This is a guest post from Erin Wetzel. She is a painter and a poet who lives in Tacoma, WA with her husband and daughter. You can connect with her on instagram @ekwetzel. Earlier in the year she wrote a guest post about generation Y.
My three-year-old found the vine of morning glories growing behind our house. She plucked three and ran to me. “Mama! Let’s make pixie dust!”
“Oh?” I replied. “How do we do that?”
She pursed her lips, paused, and said, “You grind up the flowers.”
“Should we get more flowers?” I ask, her imagination sparking my own, so we scoured the yard for buttercups, clover, and lavender.
“We need a bowl, Mama.” So I got her a bowl. “And we need flour.” So I fetched flour. “And baking powder. And salt.” I brought both. She measured out her ingredients and stirred everything together.
She fetched her fairy wings and we sprinkled pixie dust on our heads and flew around the yard.
1. Parents are natural teachers.
When we discuss unschooling, we focus a lot on how children are naturally inquisitive and on how they are natural learners.
What we don’t usually discuss is how parents are natural facilitators. Parents are teachers, mentors, counselors and encouragers. These roles come to the involved, homeschooling parent as naturally as breathing.
2. Have the guts to break the public-school cycle.
I am a survivor of a traditional education. It is easy for me to doubt my aptitude to raise my child in a homeschooling environment. My school education was apathetic to creativity and hostile to independent thought. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe in my ability to overcome that education but I am determined to break the cycle and make a difference for my daughter.
It’s easy to follow the patterns we learned in childhood, but your past is not your destiny. For example, there is a myth in our culture that victims of sexual assault in childhood grow up to take on the role of the abuser. While there is some evidence of a correlation between being a victim in childhood and becoming a perpetrator, the majority of sex offenders were not abused as children.
Do you know what is a proven pattern? Revictimisation, where someone who was a victim continues to be one through learned helplessness or seeking out abusive partners.
Just because you suffered through traditional doesn’t mean you have to inflict that same choice on your child. You are not helpless. You can direct your own learning and curiosity, and you can create a healthy learning environment for your child. You do not need to hand over the quality of your child’s daily happiness to a professional naysayer.
3. Don’t be a know-it-all. Let your kid lead.
How would a typical teacher have responded to my daughter’s pixie dust play? “Picking flowers is naughty.” “Don’t make a mess.” “Flour doesn’t go in your hair.” “Baking powder is for adults, not for kids.” “No. No. No.” These words echoed in my head while my daughter was inviting me to play. I have to remember to unlearn such responses, forgetting rules and structures that traditional school enforces. Who better to teach me creativity than my three-year-old?
Don’t be a victim. Don’t make excuses. Unschooling isn’t only about our kids choosing what they learn. It’s about adult choices too, choosing what is best for our children.