29 January 2009

Not too unschool for school

Yesterday morning I shed a tear as I watched my child head off to catch the school bus for the first time. Yes, it was January 28, yes my child is 12, and, yes she's been to school before. But still. We decided last year that after the UN conference in June, we were going to unschool.

The first thing you do when you decide you're going to unschool is “deschool”. Deschooling involves spending a month for every year you were in school doing whatever the heck you want to shake all the institutional notions about learning that you've picked up from your time inside. After you've deschooled, you start taking responsibility for learning in whatever area sparks your interest. Of course, learning never really stops no matter what the official name for the phase of schooling you're in.

I'd say we were just about ready to transition to real unschooling when M decided she wanted to be a normal kid and spend time with other kids her age. Much discussion ensued (me: are you crazy? - her: trust me, I know what I'm doing). So, with my support, but on the full understanding that she's back to school completely voluntarily, M started school yesterday. We met her teacher on Monday and much to my relief, she's a very nice, not-bitter-yet, no nonsense kind of person.

I see this phase of M's life as another unschooling activity. She knows what she wants to get out of it – a normal kind of social life - and what she has to do to achieve that – act sort of normal for a while and enough schoolwork to avoid a lot of heat from the teacher. She thinks its impossible for school to be an unschooling activity, but any kid who knows that she can learn wherever she is and who is there entirely of her own accord and has to take full responsibility for her experience is unschooling. The same as if she had taken a volunteer position at an animal shelter, or decided to read all of Shakespeare's comedies or write a novel.

The first day went well. A couple of girls invited her to hang out with them, she got expert advice about who's who and what's what, the academics seem at first glance to be not overly demanding, and the school bus ride was quite tolerable with a bonus adventure involving a snowy ditch on the way home.

So what am I going to do now? That's simple, I'm still unschooling.

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