As 2015 nears to an end, our family is preparing for a really big change ahead. Beginning January 2nd, 2016, Bridgette will officially leave the conventional school system behind and be homeschooled.
To be precise, she will be unschooled, which is a form of homeschooling without the pressure of academics and curriculums and lecture-style teaching. To be unschooled means to learn simply by living. It is to learn any time and all the time, driven by a child’s natural curiosities and interest. It also means I am not bringing the classroom inside our house and I will not be taking on the role of teacher in a home setting.
In case you’re interested, here is an excellent write up to explain what exactly unschooling means, and the philosophy behind it. I love how the writer used simple terms to show how unschooling compares to conventional schooling:
- While school has classes with subjects, unschooling doesn’t.
- While school has goals set by teachers and the school system, the unschooler (the kid) set his or her own goals.
- While in school, knowledge is handed down from the teacher to the student, in unschooling the student is empowered to learn for himself.
- While school has specific books or sets of learning materials, unschoolers can learn from anything — books they find, things on the Internet, siblings or parents, the outdoors, museums, people working in interesting fields, anything.
- While school is structured, unschooling is like jazz. It’s done on the fly, changing as the student changes.
- While students in school learn to follow instructions, unschoolers learn to think for themselves and make their own decisions.
- While students in school are asked to learn at pace arbitrarily set by administrators, unschoolers learn at their own pace.
- While in school, learning happens in the classroom at certain times, in unschooling learning happens all the time, and there is no division between learning and life.
Let me emphasize that for a minute: in unschooling, life itself is learning. There is no “doing school” … you are learning all the time.
Unschoolers learn just like you or I learn as adults: based on what interests them, figuring out how to learn it on their own, changing as they change, using whatever resources and learning materials they find, driven by curiosity and practical application rather than because someone says it’s important.
Alan and I love this philosophy. It’s everything we believe in wholeheartedly. Ofcourse, it wasn’t easy to come to this decision, to have the courage to take the road less traveled. At times, we have felt like we needed to defend our dreams, but we have also come to realize that when you are so passionate about something, you will be brave enough to charge forward, to persevere.
This decision was over a year in the making. We needed to do our due diligence to make sure we fully understood what we were going into. We also needed time to talk it through with Bridgette, to include her in the decision making process. We’re there now. It’s time, and we feel good about the timing.
We’ve shared this news with our close friends and families. The same questions always come up:
How will she learn math?
Can she still go to college?
She’s an only child! Wouldn’t she be incredibly lonely?
At first, it did feel like we needed to throw out a bunch of stats and numbers to “prove” that unschoolers can “lead successful jobs and lives” like their schooling counterparts. Now, we smile and reassure people that if Bridgette wanted to learn math and if she wanted to go to college, there are plenty of resources out there to help her at any time. A resource like Khan Academy can teach Bridgette math at her own preferred pace, anytime, any day.
There is also a huge unschooling community in the Bay Area with weekly park days, field trips, and group activities, so rather than being able to just play and socialize with friends during recess and lunch, Bridgette will get to socialize with friends all day, every day if she chooses to.
Here’s the thing about Alan and I. We are not into defining what “success” means for Bridgette, nor are we into defining what “happiness” feels like to her. By unschooling her, we are by no means trying to take a risk to cultivate her into being the next Mark Zuckerberg. That would be absurd, and we’d be setting all of us up for disappointment and failure. Rather, we want to encourage Bridgette to live a passionate, fulfilling life….to not wait until she’s in her 20’s, or 40’s, or 60’s to start living life. We want to encourage her to start now. And to never stop learning. Never. There’s too much to learn every.single.day. There’s no single definition of success. Some people equate that to money. Some to social status and fame. Our family wants to steer clear of that word altogether. We are choosing to focus on our own happiness…on what works for our family.
I will continue with my wedding planning business, and I count my blessings everyday for having a career that provides such flexibility for my family and I. For the most part, I can work anywhere, anytime, and I am truly grateful for the amazing team of girls who work for me. Without their dedication and loyalty to my company, I wouldn’t be able to manage both the business and the unschooling. And because Alan is just as passionate about unschooling Bridgette, he is fully committed to being a partner in this so that neither of us have to give up the jobs we love.
So what’s life going to be like for us? We don’t really know, but the discovery is going to be part of the joy. Like with all changes, it’s a little scary, but we’re embracing the fear with the excitement, the elation, and the adventures ahead. And if we find that the unschooling thing doesn’t work for us? Hey, there are always other options to explore. The world is literally our oyster! And I have 100% faith in God’s guidance through this journey.
If you’re interested in our unschooling adventures, I’ll definitely be posting regularly on our blog. You can also follow us on Instagram here!