That’s what my daughter’s 6th grade language arts teacher said. She was referring to my daughter’s proclamation that she had taught herself to read. It was true, she had taught herself. I read to her almost daily (never in 20 minute timed increments) and her sisters read to her. There was never any struggle or stress or “teaching” involved, she just figured it out. Because literacy is like that.
Apparently, her public school teachers didn’t like her sharing with her friends that she’d taught herself to read. Apparently, if 6th graders are aware that they can teach themselves, then public school is at risk. Whatever.
She’s bright, inquisitive, intelligent and self-motivated and was totally losing her interest in learning. After devoting my entire parenting life to unschooling and raising kids who embraced exploring the world, you can imagine how pissed I was when I heard about the horrible private school experience the kids were forced into at the hands of my ex in-laws. Without ever having SEEN a math worksheet, this girl could calculate plane fares for our family of 8 out loud in the car. She could measure and cut wood to build a structure in the garden, she could “do math” in real life, but this private school determined that she was an imbecile because she wasn’t familiar with written worksheets. And they told her as much.
Destroying a child’s love of learning is abusive. Kids aren’t born afraid that they can’t learn, they’re TAUGHT that. Much like women are taught that we’re too fat or we’re too tall or we’re too loud.
So I wasn’t surprised that after switching away from the mental and emotional torture of the private school they were involved with my girls had a hard time adjusting to real life. See, in real life, learning IS FUN. In real life, there’s no logical reason someone should be punished for not memorizing how a word is spelled. Ever. In real life, there’s no logical reason why ANYONE should ever have to write an entire page worth of the letter “d.” Ever.
But here was our real world, I was right in the middle of a divorce and needed to have the kids in school while I took care of business. I was teaching pre-school full time, we were moving out of the dilapidated single-wide trailer my ex put us into and beginning to build a life that reflected my values, my commitment to happiness and to being a great mother. The only part of life that wasn’t in line with my life philosophies was the fact that my kids had been bullied into believing that “staying in school” was the most important thing they could do in life. They wanted to go to school that year, and until the custody arrangement had been finalized, I felt powerless.
So month by month went by and every one of the girls was coming home with stories that reminded me why I wasn’t ever going to be the PTA mom, the mindless drone that barked out homework reminders and the lady who got to “take a break from parenting” between 9am and 2pm.
I tried to picture myself being a good school mom, but the requirements were so asinine. In one school, the girls had to be at the bus stop by 6am and didn’t get home until 4pm. That’s TEN HOURS. They were so cute out there with their little backpacks. I think they liked having a schedule and learning the institutional ropes. I had a kid in every school in the district for a little while. Small district.
But the amount of energy that was involved simply in existing didn’t leave room at all for exploring their favorite things. Day after day, there were no doll cities, no hand-sewn clothes. On weekends they were so tired and so was I.
I’m just not cut out for running myself ragged on someone else’s agenda.
I’ll run myself ragged on MY agenda, however.
And life is so much better this way. Yes, we commute to school 4 hours in one direction, 2 days a week. But it’s time we spend together in the car listening to NPR and discussing stories and news, or singing to the radio. We get to stop along the way and explore the beautiful Columbia River. While we’re there, the kids aren’t all enrolled in courses every minute of both days, so I get one-on-one time with each of them, something that wouldn’t happen at home. Not only that, but I also get plenty of time to sit with the parents of their friends and shoot the breeze. Talk about community-building. The entire time my kids were in public school I never really made friends with any of the other parents. Everyone was run ragged from the crazy lifestyle and to this day it AMAZES me that people CHOOSE this, or that they think somehow that unschooling or homeschooling would be “too hard.”
Instead of teaching preschool now, I’m doing the exact same kind of work I did when I was married. Only now I’m able to get more done because our house has less stress. I’ve also taken to working at the kitchen counter instead of in the bedroom, that helps. My residual income has gone down a bit but I’ve also found other sites to write for and picked up a few more private clients. I’m going to school full time also.
It’s not “too much” at all, in fact it’s a hundred times more manageable than adhering to the ridiculous scheduling requirements of public schools, or their arbitrary assignments that had nothing to do with real learning. In case it’s not clear, I’ll never have my kids
Write the same letter over and over again
Read a specific book (that I haven’t bothered to read) and then write a paper about it
Copy a list of words
Quiz them on the spelling of said words
Require them to answer specific questions and then judge them on how they do it
Discount their natural learning and tell them not to talk about things they’ve taught themselves
Life is FUN. Learning is FUN. My kids have plenty of time to make decisions about how they will support themselves as adults. Right now it’s their job to explore the wide world of awesomeness that’s available and find their niche in life.
*This post was resurrected from a draft I wrote in 2014. At this time, we’re no longer commuting 3 days a week to attend Village Home but those were good times. Also, she’s 16 now and starting at the community college in September. So there’s that.