But How Will They Get A Job?

As an unschooling parent, this question often crops up.  For some reason, it becomes unthinkable that someone who doesn’t go to school (for most of their life) will be unable to get a job.  This thinking needs to stop!

If there is one thing I could have changed as a child/teenager, it would be understanding myself better.  Understanding who I wanted to be.  What I really enjoyed doing.  And what was realistically achievable.

I went to work at the age of 18 not knowing any of this.  A lost person in a big world.  It took me 7 years to begin to find the path that I am now on and happy with.  And that was just the beginning of the path.  I’m almost 10 years into that and still feel like I have lots more important work to do.

Not that my youth was wasted (though some of it was!), I can’t help but think how much further down the line I would have been now if I had a better inclination of who I was.  Why was I 25 before I felt like I had a clear(er) direction in my life?

As I bring up my kids, my focus is to help them discover who they are and what they want to become.  Once they discover that, jobs or ‘making a living’ will follow.

And then there’s the whole other story with the fact that we don’t know what the job market will look like in 10-20 years time.  And I am totally convinced that spending 12 years in school will not prepare my kids for the future of work.

Here’s a nice video that talks about the future of work better than I can.

Why Are People So Surprised When Kids Learn By Themselves?

So, Ethiopian village kids teach themselves via a tablet.

Or there’s the pretty famous computer in a wall experiment where Indian kids taught themselves a whole range of things.

We read these stories, become inspired and just think it’s amazing.

But really, why is it so amazing? Why do we think so little of the future generation?

Kids don’t need teachers to learn.  Their environment is what creates them and facilitates their learning.

How many things do 0-5 year olds learn before they start formal schooling?  I think if you started to create a list then it would soon become a very, very long.

Yet, this magic ‘age 5′ is a turning point where society believes that their kids will only ever learn in a formal environment and being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it.  The fear is struck into professionals to perform to achieve some kind of target.  And parents are convinced their kids won’t make it in life without the 12 years of formal schooling.

Along the way everyone seems to forget that we don’t need what most of school forces upon us to do real learning. We forget that curiosity, passion and desire to learn something new is 1000 times more powerful and exciting.

Why are we so afraid to embrace the simple fact that all human beings can and will learn at their own pace, given the right environment and given the opportunity to make their own choices?

Life Is Too Short

The more I’ve focused on the things I want to do and that make me happy, the more I see how much waste there is all around us.  As we’ve been slowly changing the world around us we’ve been getting rid of things that bring us down and stress us out.

As parents this means things like only doing good work that we enjoy.  Getting people in to help with the things we don’t enjoy so much (cleaning, admin, accounts). Reducing wasting time – like a long daily commute.

On the other side of this is adding things that we do enjoy. More time with the kids. Chill out time. Exercise. Hobbies & interests.

In our previous life, with a ‘full time business or career’ to live up to, we put up with many things we didn’t really want to do and life was just too busy.  ‘One day’ we kept saying to ourselves.

But ‘one day’ really isn’t good enough.  Not when life is short. Not when life is full of too many regrets.

Naturally, as we think of this ourselves, we think of this for our kids.  Which is one of the big reasons we decided to unschool.  Life is just too short for our kids to be spending time on things that they really aren’t into.

These things that they didn’t really enjoy or value are personable to each person, for our kids it was things like:

  • assembly
  • anything religious like prayers and going to church (we’re not religious)
  • school plays
  • reading books and doing projects on things they weren’t interested in
  • wanting to read during quiet reading time, but being unable to do so due to distractions
  • having to be around people/kids they didn’t really like (not all of them, of course, but it only takes one or two people on a daily basis to make life miserable).
  • the time getting ready and coming home from school
  • sitting through lessons and not really learning anything
  • play time that wasn’t much fun and often full of unpleasant experiences

I could go on. And this is just an example, our example.  Things my boys didn’t enjoy and just put up with because, well, that’s just the way things were.

For me, all I could think of was that life was too short for them to have to live through that.  I knew they could learn and do great things without the things that bring them down.  I knew they would be happier if they could focus on things they enjoy.

I knew this, because I had been through the same process as an adult.

If I cut the things out of my life that bring me down, then my kids deserve the same.

Making creative choices, having less stuff in a rich environment…

As unschoolers we are making a lifestyle choice. Unschooling is the process of deschooling ourselves; as parents and children. School indoctrinates us to respond to schedules and agendas defined by others. Great for factories (or the needs of industry), not so great for creative thinking. Seth Godin does a great job of explaining the current state of schools, so I won’t repeat his words.

Masters in the Business of Us...Two other choices that make an unschooling life possible for us, are:

  • Bootstrapping
  • Minimalism

Bootstrapping is an approach to business, build/make/sell stuff, minimise costs, take profits from paying customers and re-invest until you have built a sustainable business. We are bootstrappers (*investors need not apply). We have to be responsive, whilst also remembering our own agenda, we are allowed to define our own schedule. Yes, at the beginning bootstrapping impacts your income, you need to organise your life in order to be in the position to give it a go, it is a long game, and is not without risk. You are responsible for your own destiny. Everyday we work on buying our future selves a little more freedom. If we build a sustainable income, we never need to respond to someone else’s schedule ever again. The business skills learned can be re-applied, any income gained should be repeatable. Warning: you may become unemployable, you’ll ask too many questions.

Minimalism is a way of life where we limit our desire to consume, and remove clutter that has limited value or function. The income required to have a sustainable life becomes less, a simple sensible choice for a bootstrapper. Surprisingly, minimalism makes you ask the question differently, it’s not ‘are we rich yet?’ it’s ‘where are we rich?’. We value things differently, the goal is joy. We have to be creative in how we entertain and/or educate ourselves and each other. We pass on the value of searching for a more meaningful life rather than seeking satisfaction in blind consumerism.

We believe creative thinking is key, to unschooling, to bootstrapping and to minimalism. We take inspiration from Sir Ken Robinson, a true believer creativity is a necessary and key skill for the 21st century, he asks not, ‘are we smart?’, instead, ‘where are we smart?’. We become self-directed in our learning.

We are grateful to have found these three overlapping ‘philosophies’, they are in alignment, and our lives are enriched because of this.

Simply put, ask better questions, and then be creative.

12 Notes From Our Deschooling Process

We’ve been home schooling for close to 2 years now.  And it is only recently (past 6 months) that I feel we can say we’ve gone in, through and out the end of that deschooling period.  Deschooling being the time the kids need to get out of the rhythm and system of school and adapt to a new way of life, of home education, or in our case – unschooling. Deschooling came (in our case) with many tumbles!

I felt like it was one of those things that when you are in the process of deschooling you are never quite sure whether it has been ‘done’ yet.  Often I would ask myself ‘are they deschooled yet? or is this just the way it is going to be forever…?’  I would then send myself into a panic!.

I can now confidently say, that the kids are deschooled.  Whoop! Our eldest in particular has been through massive changed.  About 6 months ago it was like a light switched and he really started taking control of what he wants to do and be.  It’s so incredibly amazing to see and be part of the change – to see his confidence grow, to be engaged in what he is doing and most importantly he is one happy boy!

But here is the thing – I had prepared myself mentally for deschooling the kids, but I didn’t consider how much of an impact it would have on me (and my husband).

For them to deschool, we had to do the same too.  Here are some notes from what we have discovered:

1 – We spent several months doing things that we thought would be good and we thought we would enjoy, but in the end it just made things worse.

2 – We let go massively with rules, then pulled in the reigns a bit when the kids indicated that they wanted support to achieve the change they wanted.

3 – We all choose what we want to do on a daily basis, but it’s not a free for all.  Just like my work needs to fit around my kids stuff, the kids stuff has to fit around everyone elses needs.  We normally talk about what is happening/agreeable on a daily and weekly perspective.

4 – We’ve achieved that ‘enlightenment’ stage where we know that kids can moderate themselves and not spend all day in front of a screen.  We don’t see screen time as a bad thing, we believe there just needs to be some balance. Given the support and opportunities they make great things and decisions!

5 – We have all learned to listen to each other’s needs better.  I feel this has been a massive change from the parent’s perspective – I feel that as a society adults really aren’t very good at listening to their kids. We have proper conversations and talk about things.  If anyone says no, it means no and we should all respect and try to understand the reasoning.  If anyone needs any help to do something then we use it as an opportunity to talk about the needs and the impact it may or may not have on all of us.

6 – We don’t really say ‘no’ to the kids anymore.  We might say it in a roundabout way at times, but it always seems to involve a discussion and their agreement.  For example, they eat what they like.  So rather than say no to ‘unhealthy food’ we give them options of better food.  They usually go for the ‘better food’.

7 – We live as equals.  We are increasingly conscious that kids are great imitators.  They are often a reflection of how the people in their environment behave – siblings, parents, family and friends.  We try to lead by example. The kids are more than happy to point out when they think something is unfair.  I am likewise happy to do the same thing in their direction.

8 – We are all allowed to make mistakes. We are all getting better forgiving each other when we haven’t ‘behaved in an ideal way’.

9 – We all have needs that aren’t always equal.

10 – We achieve more when we work as a team.  The kids have really picked up on this.  For example, they see how much it helps me or my husband when they help out with chores in the house.  The result is that it frees up our time and puts us in a better mood to help them do stuff they want.

11 – Us, the parents, have stopped worrying or comparing them to anyone else.  They are who they are.  They are learning constantly, without a curriculum.  They are doing pretty awesome, we don’t need any tests to prove that.  They say we are awesome too, sometimes ;)

12 – We focus only on the things we really want to do and forget everything else.  There is only so much time in the day and not really any room for stressing out to get cram in as much as we can.

One of the best things, for me personally, is that I feel like I have become a much better mother.  I am happy we are on this journey, but really wish we had started it earlier!

Unschooling FTW

Ben took a bit of convincing to take out of school.

I use to ask him every couple of weeks how he felt about homeschooling and whether he preferred it over going to school.  For the first six months (de-schooling) he use to shrug his shoulders and say ‘I don’t know’.

It was a turning point for all of us after the 6 month mark when he said he preferred homeschooling.

And today he said to me (as we were passing a bunch of school kids), “I don’t understand why kids go to school.”

He’s one happy boy at the moment and clearly appreciates homeschooling, not just from the comment above, but his general behaviour/attitude is pretty awesome.

Good times!

Not all times are good/easy.  It’s worth writing down about the good and the bad!

Things We Do: Minecraft Weekend Away

I’m trying to get into the habit of logging some of the things we do.  Often this is through photos as I tend to be snapping pictures during the things we do.

We went to a Minecraft Home Ed Weekend away up in Cumbria over the weekend.  We had much fun.  There were sessions for the parents and the kids.  It was really nice being around likeminded people.  I particularly noted the relaxed and flexible approach with the kids – especially when the were immersed in Minecraft whilst talks/instructions were happening.  Often they were asked to nod their heads to ask if they understood something, and the kids did.

I plan to write more about the Minecraft things we are up to in another post, for now here are some snapshots of our weekend away.

We broke down on the M4, almost half way through our journey. Our car died. Got towed home. We luckily managed to get a hire car.

The kids immersed in Minecraft stuff…

There were some non-screen based activities too. A hamabead sword. Plus several talks for kids and parents.

We got outside too. The event was in Morland (Cumbria), a lovely part of the country.

Practice What You Preach

Parents are really bad at practicing what we preach.  Myself included.

We have all these great ideas that we believe would bring such enjoyment, learning and fulfilment to our children’s lives, yet all too often we like to sit back whilst they get on with the *stuff*.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and through unschooling have been trying to make changes to our lifestyle to maximise happiness and practise what I preach.

Screen time

I’ve come to realise that I actually feel pretty good about my boys spending alot of time on the screen/games.  They become so immersed in it, have so much fun and they do learn lots from what they are doing.  How can I possibly take that away from them?  After all, I play games sometimes.  But I do more work on screens than games and to me this is just the equivalent of games.

They play alot of Minecraft, though we got an Xbox One recently so they’ve been spending some time on that too.  We have a few iPads in the house too, the use of those are a bit more sporadic and perhaps more relevant for long car journeys.  We guide them alot on the things they are doing are try to support and guide them in a direction that they want to be heading in.  I need to share more about the stuff that they are up to on Minecraft.  It’s certainly going in interesting directions.  More on that in another blog post.

Health and Exercise

This is perhaps one of our hardest and most time consuming challenges.  As a family we are committed and believe it is right that we are a physically active.   I get lots of comments saying things like ‘gosh, 3 boys.  That must be hard work!’.

And yes it is. But I am grateful for it.  Especially more recently where I am really trying to practice what I preach with regards to physical activity.  I’m currently on a road to becoming (super) fit.  I feel I’ve neglected my personal fitness for the past 10-15 years (I’m 35) and it’s vital that I get back into shape.

Part of this is me doing my own exercise regiment (I’ve started running recently), but another part of it is ensuring that (especially in this good weather) that we get out every single day and do something together.  My boys aren’t really up for classes so it’s really down to my husband and I to ensure that we all get our fair share of physical exercise.  To be honest, it ends up being better and cheaper for us that we all do they exercise/activities.  Sometimes it’s trips to the park, they scoot and play about, I do my playground exercise. Sometimes it’s a long walk. Or a bike ride. Or a trip to the beach. Or to the skate park where I participate on my rollerblades and they scoot or rollerblade.  Sometimes we split up the activities – I’ll go to the park whilst my husband and the boys go for a cycle.

For Aaron and Ben we need to get better at just kicking them out to go to the park by themselves.  We haven’t pushed that too much mostly because we’ve been enjoying doing the exercise with them.

Letting Go

I’ve increasingly been letting go and do not force my boys to do anything they are not up for.  Our main rule these days is that as long as we get our physical exercise for the day and we live in the same timezone then I’m quite happy letting them choose how else they want to spend their time.

We talk a lot about their ideas, thoughts and plans (there is a lot of learning happening when we talk!).  And out of habit they always come to us and ask if it is ok to do x or y.  I have no issue letting them know if I feel there is a lack of balance in what they are doing and rather than enforcing that they stop doing something we tend to compromise.

I’m constantly trying to come up with ideas of things to do and will seed those about in rosie ways.  Some things stick, others don’t.  We keep experimenting and discovering what it is that works for us as individuals and as a family as a whole.

We all have things we want to do, the trick is to try to make them all happen.  As the kids are learning, sometimes that means they need to do things that they would prefer not to do (like cleaning up, helping out, playing with their little brother).

I have better things to do than monitor every little thing they do (plus I would hate it if someone monitored everything I did to ensure I was learning!), but I am very confident they get a good balance of learning and life opportunities.

Love unschooling…!

Teachers of Today

The teachers of today have changed.

Teachers are everywhere in every form.  Teachers are not just those people found in schools, colleges and universities.  I encourage you to look around and find the teachers that exist within our world.

I am a teacher. I teach my boys about life.  How to live according to how we believe is a good way to live.   They learn a lot from me.  I pass on what I know when they are interested.

Their computer are teachers too.  As are the many games they play.

The stranger on YouTube is an amazing teacher too.

Books can teach a thing or two as well.  Not just the words, but the process of reading and discovering too.

My iPad is a teacher to my 2 year old – the current theme are numbers and letters.

A trip to a shop becomes and education.

And we soon discover that a forest, a falling leaf or a trip to the beach can teach us wonderful things too.

All of these things (and many more!) are our teachers.  Once we realise this as a society, then the sooner we can let go of our obsession that only ‘qualified teachers’ can tell us what we need to know.