This week is the ninth anniversary of the day I decided not to send my oldest child to Kindergarten. Where do the years go! This year she would be going into grade 7, and my youngest, who wasn’t even born yet at that time, would be starting grade 1.
At this time of year, when many people are trying to fit in a few more fun days into their kids’ summer vacation, going broke on school supplies, and posting online about how they can’t wait for summer to be over, unschoolers all over the world are going about their lives as if school didn’t even exist, and loving it.
Our family is planning a trip to Prince Edward Island which begins later this week! When I realized that our route along the highway will take us right through Quebec City, I got really excited to show my kids one of the oldest European cities in North America. For my kids, it will also be the first time they see the ocean. They are hoping to find crabs. This will be the first of two late-summer vacations for our family where we get to take advantage of “low season” prices. Unschooling bonus!
That thought inspired me to come up with this list of five things I appreciate about living without school which are particular to this time of year.
- I love that our summer activities begin and end based on when the weather is warm and sunny, not on when the bells ring. Depending on the year’s weather, we get to live like it’s summer vacation from May to October. I love that our seasons are not artificially limited by school schedules.
- I don’t have the same expenses to worry about. September can be such an expensive month for parents. In my town, all the kids’ sports, music lessons, Scouts, etc. have to be signed up and paid for in September. Add to that the cost of school supplies and it becomes overwhelming. A friend of mine who has 3 in school told me she spent $400 dollars on school supplies, not including all the new clothes and shoes she bought.
- My kids’ engagement with the world has continued all summer long, and will continue uninterrupted. Kids learn through play and exploration. Some schools purport to engage their students in “play based learning”, and while that certainly does sound better than sitting silently behind a desk, it isn’t at all the same as giving the kids the freedom to play games of their own invention with companions of their own choosing. Assigned “games” that have an ulterior purpose don’t fool children. They know they’re not free and that their actions and abilities are being assessed. Those lucky kids who didn’t spend all summer in day camps may have spent their time building tree houses, reading books, and filling sketchbooks. In a few days they’ll have to stop the natural course of their learning in order to go to school. Too bad.
- There is no anxiety about whether my kids will measure up. Parents send their children to school hoping that their child won’t come in last, won’t be bullied, and will be able to learn all the things. But the reality is that for some children to “succeed” there have to be some “failures” to measure them against. Those “failures” are somebody’s precious children. Pitting children against each other in competition for grades is absolutely gross to my mind. I’m so glad that I don’t have to worry about that. Parenting already includes enough worries without the extra ones that school necessitates.
- I’m going to keep on buying normal groceries. There’s no need to switch over to allergen free, easily “packable” items. We are going to keep on eating peanut butter sandwiches without a plate, standing in the kitchen. I know this is enviable because of my friends’ (understandable) groaning about the impending necessity of packing lunches every day. That’s one chore I get to skip.
That’s my list! What is your family up to at this time of year? Let me know in the comments!