Photo Credit: David Bartus
When our youngest son was in public elementary school, he loved it, he was doing well, and he was thriving. But then, I think that is probably more the rule than the exception at that age.
Then came middle school. What a nightmare. He was miserable, the education was lackluster, (to say the least), and he was turning into a little jerk. He had been such a sweet kid, so the change in him was unnerving and confusing.
We pulled him out of school a couple of weeks into 7th grade and went with an online public school. That’s when we learned about how he learns best. He had trouble going from subject to subject, bouncing around, and retaining very little. He was also bored to tears and the school did little to help keep him engaged in the work. He did much better as a binge learner. He loves to delve deep into a subject and learn all he can and then go on to the next thing. And, as it turns out, he retains the information better and has learned how one subject can lead to another or even cross over into another.
He’ll spend months learning something, like ancient history and war, computers, or cooking and then move on to something else. Unfortunately the online public school was basically the same thing as public school, only at home, so that didn’t work either. Then, adding in all of the nagging that I was doing (and trust me, it was a LOT) to get him to do his homework (which was making both of us cranky) to the mix and that can squash the love of learning really fast. So we decided to scrap everything and start all over.
The first thing we did was just let him take a break, which was harder on me than it was on him. The poor kid basically slept for about 8 months. He was exhausted and it was obvious. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to try to learn something when all your body wants to do is sleep. I learned a lot of patience during those 8 months, letting his body get the rest it needed and just being there for him. After that he finally started wanting to get up and do things, becoming more engaged than he had ever been before. My sweet boy was coming back!
I had been doing weeks and weeks of research on education alternatives and discovered unschooling. I knew this would be perfect for him because it would give him the freedom to learn what he was interested in at his own pace and to the depth that would satisfy him and keep him engaged. My husband and I decided to give it a try and see how it went and I’m so grateful that we did.
No matter what they’re doing, they’re always learning something.
One of the hardest parts of unschooling is remembering that no matter what they’re doing, they’re always learning something. There is no, “and what did we learn from this?” or checking to make sure that they’re learning. Rest assured, they are. He was learning what he loves, what makes him tick, what he doesn’t like, and how he likes to be in the world. He was learning to be a responsible human being, how to find joy in life, and how to be a good person. That was more important to us than him learning how to do common core math or recite useless data that he would never use in his life. His love of learning was growing exponentially and his range of interests grew along with it.
That was 5 1/2 years ago and today he is happy, well-adjusted, can hold a decent conversation, knows how to problem solve, can build computers, and has a wicked sense of humor. At 17 he is kind, observant, smart as a whip, well-rounded and engaged. He attends a local homeschool co-op (his choice) once a week, has a job, and IRA, and loves to snowboard and do martial arts. He does spend a lot of time online, but it’s funny that a lot of it is on research of topics that he’s interested in. Right now it’s the periodic table, Spirit Science, and physics. Most of the time it’s hard to just keep up with him.
Because unschooling is learner led, it has given us the opportunity to really get to know our son as a person and a friend. We love spending time with him and we’re lucky that he loves spending time with us too. Watching him grow this way has been such a wonderful experience for our family and I am grateful for it. I will say that unschooling isn’t for everyone, but for us, it’s been perfect. I love the man he is becoming and I’m the lucky one that gets to be his mom.
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