To Homeschool or Unschool: Is that the Question?
When I first began unschooling, I had no idea that the process had begun. It began when my Liberian Immigrant parents chose to honor my passion for writing and dance by enrolling me in an art oriented high school program where the expectation was that all students would be able to choose a large percentage of their courses. The program of study at The Cambridge School of Weston had (and still has) requirements and some expectations of mastery in various areas of study, especially within the first two years of the program, but not one child in the entire school of over 200 at the time ever had the same exact schedule as another. That may sound striking, but if we consider the truth that every child has varying and completely unique needs at any given time, it becomes less surprising. I, myself, didn’t realize how powerfully that experience of having choice in my learning would propel me forward in so many ways throughout my life and career. I had no idea that setting the expectation that one could find meaning, joy, productivity, and sustainability by simply choosing to deeply devote one’s self to following one’s curiosities was a radical idea. But as I have traveled and worked in various educational and family-oriented structures and institutions, I have come to see exactly why this privilege is both a rare and needed opportunity that I have been compelled to share with others.
And because foundation informs formation, that early introduction continues to inform the way in which I work with and teach my children and support families who want to transform. I have never felt that I had to choose to be in one camp or another even after I learned how important these labels are to the boundary keepers. My refusal to be bound and my eclectic approach which focuses on effort and experimentation is something that I hope will allow people whose sincere goal is to challenge, inspire, and build curiosity and confidence within their children to feel at home. That is how I define my educational approach because children who love to learn, have self-efficacy, and remain curious inherently never stop learning whether in school or anywhere else.
And because it is my lived experience of being an unschooled student that has directed my path in the past twenty years, I know from experience that curiosity and love of learning will overcome perceived disability, inadequacy, fear, and all manner of obstacles. I knew this truth deeply even before I began to engage my children in these unschooling methodologies. So, despite being new to the world of parenting, I had already worked as Dorm Parent, an entrepreneur, an English teacher, an Academic tutor for students 5- 21, a caterer, a lactation counselor, and a Home Visitor, roles which all deeply inform my perspective.
But it was not until my role as a federal Home Visitor, that I was able to affirm the value of the unschooling approach. I learned then that the model Early Headstart uses to work with families enrolled in this program across the United States is one that focuses upon engaging caregivers to create a family success plan that is completely consistent with a hybrid homeschool/ unschool methodology. By helping families establish their own goals and then coaching them to reach those goals, Home Visitors essentially helped families to transform, not only by doing assessments and informing them of where we thought they needed to grow, but by providing support to help them actualize their own wishes.
It is a strategy that is universally successful with all kinds of adults, and there was not one family I worked with who didn’t make progress in reaching their goals with ongoing support, encouragement, and accountability using this approach. The Burst of Light Coaching program is going to ask you to stretch and have faith that very similar strategies could work for you in being a better partner with your child/children in their learning. This shift is truly about letting go. Letting go of power. Letting go of rigid expectations. Letting go of keeping up with the Jones. Letting go of worry. Letting go of the idea that your child might fail. Letting go of the idea that learning must be hard or stressful to be successful.
Instead, my goal is to help you find that happy middle: that place where you can learn to trust that if you create an environment that gives your child space to learn and grow, you can be sure that they will engage with it. They may not engage completely as you define it. They may not do all of the tasks in the time frame or order that you expect. But making a lifestyle shift that centers ongoing learning and that doesn’t demand intense periods of study which are only balanced with extended moments of escape is the goal for many. Indeed, learning from our environment, technology, relationships, books, family meals, and art are the foundations upon which we build the opportunity for our children to engage deeply. And while being able to affirm and set up your kitchen table and living room as an educational lab is important, that is only the beginning. Being able to transform our hearts and minds into a flexible and supportive engine that can bear witness to our children’s growth is key. Because our goal at Burst of Light Coaching is not simply to do everything our children did at school at home. Nor is our goal to send them into our backyards and allow them to run free and pray that all will end well. There is a middle ground in which we set up the environment, observe, and apply resources as requested or needed to extend the learning that is surely already happening. If this hybrid approach sounds like it might be a match for your family, and you seek support to transform and deepen your family’s homeschooling practice and partnership, I hope you will be in choose to be in touch here.