Editor’s note: read the full series here.
“But I am older and know better!”
I had always been taught that our intelligence is measured by the amount of data we compile. It was only as I reached my 30s that I realized that growth does not come from data and knowledge does not come from how many books you read.
“If you judge a fish by his ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein
I was that fish. Growing up in the 80s, older people always knew better, and therefore all of my out-of-the-box ideas were stupid. The education system told me I was subpar, and the work force could not handle my “from the heart” way of thinking. All this led me to create an entrepreneurial life and live my own way.
This carried into my parenting. I wanted my kids to grow up differently, to have a voice, to embrace their innate knowledge and understanding of the world around them, and to be free to be whoever they chose. So, I was thrilled when I finally took the plunge into homeschooling, and I thought I would be able to give them all the freedoms I did not have.
As we set out on our journey, I was quickly faced with the realization that I had been completely and utterly indoctrinated into the system I so hated and that had made me feel stupid as a child or didn’t accept me as an adult.
Even though we were attempting to create a unique learning experience, we kept coming across old programming and a zillion “shoulds” I had gathered over time. I found myself enforcing things just because I thought I knew better.
Ironically, I had to unlearn to truly start learning.
Now after years homeschooling my kids, I coach parents to readjust the voices inside their heads, pay attention to what is genuine and what is a learned behavior they might have taken as their own, and truly open up to new possibilities and ways to do things differently.
I also recommend a period of deschooling.
This is something I recommend to everyone no matter if they are planning to homeschool from now on, are doing public school online, or have a part-time model. Home is not school and should not be treated as such. Just like parents are not teachers. The relationship between a teacher and a student is quite different from a parent and their child—there is no need to alter those relationships. As a parent, you already teach your child everything they need to know. There is no need to alter the relationship in order to facilitate their education.
Deschooling is the transition from a traditional way of study to a more relaxed setting. In school, children need to ask for permission to use the bathroom, raise their hands to share thoughts, and they must wait for an assignment to be given with specific instructions to which they must abide. If this is what they have been taught for many years, for them to become self-guided, they must be given time to deprogram from what they have been taught.
If they will be starting their journey into alternative education, they must be given enough time to figure out what they are curious about, how they enjoy creating their day, what sleep patterns are organic to them, and to let go of any habits they had to create in abiding by the rules.
If they plan to go back to school after things go back to normal, you may want to sit with them and create a family agreement that highlights what they are responsible for accomplishing and allow them flexibility with breaks, snacks, outside time, and screen time. Make sure you are clear on the parameters of this “flexibility” so there are no misunderstandings on what is expected of them. Also, make sure there is a clear understanding of how school rules stand at school, and the family agreement stands at home.
Keep in mind that a task can be done in many ways, and your way is not the only way. So set a plan within where they can move freely and accomplish it in the way that is best for them. Also, pay attention to the thoughts and concerns that pop up for you and your child, and take a moment to analyze if the concern may be due to trying to be “school-like” or follow rules that you or your child learned in an institution. These pre-conceived expectations of how learning “should” be can create many triggers that must be let go of to allow for organic learning.
My daughters and I deschooled for about a year, as I found thoughts of the way our schooling “should be” constantly popping up in my head.
At first, it would take me some time to catch them, and I would reprimand my daughters for doing things wrong. I had to truly look at where these ideas came from to be able to let go and to allow them to create their own style of learning experiences. Although it was not easy, it was extremely rewarding.