When a family considers the idea of homeschooling or unschooling, it often begins with a simple conversation. It might be a conversation with yourself as you meet another homeschooling family and ask yourself if that’s something you’d consider for your own family. It might be a conversation with your partner as you start reading a book you’ve just discovered describing the life and experiences of an unschooling family. It might be a conversation with a friend who’s contemplating the idea, or with a family member who voices a strong opinion about it, either positive or negative. It might be a brief conversation or an extensive dialogue as you grapple with all the possibilities regarding your own philosophies about learning and your children’s educational options.
I love all these types of conversations, and I think they’re helpful throughout this unique journey. We talk, we think about everything, and we talk some more. We ask questions, do some research, talk again, and at some point we make a decision to give it a try. In any case, the conversations are ongoing. We need them as we think through all our opportunities, as we consider what we might like our homeschooling lives to look like, as we contemplate what our children need the most.
In the beginning, we often want to converse with as many people as we possibly can in order to think about what we ourselves believe and what might work for our own families. We read as much as we can to find descriptions of what it’s like and how a variety of different families approach it all. We observe other families, their children, our children, and then talk about our observations. We question ourselves, question each other, and do our best to support ourselves and each other.
During the early years, whenever my husband, Don, and I wanted to discuss something related to unschooling, if we had a worry about how something was going, or if we should be doing more of this or that, we talked about those things and called them our unschooling conversations. We’d remind ourselves of our goals, our beliefs about learning, all the things we knew were going well, and the things we might want to adjust. After a while, some days one of us might come to the other and say, “I need unschooling conversation #5,” as kind of a short-hand way of saying, “Please reassure me, help me see the bigger picture or get a better view of things.” This always made us laugh, relax a little, and cut to the heart of the matter, whatever it might be. It was from these conversations that we became our own best experts, able to trust ourselves and know that we could figure out whatever our family needed.
Over the years, sometimes unschooling families with younger children have asked me questions about what we do, how we think about learning, and how we trust the whole process. They ask how we know our son is learning, how we choose what to do with our days, and what life is like as our unschooling family grows older. I really enjoy these conversations because they remind me of why we’ve made the choices we’ve made, and the many things we’ve learned together throughout the process.
The idea to write more about our family’s unschooling experiences started as a conversation with my friend Laura. We have similar backgrounds, sons who are good friends and close in age, and she is the one who understands my thinking, my philosophies about learning and parenting. Our conversations have touched on simple day to day topics as well as our deep feelings as mothers and unschooling parents. Each month and year the conversations vary as our sons grow and change. Each conversation helps us know ourselves better and gives us confidence in our unschooling lives.
May the conversations continue.