Unschooling By Accident
by LaJoyce Kerns

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We began unschooling without knowing that’s what we were doing.

The Boy was in first grade in a local charter school. His reading level was about mid-second grade, math level a bit less, and his imagination was off the charts. We took The Boy out of the district public school when we were informed by the teacher that we should just do nothing about his education for a couple of years and the other children would eventually catch up with him! We chose the charter school because of its stated policy of teaching students at their own individual levels. We specifically requested that he be taught second-grade reading and math. We were assured: of course-no problem-that’s the policy here. Riiiiight.

First came the testing to determine “officially” where his levels fell in the various subjects. Then we had to wait for the test results. Then we had to wait for the second-grade teacher to agree to add a first-grader to her supposedly crowded classroom. Then we learned that the first-grade teacher kept forgetting to send The Boy to second grade for reading and math. At the parent/teacher conference, we learned that The Boy was helping other first-graders with their reading and math instead of going to second grade to advance his own knowledge.

Questions and complaints. Excuses and the passage of more time. Now The Boy is coming home with reports of being kept in from recess for talking. Back to the teacher for clarification of the problem. Reasons, more excuses, nothing changes.

We began noticing bruises and scratches on The Boy at bath time. I got hurt on the playground, he’d say. Then we realized that his bad dreams started at about the same time. Once he came home with a bite mark on his wrist. A day or two after that, he came home very shaken and upset because his teacher told him she would personally make sure that he didn’t advance to second grade because he didn’t complete a math assignment of writing the numbers 1 to 100 several times. This comment to a child who could add and subtract two-digit numbers!

Well, that was his last day at traditional school. The next day we filed a notification of intent to homeschool with our state department of education. Due to the abrupt decision, we had no sort of curriculum, so The Boy’s Mom instinctively began to mold his education around his interests. He wanted to know about spiders, so they explored the world of insects. I came home from work (I’m Grammy, by the way) and he carefully explained to me the meaning of the word “metamorphosis”, using pictures of a caterpillar and a butterfly to make sure I understood the lesson. The next day or two he recited the names of the continents and showed me on the globe where each is located. He is now adding and subtracting four-digit numbers, including the carry-over concept, and he has moved into third/fourth grade workbooks.

We have stopped worrying about a curriculum. Every day something catches The Boy’s interest and leads to new lessons, subjects, information. The movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, led to the book, Treasure Island. A discussion of dental hygiene led to an examination under his microscope of a scraping from his tooth. (Eeeew!) Cause and effect, astronomy, anatomy (from his Mom’s nursing school textbooks), tae bo with an exercise tape, history both recent and ancient, multiplication with the help of an abacus- all are part of his unschooled education.

We are not experts at unschooling or homeschooling, but our experiences to date give us the confidence to state: if you feel that something is wrong with your child’s school and/or schooling, there probably is; there are more resources available to you than you may realize; not all teachers have your child’s best interests at heart; learning, knowledge and education are not restricted to structured scholastic environments; and there are always options. Thankfully, unschooling is an option that is working for us.

See our blog at http://howtohomeschool.wordpress.com for more on our homeschool/unschool adventure. If you have advice or information, we'd love to hear that, too.

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