Every once in a while it happens. For some of us, it happens a lot. Fear and panic grip us, and we worry that unschooling can't possibly work. After all those years of schooling and being schooled ourselves, living in a world where school = learning, it is very easy to trip and fall on the slippery slope of self doubt and worry. Here's what I do: I make lists.
In the early years, they were actual lists, on paper, with numbered columns and check marks. It helped...a lot. These days, my fears and worries rarely make it on paper. When I start to let my mind wander into the murky depths of the future homelessness, mental illness and unemployment of my children as a result of their unschooled life, I make mental lists of the things we do, every day, all day long, which prove my children are learning.
Here's what a list for today would have looked like:
1. Morning Walk - pedestrian & traffic safety (social studies), pollution, air quality, seasons, climate, hemispheres (science, meteorology)
2. Flag Football Game - lost jersey: negotiation, compromise, problem solving, prioritizing, communication (health, social studies), teamwork, communication, following directions, (physical education & social studies)
3. Laundry - sorting, folding (spatial relations, geometry), reading labels (language arts)
4. Lunch - health, nutrition, gardening (science, home economics)
5. Clean Up - (health, home ec.), negotiation, fariness, communication, teamwork, equality, priorities, respect, sharing, cooperation (health)
6. Wrapping Gifts - creative expression, compassion (geometry, art, health)
7. Cleaning Sea Shells - vinegar vs. bleach (chemistry lab)
8. Grocery Shopping - reading, writing (language arts), price comparisons, budgeting, financial planning, estimating, rounding, calculating (math), decision making, event planning, nutrition (home ec.), route planning, (geography), patience, cooperation (health)
9. Story Telling - personal history, oral communication, speech (social studies), self confidence, stand up comedy (health)
10. Hanging out at Home - visit from neighbors (social studies), conversation about music (music history, science, music appreciation), looking through old photos (family history, chronology, math), letter writing (reading, spelling, language arts, art), snowman building, cooperation (geometry, physical education)
11. Dinner - following recipes, meal planning (reading, math, nutrition, health), communication, cooperation (social studies, health)
12. Read Aloud/Sleepover with Friends - reading comprehension, & discussion, dramatic play with friends (language arts, creative arts, drama), listening to music (music appreciation)
All of this really happened. And all of this happened without an adult deciding that it was going to because a particular set of skills needed to be learned today. When I think back to the lesson planning in my elementary teaching days, I would have been satisfied to cover a fraction of this list in the classroom. Reviewing this list reminds me that my children are living a rich life every single day because they are creative and curious human beings. I know this intuitively. Some days I just need to be reminded. Making a list can help pacify the beast. Next time fear creeps in and threatens to sabotage your unschooling life, don't rush out and buy a new curriculum. Don't head down to the school office to enroll your kids. Try making a list. You might be surprised at what you'll find.
Becky is the unschooling mother of three (Janey, 12, Macy, 10 and Charley, 7) attempting to raise her children with compassion and respect. She taught elementary school for 9 years before discovering unschooling when it was time for her oldest to go to Kindergarten. She credits Sandra Dodd, Mary Griffith, Jan Hunt, and just about every other person she interacted with at her first HSC Home=Education conference 6 years ago, as her inspiration to find a more natural way of living and learning with children. She is a passionate and radical transportation activist and is starting a non-profit carsharing organization in her town. You can read more of what Becky has to say at http://lifewithoutschool.blogspot.com She can be reached at ashlandcarshare@gmailcom.