Wednesday, October 13, 2010

what if we let go?

So it's a new term… but what does a new term really mean?

Does it mean new lesson plans, unit studies, workbooks, projects? Does it mean a return to "regularly scheduled programming"? Does it mean renewed interest in learning? Does it mean School Time has begun again? Does it mean life as usual?

Others might have a quick answer to those questions. For me, I don't really know. I feel a bit unsettled now that the school term has started.

I felt the change the moment Monday morning came. I thought, as my kids woke up and wandered downstairs at 8.30, "there are kids who would be at school by now."

There was something in the air, stirred up perhaps by the bustle of all those kids going off to their classrooms, the energy of parents hustling to get their kids to and from and from and to. But also from my husband going back to work after taking a break and the resumption of the kids' classes. That "go go go" feeling returned. We went back to Busy.

And we went back to being different.

On Monday we had to take a guest, a fellow homeschooling boy, to the doctors (he had a suspected broken wrist—awesome timing to fall from his bike just as his parents flew off to Vanuatu!). The doctor said, "I thought school went back today." No, I said, We're all homeschoolers. Then at the x-ray place, an older woman muttered something to her friend and the friend said, "I guess the schools are going back tomorrow." Then another woman asked, "No school for them today?" And I said, No, they're homeschooled.

It felt like we were rare beasties, wandering from place to place, to the curious looks of outsiders. The kids being cute little curios, escaped from the zoo.

I've had this all before, the sense of difference, the busy, the go go go. I actually don't mind it. I mean, we chose to be different. The kids chose their lessons. We chose homeschool. We freely chose a life that I love.

But I still kind of want my holidays back.

And in mulling it over during the holidays, and then writing it down here, I think I have figured out why.

I think I want "school" to leave our Homeschool Land.

I don't think I want it to be part of our identity, or mentality, any more.

(And I wish I'd said to all the people on Monday, "Oh, we don't go to school" without elaborating. Or said, "Oh, we learn outside the Institution known as School." Or, "Oh no, we're just a bunch of loony anarchists. Don't mind us." Or something!)

"School," for me personally, has come to mean "teaching" as opposed to "learning." It has come to represent all the "shoulds." The shoulds of: The kids should do maths every. single. day. The kids should learn grammar/spelling from a nice workbook that fits the NSW requirements for Grades z and q. The kids should learn about the Gold Rush in Australia, but only in Year 5. The kids should know their multiplication tables by the age of x. The kids should learn Text Types (narrative, explanation, procedure, information report, blah de blah). The kids should be at the exact same level as their schooled peers. The kids should fit.

It represents the feeling that without a set plan, and me teaching them, the kids won't really learn, and I'll have done it all wrong, the kids won't realise their potential and I'll end up the mother of two Modern-day Neanderthals.


It's a feeling that's really hard to shake.

We have let go of a lot of this, by following the kids' interests. By letting my kids choose the schedule they like. By doing less bookwork. By going off on adventures whenever we choose.

We really are, mostly, free.

But the spectre of "should" still lingers inside me. It's a tenacious little sucker—even a year and a half into our journey, it's still sitting there, saying, "Oooh, you didn't do maths today. This is a baaaad sign. No university for your two!"

I really want to shake that sucker free.

I want to have a grand clearing out; a Spring Clean, if you will.

Right now, in this moment, I don't want to say, "Time to do some work" to my son. I don't want to suggest a workbook or a set plan to either of my kids. I definitely don't want to struggle through maths with my daughter, with her feeling fearful and resistant.

I want them, and us, and me, to be free.

I want to watch them read, create, think, plan, play and be. I want to release the kids from any sense of obligation and see what happens. I want my boy to find his schedule if he desires it, but I don't want to remind him to stick to it. I want my girl to find her love for maths but I don't want to make her do it.

I want to see what journeys we could go on if we just let go.

So…what does that mean?

What would our new term mean, if we just stayed "on holiday"?

What if we sewed, and built and drew?

What if we designed and read and discovered?

What if we wrote and talked and walked and ran?

What if I just stood back and watched and helped when they asked and took them places—

places they needed to be and places they asked to go?

What if we didn't feel we needed to be home to learn?

What if… what if…?

What if we grew wings and flew?

Ah. It might just be magical.


  1. I enjoy reading your posts so much. I feel exactly the same! Thank you and please keep writing. I adore your blog.

  2. oooh, the Dark Side of Unschooling lures another!

    I'm with you Helena. When you figure out how to do it, write it all down in a little schedule and email it to me.

    If only I were kidding....the Shoulds are hard to shake.

  3. Ha!!!! "Oh no, we're just a bunch of loony anarchists. Don't mind us." Oh can I use that!
    When holidays started my poor DD said "I'm glad it's holidays, now noone will ask me why I'm not in school and I wont be a weirdo". Heart breaking.

    I also was going to say us unschoolers has claimed another victim mwuhahahahah!

    Having said that I have to admit I'm not the unschooler, my DD is a born unschooler, I am a reluctant holding on for dear life can't we please do some kind of work now unschooler. I wish you a sane and happy journey!

    I love this blog, it's my favourite at the moment, I think because you are somehow putting what is in my brain onto the screen :)

    Thanks Helena.

  4. I love this post Helena. Especially the end of it. How beautiful. I am SO glad I discovered you.

    I want so badly to be more of an unschooler. I am probably sorta in the middle. I don't freak out if we don't get to every little lesson plan but I just can't let go completely.

    It is hard for me to determine what is 'important'. I love history, but what if I unschooled and she never asked another question about it?? I know some of it is really pointless. I have never had to diagram a sentence since school or do a complicated Algebra equation.

    I have been drawn to unschooling since day 1, I am just too big of a chicken to 'let go'. This post really has made me think of trying a new direction. Thank you. Happy Wednesday.

  5. Thank you, everyone, for your comments—and for responding with your hearts and with your support. I feel very, very grateful. Sometimes I wish we could physically see feelings coming out of a person, like a colour, or a cloud, or perhaps there could be a song you could all hear, so you knew how I felt, reading your words. Lucky, lucky me.
    And Deb, it's not the 'Dark Side,' is it…? Isn't it more the Sunny Side, like the Sunny Side of the Street, or Sunny Side up? (heh) :)
    I can't wait to write about our flying adventures! And about our disentanglement from the shoulds. And about what we draw and think and build. I'm excited.

  6. Great post. Just one little question....
    About that "guest" with the "suspected broken wrist".....
    Er..... Any news on that?????
    I do hope "guest" has'nt been THAT exciting everyday!!!!

  7. Great post! I have totally said to people "WE DONT GO TO SCHOOL!" Its worth it just to see the look on their faces! I had to laugh once when my then 10 year old said to an old lady who said "you don't look sick!" "Thats coz Im NOT...schools over rated so I choose not to go!" LOL

    We are now in our 5th year of homeschooling and still at times I struggle with the whole relaxing and letting it flow thing. We have had times of just sitting and sewing and playing and doing nothing structured at all. And then I will start worrying and we start "school" again LOL

    But on Monday I totally did nothing! Was too exhausted after the so called holidays! It was our busiest time! LOL

  8. I wondered about this week and how you felt. And now I know. Sort of. And I am happy to read about your amazing days. Yes, how is your "guest"?

  9. I'm so glad I found your blog. Your writing resonates with me so deeply. We're just a few months away from beginning our homeschool journey and every day I get more and more thankful and excited to join this other world...the amazing world that exists beyond the school doors. Thank you for helping pave the way and easing some of the fears!


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.