Building our trust in the unschooling method of education delivery is a big issue and one that we just have to accept as something we all go through when wading into this new lifestyle, that is so different from what we have been programmed to know. Just like we have to accept sleepness nights when we bring our babies home, we have to accept distrust when we have those days when “nothing looks like learning.”
Building trust in unschooling gets better with time and close observation as we see, hear and engage in our children learning on their own. It was observation of my children on how much they were learning (especially while playing video games) and also seeing how little they retained in the year we did formal school-at-home. It’s experiencing how keen and motivated they are to learn what they want to learn and then trusting that when they need to know something, they will pursue it with a vengeance. Remembering those times that they absolutely nagged you to get them a part or to empower them to make something or do something or take them somewhere. When children want something, they will work hard to make it happen.
Here are some suggestions for you, that helped me develop trust in unschooling:
- Record those “Aha!” moments when your children produce an expression of their learning. When they write a poem or build a birdhouse or speak a thoughtful opinion, take a picture, write a note or record a video of these brilliant nuggets. Review this record during the dry spells when we feel they are “doing nothing.”
- Compare your child to themselves year to year through video and photographs of their projects. Be amazed at how capable and smart they are while growing up. Avoid comparison to children outside the family. Even siblings progress differently. Enjoy their uniqueness.
- Immerse yourself in a support group with mentors that can soothe your worries during the dry spells. (Thank you to the mentors I had! You might never know how much you helped me, but it was so appreciated!)
- Socialize with other unschoolers, especially those with older children and observe how mature and capable they are. Socialize with homeschoolers as well and listen to their stories of how difficult it is to motivate a child that rejects their homeschooling curriculum or assignments of online school.
- Avoid curriculum sales – this just feeds insecurity, doubts, and comparison with other children.
- If you are a Type A person (like me) that would like nothing better than to have children accomplish a measurable task like completing a worksheet every day, then channel your organization skills and need for measurables into other pursuits – like a job or volunteer work. Anything to take the focus off your child’s academics.
- Read books, listen to podcasts and webinars about alternative forms of learning. Write down the sentences that can be affirmations on your bad days. Put those affirmations on your fridge. If friends and relatives question your education style, ask them to read your chosen favourite unschooling book before you continue the “informed” conversation with them.
- Ignore the media that promotes untruths in education. In summer, laugh at the ads that suggest you must keep your child entertained in the summer and holidays. In Fall, dispell those ads that suggest children must start formal education at age 2 or they will be “behind” and disadvantaged for the rest of their lives. Ignore those tutoring ads that feed on parental insecurities. Refuse to buy in to the peer pressure to sign your child up for every class on every topic. Your child is an excellent learner from the day they were born. They will develop their interests with or without you, at age 5, 15 or 65. Question the whole notion of “behind.” Remind yourself that media is fueled by a billion dollar industry and school is a business. There is no money to be made in unschooling and thus, no incentive to research it. Remember that these industries don’t want it public knowledge that self-directed learning might be more effective than direct instruction.
- Learn how brains work and remind yourself that all learning is learning. Do this especially on days that you observe your child spending all day on Youtube or PUBG. No one living is “not learning.” Everyone learns all the time. It just depends on whose agenda is being learned and the best one is the learners internal needs.
- Notice when your teens are singing and skipping through their days filled with happiness and purpose. You have made the right choice. Relationships matter most. Your child will learn something new every day and you have each day to build your relationship. Your child can always learn fractions anytime, but you only have 18 years to solidify a friendship, trust, caring and love with your child. Build the relationship first and the resume will take care of itself.
These are actions that helped me build trust. Each day that I observe my children and smile at their progress, it affirms what I know in my heart to be true. This style of education is what fits for us. And now I have the gift of hindsight. With 3 university graduates, the naysayer relatives and friends have stopped questioning. But most of all, so have I. I know this method works. My job now is to support your doubts. Welcome to unschooling!