By Leo Babauta
The biggest problem we had when we started about 5 years ago, as new unshcooling parents and students, is that we were stuck in the school mindset.
Unschooling is a vastly different approach from traditional school, and if your kids are in school and you want to take them out of school and unschool them, you still believe the old stuff for a long time:
- Kids should get up early and start learning as soon as possible.
- Students should learn reading, writing, science, math, history, etc.
- Students should be learning at the same pace as others their age.
- They need to learn certain things by the end of high school.
- They need to focus hard and really study and be tested to make sure they're really learning.
- We need to force them to learn because otherwise they'll just watch TV and play video games.
- They need to go to college.
- We know what's best for them.
It's really amazing how much this stuff is ingrained in our heads, from years of believing in it (and being raised to believe it by the school system).
Unschooling tosses these ideas out, but it's not that easy. Both parents and students retain these beliefs for a long time, even if you're out of school.
What is de-schooling? Basically, it's taking a break, when you stop going to school. That might be for a couple weeks, or a couple months, or even more. It's a time when you stop "learning" in the traditional sense, take all the pressure off the student, and just relax. Just be.
But ... aren't you wasting precious time? Actually, that's part of the mindset you're trying to get out of -- life isn't a race, and there aren't deadlines for learning, and there isn't a set of information that you need to learn by the age 18. Those are artificial constructs, and they're not necessary for living.
Think about how we learn as adults: do we need to learn things by a certain time? Maybe, but only if that is tied to something real -- you're applying for a job that requires certain skills, or you're working on a project that requires that you learn certain things. But most of the time, learning goes at your own pace, based on what you're interested in and how much time you have and all kinds of other factors unique to your life situation.
That's real-life learning. That's what unschooling is.
So take a few weeks or a month, or more, and just relax. Don't worry about learning. See what the kids do when they don't have someone forcing them to learn. Maybe that's watching TV for awhile, or playing video games all day. That's OK. There's no wrong thing to do.
Then, when you think you've gotten school mostly out of your system (it actually takes much longer to really get everything out, and we still haven't completely), you can start to explore together. She's watching TV a lot? OK, watch with her. Talk to her about what you guys are watching. Maybe explore some of the things you talk about. See what comes up. Then encourage her to go outside with you to the park to do something fun. Talk as you play. See what emerges.
In other words, live life. Live an interesting life, have conversations, do fun things together, be curious, explore. That's the unschooling way, and it requires that the schooling mindset gets out of the way.