Experimenting with unschooling

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However, when you think of school as the primary place for kids to spend a part of their day away from the parents, than what we are doing is unschooling, because right now, my daughter doesn´t go to any institution or day care.

Why would I want her home?

First, we just left a Waldorf kindergarten in Costa Rica. There´s no way back to traditional schooling and there´s nothing like that in  our small town in Brazil. It was just kindergarten, there was no curriculum involved. And yet, the free play and all the respect for the child´s choices were there. The room for rest was there too. The whole approach to the children was very holistic and personal.

Second, I´ve been reading about unschooling for 2 years now. It looks that play is what matters in childhood and school spoils that. And if I want to give unschooling a try during the school years, once she turns 6-7 and has to be officially enrolled in school (it´s sort of illegal to homeschool in Brazil), I have to figure out how to be with her for most of the time now.

Third is that I want to spend the mornings with my daughter. I enjoy her company in the morning the best. I´m not willing to stay away from her in the freshest most beautiful hours of the day. I want to remember waking up with my 5-year old with no rush.

How can I do it? (economically speaking)

Thankfully I own my house, I´ll rent a room soon and I work a bit online. I´ll give some Portuguese lessons and have Luísa stay at a friend´s house when I have to. I spend money minimally and I´m starting my own vegetable garden.

Can I do it? (technically speaking)

It´s frightening to have the only kid in town that doesn’t go to school. I learned to tell people that I´m interested in homeschooling and that I´m trying it out.
Some people get annoyed. A friend asked: ¨But are you doing any homeschooling with her at all?¨ So I said:¨Yes, I sit on the floor and play  with her a lot¨, I replied, ¨She´s only 5.¨

But I learned a better answer, I can talk about my curriculum with Luísa: languages, swimming and growing a vegetable garden.

For socialization, she gets to play with our 5-year old neighbor a lot and other children here and there.

It´s been only one month. I plan month by month (going for another now). I might still enroll her in the local kindergarten if I think it will be the best. But for now, it´s really great that we can spend our time together like this.

Is this the best for my daughter?

I wonder about this ALL THE FREAKING TIME. For now, absolutely yes, it´s the best. We are still transitioning from a life in Costa Rica with the Waldorf kindergarten and lots of girlfriends in her life to our house in Brazil, where it´s like getting to a new place and we need to make new friends.

It´s best that now we find our rythim in this new place together. We start our vegetable garden together, stablish new eating habits, visit friends and develop a new routine.

I´m skeptical about school

After all that I read about the agenda behind schooling and how best it is to have a child led learning  (impossible in a traditional school), I don´t feel comfortable sending her.

Yet, the local school is quite ok. Luísa would be put in a group with around 17 kids (4-5 year olds) that stay for 3 hours in a classroom and 1 hour outside playing. I don´t like this math. If it was the opposite: 3 hours playing and 1 hour in a classroom, I´d like it more.

What if she wants to go?

One day, Luísa was asking to visit two of her friends and I told her they were in school. She seemed interested, so I offered to bring her for a visit. And we went to check out the afternoon group.

The 4-5 year old kids were sitting in a circle in the class. One wall had a poster with the Alphabet and the teacher had another one with numbers. They were counting till 20.

The teacher and the assistant spent a lot of effort making sure the kids learned the numbers and didn´t start chatting or playing away.

I´m sure that´s not all the teacher teaches there. I know they sing a lot and play games too. In fact, another mom complained that when she saw the class they were ¨just playing with play-doh and not learning anything¨ But 20-30 minutes invested in couting till 20 seemed too much for me. I´m happy Luísa gets to play and do whatever she wants for a while longer (or a lot longer if we stick to unschooling).

Luísa wasn´t keen on staying there. She never mentioned school again.

I´m open to it though. I think unschooling is the best for now, but I could send her to school (while it´s still kindergarten), even though they teach letters to 4 and 5 year olds.

I´d like her not to learn traditionally to read and write before she is 7. This is coming from our Waldorf background, where reading before the age of 7 (or before teeth start to fall off) is discouraged.

There´s a lot of philosophy  behind this. Very shortly I dare to say that it´s about leaving the children to build their bodies and use all their strength in it, while early reading or early intellectualization can steal the strength of the early years that should be used in growing the physical body.

As for an unschooling inspiration, there are tons of stories on how it´s best to let a child learn to read on her own (or with help) once she is interested in it. You don´t need to teach reading. There´s no need in pushing this, just the same way as there´s no need in pushing a child to learn to walk or talk.

If my daughter is interested in it, than I´ll help her out, but if not, we can just wait. We might wait for the curiosity to hit her or just another coupple of months if staying home with her doesn´t work well. In this case, I´ll put up with the stuffing of knowledge in her mind and send her to school.

We could also use school to make more friends, so we can arrange more play-dates. I´m still considering our choices, but right now, having her with me is working just fine.

It´s a real privilege to spend time with my daughter and I´m really enjoying it (even though sometimes we go through an excess of that ).

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on July 29, 2012. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.


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