From School to Homeschool to Unschool
by Rain Fordyce
The choice to homeschool came at the beginning of my transformation to reclaim my authentic life. I was tired of doing the "right" thing. I was exhausted trying to speed my pace up to fit the world of deadlines and school bells. The fact was, I was a bit of an odd ball in the world of school. I didn't understand the other moms when they talked about brands of clothes their kids were wearing or when they discussed their worry of getting their kids into the elementary-college prep acronym clubs. I didn't like the ongoing classroom gossip (which student was the problem or who was the genius) and the unnerving feeling I got that these women were comparing the odds, against my child and the others, whether their child would have a chance to be the valedictorian in 10 + years.
My thoughts were so different from these moms, though I never had the courage to say it out loud. I just wanted to play with my kids. I wanted to snuggle up all morning on cold fall and winter days while we talked about the world through their eyes. I wanted to allow their sweet growing bodies and minds to sleep in, which if you ask the woman in charge of the tardy slips, I did let them, one too many times. I was told by well-meaning teachers, secretaries and the principal that I was idealistic, not consistent, and that I didn't have a choice but to follow their policies. I felt like I was the student in school all over again, constantly getting into trouble!
I knew there had to be a better way, a different way. I began checking out every book about homeschooling they had in the library (11 books to be exact) and I read every one of them. I let my older son read them with me and we talked about possibilities together. I began talking about homeschooling with the two homeschooling friends I knew who lived in our neighborhood. They both belonged to the liaison program between the school district and homeschooling families. One always seemed exhausted, carting her 4 children around to all the different programs and working diligently with schoolbooks, and I wasn't sure if that would work for me. However, the other woman, also with 4 children, seemed relaxed and was excited to hear I was thinking about homeschooling. When I asked her how I should get started, she told me, "I want you to write down all the reasons why you want to homeschool." Yes, that's right, she gave me an assignment! However, I am glad I followed her suggestion, because it made me realize how my values were not being expressed by having my kids in school. It solidified how much I was ready for a change. Believe it or not, I still have that assignment.
Here it is:
Why we want to homeschool?
There are so many reasons for us to homeschool, once I began thinking about it, I got so excited about the possibilities, I realized, there is no way we won't try it.
Here are some of the reasons:
1. To bring our family unit closer together.
2. To have our values and not the values of other families as a primary influence.
3. To learn about what it takes to run our family and to let our children be a bigger part of the outcome.
1. To give the children a better opportunity to learn more in depth about subjects that excite them and let it naturally come to conclusion.
2. To let learning be Child Directed, instead of Board of Directors - Directed.
3. To be able to have the freedom to explore the world more, without worrying about public school timelines or deadlines.
Once I wrote my thoughts down, it all became crystal clear that I was ready to take the leap. My son wasn't happy at school by this time and said he wanted to try homeschooling. My husband, though still not convinced, finally agreed that we should give it a try. I was thrilled! At my last parent-teacher conference, I told the teacher I was going to pull my son out of the class. I filled out the exit papers, (there were a lot of them) sent my notice to the district, explained our decision to our families and listened to their concerns. We said goodbye to public school and began our journey at home. So there we were, all together on the first morning full family homeschooling and it was so calm. No rushing around, no insisting on them to eat breakfast, no packing their backpacks, checking their homework and getting out on time. I already loved it, and the kids were not even up yet. The warmth of knowing they were getting all the sleep they needed filled my heart. I sat and read, while feeling the peaceful joy of a decision well made. Then, they woke up the homeschooling experience had begun.
Getting to know my kids again, was really challenging. At first we snuggled longer, read a ton of books together, played games and did lots of art to fill our days. However, after the second week of catching up on our lives together, the house was becoming a disaster. We had been remodeling our house and I still had a lot of finishing steps to take care of. I tried to explain to them I had my own work to do and they would need to spend time on their own. This didn't go over very well. They wanted me to be their Idea Director. They wanted me to be a part of their every activity. I didn't realize how much of their lives were not their own and how they didn't have any sense of personal freedom.
Reading all about decompression, I understood there would be a transition time between school and home. They say one month for each year a child is in school. I did not truly understand the implications of what those authors really meant. My oldest was hit the hardest, I believe, as my youngest was only in school for 2 ½ hours a day, for a little over a year. My oldest began having wild frustration behaviors because I wouldn't tell him what to do. I held him a lot. I continued to tell him he could do whatever he wanted to do. He would yell and cry and say, "You are supposed to tell me!" Silently, I felt amazingly grateful about our powerful choice to deschool.
There was another challenge to overcome once we spent most of our time together. I didn't know how to get them to fully trust me, resulting in many power struggles. To them, I was the woman who made them. Yes, I created them with my husband's help, but I mean I made them do things. While they were in school, I made them wake up, I made them get dressed (and in nice clothes) every day. I made them eat what they didn't want to eat, and I made them follow all the rules of our house, the school, the community and the world. Sometimes, I also made them feel bad when they didn't do things right according to these rules. I wasn't trying to be terrible, I was doing what so many of us call "helping them be responsible, respectable and successful adults." The only problem was I hated doing it and I didn't believe it was working. If it was, why didn't they trust me? Why didn't I trust authority either?
It took time to re-create trust and a way to communicate with them that was respectful. I had so much to learn and was determined to create a new kind of relationship with my children. I loved our new connection together and I had to make it work. I began reading unschooling books, got a subscription to Homeschool Education Magazine and met a group of supporting independent homeschoolers (meaning they didn't go through the liaison program the school district offered.) They were my first introduction to the real life of unschooling families. I remember feeling extremely emotional after the very first meeting with these amazing women. I thought, "Oh! This is where you have been all this time. I am not alone."
As I let go of expectations, my children slowly began to trust me. They knew I wanted what was best for them and that included what they wanted, too. They knew they could say no to me, which would bring up conversation. They knew I would spend time talking with them over differences of opinion, and they could trust telling me how they felt without consequences. I was hooked on our new way of living. I took to unschooling as though I had created the idea myself. I loved the freedom, the philosophy, and the people who were doing it. Mostly, I loved the new relationship I was building with my children.
The boys are thriving better than I could have imagined. They are courageous, inventive and highly curious about everything. They love to explore art, philosophies and the universe. It was through allowing each one of us to learn what we needed to learn, while working through the difficulties and challenges and continuing to move forward, that our blessed and amazing new life is possible.
As I sit behind my computer writing this, I watch my children explore the world together, and everything seems right within it. Everything finally makes perfect sense.
Copyright 2008 by Rain Fordyce
Rain is an author, editor, publisher, and inspirational coach. As a writer and editor of an online women's empowerment magazine and community, AuthenticTimes.com, and an inspirational life coach at CoachingWithRain.com, she has the honor to inspire the fire of others so they can blaze their own trail! Rain is happy to be presenting at the upcoming Life is Good Conference.
Her new popular new children's book is based on their unschooling lives. I Am Learning All the Time, is the first in a series at homeschooladventurebooks.com, and has unschooling main characters who explore the world of those who learn at home, while building a bridge and connection with those who attend school.