Category Archives: Unschooling Obstacles

The Curriculum Crutch

Standard

“Buy this, and your kids will be smarter!”

“Use this, you’ll be more organized!”

“Get this series and you will unleash their inner genius!”

Or something like that. Ahh… the lure of curriculum.

Marketing has targeted our community for some time now. Advertisers realize that while we are an independent lot, we still harbor a lot of fears. And isn’t that how marketing works best? Identify the fear or the lack, and then convince people that they need the product to fill their void. It’s as if they’re handing us crutches and telling us to lean on them – when in fact, we have no weakness, no lack of opportunity. The whole world awaits our children and these crutches they offer will simply hold them back.crutches

Pre-planned materials often inhibit learning, keeping the child from all the benefits of discovery and exploration. It keeps parents from continuing to engage and facilitate new interesting opportunities out in the world. Don’t look wistfully at those crutches – embrace freedom!

And yet. So many don’t. When people do things on what seems like a subconscious level – when they don’t question it, and they just accept it – we have to look a little deeper.

What’s the hold?
What are we believing way deep down?

This desperate search for experts or someone to tell us what to do… isn’t it time to let that go?

No wonder we have those tendencies though. Schools conditioned us to look to teachers for instructions. How many times were you told, “Don’t read ahead”? Our self-confidence was systematically broken. If we poked our little faces up to explore outside the very clear boundaries schools had set into place, we were humiliated, ostracized or punished.

And if you think this is too harsh of a characterization, what was used in your schools to get you back in line or make you more cooperative?

Were you called out in front of the class?

Did the teacher say, “Class, Johnny has something he wants to share with all of us,” when Johnny didnot have anything he wanted to share at all.

Were you sent to detention to “think about what you had done?

Was your named scrawled across the chalkboard when you did something wrong? – a reminder of who the class “troublemakers” were.

Not that long ago, religious schools and many schools in the south used corporal punishment for reprimanding youth. And while now, spanking is passé at school, diagnosing and medicating are the control mechanisms du jour.

Why do I bring this up?

Because this is what has conditioned us – you, me, all of us who spent time in the school system. We learned something there, something that trumped any other academic pursuit:

  • making waves comes with a price,
  • stay safe,
  • do not lean into that inner yearning that doesn’t fit the school plan.

But! You’re reading this, so you’ve probably mustered up the courage to say no to the schools and you’ve started on your home educating path. You still run into a lot of naysayers though, so you’ve either figured out ways to word it – or maybe avoid the conversation altogether (“Pass the bean dip”).

One way that does seem to appease everyone is if you’ve “found a good currculum.” Even if it’s 1stgrade! Your naysayers are a little relieved if you tell them this. Often because they doubt themselves – and definitely, they doubt YOU! – to provide a good education for your child without a preplanned curriculum. They ask questions about oversight or testing or scope and sequence. None of which have to do with learning, and actually only relate to the teaching process. And that’s what using a curriculum does. It pulls you into the teaching process as opposed to the learning process.

Maybe your concerned relatives/friends come to you from a place of fear for you and they have only your best intentions at heart. Let’s assume that’s the case. Where does that idea come from? All that research they’ve done on unschooling families or even the current homeschooling movement in general? Not likely.

It comes from that deep seated fear they learned as children: Don’t step out of line or something bad will happen to you. Before you’ve even talked to them about the enormous advantages you’ve discovered by choosing to home educate, they can’t hear it. They’re working on their laundry list of all the things that could go wrong. (Maybe in your spare time, you could create a laundry list of all the things that could go wrong if a child went to school? Might take a while.)

And if their concerns center around academics – their assessment of YOUR intellect, or college opportunities, or basic education – you may have discovered that whipping out a full-service curriculum will calm them. (and it helps with those lingering fears you haven’t completely tackled, that pop up in the middle of the night)

But you’re still locked in.

Because that’s kind of the issue with these naysayers.

They’ve watched you eyeing the door. They see the yellow light spilling in from the cracks on the other side. But now you’ve gone and opened it!  And it’s just like the Wizard of Oz – leaving that familiar black and white room for Technicolor! They’ve been conditioned to stay in their seats. They’ve bought into all the rationales that tell them that the black and white classroom is best.

Wizard-of-OzAnd when you start heading for that door, they panic – for you, for themselves, for the entire system that their world revolves around.So that’s a lot of fear swirling around. And you have it too, to some degree. You may have just started dismantling it. It’s impossible to leave the school system and come away unscathed. We come away with various levels of confidence and courage.

And that’s where curriculum comes in. Curricula development companies don’t want you to trust yourself and just jump into life. They want you to prep for life – with their textbooks. They want you to think that life is better tackled in a linear fashion. Yet, what part of real life is like that? They want you to doubt your own abilities and rely on them. They’re counting on all those years of you USING curricula to influence you to the point that you think that’s where learning comes FROM.

What do you get when you choose their curriculum?

  • You insert someone else between you and your child. These experts believe they know more about what your child needs to learn than you do – even though you’re standing right in front of them.
  • You trade a watered down 3rd person narrative ABOUT life for actually living the life in front of you and your child
  • Instead of creating a learning environment unique for your child, you try to fit them into that curriculum box.
  • You stop your own curiosity as you look for cool opportunities to share with your child, and trust that the curriculum knows best.
  • You become a warden, enforcing the curriculum package on your child. Your child tries to assert himself, explore his own curiosity, and you focus on snuffing that out so the all-important curriculum can be followed.
  • You tell your child that YOU know what’s best for him, and he cannot trust himself.
  • If you discover that the curriculum isn’t working for you, you stay with it a little longer because, after all you spent quite a bit of money on it.

Instead of moving toward MORE confidence, you move toward more dependency.
You perpetuate the cycle.

You end up CHOOSING the crutches,
instead of the freedom of stepping into life with your child.

What if you let go of those crutches?

(you don’t even need them!)

  • Your child learns to trust himself and his ability to find what he needs in the world.
  • You and your child live a full rich life starting now – not waiting until later (after 18, after graduation, etc.)
  • You get to discover what are your child’s true interests – they won’t have to wait for years into adulthood to figure them out.
  • Your family bonds are prioritized and healthier than they ever could have been.
  • Your child knows that when you tell him that his learning is really his – you mean it.
  • You are truly in charge of your own lives – what an adventure together you’ll have!
Advertisements

Pass the Bean Dip

Standard

Over the years, moms have shared ways to cleverly remove themselves from awkward situations. One of these methods is frequently referred to as, “Pass the Bean Dip.”

The saying was circulated a lot on message boards from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Some attribute the saying to someone named Joanne at The Well-Trained Mind forum. But I have my doubts. It sounds like a southern saying to me, something that may have been passed on from grandmas to aunts, etc.

When someone is asking questions about how you’re unschooling (or even parenting) your child, and you’re fairly sure they’re not really looking for answers, you can get out of the hot seat by using a little distraction: “Pass the bean dip.”
Maybe you’re not ready to go toe-to-toe in an argument about your parenting choice, or maybe the time or place is not ideal. “Pass the bean dip,” will be your ticket to breathe more easily and switch up the conversation.

It’s not unlike a sports or weather distraction,
“How ’bout those Rangers?” or
“Can you believe this weather?”

Another possibility is to ask the other person about their own children, job, lives – people really prefer to talk about themselves than listen to you! 😉

“Could you pass me that bean dip?”

When People Quiz Your Kids

Standard

Woman with thumbs downWe don’t live in an unschooling bubble, do we? Our kiddos have to get out there in the community and brush up with people who have no idea what we’re trying to do. And while that’s a good thing, in general, it can be tough when you’re new to unschooling or feeling like you’re on some shaky ground. When kids are away from us and we can’t run interference for them, they may need a couple of quick factoids they can rattle back at their quizzer:

“Do you know the capitol of Angola, or San Salvador, or Malaysia?”
(Here’s a wikipedia cheat sheet, so he can pick which countries they’d like to know)

Or how about a math question?
What’s 2358 x 137? or the square root of 196?
(here’s a square root calculator, so she can pick her own!)

The point being that the child can give some demonstration of knowledge and then happily skip away.
Another option is to talk to those people yourself.

You could even suggest that your child say this:
“Mom said if the quizzing starts, you should probably take it up with her.”
No reason your child should have to go head-to-head with an adult with an agenda.

Do you have other helpful tips to help your child cope with naysayers?
Please leave them in the comments.
It might be exactly the right fit for someone struggling out there!