It’s only controversial because of our culture’s misconceptions about education. All parents have a legal right to chose the form of education that we feel is best for our children, and () each child will learn best in his or her own way. My choice may be different from your choice, but that doesn’t make it wrong or, worse, negligent.
I am homeschooling my girls. I say ‘am’ because learning should start at home, from birth (or before!). According to my state’s law, I do not file as a homeschool until my child turns seven, but we've been homeschooling since birth. Before, if you count all the talking, reading, explaining, rubbing, dancing, dreaming, reiki-ing, and listening to music that I did with my babies when I was pregnant.
Right now, I think we mostly do unschooling, but my plan has always been to do a mixture of unschooling and
unit studies. I researched all of the options while I was pregnant, and this is what Josh and I decided would work best for our family. I’m pretty sure this is the exact kind of environment Eden needs to thrive and be passionate about life-long learning, but we’re definitely willing to incorporate bits and pieces of many methods, and if Ivy’s learning style is different, then we will do something different for her.
As practically every resource says, the definition of unschooling is different for each family that uses it. What does that mean for us?
It means that we allow our children’s passion and interest to decide the route our ‘schooling’ will take. I feel that for my kids, it's best if we focus on whatever their passion of the moment is (hence the unit studies).
It means that since Eden has been into dinosaurs, we rent a lot of dinosaur books and videos from the library (reading, science, math [how many books, how many dinosaurs are there, etc.], history, colors [what color is that dinosaur?], responsibility [take care of library books and return them], calendar [mark the day and be sure they’re back on time], daily skills [discussing the route to the library in the car, using the library, learning how to look up books], that all-important socialization [interacting with librarians, other kids, toddler-time if they’re having it]). It means we look up fossils online and learn about skeletons and how the earth was made (biology, earth science, computers, and momma-time all rolled into one). It means we planned our vacation to include a museum with a real dinosaur exhibit (daily skills, more socialization and all that other stuff I mentioned again). It means we draw dinosaurs (art, motor skills), and buy dinosaur stickers (math, money, daily skills, socialization), and chase each other around the house growling like dinosaurs (P.E., creativity, and just plain fun).
It means that she’s been asking about telling time and reading, so now I’ve started teaching her. If it ends up being too hard for her, I’ll back off and return to something else she’s excited about, like American Flags and learning about different states. And Ivy’s been excited about dance, so we have several dance breaks every day with different types of music.
It means that I stay home with my kids and incorporate them into real-world daily life. I take them shopping, and they help me find what I need and put it in the cart. I teach them about healthy foods and junk foods. I try to teach them to listen and quit grabbing things. Eden *loves* to pay, although we’re still working on fully grasping the money concept. We socialize with all sorts of people.
I read something in one of the homeschooling books, and I wish I could remember which one, but it said basically, “When in life, outside of school, are you ever surrounded by 20-30 people your own age? Homeschooled kids interact with people of all ages all day long. A homeschool parent who is truly responsible for their child’s education and including them in daily life will have a child who is more ‘socialized’ than most of the children in a classroom.”
Personally, the schools in our district don’t meet our standards. Josh had a pretty traumatizing experience in those exact schools, and he refuses to send his children there. We can’t afford the Montessori school I like, and honestly, I think I could provide the best education for my children. And when the time comes when they want to learn something that I can’t teach them, like dance, basketball, Russian, or flute, then I will enroll them in classes or hire a tutor. I’ll continue to make local friends and join homeschooling groups. Many groups have sports teams, dances, proms, and graduation ceremonies, if my children feel they need that.
Will I ever use text books? Probably, but I’d prefer to use my local library and bookstores. Workbooks? Yes indeed-y, because I can totally see Eden needing to learn how to sit down and complete a task like that. Tests? Undoubtedly, since the law requires it every year. What I won’t do, however, is cram information down their throat for weeks prior to be sure they get a certain score. Obviously tests are great tools for seeing where each child’s personal weaknesses are, and that’s how I intend to use them. I’m not going to push them before they’re ready, and I’m going to be sure they’re always enjoying the way we learn.
That’s what our personal goal is for our children – feeling passion about learning. And, you know, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I have some smart kids who seem to learn quickly, and I have little doubt that this will work, leaving them brilliant kids with a future in any field they desire. If I didn’t think it was the right choice for them, I wouldn’t do it, no matter how much of an advocate I am.