Tuesday, May 11, 2010


If you have read this blog more than a couple of times then you know that we are homeschooling our children. To be even more specific, we are unschooling. Unschooling got some bad press recently when the Today show did an awful piece about that was, from the get go, completely biased against it - George Stephanopolis admits it right at the beginning of the segment. I am not linking to it because it was just so terrible but you can find it if you really want to see it. But I am a huge proponent of unschooling because I think it is how people learn - when they want to know something, they become highly motivated seek out the knowledge and understand it thoroughly. Why not start young?

For us, unschooling also means giving our children the room to make mistakes. They make choices and sometimes those choices are not such good ones and, as Ronald Reagan once famously said, mistakes were made. Unlike Reagan, however, they own their mistakes. They really don't want to own their mistakes because it is so much better in the short run to find blame in someone, something, anything, else - taking responsibility for one's own actions might just be life's hardest lesson. So, while they don't usually appreciate it at any given moment, they are getting a leg up on learning this lesson, and in going through this with them, so am I.

Tuesday mornings we all head to Brooklyn for a day-long program for homeschoolers at the Brooklyn Waldorf School. They chose to participate in the program last summer when we were making some of our decisions about how to spend our time this year and now they are following through. We have been participating in this program for a couple of years and there are things they like about it and things they dislike. Somehow on Tuesday mornings, all they remember is the dislike part and we almost always have a fight to get out the door.

For example, this morning Finnian's first words were "why exactly do we have to go to Waldorf?" Sigh.

We have gone over this many times. We have gone over this as many times as there have been Tuesdays since January. Lest you think I am an ogre who insists that my children do torturous things despite any amount of pain in order to learn a life lesson, please let me tell you that this program is a combination of academic work taught with sensitivity and gentleness towards each individual and rich experiential workshops in foreign languages, cooking, drama, woodworking and games. Hardly a prison sentence, especially since they do these things with six of their closest friends. Yet to hear them talk about it, I am sending them off to the coal mines each Tuesday.

There seems to be no way to tell anyone that the life they are leading is perfect and, in this instance, full of such enormous privilege that, in any other era, they would be considered royalty.

If you do not see the way, you do not see it even as you walk on it, as they say.


OfTroy said...

trouble is, sending them to work in the coal mines isn't an option (anymore!)nor the boot blacking factory.

time to read some Dickens--and learn about other options besides school.. or about some school experiences that aren't as much fun!

I loved Dickens as a child--i often got lost, (and had to re read chapters to remind myself who some of the characters were..) but the stories, and people where so real.

so many children's books have 1 D characters (all good or all bad) but dickens has humans.. at once wonderful and evil!

Robyn said...

But that is just it, Helen! We have read Dickens and we talk about privilege and they know kids who go to school and suffer all sorts of things at the hands of peers and teachers....they know it, they just don't see it in terms of their own experiences.

I know I am asking for a level of maturity that might be beyond their years, but I feel like I have to keep reminding them in ways gentle and forceful. There is such disparity in the world and they have hit the jackpot in terms of parents, education, wealth, shelter, you name it. It is just so hard for them to see it, believe it, know it, appreciate it.

When, if ever, does that happen?

Nathan said...

They'll have to see it on their own, in their own way, in their own time.

Taos Sunflower said...

Your kids are so blessed to have you care so much. I would give a lot to have had experiences such as they are having when I was their age. Finnian will look back one day and recognize his good fortune...it just sounds more like he's exhibiting signs of becoming a teenager, from where I'm sitting...all that independence burbling to the surface!