It’s her first year of high school this year. Things are getting serious, right? Except they’re not.
She gets up in the morning in her own time, watches some TV as she slowly wakes, makes her own breakfast, reads some of her book, dives into her biggest passion (art), chats with friends, writes a story, plays outside, goes to her dance class.
Lives her life.
Free to choose how she spends it.
And I trust her. I know that she will learn all she needs to know and will be perfectly educated for the life of her choosing.
When I first began homeschooling, I wondered the same as a lot of other parents… how will I know what to teach them?
What were the rules? What should a 5-year-old learn? What about an 8-year-old? What happens when they are 12? How will I find out what to do?
To most people, the level of trust of an unschooling parent seems like a big risk to take. But, I don’t think so. If you really think about it, there is no one I could trust more with her education than herself, and myself, and our family. It just makes sense.
Before the existence of school, education was not separate from parenting, or from life. But now they are very much two distinct things, one of them outsourced for the majority of days in a child’s week.
When most people become parents they don’t assume that they will be in charge of their children’s education. That’s up to the ‘experts’. And so, we have lost a lot of trust in ourselves, and our children. How could we know how to educate anyone? What gives us the right? How are we supposed to know what to do? There are experts for that kind of thing!
Making the decision to take that huge task of education on yourself, when most people are so confident leaving it to others, and when you don’t know many others who have opted out, seems really scary. What if we get it wrong?
But let’s think about the issue of trust a bit more.
Who should we trust? Who really is best placed to know what our children need to learn. Governments, schools, teachers… whichever strangers came up with the curriculum? Or our children, and us? Most people automatically say the former, without much thought, because that is what has been accepted. But I would argue the latter makes more sense.
What does the government know of my child? Do they know what lights them up? Have they seen that spark in their eyes when they discover something new? Have they witnessed their excitement when they master something they’ve been working on? Do they know their passions, their interests, what they’re curious about? Can they predict what they would like to do with their life? Do they have any idea how they learn best? Do they love and know them deeply? Are they truly invested not only in their scores on a test but in their happiness? Contentment? Fulfilment? Can they adapt their style of education to fit my constantly growing, changing, unique child?
They do not know individuals. They know how to do mass instruction (poorly) and are having a best guess at what information to fill kids up with. They have no idea what knowledge and skills children will need in the future. The future can’t even be imagined yet and still they continue educating like they have in the past. Instead, they’re providing a shallow education in a wide variety of areas. Delivering a one size fits all curriculum to every child. Trying to cover all bases, and in the meantime, making learning seem dull and boring. How does this prepare children for fulfilling lives? How will they learn all they need to learn? How will they find their passions in this environment? How can this possibly be the best way to ‘educate’ people?
On the other hand, there is our children and us. No one can know a child better than themselves. And second best is a supportive and attentive parent. No one is more invested in a child’s life, wellbeing, and education than a loving parent. No one else has a greater desire to see them do well. No one, and certainly not strangers who have never met them.
Who has the motivation and ability to seek out the perfect education? Children and parents. We can provide an education that fits our unique children. They can learn in ways that suit them best, fully experience the world, and be exposed to many new things outside the gates of a school.
There is just no comparison between the ability to direct your own learning and immerse yourself in your passions, and the administration of a standard curriculum to 30 children at a time in a classroom. One is expansive, alive, motivated learning, the other is restrictive, one-dimensional, dull. I know what I want my children’s experience of learning to be. I know which one will ignite the love of learning in them that will last a lifetime and be far better preparation for life than memorising facts they don’t care about. I know who I will put my trust in to provide the kind of education we desire.
Yes, I trust myself. I trust my child. No one else is more up to this task than us. Because only we can provide the type of education that we desire. School may be the experts on curriculum, and classroom management, and testing, and mass instruction, but I am the expert on my child and family.