Thursday, March 27, 2014

Nine Worries About Unschoolish Ways That I Shouldn't Have Worried About

Now that I have a daughter in college and a high school senior who has taken classes,  I've seen some of the fruits of our relaxed homeschooling. I look back and recall the worries I had over the years, the ways in which I questioned myself, and wondered if what I was doing would work out.

So, here are some of the questions I used to panic wonder about, and the answers I've observed:

1. Will they ever learn how to adhere to an outside schedule if I don't impose a rigid schedule on them while they're growing up? 

Yes, they will. They will learn this: that you do what you need to do when you need to do it. Doing it sooner than you have to do it doesn't teach you to do it any more efficiently.

2. Will they ever learn how to get up early and get out the door to a class/a job, if I let them sleep in through all their school years? 

Yes, they will. They will learn that it is not "years of getting up early" that teaches you how to get up early. It is "an alarm clock" that teaches you how to get up early. Whenever you have to get up early, all you need do is set an alarm clock. No training necessary.

3. Will they ever learn how to read/learn from textbooks if I use real and living books for their home education? 

Yes. They will sometimes find them boring, but they will know how to read, comprehend, and use these schoolish tools. They may not like them as much as the vibrant books they grew up with, but they will be fully capable of using them.

On the other hand, they will sometimes love their textbooks. Anne-with-an-e loved her World Geography and Microbiology classes and textbooks so much that she was thrilled to be hired as a tutor in both subjects.

4. If I allow them to pursue their own interests in their formative years, will they ever learn the self-discipline necessary to succeed in college classes? Will they know how to meet deadlines and finish assignments? 

Yes, because they understand basic concepts such as time management, goal setting, and doing what is necessary to achieve a desired result.

5. Will they learn how to take a test? 

Yes. (See #1 ... i.e., they will do what they need to do when they need to do it.) And you will learn that, with very little formal curriculum, their ACT scores and college grades will show exactly what you always suspected: they excel precisely where you thought they'd excel, and they are weak precisely where you thought they were weak. Your suspicions (that you know your children very well) will prove to be true.

6. Will they know how to act in a classroom? 

Yes. They will understand the difference between sprawling on the couch at home and sitting at a desk in school. My daughters have never confused the two locations.

7. Will they learn how to tackle unpleasant assignments? 

Oh, yes. Family life is excellent preparation for general ed classes.

8. Will they resent me for hiding the truth from them -- that learning can sometimes be dull? 

No. They are thankful for years of a lively education, for all those days that we ate popcorn for lunch, read Little Women and Little HouseHarry Potter, and The Secret Garden together, discussed The Hunger Games at two in the morning, learned about history, science, and literature from life and marvelous books and experiments in the kitchen and discussions over dinner and museums and walks at the lake. They will look up from a history paper they are writing, and sigh, and say, "I'm so grateful to Samantha. I learned a lot about the progressive era from her."

9. Will I ruin them? 

We all run that risk, whether our kids are in school, out of school, homeschooled with curriculum, or homeschooled without it.

But my guess -- if you love your kids more than your own life -- is that the answer to that question is, "No. A thousand times no."


sarah said...

Fabulous post. Wisdom and reassurance from those further along the pathway is always so helpful to those coming up behind.

Lissa said...

Love love love love love. And yes yes yes.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Karen, your homeschooling posts always make me feel like I've had a nice cup of tea (or, ahem, coffee) with a good friend, aired all my worries, and then ended the meeting with a good solid hug. I'm so glad you and Lissa were two of the first homeschoolers I stumbled across. Your unschoolish ways inspire me so very much and your experience gives me confidence to trust my gut and be gentle with my kids... and with myself.

Jennifer said...

Love this, Karen. I really needed to hear this right now. Thank you, friend.

turtlemama said...

Love everything about this.

Sweetness and Light said...

Love it Karen, and I have to agree with everyone's comments too, so great to see the fruits of our labors as we are also just doing. Loved the chair/couch comparison, good one ;-) Hugs to you and your special girls xxoo Oh, and way to go!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. We are in the early stages of the "relaxed" homeschooling (9,7, and 2) and I have all those worries and then some. Your "been there, done that" observations help reassure me! Thanks again!

MrsF3 said...

Love this! Looking forward to those days of lively learning with my own kids, but I know I'll need this reminder from time to time as well. :)

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Loved the post. Also, I have become quite the unschooler now with my two youngest at home. Truthfully I never did worry much--it's not in my genes I guess--and yet I have probably lived to each of these steps. Is she at UNL?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this! God bless.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, everyone! Always happy to share reasons not to worry, as it seems we're all so good at worrying. :)

Jodie said...

Thanks for this; it couldn't have come at a better time!

Karen Edmisten said...

That's great, Jodie! Enjoy a nice sprawl on the couch today. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything except #5. My kids had difficulty with standardized tests. Their SAT scores, mostly the math, surprised (and disappointed) me. They did well enough to get into college, but not to qualify for merit scholarships (they did get need-based financial aid). They did fine on tests in college, which were mostly essay question tests. My husband and I are both weak in higher math and we definitely put more emphasis on the humanities. Looking back, I would have made sure they were more proficient in their math skills and more on grade level. I'm trying to do this with my younger children by getting outside help.

Karen Edmisten said...

Hi, Anonymous,
I don't know that anyone in our family will *ever* be great with math no matter what we do! :) It was one area I wasn't really unschoolish about precisely because we aren't naturally strong there. So, in that way, their test-taking in math never surprised me. They excelled in Reading and English portions of standardized tests, and were weaker in math, just as they'd always been, and as I would have predicted.

I hope you see great fruits with your younger kids, and all the best to you and your homeschool!