With kids all over the world out of school indefinitely, the internet is suffused with conflicting advice about how to make sure the kids’ education is not endangered. As an unschooler with fourteen years of school-free parenting under my belt, I would like to share some comforting ideas with parents.
I only want to share ideas that I know about first hand, so I will talk about kids below the high-school level. If your kids are in the pre-high school grades, hear me out: a break from school is not going to hurt them at all.
A lot of the advice that’s come across my screen is based on the idea that the best way to get children to learn is to teach them things. That’s a basic fallacy of the schooling philosophy, and it would really help a lot of stressed parents if we all let go of it.
So here’s my open letter to parents who are worried about educating their kids without school:
Dear Fellow Parents,
I’ve been shunning the whole idea of schooling for ten years and my kids are totally fine. That’s it, your kids don’t need school, and you don’t need to make school for them. I promise. Let me explain.
I’ve never done a formal lesson with any of my four kids in my fourteen years of unschooling. Turns out, they didn’t need any! They know how to read, they know about culture and history, they know how to assess information on the internet, they know how to ride a bike, they know almost all of the same things their schooled peers know, because you can’t really avoid knowing a lot of them if you have normal access to the world.
Sometimes curious people ask me what I do all day with my kids. That’s why my sister and I started this blog, and you can go back and read other posts if you want to find out more. I have described some things I do as a parent that work for me, but truthfully, what I do wouldn’t appeal to everyone.
A better starting point is to think about what you like to do, what your kids like to do, and work with it, not against it.
An example of a thing that works great for my family: I love literature, and so I enjoy spending hours reading out loud to my kids, even the ones who as teens and tweens could definitely read to themselves. I find this is a great way to introduce ideas, people, places and stories to the kids that start wonderful discussions and leads down fascinating rabbit holes.
But if you don’t enjoy literature or reading out loud, don’t do that! It would be unpleasant for everyone, and it’s not the only way.
I can’t tell you how to show the world to your kids. There are as many ways to do it as there are parents and kids in the world. Your way will be fine as long as you do it with some level of joy.
That’s not to say that you should feel joy all of the time with your kids. Kids are super challenging, so that’s not realistic. But if whatever method of education you’ve chosen feels like the worst part of your day, don’t keep doing it. I promise a million times over that dropping lessons that you and your kids hate will not hurt them at all.
If you replace all of their time that would’ve been spent at school with allowing them to watch tv, play, eat, and stare at the wall, I promise you they will not stop learning things.
The number one thing to remember is that nobody can learn anything when they’re stressed. Your brain doesn’t store information when it’s in a state of stress. All it does is try to cope, to get through the stress, and get it over with. So if there’s any level of stress in the room, reassess what you’re doing and what you’re getting out of it.
I’ve explained before on this blog that my oldest child decided to try public school for the first time this year. She entered grade 8 without ever having been through a day of lessons in her life, and is performing at an above-average level.
Of all the things to worry over during this crazy moment in history, don’t worry that you’ll fail your kids if you don’t teach them anything. They’ll go on learning anyway no matter what.