Thursday, 12 February 2015

Hardening up for the real world - Homeschooling and Unschooling questions

Hi all, if you are new to this blog, take a look around and welcome. I am re-publishing this from its original post over here at our family blog as it has been our most read and shared post to date (over 35,000 Google shares when it was originally published!). I have also added a little more - I hope this resonates with you.

Something that I have heard more than a few times in our homeschooling/ unschooling journey is that as parents we need to prepare our children for the REAL WORLD. 

 That somehow taking children out of the school system will disadvantage them in hardening them up to the realities of life, and that once they are out in the REAL WORLD they will not know how to cope with people

with hard situations

with abusive bosses or bullies

That life will be difficult and perilous for them, once they become adults, so it is important to keep them in school

so that they learn to deal with difficult people 

and learn that life is not all happiness and sunshine

I am not sure quite how to react to this mindset, that life is difficult and the world is difficult, and that real life is all about suffering and hardship, and hardening up! 

Where do these ideas come from? 

Maybe that is what happens to us when we grow up from a very young age in institutions? from spending most of our waking day in places where you are not loved by the people around you, and where you are actively prevented from acting lovingly in your daily life? (just look up all the news articles about children not being allowed to hold hands, or kiss or hug at school - and policies that enforce a rule that children need to be 20cm away from each other!). 

Maybe this is what happens when we grow up with many of our primary care-givers (the teachers, or before and after school supervisors who are with you for 6- 12 hours out of your waking day) being the dictators of our every thought, word and action.

 When you cannot think and act joyfully when you are joyful 

When you are not free to move around when you feel like moving

Or  eat when you are hungry

Talk when you are bursting with ideas and words! (yes, this would be me!!!)

Draw or paint when you are feeling wonderfully creative

or tend to your own personal needs whenever they arise...

 Or maybe it is what has happened to most of us, moving straight from the oppressive environment of school, to the oppressive environment (in many cases) of being a young (and older) employee in a workplace, where your time is not your own, and your thoughts and actions and life belongs to somebody else. As an adult, we are still chained by the requirement to be in a certain place, at a certain time. To act a certain way and perform certain duties, and have fun, or be free, at set, pre-determined times throughout the year.

And maybe this is not everybody's experience - but do you think that this is where these ideas come from? 

that life is hard is a hardship

...we need to harden up 

It is hard to think original thoughts when you are supposed to be, and act and think like everyone else. And it is hard to be your unique, shining, wonderful self when you are constantly assessed by your peers , your teachers, your parents and bosses against the standards of others.  It is hard to feel ok with being you and being happy as YOU when you have been scrutinised for a lifetime, both for your external appearance, your capabilities to achieve the exact things that people your age are supposed to be achieving, and your willingness to do as you are told, when you are told to do it.

No wonder so many of us feel that life is hard, and that children need to be prepared for this life of hardship.

But life does not have to be like that. 

YES, life can be hard. But what if we lived with purpose, and parented with purpose - the purpose to make life less hard for our children?! (now take a deep breath - this can be confronting). I know that sometimes we can give in to those little voices (the ones that have been trained by those around us for a very long time) that your children should experience the same things that you experienced. That life should not be a free ride. That you learnt discipline, and you learnt how to cope in stressful circumstances, and that your children should too. And maybe you don't consciously think like this - but sometimes, I think that most of us do.

What if our main purpose as parents was to facilitate our children in living joyfully? not just on the weekends, not just on our 5 weeks of annual family holidays, not just after 3pm, or 6pm when they are picked up from school or after school care, but all of the time. Every day?

For some of us, this is exactly how unschooling becomes. Because when you start to back slowly away from the school system - a system that you have always been taught is necessary and essential part of life, and you discover than miraculously - you can thrive without it then you may begin to question other things. If children do not have to go to school 6 hours a day to prepare for an adulthood that is pre-determined (school until 17, university until 22, job, children, mortgage, death) then maybe we do not have to take on work for 8 hours a day that we dread going to! If children are free to live joyfully, then maybe we are free to live joyfully! Maybe there is an alternative to the 9-5, or maybe we can be free to pursue things that we truly love? And if we are free to pursue things that we truly love, then perhaps others around us are worthy of that too. 

And suddenly homeschooling or unschooling doesn't only raise the questions of whether our children need to harden up for the real world, but questions about what the 'real world' is and how much we really are able to control in our lives and the way that we feel inside ourselves. 

If you are already homeschooling or unschooling I would really love to hear what unexpected things have happened in your life since starting this journey. Do you feel more free to pursue your own passions or have your experiences been different? x

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