Unschooling is a big word these days, and one that certainly creates some strong opinions. I used to agree with the group that saw unschoolers as an undisciplined disgrace to education (sorry!), and while I was intrigued with the concept of “de-schooling,” I would never have put myself in that camp.
It’s easy to form strong opinions when we’re not in those shoes, isn’t it? Coming from a strong classical education background myself, I definitely looked down on those that shunned a formal approach to school . . . until “school” – even my carefully planned and devised homeschool – failed my daughter year after year and our time spent together became strained rather than joyful.
I’ve basically been homeschooling my whole life, since I’m a homeschool grad myself; in that span of almost thirty years of being surrounded by homeschoolers, I’ve seen so many homeschooled kids who love to do school (myself included). These are the kids that get up at five to do a whole days’ worth of schoolwork before co-op, study for fun, enjoy picking out their curriculums and go in-depth with their research … all in the elementary years. We’re not even talking about highschool.
Then . . . there’s mine. The one whose creative light dies on school days. The one who could care less about all the cool lesson plans that I make, the awesome studies on subjects that she’s deeply interested in, the one who shuts down after an hour of school despite all attempts to make it lively and interesting. The one who, despite an intelligence that I think may be superior to my own and certainly a memory that is, just doesn’t excel in school.
After months of prayer and deep consideration, I have been led to understand that education is truly not dependent on the S-word. We’re four years into our homeschooling journey -also the only method of education that Emma has ever known – and I’ve come to the realization that with her, “school” just. does. not. work.
I’ve had to ask myself some really tough questions before coming to the conclusion that I’m announcing. Questions like, “Who am I really trusting with her education? Myself? Why not her Creator?” and “What is the point of lifetime of quality education if one loses the love of learning?” We can learn anything – anything – if we are in love with learning and the creative process is alive and well within us; but if the educational methods have led us to believe that we hate learning (because we equate it with school), our own doors of possibility are closed.
During my months of prayer on this topic, I believe I heard God speak to me, and what I heard was this: He created her just the way she is, meaning He created her with her particular learning style and strengths and weaknesses. If my intention and objective as a homeschooling mom is to honor God in our home and homeschool, it does not honor her Creator and the head of our homeschool to not honor the way He made her. In fact, I believe it is a form of idolatry to stick dogmatically to a rigid structure (be in classical or Charlotte Mason or any other curriculum) when that is not the best for the child or the way God is leading.
Do I really trust God to lead our homeschool?
I’m learning to. Praise God that He’s patient.
So, we’ve been unschooling a couple days a week. One day is co-op so that doesn’t really count for either, and the two “school” days are carefully selected topics on things I see that she really needs and isn’t getting elsewhere (like spelling and geography currently). We’ve always done literature and living book read-alouds for about an hour a day which has been a wealth of knowledge and enrichment, not to mention fun.
This has been our routine for a couple months now and it’s working really well. I decided on this method because there are some things that she really needs to learn that I know she won’t on her own, but it doesn’t overwhelm the day or the week.
What I’m seeing in my journey as a homeschool mom is grace and sanctification. Grace to learn, grace to fail, and grace to realize that not everything has to be uniform to be perfect, because perfection comes when we are following our Lord. As I learn to be fully dependent on God and less on my own ideas, I am also becoming the person He intends for me while giving my daughter an example of listening and following the Creator of our souls.