Oh Boy, what a week. My life has been crazy busy and I really can’t put my finger on why that is exactly. Oh well. What I really want to write about today is something that’s been on my mind of late. For you unschoolers out there, you’re probably going to be scratching your heads, wondering if I fell off a wall and bumped my head or something and I know that you may even sic Sandra Dodd on me. (Please don’t do that, LOL) I have these thoughts (fears?) rolling around in my head and just need to get them out here in the open. Lately, I haven’t been feeling like much an unschooler. In fact, the feelings I’ve been having are quite far from it. See, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “old days” and how children were educated then. I’ve been endlessly pouring over websites dedicated to classical homeschooling and old-fashioned education and find myself completely fascinated by the whole thing. What started this, you may be asking yourself. Well, frankly, it all began a couple of weeks ago when I was standing in my kitchen, wondering how to do something home economics related and I had to call my mother and ask her.
I’m 36 years old and I regularly call my mother for advice on things like that. You know why? Because I wasn’t raised in a family where I was made to stand in the kitchen and help my mom cook or clean. I was free to go about my daily life and never gave a thought to the work being done every day to keep me fed and keep clean clothes on my back. In fact, if my mother ever dared ask for my help, she got a most unbecoming “ohhh GAWD! Why do have to ask me to do THAT?” I never, ever, offered to help my mother with anything and it wasn’t until I dated my husband that I saw how selfish and self-absorbed my behavior was. My mother hardly ever made me clean my room. She would ask me to do it time and time again until finally she couldn’t take it anymore and would clean it up without me. God forbid she throw out something while cleaning because she’d never hear the end of it. Now that I’m a parent and am responsible for raising the two boys we brought into the world, I’m asking myself a lot of questions. Like a broken record, one question I hear a lot is, “Am I doing the right thing?”
When I had to call my mom and ask for her help, I thought to myself, “Man, I wish my mom had been a tougher disciplinarian and had made me help her with things.” For years into my adulthood, I didn’t know how to do things and constantly relied on my parents for help. I still don’t know how to properly clean my house or balance a checkbook and that’s pretty sad. I also thought about how many traditions are going to pass with my mom whenever she dies (the way she drinks it could be anytime) and how much my children will miss out on because I simply don’t know how to do things. I started thinking about how children used to be raised in close connection with their families and HAD to work on the family farm or in the family home doing things. I look at my husband, who is so accomplished in many, many ways, and while don’t care too much for my MIL’s behavior, I have to admit that she must have done something right when she raised him for him to turn out the way he has. And believe me, my husband’s parents were tough. I could tell you some stories but then she might sue me (just kidding) so for now, you’ll have to take my word. Don’t misunderstand me. My desire is not to become some ogre of a parent. But I’m wondering if there is a way for the differing philosophies to gently come together.
Unschooling is a beautiful philosophy and in some respects it has helped us get through some very tough times that would have been tougher were we living a traditional lifestyle. Now though, I feel like we need to do something different. Maybe I’m just not “doing” it right but the kids feel bored and I do,too. I worry that we’re not giving them a good enough foundation to start their lives with when they become adults. For years, I floundered without direction or ambition because my parents were always there to help me instead of encouraging me to figure out how to do it on my own.
This probably is meandering and isn’t making any sense but those are the thoughts in my head right now. Oh, and here is the part on old fashioned education. While visiting my parents the other day, my youngest picked up a very old book, printed in 1867, and brought it to me because he could tell it had a history and could sense something important about the book. I opened it and saw that it was one of my great-grandfather’s schoolbooks. It was full of challenging vocabulary, complexly built sentences, and very adult approaches to subject matter like history and literature. Color me stunned when my father told me that my GG was 10 when he was studying this book. 10 years old and reading something that even I would find challenging today. I really began to feel as though I was doing my boys a disservice by not providing them with such an education and here is where I met the fork in the road. Or is it a fork at all? I don’t know. Do you see why I’m confused and perplexed? How can I unschool and yet provide them with a good, solid, foundation with which they can meet the world prepared? Especially since I don’t really have that myself! Writing this out has been very helpful but it hasn’t provided me with any guidance, yet. I’m going to think on this some more and would love to hear from you veteran homeschoolers and unschoolers, too. Am I thinking about this the wrong way? Am I making it harder than it is? (I have been known to do that) Please feel free to leave me your comments.