When I talk about unschooling, I always get the same questions. Why do we do it? Wouldn’t my family be so much better off if I were working instead? Wouldn’t I get so much more done if my kids were in school? How do I have any free time? Aren’t I doing a disservice to my children because I can’t offer them the same opportunities that wealthier homeschooling families can provide?
I’ve had to think a lot about those answers. Yes, our family would be a lot more financially stable if I were to put the kids in school and get a job, at least in theory. I don’t think I’d get anything more done. Actually, I think I’d have a lot less free time. Sometimes I do wonder if my kids would be happier if I could provide more opportunities for them outside the house, more traveling. However, the one thing I never question is why I do it. I love my kids and I love the time I spend with them.
Sure, I’ve heard all the reasons people homeschool. They can provide so much better of an education than the school system. The school system indoctrinates children into a lifestyle that we should not be striving for and is simply there to subjugate the public, make them into a docile work force. I can rattle off the banter just as well as anyone else, but the way I look at it, what good is it? Why should I be making my argument about how bad the school system is and how much of an injustice it does to our children? Other people are out there to fight that battle. I’m not the voice of change in the world. I do much better simply living by example, a peaceful and quiet revolution than to be marching forth with the battle cry of all those who believe the system is doing wrong by our country’s children.
I can make the financial argument too. If you think about all the costs associated with school it’s not so cheap anymore. First there’s the obvious cost everyone knows about, school supplies. I tallied up the school supply cost for my daughter and it turned out to be well over a hundred dollars in school supplies alone! Then there’s new clothing. My daughter could probably get away with hand-me-down and second-hand clothing for school, but I haven’t had such luck with my boys. Boys tend to get things too dirty or rip them, so finding second-hand stuff of quality for school isn’t easy. I know. I’ve looked. That can mean expensive new clothes if I can’t find anything. I can’t even buy new or used and hand it down through my boys because my oldest is so rough that there isn’t going to be much to hand down for much longer. Ripped jeans and well-loved shirts are fine for my boys when they’re at home, but that’s not going to really work so well in school. I could easily spend $400 per child on a school wardrobe each year. I also just found out that they make you pay to take the in-town bus. It’s somewhere between $15-35 per month per child. Each child is slightly discounted, and there are discounts for low income families. Even so, sending all my kids to school would work out to be $87 per month for them to take the bus. I could walk them to school but my kids will never attend the same schools by the way the classes are broken down and the ages of my children. One would be in elementary, one in the intermediate school, one in middle school, and one in high school. It would be impossible to walk them all and I couldn’t imagine driving to four different schools and getting them all there in time. It certainly wouldn’t be easy and would end up costing a good deal in gas, probably more than paying for the in-town bus fees. Then there’s also unexpected costs, like field trips, class parties, and who knows what else.
All of those are good reasons to homeschool, but those aren’t my reasons for doing it. My reasons to unschool are so much simpler. You see, it really comes down to that issue of time and our schedules. I like to joke that I unschool because I’m too lazy to do anything else! Maybe that’s not so far from the truth.
Every morning we get up whenever we feel like it. Generally I’m up around 7:30 and the kids are up an hour or two later, all depending on when they went to bed the night before. They make themselves breakfast because I’m not allowed to. They enjoy doing it too much, and if you ask my older two, I make everything wrong. They know what they want and how they like it, so they go to it. Generally this means cereal and milk. Even Sander yells “I do it! Sander do it!” if I try to make it for him. I generally get online to check my e-mail in the morning before the kids wake up, then kick around the net until the kids wake up, all the while with Luca in my lap. Admittedly, I don’t eat much in the way of breakfast. I usually graze through the morning on whatever sounds appealing. The morning is usually spent with the kids playing or working on some crazy art projects. Sometimes the neighbor comes over and he and I hang out while the kids play with his dog, Nirvana. In all of this Corde finds time to feed and water her cat, and sometimes remembers to scoop the litter box. Sometime around noonish we all decide that we’re hungry so we all decide what we want for lunch. My daughter likes to make tuna sandwiches or Ramen noodles. She thinks the noodles are extra interesting because we’ve devised a way to make them without having a stove or microwave. She thinks it’s the coolest thing ever, so that’s what she likes to eat. The boys tend to like hot dogs or lunch meat sandwiches. Again, I’m not allowed to help unless they ask for it. They know how they like it. Corde generally gets her video gaming in during the afternoon and Luca gets his hang-out time with the other boys. He likes to lay on his belly, sometimes naked so he can air out. Oz gets home and generally kicks the kids off the game system so he can play and they all go running off to their room. He sometimes has friends over to game with him. At some point we have dinner. Many nights we make a family meal, but the kids know what they’re interested in eating. Sometimes they eat with us. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes my daughter has been playing video games and doesn’t eat until 10:45 at night! Then the kids generally either fall asleep watching a movie or they all pile into a tent they construct in my daughter’s room and pass out while playing camping, pirates, or whatever else. Recently it’s been Peter Pan, Wendy, and the lost boy, only one because Luca’s not old enough to sleep in there yet. Oz is generally the first to sleep, then the baby and I soon after.
Did you notice a few things lacking in there? There was no formal lessons. The kids do much of their own thing. If you were take that at face value, you’d think the kids did their own thing all day and I ignored them. Of course, that’s not filling in the details. I’m asked a million questions a day. My children have to show me every cool thing they invented. Corde needs help with this and that on her game. She has to talk about everything that’s going on in her game. Corde is currently working on a cross-stitch project, her first one, and needs my help. Then there’s all the stops for diaper changes and nursing the baby. Sander needs frequent cuddles when he gets frustrated. We’re just not living life on a schedule, aside from Sundays. We’ve gotten some great new traditions for Sundays. Hidden underneath all of that are all kinds of educational opportunities. Best of all, I spend the whole day with my kids, aside from when I go off for a little bit of me time here and there, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
School would completely mess that up. Not only would it cut into my own schedule and my time for myself, but it would also take away so much time that I spend with my kids. Why would I want to do that? When I need time to myself I can just walk away, or let Oz watch the kids while I go for a walk to the corner store. I can work on a project while sitting right beside my kids. I can be writing on my computer while watching the kids play video games (like now). It’s amazing how much more time I have because my kids are home. I can get so much done while doing things with them at the same time, and we all feel more fulfilled as a result.
That’s my real reason for unschooling. It has nothing to do with all the benefits and all of that. It just gives me the best opportunity to have a good relationship with my kids. Beyond that, nothing else truly matters.