Super Excelling Unschool Grads Anyone?
by Beverley Paine
The other day, on the support group, Lisa said, "The stories you hear of super-excelling home-ed students seem to come from
curriculum-based parents...who agrees?"
Stories are just that, stories. When we first began homeschooling I would get
Growing Without Schooling and it would inspire and discourage me. Back then the
only homeschooling stories you read were the success ones, the musical or
mathematical protégé who benefitted from an unschooled environment, or the
unschooler that read nothing but maths books, or the literary genius that had
published by the age of 15.
My children were ordinary, average. They still are. Plus, they aren't ambitious!
No super-excelling unschooled grads here!
Does this make them failures? Yes, if you judge them by the same criteria by
which schooled graduates are judged. My children aren't moulded to the myths
permeated by stories for the last 200 years.
Think about all the stories - fiction - you read as a child as well as all the
TV shows and movies that depict children and young people. Nearly all of them
parade the extroverted, talented child as the ideal. Anyone watch Spy Kids last
night? See what I mean? Kids are not allowed to be normal or average. If they
are they are declared not to be reaching their 'potential', whatever that
Why do we only hear stories about super-excelling home-ed students from
curriculum based homeschooling programs? Because it is reassuring. Yes, if you
teach your children at home and use curriculum (which is how children learn in
school) your children will do just as well, if not better, or MUCH better, than
schooled students. Families new to homeschooling, and those along the path,
want and need that reassurance.
Who wants average, normal children? Not many people... Most people can't wait to
ask a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's painful and
endless for teens. They are expected to pursue whatever interests they have and
make an art form out of it, end up earning buckets of money (which is how our
society measures success), or 'knuckle under and get a real job' and start
putting away money into superannuation!
Replies from four years olds "I'm going to be a truck driver" are tolerated,
but if a fourteen year old says it, woe!
Most super-excelling unschool grads are getting on with doing what they love, quietly and confidently.
Their parents have long realised that it's no big deal. They don't have the
same investment in their children's education that someone who has spent
thousands of dollars on curriculum and books over almost 12 years may have.
When I would worry about my children playing LEGO forever it would help to remember that people used to look at my four year old breast feeding and ask me if I was worried that he would breast feed forever! As if!
However, and because I'm me, I always add a 'however', it really does help to ask 'why'. Why is my child at home? What is it we're trying to achieve here? Why do schools teach in the way that they do? When I start asking lots of questions it doesn't take long before the answer I need to soothe my worries appears.
Your child might not be the person you pictured her or him to be when he or she turns 18. He might not head down the paths you would have wanted him too. As a parent you tend to follow, offering support and guidance, rather than dictating what should and shouldn't be. Some things you don't budge on - family, religious and lifestyle values, perhaps, but with other things you're more pliable as you
help your child grow into herself, not some image of who she 'should' be.
This is natural learning.
I always asked myself 'why' - why am insisting that my son learn this now, or at all? If I couldn't come up with a logical answer that made sense for both of us right now I couldn't insist on the 'lesson' at all.
How do kids brought up this way 'turn out'? One word: impressive. But don't expect them to 'fit' into ordinary society because it just doesn't measure up to their expectations - these youngsters tend to be quiet achievers or leaders, making life fit them, not the other way around.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
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 supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since 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. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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