Not Back to School

Social media is filled with advertisements and posts from people talking about kids going back to school this week. This is always the time of year when I am most happy that we have chosen to homeschool our kids.

No school for me!
The thought of all my guys rushing to get out the door every morning and being away all day makes me so sad.  Even in those moments when I am uncertain about our decision to homeschool because the kids are driving me nuts, all I need to do is think about the alternative and I snap back to being grateful.

We unschool our 3 boys, and aside from a couple failed attempts at seeing what school is like, they have not attended school. But I did, and so did my husband and all of our friends and family. I have some good memories of school and things I did enjoy, but the majority of my memories are not so wonderful.  Mostly, I remember feeling controlled and exhausted!

So as all of America's youth heads back to school, I can not help but draw some comparisons as to how they'll spend their days versus how our kids will.

What school children will be doing on a daily basis:
  • Waking up to an alarm (likely around 6-7 am) in order to dress, scarf down a meal, and rush to catch the bus. Most won't get all the sleep that their bodies crave.
  • They will then sit on a bus for the next 10-50 minutes
  • Once at school they will spend their days being herded around like cattle, forced to change what they are doing every 45 minutes by the sound of a loud bell.  With no importance being placed on what they want, desire, or need.
  • Art, music, and physical activity will be deemed only important enough to fill a small time frame 1-2 times a week. There are very few breaks in a day so most days children are forced to work and concentrate for 6-8 hours straight!
  • Children will arrive home somewhere around 4pm with a list of homework to be completed, not to mention projects, drills, extra activities, baths, dinner, etc.  This will leave very little time for interaction with siblings, parents, or time to spend on what it is that they are passionate about.
  • By 8 or 9pm it will be time for bed so they aren't exhausted when that alarm goes off, yet again, the very next morning!
  • Overall, there is very little "free" time in which a child can unwind, go on fun "field trips" with family, explore the outdoors, or just play what ever, with who ever, they deem important!  This diminishes their ability to feel that their choices or desires are important!
What my unschooled children will be doing instead:

  • Waking up each and every day when their bodies tell them to. Everyone is on a different rhythm and I believe that they need to follow theirs in order to feel most rested and content over all. My 3 boys each wake up at different times unless we have an event planned necessitating they get up earlier.
  • They eat when their bodies are hungry, and spend very little time feeling rushed to do anything.
  • My children will play all day long! ***
  • Art, music, and physical activity will be a naturally occurring theme every day! They know that what matters to them is important because there are no inexplicable bells telling them they must stop whatever they are doing in order to do what we say is more important.
  • At the end of the day we can see how much we all learned because being a part of the real world is nothing but a lesson every minute. They shower when they need to, spend time playing until late in the evening, and can feel relaxed all day. They also play with one another and enjoy the ins and outs of siblings on a much larger scale then most.
  • They go to bed when they are ready, when their bodies signal a feeling of being tired, and have a greater knowledge of how their bodies work in having control over it. And they get to do it all again the next day!
  • They spend every day with us, people who love them, respect them, and support their desires. Not every moment is perfect but they also learn from that too.

***I am often asked to define just what they do in a day; they read books, comics, or online through games. They build houses, run cities, and learn to farm with their friends from around the world. They play with legos, with playdoh, draw and color, play card games, and so much more. They swim, play badminton, soccer, build sand castles at the beach, go on hikes, and talk to people of all ages. They speak multiple languages, observe different cultures and religions in practice, and seek out answers to the questions they formulate.  They feel little pressure in a day and are happy with their choices and we all feel good about that.

As an aside, I know a lot of readers will think it absurd that our kids make so many of their own choices. You may say, how can they live in a world where there are rules yet they spent their childhood not preparing to deal with that?

I understand those thoughts and I use to have them as well, but my kids do plenty that they do not wish to, They have some rules like respecting others and displaying good manners. They know their actions affect others and are conscience of that.

And they have chores with an allowance. They help in our household because it is important that they understand this is a small community and if they are a part of it, they need to be a helpful positive force within it. And they are! They understand that life is not all what you want to do, as sometimes you must traverse a steep climb to enjoy the exhilaration of coasting down it.

I also think that the notion of having to live your life for someone else, doing things all the time that you have no desire to do, is not reality!  Not the reality we want for them anyways. That is what school trains us to believe. In contrast, we believe that by living our lives in the manner that we do, the children will see the world for ALL of its possibilities and follow their own passions. They have faith in themselves, and support and encouragement from those that surround them.

It's been well documented that compulsory schools destroy what naturally occurs in our children, their innate sense of wonder, a creativity that no adult can rival, and a deep need to learn from everything in their path! When we force things, all day long, on our children it squashes who they might have become in order to make them who we think they should be! Success and joy is in the eye of the beholder!

Putting all other issues aside, which is the type of day you wanted as a child and which is the type of day that you want for your children??

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  1. i love mary and jeff and their three boys. we adored hanging out with them in siem reap. and yes, i've seen how their family laughs, bonds, flows, each with the frequency of what they love is what drives them. a real inspiration friends. thanks guys. gabi and kobi, dahnya, orazi, and solai. your energy shifted and moved the earth for us. we are honored to call you friends. we love you.

    1. Thanks guys, we feel the same way about you all! Such sweet words for us, really appreciate it!

  2. Gabi - as fellow unschoolers, LOVE LOVE LOVE this. yes!!

  3. We, too, haven't sent our dc to the institution, and forever grateful for the years we've enjoyed the ins-and-outs of daily life hanging out together. Not always easy, some times I want to just get away (maybe mom should run away???) but overall there is no other educational path I would choose than Life Itself as unschoolers. We've been at it for 20+ yrs, and not about to bail.

    Here's to another Not Going Back to School year of family life!!!

    1. Yes, I agree that it is not always easy. My next article will be about the challenges of home/unschooling! It's the best life i can imagine right now and we all love it!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this. I have three kids, ages 7, 5 and 2. The seven year old is in second grade and the 5 year old just started Kindergarten. I hate the rush of the school schedule as much as an adult as I did as a kid. I admire you for having the courage to try something different. I am a firm believer in using the world as education. We have just recently started entertaining thoughts of living outside the box and are beginning to make changes to move in that direction. I am thankful there are so many families to look to for advice and inspiration!

    1. That is so wonderful to hear, thank you. School is not evil and for some people including children it works quite well. But overall we feel this is the better way for us. I just wish more people would give it a try! You can't really trust it and enjoy it unless you try it:)

  5. So grateful for our unschooling lives this time of year as well. I can't imagine my boys having to sit still most of the day and do things they have no interest in while being judged for their work. Life should be joyful, especially for children.

    1. Thanks, I could not agree with you more! A joyful life is the only one worth living, so we believe in making it happen!

  6. Loved this! We're happily unschooling as well, and couldn't imagine life any other way at this point! My neighbor's child is out waiting for the school bus by 7:15 am and doesn't get home until almost 5 pm, with the typical regimented schooling in between- told when to eat, when to go outside, when to go to the bathroom. I just shudder at the thought of my kids having to live like that at their ages. Or at any age, as it's not my idea of a great lifestyle either!

    1. Thanks so much. I agree, that is not my idea of a great life either. When I see people living the "typical" lifestyle I always wonder if they are really happy or just think they are because they do not see any other options?