I used to doubt unschooling. I know many other parents who sometimes did, too, until it finally “clicked” one day while their kids were reading by themselves, or getting into college, or acing classes without having spent a day in a classroom before… Normally I can trust my kiddo these days, too, but sometimes I still have doubts. Who wouldn’t, in the culture we were raised in, where education by “professionals” rather than experience is hailed as the be-all, end-all?
But every day my child proves to me, over and over again, that she can learn without my help. She’s seven and she’s teaching herself to read and write. Without me. I’m almost jealous as I watch her figure out the words on her own, sounding them out, occasionally asking me how to write a letter or sound out a word she wants to know. It’s kind of amazing, too.
Sometimes I’ll be doing laundry or working in my office, and I’ll think, “Boy, there are so many kids in classrooms right now doing worksheets and learning about math. What about my kid?” And I don’t panic, not yet, anyway, and I slink off into the living room or the front yard (where I can easily see her outside my office window) or the kitchen only to find her doing things that reassure me—true experiments with altering variables, solving problems, reading, building boxes out of Legos with secret passageways and hidden compartments, designing buildings. She’ll show me something she’s made or explain how something works and all I can do is scratch my head and almost say, “Duh.” This kid is smarter at seven than I was at ten, maybe even twelve.
She’s full of ideas. Brimming with them. Ideas about how to solve world problems or just how to make the car warmer in the morning before the heat works in it. She has even written the president. She is seven. She’s into mythology and Star Wars, Harry Potter and monster books, all kinds of animals and herbs and dirt and bike riding and sports and—well, at her age, I don’t think I had even a third of her interests, and if I did, I sure as hell didn’t have time to explore them. Compulsory school took care of that! I was too busy cutting pictures and pasting them and making little paper clocks and memorizing incorrect “facts” about Christopher Columbus and putting on genocidal plays for white parents to smirk at.
Ahh, I sound bitter. I don’t mean to. I went to college to become a teacher, after all, and teachers have good intentions in their hearts. The system, however, is designed to make us average. We need to change our entire culture. I think any child given the time to explore his or her own interests like this with so much passion and encouragement could be exceptional—and imagine where we could be if we allowed all of our children to be exceptional.