Getting to the core of un-schooling

May's guest blogger, Ruth Lera, writes about her decision to un-school her children.

Making choices outside of the cultural norm often has me contemplating the philosophical underpinnings of my life. My guess is that it wouldn’t surprise anyone to know that not sending your kids to school isn’t an easy choice. Even though we live in a remote area of Canada, 25 minutes from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, the nearest school is only a 10-minute drive away and still my kids never take that school bus ride. I often ask myself, ‘why don’t they get on that morning school bus to the local school?’

I guess if I was to get down to the true core belief system under all the layers of dogma and rhetoric I often spout about the un-schooling experience I would find the basic concept that life is good. Life is more then good, it is this great place we each get to wake up to everyday. Unfortunately, a very common belief system in our culture is that life is about struggle and difficulty and often we are actually addicted to this belief because we just don’t know anything else. For a long time I didn’t know anything else either. Truthfully, I think I am just starting to trust this core belief that, yes, life is good.

So, now that I have the gift of awareness that life is really good and I am feeling really grateful that I get to wake up each morning and breathe in oxygen and be here with whatever is going to happen, what do I want to happen? This is where the un-schooling journey begins for me. The best way I can explain the reason behind my choice to un-school is stating that life is interesting and there is learning everywhere. Our self-esteem and sense of being ourselves — and feeling the love of our family — is really what creates an environment in which children and adults alike can thrive and thriving is what I want for my family. So, therefore, we stay home together learning, loving and thriving.

This does not mean every moment is full of sweet smelling roses. Actually our days are filled with just as much sibling rivalry, spousal miscommunication, hair pulling, teeth gnashing and mentally counting down the minutes to bedtime as all of yours. However, my un-schooling approach is to see these experiences as the basis of growth and by exposing my children to the honesty of life — both pleasant and unpleasant — is just another example of life being interesting. Yes, this is the cup half-full perspective.

You see, I keep wondering if it is even possible to teach someone something. Does the teacher actually teach the information to the student? Or is a student in an open and receptive space and that information happens to be present and then a magical and beautiful thing happens — a student learns. More and more I believe that this receptive space is natural and organic and if we let people have the proper rest, nutrition and emotional support their biological body needs then the learning will grow just as a seed grows under the right conditions of sunlight, soil and water.

So more then my child’s teacher I see myself as their gardener. I ensure the rest they need is provided by getting them to sleep at a proper time and letting them awake at their natural pace. I provide them with healthy food, much from our own garden, and I expose them to all types of different experiences and information, including fascinating conversations and following up on their expressed interests. The rest is up to them. All the natural material needed to thrive is inside them, just like a seed, and I, as the gardener, only provide the environment.

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