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Unschooling: the weight of expectations
by Beverley Paine, Aug 2019
Letting go of the need to be defined by others is where I'm at, what I am continuously working on in my life.
Some days it is easy to define myself as a unschooler - heck, I really live the unschooled life, my whole family does and has done for decades.
But if I capture a few moments here, or an hour there, or even a whole day, it can look anything but unschooling in nature.
Or I can take something I said, either a stand-alone comment or a response and pull it apart and cringe because it sounds completely opposite to my unschooling or permaculture or other much cherished beliefs and values.
It's a bit like when I buy fish and chips... I generally don't eat fish because I am totally ethically opposed to it because of the over-fishing situation, and I watch my weight and I prefer to eat organic and so on and so on, but heck, some days I buy fish and chips.
I use the excuse I'm human. It's human to err, right? And then I beat myself up mentally, again. But I still buy the fish and chips again. Because learning for me is slow and arduous, frustrating a lot of the time, exciting all of the time.
I find that belonging to a community, or a social group, a group of friends, even family can be draining. And I've worked out it is because of the weight of expectations that not only others place on me, but also my assumptions about what I think those expectations are, as well as the expectations I place on myself. About who I 'should' be, what I 'should' be doing, and how, etc.
I have learned that I need space to find and be comfortable with me, who I am, how I define myself. I need to stop being responsive to the needs of others and attend to my needs.
This need to have others define me, affirm me and my purpose, my worthiness, is HUGE in me. And it a learned behaviour - and can be unlearned. It forms the main part of my ongoing deschooling process.
For almost six decades I've relied and depended on others to supply that. I've looked to others to say it is okay for me to be who I am, whatever that is in this moment, or in the past or future.
This deschooling process is endless for me... perhaps not though. I'm making space and time to be okay with what I think about myself, my life, what I'm doing, and what I'm going to do next.
We're all learners. We're all a bit fractured and insecure. I tend to think that people who aren't don't tend to hang out in online support groups. We're in there because we need something and we think we can get it from each other.
Bottom line: it's nice to be part of a support group but ultimately, the support we each need and crave comes from within.
Perhaps we didn't get the kind of parenting we're offering or attempting to offer our kids. And we're not even sure what we're doing will pay the dividends we're hoping for. Some of us stay seeking reassurance or answers by people like me who've been there, done that and have the awesome kids to show for it.
But we all have awesome kids and they'll be awesome adults soon. And that isn't because of how we educate or parent them, it's because they are already simply awesomely awesome. And trusting that is the bottom line in unschooling.
Do you trust your children to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn - not what or when or how you or anyone else wants them to learn it - but them?
Do you trust yourself to learn whatever it is you need to learn right now? On one level I confidently answer YES, on another level, the answer is a definite NO.
Does that make me an unschooler? It makes me a learner.
It's not easy, there is no right or wrong here, there is just a passion for becoming open and authentic, vulnerable, honest and from that, begin to repair the damage not being trusted as a learner, as a person in my own right, sdaly occurred during my early life.
I am different from the woman who lives next door, the shop owner down the street, my dad, most of my friends: very few people I know home educate let alone unschool! I've been incredibly blessed to have talked to thousands of home educating parents over the years and seen what we all have in common: our passion for our children's well-being.
Learn to let go of those assumptions, the weight of those expectations. Learn to trust. Unschooling gets easier when we do.
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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.
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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