Written with love by Kimberly Sharpe Slage
As an unschooling mother of two girls ages, 11 and 17, I consider myself very fortunate. I have been able to be at home with my children for almost 18 years. I have witnessed every stage of development the girls have experienced. These different experiences have been lived out while traveling and living in so many different places. With my husband working in the hospitality business we have lived everywhere: Orlando, Chicago, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Coral Springs, New Orleans, and Alabama. All of these adventures, as we like to call them, have been happy, sad, scary, crazy but more importantly, real life lessons. Our children have been living daily in a real world with people of all different ages, financial situations, religious practices, familial partnerships, and of different ethnic orientations. They can carry on conversations with elderly people, young people, surgeons, nurses, lawyers, car salesmen, librarians, policemen, taxi drivers and just about any individual out there because they have lived in the real world and not closed up in a classroom memorizing nonsense that they wont remember by the following week.
The economy today is a very difficult place for so many individuals to live. With the price of gas, the increase in food cost, and the loss of homes, jobs, and health insurance, our family has lived it and witnessed it unravel. Let’s face it, for the majority of homeschooling/unschooling families, a strict budget has been created. My husband and I for example decided 18 years ago to rid ourselves of our two new cars and downsized to one. (We now have two). We stopped eating out and buying things that were not necessities. We made a commitment to each other that the two of us would do whatever it took to have our children raised in a loving and nurturing home and that they would not be put into a daycare program. We both feel that the home should be a place where a child feels loved, wanted, and not feel that their parents can’t wait for them to go back to school. Because of our philosophies with unschooling, our children have been living in the real world and not behind a fence where they are controlled and told what they must learn. They should never be rushed to bed or feel stressed over homework. A child should be playing, reading, painting, volunteering, and feeling the world around them and not be pushed out each day into a world of walls, lines, bullies, test, and restrictions.
With unschooling, we have grown as a family in more ways then we have ever expected. My oldest daughter has such a beautiful outlook on the world that surrounds her. She feels sad when she sees a homeless person on the side of the road. She wonders what their story is, where they are going to sleep that evening, do they have children, and how are they going to take care of themselves if they get sick. She has learned this past year when my brother, Michael, became fatally ill and did not have health insurance, that worry had kept him from going to the ER because of cost. He almost died because of this fear. She witnessed the process in the hospital with the health care administration in regards to a treatment plan. His medical recovery was going to be very different from that of a patient that had a high priced private insurance plan. She learned through this exposure how to treat wounds, change an colostomy appliance, and she actually volunteered to sit through instructions with him so he too would understand how to take care of himself once he was sent home. She learned that surgeons could be very nice and would let you help them with minor procedures in the hospital room by simply asking. (handing tools, and up close observation). She was treated not as a young person that shouldn’t be exposed to such tragedies, but was treated respectfully because she explained that she was a life learner and wanted to see what was going on. My daughter Autumn could speak for herself and did not feel inferior to the highly skilled professionals that were surrounding all of us each day while we lived in the hospital for over a week. These doctors, surgeons and nurses were people, and she did not think that she was not allowed to ask questions. She felt equal because as an unschooling family we believe and instill in our children a confidence to seek all answers and to question everything if we are not certain of the situation, regardless of who the persons age. (The photo used in this article is my daughters in the hospital with my brother)
I truly feel that if we as parents can live with our children, conscientious of their wishes, doubts, choices, fears and challenges, that so many wonderful other self discoveries will take place. Like pealing the skin off of an orange, there is so much inside each child that is good, loving, and natural. With our travels we have encountered so many different cultures, lifestyles, and challenges. By not participating in the public school system, we have allowed our children to live in the real world. We have not spoon fed our children the stories about college degrees and jobs. Our times have changed in regards to our educational choices and availabilities. It’s time to take back our children from the old methods of ‘schooling’. It’s time to be honest with our children and let them know that they do have other choices then the cookie cutter factory called school. That as a free thinking person they can decide on their own what they want to become when they grow up and not be dished out some recipe that a test dictates to be their special trait.
I would like to leave you with a couple of quotes from one of my favorite writers, John Taylor Gatto:
“I urge you to examine in your own mind the assumptions which must lay behind using the police power to insist that once-sovereign spirits have no choice but to submit to being schooled by strangers.”
“Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers’ lounge can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there. When asked why they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect.”© 2011 An Unschooling Life