Tuesday, January 28, 2014

From Unschool to Public School

We planned on homeschooling. As things progressed, unschooling became more our style.  Our daughter was able to learn what she wanted when she wanted, we were both infinitely happier, and she was learning.

Fast forward to her sixth birthday, less than a month before the school year.  We were on a walk, and as we passed the local elementary school, she turned to me and said she wanted to go to school.  This has happened before and normally she forgot by morning so I nodded and said we would talk about it tomorrow.

She woke up the next day, a Friday, announced she really wanted to go to school and asked when it started.  So, I called the Montessori Charter school to get a private tour. Strangely, people where I live don't like how this elementary school doesn't test as well so they are barely half full.  And for a Montessori school that's huge!  It's free, it follows a Montessori philosophy, and there are so many openings.

That afternoon we had our tour.

I have never seen her so happy.

The Assistant Director gave us our tour, answered all our questions, and it felt right.

Less than a month later, she was starting first grade in a public charter after we originally wanted to unschool.

To many, this is a little out there.  Unschooling isn't the most popular view to begin with, but then it seemed like we gave that up for the exact opposite when she started public school.

To me, we were following her wishes.  I've never been a parent that pushes their own ideals and wishes on their child, to the amusement of many, and we let her choose this too.  Why should I force a decision I wanted on my child when she clearly wanted something different?

Now, I will admit, a public Montessori Charter isn't the same as public school.  There are no desks, most learning is very hands on, there are no group lectures, no forced learning.  She is allowed to learn what she wants when she wants, the Montessori way. 

At first I felt like a homeschooling failure.  How could I want to do something so much, and then love it more when she is at school?  How could we both love this new system more than the freedom of the old?

It took a long time for me to understand that our lives are not a fantastical whim.  Rarely, if ever, do things go exactly how you planned.

For me and my daughter, this is the best thing we could have done.  Both of us are happier.  She has such a hard time when school is out!  She loves the new environment, loves her friends, loves that she has control over her learning.  I love that she is so happy.

In the end, I trusted her.  I was nervous and worried, but she is thriving.

Some children would not thrive in a public schooling atmosphere.  Others would not thrive in an unschooling atmosphere.  Trusting them to help make that decision is so important.  Yes, I understand that not everyone has the resources to make these choices, and it can be so hard to decide when your choices are much more limited, but you can still trust your children.

Talk to them.  Find out how they learn.  Find out what they want to do.

They might surprise you with how much they truly know and understand about what they want.


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