Do you think we could stop using the word “homeschooling, ” or even “unschooling,” and create a better term?
I don’t know, but this has been on my mind for a few months, and I finally decided to voice my thoughts on this word.
“School” at it’s Root
The biggest concern is the root of both homeschooling and unschooling is school. This implies that school is the reasonable, proper, and correct institution in which children should be directed and lived.
It also insinuates that school is necessary to become an educated, competent member of society. So even if you don’t send your children to the institution down the street, you still need to employ similar methods and meet the arbitrary standards to ensure they can function in society.
School is New
School only became the norm for our society about 150 years ago. If you would like to know more about the advent of public schooling you can read most anything written by New York City’s 1989 Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto. Here’s a brief synopsis which can quickly bring you up to speed.
To think there was once a time when compulsory school attendance seemed so outrageous that people would actively resist, yet now it has become so accepted that anyone who withdraws is suspect and worthy of oversight.
Why is this?
As I was driving the kids around one day, this all became so clear to me. I was mourning my lack of freedom compared to other moms. There was no morning gym time followed by chatting at Starbucks with friends. I didn’t have an empty house I could clean without it being simultaneously destroyed. I couldn’t even make a phone call without being interrupted. Why did I do this?
Freedom for my children and myself.
Living without an Institution
So many adults view their years in school as “doing their time, ” and they aren’t going to now give up the freedom they have finally acquired to “school” their children. But are they free? The school still dictates so much of their lives.
When you live without this institution, you can take a trip when you want, sleep as late as you want, and live life as you see fit. While living your life as if school didn’t exist, it seems contradictory to assign it a “school” label.
Holt never felt the word “homeschooling” was adequate to describe the learning he was talking about—learning that didn’t need to take place at home nor look like school learning. John knew that many children want to be out in the world, to be in the community and learn the lay of the neighborhood because, like most healthy humans, they are social beings—it is in our nature to be social, curious, and to learn.
We all know what school is, what it looks like, sitting in rows, bells every fifty minutes, and grade point averages. This idea then impacts so much of learning with our children.
Many will attempt to replicate the institution of school within their home, which is often found to be difficult. Sometimes it is discarded when parents realize their home will never operate like a school and instead embrace learning in all forms. However, some parents feel as though they are homeschool failures. Their children don’t cooperate with the notion of school-at-home, and they feel as if their only option is to send the kids to school.
It also alienates those parents who like the idea of homeschooling, but feel they could never take on sitting around the table filling out workbooks. This feeling should give them pause. If they recoil at the thought of spending their days in that manner, perhaps school isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for children.
A New Era?
Have we entered a new era where we can discard the homeschooling label and find one that more accurately describes living a life of learning with your children? I doubt it. So much of our society centers around school and never questions its influence in our culture.
In the end, what matters is that I provide inspiration and opportunities for my children to learn and grow in a variety of settings. That I give them the space to grow at their pace, time to pursue their interests, encourage them to ask questions and facilitate decision making.
The only word I’ve found to accurately describe this is life.
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