For the next few weeks, I want to write about unschooling, which is the kind of education we do here at Casa Caliri. Sometimes, though, I hesitate to write about homeschooling. Often people use it as some sort of a “good mother” cudgel.
I’ll opt out of those Mommy Wars. You do what works for YOUR family, ‘kay? I pinky-swear I’m not being judgy here.
Unschooling makes me see the world differently, and I want to share some snapshots of it with you–to inspire you to live the life YOU are choosing for your loved ones.
And now, on to the post.
When I decided to homeschool, all my reasons were about my kids.
I wanted better things for them than the boredom, anxiety and isolation I felt in school. I wanted learning to be spacious and breathtaking and fun. I wanted a family that spent most of its day together.
Seven years later, all those reasons still resonate with me.
But there’s another reason why I unschool that has a lot more to do with me.
The life we’re living rubs off on me just as much as it does on them.
This month I interviewed Addie Zierman, and she talked how the phrase “intentional parenting” makes her anxious.
As we chatted, I wondered if Addie could see into my brain, because words like “intentional’ throw me for a loop too. I feel like I need to live up to something. I need to do more.
That anxiety is one reason I choose to unschool. When considering home education with my eldest in utero, I knew I would drive everyone around me crazy if I tried to school traditionally. Like Bert sings in Mary Poppins, my default is to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone. I am relentless when it comes to doing, to improving, to being just slightly type-A.
Unschooling assumes that the teaching and learning can happen without anyone grinding anything. That empty space and joy will create magic. That books and blocks and princess clothes serve as a fine curriculum. That play is actually work in disguise.
My work would be more stepping back and letting go than hovering. That sounded hard but sane. I saw friends unschooling; their kids learned a surprising amount of academic facts.
I took a deep breath and jumped.
I don’t regret that decision at all, because I see my kids getting the things I hoped for them.
But just as important: I’m getting that same sort of life to boot.
How? Because how we treat our kids is a magic portal to how we treat ourselves.
I started wondering: I’m giving them freedom to do X, and they thrive. What if I gave myself more freedom?
I started noticing: I give them permission to not be ready for reading, or math, or fill-in-the-blank, and when they are ready they take off like a rocket. What if I gave myself that same space?
I saw that many of the expectations, hurry, anxiety, schedules and grading of school are actually quite optional, and I wondered: Is there any other thing in my life I’m agreeing to without good reason?
I’m not saying that if you unschool, these attitudes will magically set themselves on your shoulders, or that I have them perfectly figured out. I’m not saying you have to homeschool to experience them.
But I know I see this more clearly after seven years of unschooling.
I see that the freedom I give to my kids will rub off on me.
Letting go of anxiety will lighten not just my shoulders, but my kids’.
The patience and grace I give myself will affect how I parent.
How I treat my kids is a magic portal into my heart–and vice versa.
Please don’t take this as me saying you should do better.
Instead, think this: If I give myself grace for being who I am today, I am extending that grace to my kids, too.
Think this: That over-and-over patience I have with my daughter is a deep patience with myself.
Think this: The freedom and creativity I say yes to today is a legacy I’m creating for my son.
Because how we treat other people—especially people we have power over–matters. How we live out our lives in the wiping of noses and making of lunches matters. How we pursue our passions and make playdoh cupcakes matters.
It matters because no matter how small, how humble, and how unintentional, every small decision will be writ large in the sky of our becoming.
If you like the sound of unschooling, check out my very unschooling-inspired ebook, Dancing Back to Jesus: Post-perfectionist faith in five easy verbs.
Image credit: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson