Hi folks! It’s Amy here, I haven’t made a post in many months because I was going through a transitional time in my life. 2020 has been a year for new self-knowledge for me, and I made a HUGE decision for my family:
I decided to put all four of my kids into public school last September (2020).
The previous plan had been to start them all into grade 8, one by one, so this was ahead of schedule. My kids entered school in grades 3, 5, 8 and 9.
I still believe that unschooling is an excellent method for educating children, but I have started to understand that what seems like the “excellent, best, perfect choice” isn’t always necessary. Sometimes doing something “pretty good” is great too.
Based on what I KNOW y’all are asking, this post will address three topics:
- A quick summary of the reasons I made this decision
- How it’s been going and what I foresee next for my family
- How I have taken the lessons from unschooling into “schooled” life
Number One: WHY did you do this, I thought you believed in unschooling?
Some people have been surprised that I made this choice during the pandemic, when many families are choosing to keep their kids home for the first time. But guess what? The circumstances of the pandemic pushed me towards this choice. I have never been a “stay-at-home” homeschooler. My preferred lifestyle would be to take my kids somewhere every day, see friends, go to the library, go on a field trip, put them in sports and arts classes. The pandemic made all of this impossible, and I thought, if school is the ONLY thing happening for kids this year, my kids are gonna go. Besides, I knew that many of our homeschool acquaintances had *different* views on mask-wearing and social distancing. I was more comfortable sending my kids to school where these things are enforced (at least they are in Ontario!), and kids are screened daily for symptoms.
Another factor was that I was already planning to send my second child to grade 8. I started his older sister in grade 8 in 2019 and that was positive for her. Kids at that age require more separation from the family, and more time with peers. In our particular homeschool community, it isn’t possible for me to provide that for my teenagers.
My youngest child (8 years old) is the most socially driven of my kids, and she was the only one who’s ever said to me that she WANTED to try school. She thought it sounded great. I wanted to take her desire into account.
The last, and biggest reason was that I suddenly realized my heart had gone out of unschool life, and I was tired of being a full time mom without a break. I had been doing it for 14.5 years, since I was 20 years old, and I felt ready to give myself time to explore my own needs and desires for myself. I was tired of working hard to make homeschooling activities happen in my community without enough support. I gave myself permission to honour my own needs.
Number Two: How is it going? Are your kids ok?
With half the school year over, this is my assessment: some things about elementary school are better than I thought, some things are about the same as I thought, and nothing is worse than I thought. On average, that means it’s better than I thought.
There are pros and cons to any lifestyle, and school has pros and cons. For my kids, they have fit pretty well into the school system. They know how to be respectful and polite, and do the work they’re given. All of them have fit in socially and made friends. All of them have experienced some of the negative aspects of school with mean kids or teachers in bad moods or boring assignments, and taken those things in stride so far. They have all been academically able to easily handle their work. I will probably write other posts later to go more in depth on these types of things.
If things change in the future, and they decide they don’t like school and want to come back to unschooling, I will support that as well.
Number Three: How has unschooling informed your new life as a school-mom?
I have a lot to say about this, and in the future, posts I make on this blog will probably focus on this question. I have found it very valuable to have an outsider perspective on the school system, because my kids and I all know that
-success in school is just one kind of talent, one type of thing you could do with your time. It’s not everything.
-There are paths to happiness and success that don’t include school at all.
-In this family we view school as a tool to help us get things we want: something to do with our day, friends, access to some cool programs, and education.
-In our family we know that education doesn’t just include learning math facts. It includes social intelligence, emotional intelligence, and life skills. You can practice these things in any life, and you can practice them while being enrolled in public school too.
-In our family we know that failing in school doesn’t mean you’re not smart or capable.
-In our family we know that school is one option, not a life sentence, or a requirement.
I hope you’ll be interested in the future to hear more about how our family life is evolving, and how the lessons from ten years of unschooling (counting from when my oldest was “school-aged”) have carried forward into our next chapters! I’ll be back from now on writing from this new perspective, but still on the topic of unschooling.
If you have any specific things you’d like me to address, drop them in the comments below!