At the beginning of this summer, I began to read about unschooling. Everything I read resonated with me. For me, probably the most profound philosophy of unschooling is the idea to let your children’s interests direct his or her learning. We have been trying to live the unschooling philosophy over the summer. For the most part, it has been a success. We invested in some tools for our children. We bought a sewing machine, an electric guitar and an Elgato to help our children explore their creativity. A good friend of mine purchased us a slew of Lego’s for the older and younger children. In years past I got rid of our Lego’s because I couldn’t stand the mess. I quieted the minimalist voice in my head, set some boundaries, and am happy to report that Lego’s have not taken over our home. As we speak they are tucked away tidily in the hallway closet. Another super fun thing my girl friend gave us was colored clay. I imagine most homes have this, but we didn’t. Our kids have spent hours creating with clay, cooking it to hardness, and then playing with their creations. I could go on and on with all the fabulous unschooling we have been doing. Because of this, I am pretty surprised about the turn of events lately.
A couple of weeks ago, two of my older girls, Mattea and Lily, went out to Pryor. Pryor sits on the Crow Indian Reservation, about 45 miles from our home. I grew up in Pryor and my mom and dad still live there. My girls went out to help my mom with the church’s Vacation Bible School. They had a fabulous time!! After the second day, Lily called to tell me about her day. She said, “Mom, I would really like to go to school out here.” Because I had been practicing unschooling for three months, I didn’t say no. I just listened to her reasons why she liked it so much. I told her I needed to think about it. We needed to consult the Big Guy (God) and her dad. But I told her I wasn’t closed to the idea. After all, if this is what she is interested in, it could lead to a plethora of learning opportunities. So, after prayer and consideration by all involved, we decided that if any of the older children would like to go to school out in Pryor, they would be allowed to do so. Some of the younger elementary age children have expressed an interest in going, but my heart does not find peace with this idea.
Josia, Lily and Caleb have decided to try the schooling thing. They are in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade respectively. They will be picked up in Billings (where we live) and bused out to Pryor. They will get up and leave on the bus by 6:50 am and arrive home by 4:30pm. It sounds like an extremely long day to me. But, they are game. Probably the biggest reason they want to go is socially motivated. They want friends. And they want Native American friends. All three children are bi-racial (1/2 Native American, 1/2 African American) and 98 percent of the children that go to this small, Catholic Mission School are Native American. They want to learn about their culture, learn how to “fancy dance”, and also spend time with some birth relatives who attend the school as well. I have explained in detail that teachers and administrators expect the children who attend, to keep up with school. To be honest, I am utterly curious (and somewhat nervous) how this will play out with Caleb. I told Caleb, I’m not worried about grades, but he won’t be able to play in sports if he doesn’t maintain an acceptable GPA. Caleb is highly resistant to studying anything he is not interested in. He also struggles with executive function skills. This shall me interesting…
My hope is that the kids will stick it out for at least a month. I am asking that they give themselves at least that much time to adjust. If however, after this time frame, they don’t feel like school is working, for whatever reason, they are allowed to quit. In turn, if I see any self-destructive behavior (brought on by stress), I am allowed to pull that child out immediately. I will be saying lots of extra prayers for my children as they venture out of our homeschooling sanctuary. I am praying that they get out of this adventure life giving, not life depleting, experiences. But, I am comforted to know that at anytime, if necessary, I can gather my little chicks back to the safety of the nest. I think they too are comforted by the ability to return home if necessary.