Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why I Unschool

At this somewhat late stage in the game, I feel unprepared for life, with this pestering notion that I am constantly playing catch-up on the learning that I didn’t have time for when I was in school solving pages of similar math problems and writing essays on dead authors.  If only I had more time to prepare I would be better at this life. I would know why once purple glass turns yellow in the sun or how to properly treat a burn (which yes, I know now, but I was unprepared when it happened). I would have answers for all of the questions, okay not all of them because there are new ones every day, but I would have answers for a lot of the questions that enter my brain, questions that I do not have time to read about with three children needing breakfast, shoes found or to use the toilet.
You see these words and would expect me to want to send my kids off every day to school, so that I could have a moment to breath and read and find information, but why would I want to take away their ability to breath and read and find information on the questions that plague their brains.
Right now, the questions are often simple and do not take hours of reading and/or experimentation to uncover the snippet of understanding for which they are searching.  The time will come when, at least one of them if not all, will spend hours reading various volumes and the internet to solve a piece of the puzzle.  This will be because they want to, not because I am making them.  They will, in this way, learn to think and find information not just recite what they have been taught.  In my theory, in order to have that deep desire to really learn, one needs to have had time in life that does not involve deep pursuits.  This is why our school is on their terms…most of the time.
My kids are all under ten and we spend much of our day doing things that are not school related.  My oldest is reading a plethora of comic books and though he finished the entire Harry Potter series before he was eight, he has no interest in starting a new novel (that is until the next Rick Riordan book arrives at his door).  The next one in line is my odd man out.  She is an extroverted kinesthetic who would suck every bit of life from me if she could.  She cannot entertain herself for any length of time and cannot be alone.  She loves to draw and copy words.  Any lessons with her are short and once her brain wanders off, we stop because there is no point in trying to force her.  She started acting class this year, something we all knew she would do well with.  The youngest, who is 2 ½, may possibly read before her older sister.  She knows her alphabet, both aurally and visually, and speaks in clear cognizant sentences.  She can summarize a book or television show hours, days after being exposed to it.  My husband caught her one night with a flashlight and a book hiding under the covers.  They are allowed to be…nope that is it, they are allowed to be.
I question whether I am doing the right thing, keeping my kids home to let them learn naturally and not in some regimented way.  I think that is a parent’s job to constantly question whether they are doing the right thing, because a parent should want the best for his/her child.  I am breaking the “rules” of how childhood is “supposed” to be.  I am part of a larger and larger group of parents who are taking back the control of childhood.  I also have to remember how it was to be a child.  I hated school.  I LOVED learning.  I was always under the impression that I would learn so much more if I didn’t have to go to school every day.  That is what they get to do.  Learn on their own terms.
Thanks for reading,
Sarah McTernen


  1. Learning on their terms. Yes, Sarah! Just as you, I hope to reclaim childhood for my children; as often as I may (or may not) question my own philosophy of learning, outside influences or pressures that we are surrounded with get quickly cast aside when I consider how my children are thriving within our unschooling environment... any forced methods would only stifle their individuality and creativeness. Authentic, unique, true to oneself. These are the human beings that I'm nurturing everyday. Love your post!

    1. Thank you. I have mini struggles all the time with the fact that we don't "do school". Whether we are outside in the sun, at the grocery store, or enjoying a movie together, they are learning, I am learning. I know if I'm not learning or doing I get bored and find something else.