Are you thinking about removing your children from public school? It is not an easy decision to make that final leap. I considered the unschooling method for several years, before I finally made the plunge. It took an unsettling move before I felt that our lifestyle finally allowed me to give it a try. Even then, when my last excuse was torn down, the leap was absolutely terrifying.
With only a few weeks before the “back to school” craze, and my last chance to withdraw our kids from school before the start of the “official” year, I took the leap.
Why would you want to homeschool or unschool your child?
There are many reasons to homeschool or unschool your chldren.
Many parents believe the public-school system has failed to provide an enriching learning environment. Children like gifted children or kids with special needs, find that public schools are not designed to efficiently accommodate for their needs.
Others passionately protest the Common Core State Standards. Some have more radical reasons and homeschooling in protest to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
No matter your reasoning, taking the leap is terrifying. After I set a book down, or finished an article or documentary, I would feel pumped and ready to go for it, then the worries of the world would come rushing back, and I would be unsure and hesitant. I would remember my biggest motivation. Every day when I dropped my kids off at school, I used to look into their eye and know I was forcing them to go somewhere they didn’t want to go.
Public school was not easy on my daughter. M 7-year-old son did excellent on his “homework,” but he hated every second of it..
If I’m describing the same situation that you find yourself in, then this article is for you. The feeling of being paralyzed by a system that you know, but is deeply flawed, remember is a system you know and understand.
Here are the best 5 pieces of advice I can offer for new unschoolers (and homeschoolers).
1. Start with a “De-schooling” Period
A lot of people like to treat the first few months of homeschooling or unschooling as a vacation/transition period. Spend time relaxing, decompressing, enjoying time together as a family. Do activities that look fun especially if there “educational.” Maybe travel a little bit. Read a lot or watch a lot of TV, whatever your kids find enjoyable and relaxing.
Homeschool bloggers have given this transitional phase a name, deschooling.
While deschooling, you can read up on homeschooling and unschooling, figure out how it all works, reflect on why you want to do it, and begin to ease into doing the things that make sense to you.
Folks who try to jump from public school into a new lifestyle all at once with no transition period often flounder after a few months or feel overwhelmed.
2. Focus on the Joy and Closeness
Focus on the joy and closeness you can have. Instead of thinking about things your children will be missing out on. Think about the world of experience you can enjoy with them.
3. Read Books
John Taylor Gatto’s little book, “Dumbing Us Down,” which gives some really great insights as to why school can be damaging. That will probably remind you of why unschooling sounded so good in comparison.
And while you’re in the library, pick up a copy of “Freedom to Learn” by Peter Gray.
4. Be Logical – What’s the Worst That Can Happen?
Seriously, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You can always put them back in school. When I pulled my children out of school, it felt like the most monumental forever oh-my-we-are-ruining-our-kids decisions.
But when I shifted my focus to our kids and their needs and their happiness and all the negative things they will “miss out on,” I realized no decisions are ever forever… it felt less burdensome.
The decision you are making isn’t necessarily a decision for forever, but a decision for right now. So why not try it?
5. Socialization Isn’t an Excuse
If you are worried that your child won’t be socialized, you’re just clinging to an excuse.
When I made the switch, my daughter’s main criteria was to find 10 brand new homeschool friends. We found a great co-op that met her needs. It was hard, because I missed seeing the friends, I had made as well at her school.
But now, we have an even tighter knit friend circle and we still able to see plenty of our old public school friends.