Letter to a Teenage Unschooler
by Beverley Paine
1 st December, 2003
Thanks for ordering The Teenage Liberation Handbook and Real Lives. I am sure you will find much that is familiar in both these books and that they will encourage you.
I think you've done a fantastic job with what you've done so far with your education. Too few young people feel confident (or desperate enough!) to take control of their lives. I admire your confidence, integrity and personal conviction. Walking a different path to your peers is not easy at this age, or at any age; it is often lonely and fraught with lingering doubts. Explaining and justifying that path is not easy either. I found it took me a decade to finally express in words what I knew to be right in my heart.
As a teenager I knew that something was deeply wrong with the education system and that it was failing the western world but I couldn't define the source of the problem. As a parent I tried educating my children but everything felt wrong, even when I didn't encounter resistance to my carefully prepared lessons from my children and they seemed happy and excited by our homeschooling program. We live a busy life and there were months when my children were young that we didn't do 'bookwork' at all: In these months my children learned just as much, if not more, as our more academically oriented months. My children, with never-ending patience, taught me the value of learning naturally.
I've included my Natural Learning booklet for free - it should help your parents understand this process. It took me years to define and articulate the process, but only because I was so well schooled, and indoctrinated by our cultural need for 'experts'. Most parents are so relieved to realise how easy it is to help their children learn whatever is needed to learn by simply being there for them, to answer questions, find resources, play and live with their children, watch telly with them, encourage them, reflect with them, and most important of all, converse with them. Once I've explained how to translate every day life, chores, work, hobbies, play and leisure activities into curriculum jargon parents eyes light up with understanding and excitement. The doubts and fears are gone; they feel empowered. But best of all, they learn to see their own lives as learning journeys and they banish the mistaken beliefs that they are failures, that they aren't good at learning, that they aren't clever or skilled enough to teach their own children.
My youngest has been totally unschooled. I love his sense of self confidence, his deep understanding of self, his rock-solid self-esteem. I admire his steadfastness to his convictions, his decisions to do what he wants to do when he wants to and not perform to please others unless he wants to. Without question or direction he does what he sees needs to be done each day. He often intuitively anticipates the needs of others and works to implements solutions without being asked. He is cooperative and helpful beyond expectation for a sixteen year old, as is his older brother. I feel blessed to have such caring and considerate, mature children but realise that it is the result of their unusual educational process: The opportunity to play LEGO for days on end has paid dividends beyond my wildest expectations!
I wish you all the best in life, take care,
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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