Friday, November 9, 2012

Could I Be... *GULP*... An Unschooler?

IMG_3819Since we left our charter school a few weeks ago, a lot of schooling ideas and concepts have been running through my mind.  I have been reading Charlotte Mason, , and Suzie Andres 'A Little Way of Homeschooling .  I have been thumbing through For the Children's Sake,through my copies of How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way, Heaven on Earth, and Simplicity Parenting.

The question running through my head has been, "What kind of homeschooler am I?"

I look at different blogs and think wow, that color-coded checklist is cool!  Or wow, they seem so organized.  I don't know how they get it all done.

I break out my old Mother of Divine Grace lesson plans and wonder if I should try them again.  I sit down at the computer and come up with fancy color-coded sheets of what we should all have done and by when.

And then I get hit with the realization that... I am wasting my time.

We will not use the color coded sheets.  No matter how cool they are, how fabulous, or organized.  I am totally serious when I say how awesome I think they are.  I kind of wish I could be that organized and put together.  But then...

I know that being that organized, for us, will end in ultimate doom.  We would get overwhelmed and I would end up feeling like I was a failure.  I have been there before.  We have tried every curriculum out there.  Seton, CHC, MODG, Sonlight.  We have tried online schools and charter schools.  There were times when we would end up in tears everyday.

I came to the realization (after a few years, lol) that tears did not help the learning process.  I began to read and read and read.  I realized that the things I learned and the things that stuck with me my whole life didn't always happen in the school room.  Actually, more often than not, it was not in a traditional classroom at all.

I am not anti-school.  Really.  I think the system is a mess and it needs major overhauling.  Teachers are given limited power to actually teach their students.  They are forced to spend their own paychecks on materials for their classrooms and are forced to spend most of their class time disciplining a few unruly children.

I have been in the classroom.  I have been a student teacher in public elementary and high schools.  I have taught high school English in a small private school.  I come from a long line of educators, both teachers and adminstrators.  Education is in my family's blood.  I am very pro-teacher, but anti-system.  I have seen it.  And that was why I decided to not become a teacher in the public schools.  And working within the system is what eventually lead us to drop out of the charter school (even though we loved the money, lol).

My reasons to homeschool have evolved over the years and they keep changing.  When my oldest children were in public school the teachers actually told us they didn't have enough hours in the day to teach math because of laws saying how much time they had to spend teaching the kids to read English. We lived in an area highly populated with Hispanic people.  I had, at the time, thought it would be amazing because my kids would pick up Spanish.  Instead the English speakers were forced to wait while the poor Hispanic children were forced to read in a language they didn't speak very well.  This was not what bilingual education was supposed to be.

So we started to homeschool.  That was only one reason really, there were more, like not letting my kids read books "above their grade level"among other things.

The thing is, every time I try to get more "school-like" my kids suffer.  They start to hate learning.  I start to hate teaching.  It becomes a chore that MUST be done.

I am not sure where my desire for a label comes from.  How many times have I said here, "I really am not an unschooler."  But, know what?  Yeah, I think I might be.  Unschooling is a label.  A big ugly label that means different things to different people.  I am in no way a radical unschooler.  My children have chores, we have a loose schedule, we use textbooks (more like living books, I hate textbooks).  But, we are unschoolers in the sense that I try not to schedule too much.  If something doesn't work, we drop it.  If the kids take up an interest in the Oregon Trail while we are studying Ancient History, we go off on a little tangent.

I write up schedules for my big kids, which involve what I expect.  I like them to write me papers and weekly they give me narrations on what they are up to and there are consequences if this is not done.  Oh that sounds scary doesn't it?  It comes down to, for us, being able to change our path.  Take the one less traveled, I guess.  And every time, I mean every time, we stray from this path it gets bad.  We loose focus, the kids hate learning, I hate teaching, and I think about enrolling them in the Waldorf school down the street.

We learn more, love more, and live more by not getting too caught up in what kind of homneschool we have.  Are we Charlotte Mason?  Yes.  Are we Classical?  Sure, I guess.  Are we unschoolers?  Yes.  Yes, I think we are.

Or maybe it is that we are just more an eclectic collection of people who love to learn!

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