Sunday, May 26, 2013

Believing in Unschooling, Part 3

It appears that there are indeed Catholic families who practice radical unschooling, and they are not so dissimilar in their philosophy from non-Christian, radical unschoolers. I admit, however, that the internal struggle is still there. I vacillate from feeling the JOY of embracing unschooling and the creeping FEAR of...I don't know--the unknown? Worry about what other people will think? Worry that it won't work, and my child will "fall behind"?

It is summer, which is the perfect time to practice unschooling, when the public schools are closed and most homeschoolers are taking a break from academics. But I don't want to spend the whole summer with the spectre of what will happen in the fall haunting the back of my mind. The most logical thing to do, it seems, is to go from the known to the unknown--a basic Montessori principle. I know that my whole family is more joyful, and all of the relationships in our home have already improved, since I have increasingly focused on the ideas Dayna Martin puts forth in Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun. Just the night before last, for instance, it was getting late, and Beezy decided to rearrange her dollhouse. At first I wanted her to hurry up and put the things away so she could go to bed, but then I added, "but take your time!" She went from looking discouraged to feeling grateful. I respected her need to be doing that project at that moment, and it didn't take her long to finish.

My background as a Montessori teacher provides not only a philosophical touchstone, but a practical one; that is, how exactly might one apply Montessori principles to unschooling? Here is how it worked:  Children in my classroom would be asked if they would like a "presentation" of a particular "work", and they were free to either accept or decline. Most of the time they happily joined in the lesson. I think this approach could be successful with homeschooling lessons as well. Children naturally want to be able to do the things that they see adults and other children doing, and they enjoy having the attention of their parents.

Take a goal I have regarding the Faith. I would like to instill a routine of morning prayers and an evening Rosary. I can simply let my husband and daughter know that I am going to do these things and invite them to join me. They can either accept or decline the invitation. I do agree with unschoolers that internal motivation is much more effective in the learning process and in accomplishing anything in life in general, than the threats of punishment or disapproval hanging over one's head. Montessori used the word seduce, which in Victorian times meant to entice the child to wish to participate. The teacher sits on the floor with a project she is obviously very interested in doing, and the children will flock curiously to her side.

What do you think? I think it's an experiment worth trying, not just for the sake of the children, but for the sake of families. What if radical unschooling (which in it's best form could be called mindful parenting) could bring back the family as God intends it to be, the foundation and bedrock of a healthy, loving, thriving, peaceful, mutually supportive society? Wouldn't it be nice? Yes, but I don't think it is merely something that would be just great but is already too lost to be retrieved from the rubble.  It is possibility.  It is freedom.  It is hope.

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