Officially deciding what we’d already unofficially decided.

For most families, homeschooling starts with a decision or, more accurately, a few decisions.

First, they decide to homeschool. I don’t know that it was a decision for us, so much. I mean, obviously, it was. But what it looked like was more of a discussion one day while Kai was asleep in the car and the rest of us (the three parents at the time) talked while we were stuck – mainly not moving – in traffic. I had always wanted to be homeschooled. Kai’s mother said that although she had a few concerns, which we talked through, she felt like homeschooling seemed like something that could work well for Kai. Joe had been homeschooled and that’s what he wanted for his son (though what he wanted homeschooling for Kai to look like was drastically different than it was for him in his childhood).

This leads to another homeschooling decision that was ultimately not officially decided until a few days ago: Method. I don’t remember where I heard about unschooling but I know that it’s what I thought would work best for Kai. It was agreed that we would “try it out” but, at the time, it was ultimately not a decisions that Joe and I could make. It was also up to Kai’s mother. She had some reservations. And we knew that, ultimately, if she took us to court regarding schooling, a judge would decide that we either had to use a curriculum or that Kai would have to go to public school.

What this meant was that I felt I had to “prove” that we what we were doing was good, was working, was, in fact, “better” for Kai than any other method of education.

But that meant that I could never “let go”, could not relax into the process. I could not learn to trust in unschooling – or in Kai – because “proof” was necessary. But unlike a lot of education methods, unschooling doesn’t always provide a stack of papers or a linear path, so it’s harder to “prove” at a quick glance.

It has been almost six months since Kai’s mother died. During that time, we’ve been “unschoolish”. But nothing was officially “decided” for any length of time. I’d oscillate between different things but always found myself coming back to unschooling.

Finally, a few days ago, I was once again talking with my husband, expressing fears and frustrations. I mentioned I’d started Kai on an activity that he found fun but then I’d insisted he’d finish it and that it took way longer to finish it than I thought it should have because he kept stopping to play with the pieces in another way. I said, once again, how it felt like we “never get anything done”. The whole thing, by the way, was a huge mistake. I should have let Kai just play with the stuff the way he wanted. What Kai was doing was even very obvious learning. But he wasn’t doing it in the way I’d wanted/expected nor was he doing it at the speed I’d wanted. I told my husband that maybe we need a curriculum, another method, whatever.

One of the many things that I love about my husband is that he’s a very patient man. He lets me work through things out loud when I need to. Finally, though, he said. “You just need to make a decision. All of this back and forth isn’t fair to Kai and it isn’t fair to you. You need to pick something and with it for a while, whatever it is. Give it a chance to ‘work’ long-term.”

So I did. I told him that, yes, we would unschool (he’s an even bigger proponent of unschooling than I am and doesn’t have a lot of the fears and worries that I often do) and I committed to do so for a long-ish period of time.

Instantly, a weight was lifted. It’s as if making the decision and committing long term freed me from the worries of trying to make sure I’d picked the “right” method.

Now, we have a path to move forward on. I’m looking forward to seeing where that path takes us.

Edited for clarity: We’ve been unschooling, except for brief excursions from it when I’ve handed him worksheets or whatever. This is more about committing to not waffle.

This post was written for the Write ALM February Prompt-A-Day. Today’s prompt was “First things first.”

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