A reader posed this Unschooling Question:
Hello! We decided to homeschool before my first was born. Along the way we discovered unschooling and it was a perfect fit…for mom and dad. My daughter, now 5, wants to go to school so unbelievably bad. At first I was appalled, but I have since warmed to the idea out of necessity. I don’t want my daughter to feel that she will be missing out on something she wants so badly…”because I said so!” I have tried to lay out the pros and cons as non-biased as possible, but I find myself highlighting the pros of unschooling (and homeschooling in general) way more, on accident, and later feel as if I am spreading propaganda rather than being honest about the situation.
This has to be one of the strangest parenting dilemmas. “Should my child go to school? (with parental hopes and dreams being that she chooses to not attend).” I guess if we choose to help her find her own path and attend public school, we would definitely be considered radical unschoolers. I just don’t know how to make sense of it in my head, and essentially to my daughter. I don’t want to push her either way. I just never thought I would ever face this kind of situation, given that most kids would love to have the option to NOT attend school.
Also, if she does attend, do I push her to do her homework and study, etc. I am so confused.
One more thing…we have a great local unschool group that is very active and hosts monthly events for every interest.
Any input will be welcomed. Thanks sooooo much!
First off, your statement that “most kids would love to have the option to NOT attend school” would apply more to children that have already attended school, not to those who have never been. Television and other aspects of our society (media) have worked diligently to make public school in general and Preschool / Kindergarten in particular appear very appealing to young children. It is not at all unusual for young children to be excited about going to school, where they can do all the things the big kids do!
The Main Decision
Your main decision seems to be whether or not to allow your daughter to attend public school. Once you decide that, then you can deal with your other concerns. In order to make that decision, you need to examine your feelings and beliefs about public school. Do you homeschool due to a belief that public schools are inherently injurious to children’s spirits? Or do you view homeschooling as just one of many possible ways to educate, neither better nor worse than any other form?
Some parents equate public school with playing in the road. While it may seem harmless at first, the dangers are there and by the time you see them coming, it is too late and the damage (sometimes permanent) is done. If you feel that public school is a danger to your daughter’s health and well-being, then your decision is made for you — you homeschool her, regardless of what she wants to do. At her young age, your daughter does not have the maturity or experience to make such a large, important decision.
If you feel that public school is a perfectly viable alternative to homeschooling, then allowing your daughter to try public school would seem to be a logical decision. Based upon the experience with my children, some children really enjoy public school during those early elementary years, while others absolutely do not thrive there. But even in the best of public schools, there will be issues, some of which you may hear about from your child, many that you will not. I was very surprised and disturbed by some of the stories I heard from my children even several years after I removed them from public school. I like to think that, if I had known at the time all that was going on, I would have removed them years earlier.
Finding Out Why She Wishes To Attend Public School
You might try to find out why your daughter wants to go to public school. I have had friends whose children wanted nothing more than a back pack like all the other kids that go to public school. Or they wanted a lunch pail. Or to ride the school bus. One even wanted a menu of what lunch would be each day of the week. It can be amusing to find out just what the child’s expectations are about Kindergarten or Preschool or Public School. If it is something as simple as having a backpack to carry around, that is easily solved.
I also know some families that have done a complete “school day” at home, so their children would know what school was really like. The reality of having to get up early, catch the bus (they actually strapped everyone into the car and made the trek to school), stay seated all day, ask for permission to go to the bathroom, etc., was much more than the children had anticipated and long before the end of the day, they were more than happy to be homeschooled.
If Attending, What To Do About Homework and Studying
Again, you have options here, depending upon your philosophies and beliefs about education, public school, etc. Some families whose children opt for public school do so knowing that they can homeschool at any time. The parents do not care about grades and wish that the child get out of public school what they desire and/or need at the time. Other families insist that, if their children go to public school, they agree to the rules of the game and therefore are expected to do their homework and worry about their grades. Some even insist that the child commit to a full year if they decide to go to public school. Of course, at the Kindergarten age, I doubt that a child that young can understand that type of commitment or whether the parent would want to insist upon completing a full year in public school if they felt it was harming their child in some way.
Guilty of Spreading Unschooling Propaganda?
We all have our biases, based upon our beliefs and experiences, and they will come out, no matter how hard we try to be neutral in our speaking. You want to homeschool, you want your child to be unschooled, so it is only natural that you present that idea in a better light than you do public school. As long as you are trying to be balanced, that is the best you can do. No one can ask for more. Quite honestly, after experiencing life with my children in public school and then homeschooling, I doubt I would be at all balanced in trying to convince a child of mine not to attend public school.
Unschooling Support Group
You are lucky, indeed, to have an active unschooling support group locally. If your family decides to continue homeschooling, be sure to plan something fun for that first day back of public school. Many homeschoolers plan a “not back to school” day, including swimming, park days, ice cream, whatever you can think of to celebrate your freedom from the public school schedule for the coming year!
Best of luck with your decision. Be sure to write back and let us know what you decide!
For ideas about homeschooling / unschooling Kindergarten, check out my Do You Need To Teach Kindergarten? article.