with her friends – based on these characters. Much of her writing revolves around Aurora and her life.
Through all this, I could have reacted in two ways.
One – showing enthusiasm for her love for Disney Princess and being there to share her joy as a friend. The other – fretting over it, worrying that there’s no value indulging in the world of Disney Princesses and such fantasy play. That, anything to do with Disney/dolls/princesses/dressing-up is fluff (as I used to think long back, I’m ashamed to admit) and only propagates rainbow-tinted view of the world.
Pari would have felt demeaned, degraded and belittled. She would have lost faith in her own interests and desires.
I took the former approach. It does not matter that she chooses to read mostly Disney Princess books these days. It’s okay that the ‘I Wonder Why’ books that are oh-so-laden with oh-so-wonderful-info are collecting dust in a corner. What would have I gained if she read those books begrudgingly – just to please me; all the while imagining how nice it would have been to read about Aurora and her life with Prince Phillip.
Instead, she’s over the moon that I went around the town looking for a Princess bedsheet. When I couldn’t find any within my budget, I went onto Ebay, thinking I might get a cheap deal. And, I did get. This pink, princess bedsheet makes her go to sleep with a huge grin on her face.
What did it take for me to make a kid that happy and joyful and to build a peaceful, trusting relationship with her?
Just a shift in perspective as an adult. An attitude to pause and think from HER perspective before turning on that automated “NO”.
Besides, the fact is, while she’s still enamored by Disney Princess, she’s found other interests to engage in passionately. Ice Age, for example. She’s gone on to see all four parts of Ice Age. Has come back and written reviews, explored the characters of the Saber-toothed tiger and why he’s called that; expanded her vocabulary reading English sub-titles while watching those movies; observed that they speak – sayin’ and talkin’ instead of saying and talking and that amuses her a lot!
You see, learning is happening every where, every moment.
All I have to do is appreciate and see with open eyes all that she’s learning. And create a home environment that’s interesting, fun-filled, joyful, loving, trusting and respectful of her choices.
Do you have any questions for me? Please don’t hesitate to ask. :-)
Read more Unschooling Stories, Thoughts and Experiences:
- The Spiritual Aspect of Unschooling
- Mindfulness, Mothering and Learning