self directed learning,  unschooling

Let It Go

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free 
— “Let It Go” from the movie, Frozen

Early in our homeschooling journey, we were part of a small co-op with other families from our church. While our family did not follow a specific curriculum, we collectively decided that we would use the co-op as a an opportunity to explore specific math and science topics that loosely aligned with grade level requirements. After a year, the co-op disbanded as families chose other education options. 

We then spent a year participating in a hybrid program that required two days of on-site and three days of “home” school. As a new program, the requirements were minimal – again, no specific curriculum was endorsed, no homework, and recordkeeping was essentially attendance and work samples.

It was during our participation in this hybrid program that I began exploring unschooling as an educational philosophy. As the charter program was moving towards a more “compulsory” feel with more specific requirements and curriculum focus, we lost that freedom to explore our interests outside of “class” time. Even home projects were guided by the topics being covered rather than what we were previously doing, simply following our interests. The three “home” days were becoming an extension of the the two “class” days, rather than the reverse. I didn’t want to “do school at home”. And, the more I read about unschooling and self-directed learning, the more I began to embrace the truth that our children can be trusted to learn what they need to know when they need to know it.

Specifically, the following books were instrumental in my own transformation: “Free to Learn” by Pam Laricchia; “Unschooling: a lifestyle of learning” by Sara McGrath; “Home Grown” by Ben Hewitt; “Passion-Driven Education” by Connor Boyack; “Free to Learn” by Peter Gray; “Dumbing Us Down” and “Weapons of Mass Instruction” by John Taylor Gatto; “Natural Born Learners” ed. by Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko and Carlo Ricci; and various blogs about the unschooling lifestyle.

So, getting back to the lyrics quoted above. The movie, “Frozen”, released right around the time I was going through this transformative experience. I was breaking free of my own conditioned thinking around learning and what it means to be truly well-educated. As we moved further away from institutionalized, compulsory schooling, I was able to let go of my anxiety and fears that my children would “fall behind” their peers. We didn’t have to follow the rules set by some arbitrary educational authority; there was no right or wrong way to learn. They would be free to learn what they want, when they want in the manner that is most meaningful to them. There are no limits.

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