Monday, March 25, 2019

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

I wrote this five years ago, when Anne-with-an-e was in college, and Betsy was on the brink of graduating high school. Now? Anne-with-an-e adores her job as a librarian, Betsy is student teaching (and interviewing for elementary school jobs), and I have one year of homeschooling left (really?!) with Ramona.

I've revisited these questions, worries, and concerns over the last year or two, and I can still say this:

Stop worrying. Keep loving your kids and giving them the best of you. All that love, concern, work, and effort you pour out for them will not be for naught.


Now that I have a daughter in college and a high school senior who has taken early enrollment/college credit classes (both girls did), 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 learn this: you do what you need to do when you need to do it. Doing it sooner than you have to doesn't teach you to do it any more efficiently. Having a rigid schedule as a child doesn't necessarily translate into efficiency in adulthood, and sometimes it translates into burnout.

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 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 (and I have sometimes used textbooks in our homeschool, so — Hey! Good for them? — they've already been exposed to the boredom) 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 mainly 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/textbooks and 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 have been taught and they understand basic concepts such as time management, goal setting, and doing what is necessary to achieve the desired result. These concepts can be taught in myriad ways as our children grow up and such concepts are easily applied to college classes. Trust your kids to use their brains.

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.") Also? It doesn't take that much practice to learn how to take a test. And you will learn that ACT scores and college grades 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.

(I also taught them how to eat in public, sneeze in public, and find public restrooms. Problems solved.)

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."

Also? Without even trying — believe me — you will give your kids lots of opportunities to be bored by things they have to learn. (Math, cleaning the house, scooping up the dog poop in the backyard.) You've got this.

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, which I'm betting you do —  is that the answer to that question is, "No. A thousand times no."


Beate said...

What a completely lovely post! These years have flown by, haven't they? Thanks for sharing, Karen. It's been one of the less than stellar unschooling days today, so this was just what I needed to pick myself up, dust myself off and realize tomorrow is another day.

Karen Edmisten said...

Oh, yes, Beate, "flown" is an understatement! I'm sorry you had a bad day. May today be a clear, clean slate for you! :)

Liz said...

You nailed it. And can I say that washing sheep is as good as picking up dog poop.

Elizabeth Kay said...

Thank you, Karen. This is an important message that needs to be shared. It’s all true. I’m in the same boat as you right now. Two in college, one in high school. It’s been astounding to me to watch my older guys succeed in college, after being exclusively homeschooled their entire lives. In fact, my middle son was invited to the Fulbright Summer at the University Of Sussex between Freshman and sophomore years, and is a Presidential Scholar at his college😁 my oldest will be graduating from GA Tech, with Honors, in May. Obviously they both totally get college, and how to succeed. How’d they DO that???

Polly said...

God bless you, Karen, for reassuring us all... and giving us a good laugh besides! I'm on my way to share this with my fellow moms in the trenches. Vive la family JOY in learning!!

Karen Edmisten said...

Liz, Elizabeth, and Polly -- thanks for chiming in!

Liz, I agree about washing sheep. :) I've never done it, but it's clearly right up there in the chore hierarchy! :D

Elizabeth, congrats to your sons on their accomplishments. What a great and supportive homeschooling mom you've been for them! Betsy is graduating with honors, too, and it's such a delight to see what a great work ethic the kids have, isn't it?

Polly, thanks for sharing the post. Yes to the joy! :)