01mrm,  family,  homeschool,  Motherhood,  My Boys

Creative Unschooling

Running Wild

Just a warning… in case you haven’t noticed, my inner hippie is coming out more and more.  If you aren’t ready for more of my earth mama ideas, you may want to stop reading here.

For the last six months, I have been thinking about homeschooling my kids.  A Lot.  We’ve decided to discontinue preschool for Lucas and do “homeschool preschool” next year, and possibly continue Pre-K and even Kindergarten as well.  For some reason, I just can’t get it out of my mind.  Maybe it is our ridiculous society and the fact that I can’t stand the idea of my boys being taught what to think, do, and believe by someone I don’t even know, and with a curriculum that is designed for the masses in a classroom of more than thirty students.  Maybe it is the thought of them sitting at the lunch table like I did many years ago, amongst friends, eating fish sticks, french fries, and nachos covered with unnatural orange cheese.  Maybe it’s because of the language I hear our neighborhood boys using, who can’t be older than 9 or 10 years old, while I’m at the park with my little ones.  Maybe it is because of all the experiences I remember having at school and how I feel they shaped me as I was growing up.  Or maybe I just want to protect their innocence a little longer, and let them learn the way they are naturally inclined to.

One thing that I always have and always will do is let my kids explore their world, their way.  They choose what they want to play with and what they like to do.  We don’t have many limits in our house, other than those of safety, respect, and what mom needs to maintain her sanity.  I let my boys jump on the couch, rearrange furniture to make forts, feed the dog and cat five times a day, operate the automatic sprinklers in our yard, take apart electronic gadgets, paint themselves – rather than paper – with finger paint, empty the tissue box one piece at a time, bring the kiddie pool in the kitchen when it’s raining outside, and many other things, mainly because those are their interests.  That is what they want to do, how they learn, and I love to see the excitement in their eyes.  I don’t know if this is “normal” or not.  I know a lot of people who would consider all of those things to be “no-no’s”.  Lately, I’ve been trying to just say yes more often.  I find a way to make it work.  Safely.  And sometimes I even jump on the couch with them.

Luckily, we have over two years before Lucas would enter Kindergarten, and four or five years for Nathan.  There is time to try things out, to explore our possibilities as a family.  Even though Lucas has been in preschool this year, it is only twice a week, and I feel like it is a very non-school environment where the teachers are like family.  We have enjoyed every minute of it.  He has freedom and choices amongst structure and guidance.  It is perfect.  But all school will not be that way.  Kindergarten will not be that way.  He will be asked to conform.  To follow the rules.  To stand in line.  To eat his lunch.  To do his homework. Their way, not his.

I’m not writing this to offend anyone, and I hope I don’t.  I don’t even know if this is where our path is going in the long term.  But I do know it is in my heart right now, and it is based solely on my experiences, what I know about my children, and the way I see them interacting with their environment.  Other parents may read this and think I am nuts, that children are supposed to follow the rules and conform to the standards of the public school system.  People will tell me that if we don’t insist that our kids “keep up” with their peers that they will not make it in school.  I don’t believe it.  I think society is robbing our children of the experience of being a kid – taking away play time and replacing it with phonics lessons and early math.  I also think that every single child is different – and that many may absolutely be ready for and thrive in those types of learning environments, enjoying every bit of it.  I’m not judging any other parents choice.  Ryan and I are simply making one that fits our family.

I don’t know if the desire to homeschool will stay with me.  I had always planned to send my kids to public school.  We have a great one just one block from our house.  I don’t feel like I have a lot of patience a lot of the time.  I need regular breaks from my kids and occasional alone time.  I don’t know how to be a teacher.  I have a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t even consider such a thing.  But there is this little twang in my heart, this little pull that won’t let go.  And that is the best reason I have to explain why we need to do this right now.


  • Cindy @ This Adventure, Our Life

    First, and I know you know this: You do not need a reason to homeschool your boys or to justify it to anyone (and I say this nice as a friend whom knows you pretty well). People should not be offended about the choices another parent chooses. Second, I fully fully understand your desires to want to homeschool, the system, the children, the things children do and know, ugh, it makes my mind crazy, literally. I feel like preschool is overrated honestly, the only reason/ thing I still need to REALLY figure out is how to get Bailey around the other children…I have yet to figure this one out. Bailey needs other children. It does get easier as they get older around more homeschooling groups. So this is why I had signed her up for the little pre-preschool or what I see as a glorified play time. I wish that I could afford to send her to a Montessori -ish schooling… I feel that they have and hold more of my play-based, exploring-based values. My husband was home schooled and honestly he loved it. Although it was only a year or two, he holds his best memories from that time, they did science experiments, read books they liked, learned math through creative non- traditional methods, they went on field trips to the tide pools to learn about animals, to the planetarium to learn about the solar system, they did art almost everyday, every month they learned about a musician, an artist, and an author. If I can, we will do the same with Bailey (schedule pending). Like you, I do not know how far we would take this, I think it may be based on our family, her needs and interest. I would love to teach her by natural play, by science centers, aquariums, the beach, learning about architecture, meeting other professionals, trips to universities, the outdoors, botanical gardens, field trips, library time, and all the fun things that we have lost in our system. I run my household in a way that Bailey can do most anything she wants, I think you are creating children whom are creative, loving, and free. You are an incredible Mom whom cares a great deal about every single choice you make for your children, if we could all inspire to be more invested in our children than we would be making choices for their needs. We can not micro-manage every choice for our children but while they are young we can install good core values in their life, whether it be food choices, learning, or life beauty.

  • Suzanne

    Thank you Cindy. You are right, they really need to be around other kids, and that will be a big focus for us. There are so many fun ways to learn, and I love all your ideas. I want my kids to see the world for what it is, and all the possibilities available to them outside of the classroom walls. I’m thankful you are my friend and we can share some of these experiences together!

  • Amy

    I totally agree with you! We are going to homeschool Ada. We joined a homeschooling group and have a few friends who are going to homeschool. …Let’s play soon!

  • Keri

    What you wrote is how I felt and still feel about my children education and how they explore this world of ours. Trust in your gut and do what you think is best for your children, I too believe in allowing a child to be a Free thinker and learn through doing 😉 I know that you are still at the beginning stages of this Journey we call Homeschooling so as a semiveteran (7 yrs and counting) I hope you do not mind me sharing something that might help you get started~>
    Here is a free e-book called Welcome to Homeschooling Guide by Time4Learning ( http://www.time4learning.com/homeschool/welcome.htm ) It is comprehensive without being overwhelming, and will make you feel less anxious about the whole idea.
    Good luck with everything ..
    Yep! I am a Crunchy Homeschooling Momma & proud of it 😉

  • Suzanne

    Thank You Keri! I will check it out, this is all new to me so I welcome any and all advice. Sounds like a great guide.

  • Laura

    This is a great idea Suzanne! You have to do what you know is right for your kids, and you know your kids best. I would totally do this too if I could, but working full-time makes that diffucult. We’re like you too – even though we have a highly rated public school a block from our house, we plan to avoid it. We plan to keep our kids at Missionary until 8th grade – completely worth the extra money to avoid the bureaucracy of the public school system.

  • Jenny

    I wanted to weigh in from “the other side”. Hopefully no one hates me 🙂 First, I definitely think you should do what is right, you’re their mother and you know the boys best, after all! I also think that preschools and daycares can be glorified crowd control/play time, though they serve a purpose for people that need them and for socialization. I don’t blame you for wanting to give Luke and Nathan something more in their early years. Later on, however, I think public school can serve a very important purpose in a child’s life. Being in a classroom, getting to know teachers and other students, sitting at a desk, standing in lines, new experiences, ideas, etc…..for every person that had a negative experience, there are people that had extremely positive experiences. It’s cheesy, but that whole “it takes a village to raise a child” is SO true. Going to school can introduce kids to a whole world of new friends, adults that can inspire and add to their childhood, a social circle that can become an extension of your family. Obviously, home-schooled kids still have social interaction, but I think there is something special about public school that can’t be duplicated. (I am going to be a teacher though, so maybe I’m biased.) If you send your kids to school, you still have the right to discuss your feelings with the teacher, to volunteer in the classroom, to instill your own values in them apart from their school, to supplement their education at home, and definitely to make them way better lunches than they’d get in the cafeteria!

  • Jenny

    Dear Suzanne,
    Thank you so much for looking me up through CBC! I’m thrilled to read your blog. And the comments here are amazing. I love your parenting philosophy and am truly inspired by your husband’s experience in homeschool. We are nearing the end of our first year of homeschool….er unschool???
    I can speak to both conditions: I was nuts about school when I was a kid, but school was different then. My daughter is 17 and has been in public school since the beginning. Elliot started in preschool, finished kindergarten, and then after the first month of first grade, we decided to embark on homeschooling. I withdrew him and it was painful. For me. I cried. But I can honestly say that we are all doing fantastic now. Elliot had experiences like your husband…lots of science and art. Lots of nature. Visits from his friends, regularly. I asked him if he was thinking about going back to school for second grade and he said, “no, I don’t want to be dumb.” I said, “do you mean that the teacher will make you feel dumb for not completing your work?” He said “no. I don’t want them to make me dumb.”
    So, we’re committed for another year and I’m relieved. When he’s older, he might want to go back. I know those doors are always open. I will enjoy reading about your adventures!

  • Suzanne

    Laura – Thank you! And I think Missionary is great, I went there from preschool through second grade, when my parents switched us to a new year round school. Your kiddos are lucky to be able to go there!

    Jenny M – Thanks so much for your thoughts! It is such a tough decision as I know there are so many positives to public school as well. If you were going to be my boys teacher it would be a no brainer, and I know there are many other amazing teachers out there but unfortunately there are so many teachers who don’t have that kind of dedication and understanding of each childs individuality. Since I haven’t experienced homeschooling first hand I am only speaking from what I have learned through talking to other moms and reading about homeschooling. I do think that if we continue homeschooling after preschool, we will be able to provide all those same scenarios through extracurricular classes, homeschool groups and co-ops, etc. Luckily, there is still time for us to figure it all out. 🙂 This is such a controversial subject, and it seems like people are rarely in the middle but are passionate about either side. Thank you for your honesty!

    Jenny #2 – My husband didn’t homeschool, but my good friend’s husband did (she mentioned in comments above) and I am very excited about the whole thing. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I LOVE your son’s comment about not wanting to be dumb! 🙂

  • Jenny

    I WISH I could be their teacher! 🙂 I just finished doing a three week writing workshop in a second grade classroom. One of the kids in my group insisted that he had a pet dolphin and that was the ONLY thing he could write about. 🙂 He said that the teacher didn’t believe him and wanted him to write about something else. I acted like I believed him and encouraged him to “tell” me all about it in his writing. He was so stoked that I believed him. hahahaha! (I got him to write way more than he had ever written before, it was pretty cool.) I think my main challenge once I’m teaching will be to try to not get the hiccups from laughing so much at the students.

  • Melissa Barnett

    Just stumbled across this post and I LOVED reading it. I am right with you when it comes to the reason we are on that path. I am going with those feelings 🙂

    • Suzanne

      Thanks Melissa! I love that we have this in common. 🙂 That’s what I’m doing too – just going with it! Following my heart, not sure where the journey will take us, but excited to find out.

  • Jenn

    I don’t think you are nuts. Of course that is coming from someone who lives in an rv with three boys and considers spending time outdoors in harmony more valuable than math. 😉 My boys went to private school until my oldest was in 3rd grade. I don’t regret them going. It was what they needed at the time. We also spent one year doing a hybrid school which was great mainly because I got a few days long break. Now we are back to fulltime homeschooling. I don’t think I will ever send my kids back to a traditional school. Here are a few reasons. 1. I want my boys to think for themselves and uncoventionaly. I think pub schools are designed to “manufacture” people who are easy to “control”. Screw that. 2. I want my kids to learn from life not text books. (Disclaimer we do use a few textbooks. Mainly math and one supplemental history book we read aloud). 3. I want my kids to have time to be kids and explore. 4. I want them to have time to be able to pursue interests that are unique to them. My oldest loves piano and teaches himself to play. He didn’t have time to do that when he was in school. 5. Most importantly I want to be with them. They are only mine for a short while and I want to enjoy it as much as possible.

    I hate the “takes a village phrase”. Seriosly can’t stand that phrase. I’m sort of a rebel. From what I see in the life of village I don’t want half the villagers near my kids. That’s not to say I don’t want other people to have an influence but I certainly don’t want the bitter English teacher who dislikes boys (just a made up example) to have her say in these formative years. I think I’m just very distrustful of institution in general. 🙂 regarding socialization all that stuff about homeschoolers not getting socialization is BS. When we lived in Ventura we had to cut back on activities. Not only is the idea homeschoolers sit in their living room all days just wrong when in life are we ever with one age group of people in one room all day? Its ridiculous when you think of it.

    Okay so that was full of generalizations (and probably typos I’ on my phone). I know I’m privileged that I can honeschool. Not everyone can. I also know that there are many wonderful teachers out there and thank God for them. They are truly contributing to the world. I just wish people were more accepting of homeschooling. I also would like to see people question the status quo more often.

    • Suzanne

      I love that you are traveling with your family. What better education than seeing the country, experiencing different kinds of people and environments. It sounds amazing. I agree with all of your reasons for homeschooling. I know that there are some really good teachers out there. But I only remember three amazing teachers in my 17 years of school. I also remember a lot of terrible ones. I want my kids to grow up knowing who they are and feeling like they can do anything. I think I can give them that. 🙂 Thanks so much for all your thoughts, I can’t wait to read more from you and follow you guys on your journey.

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