Here We Are–how I came to unschool

It all started with a mysterious coincidence, and Facebook. As modern things do.

It was 2010, E, my first, was just two years old. I was scrolling through my Facebook–wall, or whatever the thing was back then–and I came across a post Facebook had generated that said, “Amy and Janine like ‘Thomas Jefferson Education‘”. In later years when I mentioned TJ Ed Amy proclaimed never to have heard of it. So I don’t know where Facebook got that idea. Very mysterious. But anyway I was like, “What’s Thomas Jefferson Education?” and thus began the research.

At the time I didn’t know many homeschoolers. There was that family when I was a teenager that lived in the boonies who we barely ever saw and had really weird kids; there was the family friends we reconnected with when I was in college–I was friends with their daughter (still am), and noted that she was great at ballet but terrible at bowling. I thought, “Must be the homeschooling.” Because as a homeschooler everything you do is judged by non-homeschoolers through that lens. Anyway, I had those exposures, and also my friend Janine, who had three whole kids, was pretty cool, and allegedly “liked” TJ Ed.

But it piqued my interest. Something about the TJ Ed model for kids’ phases of learning spoke truth to me, especially the idea of the first phase, the “core” phase, lasting till about eight years old, and being entirely about exploring life unburdened by adult expectations–soaking up information through pure spontaneous experience. And so I read on.

Eventually I came to John Holt. I don’t remember how–maybe Amy introduced him to me, although my memory of events is that I got excited about homeschooling first. But it’s entirely possible that she quickly surpassed me in her reading and research. That’s pretty her. If I really want to know about something I usually just ask her about it and then she does all this research and gives me the pertinent info and I save a lot of time. So maybe Amy introduced John Holt to me. Or maybe I actually came to that one on my own, I don’t really recall.

But I do recall that every new chapter I read was mind blowing. I read “How Children Fail” first, then “How Children Learn“, then “Teach Your Own“. I recommend all of them! I was inspired–I started to write lists. One list was all the ways school was harmful to me, which I had never before realized, having absolutely loved every minute of school from day one to graduation. Some of the list items included learning that I was better and smarter than others because of my ease with school work and good grades,  learning to need external praise in order to feel valuable (which made my first couple years of motherhood a very difficult transition), and defining success by what you do, rather than who you are. Another list contained toxic elements to the school environment that I didn’t want for my own children. Things like being surrounded by competing peers all day (like Lord of the Flies) instead of by mature adults with vested, loving interest in their success, and that environment of winners and losers. And amidst all this list writing, I realized my greatest concern and my greatest goal: that my children foster within themselves a love of learning.

For myself, I have always loved learning. That’s part of why I loved school to a degree, because to me it was a place to gain new knowledge, glean new skills, exercise my mind. But when I looked back, I felt that a solid 90% of my peers had expressed to one degree or another that they didn’t like learning. Because you see they had been programmed to equate schooling with learning. As one of the lucky ones, who was chosen early on as a “winner”, and who was cognitively designed to thrive in the school system, my greatest fear for my children was that they would become part of that 90%. And that, for me, was it. John Holt had spoken to me. His ideas made sense! They made sense to my husband too, and to my sister. And they seemed like the most logical way to achieve an entire family of children who just love learning.

So I did it. Or rather, I didn’t do it. I never bothered with school. And here we are–so far so good.

Can I just add, that I love to share! Please feel free to send me a message or write a comment below with any thoughts or questions you have!

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