If I had been Unschooled

I still know the Girl Scout Pledge by heart.

I think, absolutely, that unschooling is for everyone. I do not think there is only one type of person who could benefit from being allowed to follow their own interests rather than following a path pre-determined for them by a group of people they have never met.  For the record, I also do not think that unschooling has to mean that you never go to school.  There are many ways that unschooled children may find themselves in a classroom.

I liked school as a small child.  I have very fond memories of attending pre-school in a trailer, and of my elementary school in Hawaii (where we walked outside to get to our classrooms, not in fluorescent lit hallways) as well as my elementary school in New York.  I remember making occupation puppets in 1st grade (I made a female trash collector.) I remember my 3rd grade teacher reading aloud to us from a chapter book ghost story that I still think about ALL THE TIME.  I have quite a collection of little memories like these which make me look back fondly at the years I spent in grade school.

Middle school and high school hold some similarly pleasant memories.  I was involved with lot of after-school activities in High School, and held office in a number of clubs.  One of my proudest moments (still) was winning a journalism award from the New York Press Association for an article I wrote in the school paper.  I didn’t even know that my teacher/adviser had entered me until she got the letter saying that I had won and chased me down in a hallway to share the good news.

But, there are other things I remember, too. I remember having nightmares about unfinished homework in 2nd grade.  (Jem and the Holograms were roller skating around me taunting me with a marble notebook.)  I remember being teased and bullied in Middle and High School.  I remember having an anxiety attack during a math exam and being carried out of the room.

I do not think “school” is evil.  In fact, 87.5% of my and Todd’s immediate family members work or have worked in education (I did that math by googling, not because I remember learning how to calculate percentages…) and that includes both me and Todd.  I imagine that Margot will, at some point in her life, attend some sort of school.  But, I hope that when she does it will be her choice and she will be enrolling in school to follow a passion of hers.

I also wish, very much, that I had been unschooled as a child.  I had a bit of a lazy streak (still do), so I’m sure I would have given my parents a bit of a panic at some points had I been an unschooler. I may have engaged in quite a lot of laying about.  But, also, I would have read.  As a young person I had a plan to read every book in the library. I would go each week and pick a random book off of the shelf, and then the next week I would pick a random book off the shelf one shelf down, and so on.  Maybe, if I had been allowed unlimited time to lay around reading, I would have made a bigger dent in the Pearl River Public Library.

For what it’s worth, I just asked Todd what he would have done if he had been unschooled and he says “I would have spent more time riding my bike through the woods and building dams in streams.”  Which makes me feel like kind of a nerd for saying “I would have tried to read every book in the library!”

But, that’s kind of the beauty of it all, right?  That instead of little Todd and little Alexsis being sat down in a room to learn exactly the same things in exactly the same way, we would have both been doing the things that we loved and learning the whole time in our own way.  We both still would have learned to read and write and do simple arithmetic.  I might have learned more about history through reading, and Todd might have learned more about engineering by taking apart bicycles.  And those skills that we learned would have served us well and would have been meaningful and, therefore, well-remembered.

I don’t think my parents made a bad choice by sending me to school (Hi Mom and Daddy, I love you! You DID A GREAT JOB!! Look how amazing I am!!).  And my parents have always been extremely supportive and enthusiastic about anything that interests me. But, I will always wonder “what if?”  What if I had been given that unlimited time to read and write? Would I have written the great American novel by now?  Would I have the career I always dreamed about as a professional writer? Or, would I be writing a blog just like this one all the same?  And I guess now I will wonder the same things about Margot.  What if we had decided to send her to school?  Who will she become and how much will the choices we have made for her influence that person? And, what will she choose to do all day?

Right now it’s looking for bugs and painting all over her body.

As for me, I’m still trying to read every book in the library…

Disclaimer: this is not actually the library.

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