Home schoolers. Home educators. Natural learners. Unschoolers. There are so many terms out there, and none sit particularly well with me when people ask what we do. Labels can be helpful, but very often they invite stereotypes and generalisations. I would call it Living Life and Learning Our Way, but I don’t think the education board would be too thrilled to put that in its documentation, so for now I’m a registered homeschooler. (How boxy and contracted does that feel by the way? My way of putting it fills me with light and possibility, and the other, well… it is what it is.)
I get asked why a lot. Some whys come from people who deep down crave to do life differently, but wouldn’t dare. They would love to try out an alternative (to anything), but the desire to fit in and feel safe is too strong. And sometimes the why is because their soul seeks inspiration on some level – I know I’ve done this plenty of times when I ask question after question of someone who’s doing something their own way.
There’s nothing more compelling, nothing more spell-binding than someone who is true to themselves.
I started to wonder the reasons myself because the arrows, my arrows, would all line up in my mind’s eye and depending on the day and everyone’s frame of mind, I might pick a different one.
(In no particular order): Is it to avoid the school system? Is it because Luca’s sensitive soul would be crushed by the structure? Is it because he’s different? He likes quiet, needs quiet and plenty of unstructured time to thrive. Is it to keep him away from playground dynamics and the role school plays in fostering conformity? Is it because I feel there’s so much more to a rich education than what curriculums dictate? Is it because I think the five-day school week is preposterous (and while we’re at it the five-day work week)? Is it because I see the whole socialisation issue as a complete farce? Is it because I believe childhood is a sacred time and children need to be children for longer? Is it because I value an education of the heart as much as an education of the mind? Is it because I don’t value our culture’s practice of comparison, and its view on failure and success? Is it so I can watch him learn, watch him day to day? Is it because he can satisfy his quirky, creative urges and interpret the world his own way, rather than the prescribed way? Is it so I can help him explore, understand and embrace who he is? Is it because he simply doesn’t want to go to school?
Yes. And I could come up with a thousand more reasons – all important and each very deserving – they’re all arrows pointing in the same direction. But there’s an almighty arrow that delivers that crystal-clear clarity each and every time.
Learning at home, at a friend’s house, in the rock pools, at the potter’s workshop, on a walk, in conversation in the car, on a farm, at an art class… is our way of living free. I don’t believe it’s everyone’s version of Living Life and Learning Our Way, but it is ours.
Nowadays, brevity is more appealing to me; I have no desire to bring people round to my way of thinking. The school system needs a drastic overhaul (gargantuan understatement), but my mission is not to sign more people up to homeschooling. My mission is to sign more people up to their own picture of living free, whatever it looks like. The trouble is we’re threatened by the next person’s picture. It can drive a wedge between us. The ground starts to shake a bit when someone says ‘I’d rather go this way’. It goes something like this:
If you’re homeschooling, what does that say about what I’m doing? Absolutely nothing. We’re all together in this beautiful world, but sometimes I’m here and you’re there.
If you decided against school, that must mean you must think school is the wrong choice, so you don’t respect my decision. School isn’t the right place for my child, but it might be the perfect place for your child. I still believe that collectively we need (in the words of Sir Ken Robinson) to transform the culture of education with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence, and regardless of the fact I think our schools need more soul, more flexibility, more freedom (and no testing whatsoever), I honour the fact we, as parents, are all on different paths. Your journey looks nothing like mine. My children are nothing like yours. The same goes for what we’re each here to learn and do.
People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost – Dalai Lama XIV
But is it hard some days? Most days, it is! I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old, both with big spirits. Do I not sometimes wish there was a quiet little voluntary school with no curriculum that perhaps Luca might enjoy going to once or twice a week? Of course. I have to be extra vigilant about getting my own needs met, especially time to myself, and sometimes (very often) it all. Gets. Too. Much.
But I trust. I was called to do this. Despite any drama, despite my need to escape at times, every cell in my body knows this is my path. Our path.