Children, Nature, and Unschooling
A week ago my daughter and I sat down to watch the movie, "The Little Prince." Throughout the movie we both had tears in our eyes and when the movie was finished we talked about the story. I asked her, "what is your passion?" and she replied, "my passion is art." She said this with tears in her eyes. I thought about passion and about happiness. I started to remember my childhood and what it was like going to conventional private school, then I thought about my daughter and her first year of conventional public school. It pained me to drop her off everyday and it pained me to see her Kindergarten teacher make fun of her in front of me. I made a decision to remove her before the year ended (there was literally two weeks left), but I wanted to make a statement about conventional school. It's not for everyone and I could go as far to say that the system itself is broken.
For the past year and a half my daughter has been homeschooled and this past fall we transitioned from curriculum based workbooks and lesson plans to no curriculum. I was nervous to make this change because the type of schooling we do is called,"unschooling." This is the type of schooling that makes everyone nervous, even my husband. He was worried that our daughter would fall behind (even though she has been a grade ahead this past year) or that she would never learn math because he knew she loathed it. So here I am explaining to my other half about unschooling and the positive effect it will have on our daughter.
My daughter and I wake up when we wake up, we don't sleep until noon, and on occasion we do sleep in until 10:00 am. When she wakes up she has her morning chores which includes feeding animals, making the bed, brushing her teeth and hair, and getting dressed. This doesn't always happen within a structured amount of time. Somedays she gets all of it done in under twenty minutes and other days it takes her an hour. On the days when it takes her an hour she is usually hosting a talk show in the mirror or dancing about with bedsheets. I don't intervene when she makes her chores fun because that is part of who she is and it makes her happy. As a family we eat an organic diet, we drink raw milk, eat raw cheese and butter, eat fresh nongmo organic produce, and we do the whole pasture raised grass fed meats and eggs. When it comes to meals I allow my daughter to choose her foods and prepare her own meal. This includes me allowing her to cut her own fruits and vegetables with a knife. After we have breakfast she gets to choose our adventure for the day, these adventures can range from working in her art studio to taking a trip to the nearest museum or park. Often we spend loads of time gardening, baking, fermenting tea, and creating new art from the nature pile. Her schooling takes shape throughout the day in the different activities she chooses to do.
Unschooling has allowed us to spend loads of time outside and with nature. In fact, my daughter loves being outside as opposed to staying inside. Don't get me wrong she is a huge lover of comic books, board games, and video games. She just loves to get outside, meet people, and spend time with nature. In the last couple months I have spent time getting to know my daughter. I know most parents are thinking, "I know my kids." I thought the same thing until these past couple of months when I realized I didn't know her as well as I thought I did. Older people are always saying to embrace your children because they don't stay young children forever. I didn't want to miss out on my daughter's passions. I wanted her to know that I care and that I am here to support her.
So, I practice attachment parenting, I believe in unschooling, and I feel that leading a happy and healthy life is very important to my daughter's development. I know that there are family, friends, and acquaintances that don't agree with my way of parenting or bi-monthly purchases of $16 raw organic milk, and I am okay with that. If you think that you are raising your child in a way that makes you both happy then stick with it. I do think it's important to spend loads of time with your kids even if you pull them out of school for the day and take them outside to be with nature. A week ago we went to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and I had never seen my daughter more excited. She ran from one part of the museum to the other looking at the moon cycles, planets, and Tesla coil. She asked the museum educator questions about electricity and radio waves because the Tesla coil was so fascinating to her. When she entered into the planetarium she was amazed at how the constellation could be viewed.
Kids learn regardless of being in or out of a classroom, the difference is that they learn what they love outside of the classroom at an earlier age. I am excited to continue to unschooled my daughter until she is eighteen and she decides where to take her journey in life.
If you are interested in unschooling and are maybe nervous about the idea of it, check out these books:
Homegrown By: Ben Hewitt
Free to Learn... By: Peter Grey
Author John Holt has some amazing books as well
In the meantime, there is so much life out there to live don't hold that back from your kids. Life isn't a penciled in schedule of activities, it's messy, scary, fun, and exciting.