My Unschooling Fears

When I first began this path of living consciously with children, I figured there would be a time in our future where I would have dismantled all the barriers I needed to dismantle but instead I am feeling increasingly less certainty that society is moving in this direction with me. You see what I failed to consider was that as my children age, societies expectations grow for them and no, they don’t seem ready to give them up at all. In fact I keep seeing evidence that they instead want to increase them. Fuck.

A 5 year old person who cannot independently read is generally acceptable. Even at 7 there are many who are “educated about Finland” as I call it and are still comfortable enough with the situation. And then support speedily falls into concern as we move out of the realms of at least somewhere, in some school there would be a lot of children who have yet to learn to read too. Eventually it becomes so confronting, people start demanding you address it, they feel it their civic duty in fact to do so.

I do not care when or even if my children learn to read. If you can learn it at 5 or 7, you can learn it at any age IF you want to. And if you don’t, what’s the point knowing anyway? There are people who say I’m missing out never sky diving but you don’t miss something you don’t want. What I care about is that they, as all children deserve, have the space and support to make their own discoveries, in their own time from their own desires and needs. And how they personally feel about it all, nobody else.

But the time for this to be naturally protected by even the most progressive areas of society is running thin. It’s not fair to children, it completely stinks that people think it their place to interject in ways that compromises a child’s personal process and ownership of learning all for their own comfort and ego. I cannot allow this to happen.

The hilarious thing is that another person’s concern does not alter our reality, my children will not suddenly read because somebody deems that they “should” and I’m not about to disrespect my child for the comfort of others so it is pointless… what it can change is the child’s perception of the situation and really, how can it be care at all to inspire somebody to feel shame? I expressed as much when we were breastfeeding longer than people expected and there came concerns about my child being an obvious target for bullying if we did not wrap it up soon. But to concern with such and in fact, to stop based on such is to perpetuate the perception that drives the entire concept. There is nothing shameful about breastfeeding and a child doesn’t grow into shame unless those they care about project it, a child does not think to shame another unless they have been socialised to do so. It is not the circumstance, it is the culture. And this is true of academics also, of everything. There is no inherent shame in not knowing something regardless of age and the current expectations other’s might have for you, and I will fight tooth and nail to live that truth louder than whatever anybody else tries to suggest. But how many pitchforks can our bubble withstand?

And the hardest part is that some don’t even realise that they are contributing. They will read this and dismiss it as not relevant because they’re simply encouraging! But it’s undermining a child’s confidence in their own capabilities and setting them up for learning dependence to suggest with opinion or behaviour that they are not able to do something without overt external involvement and assessment. It completely robs them of the one opportunity they have to do this themselves. They will never have this moment again.

So I am scared. Not of my child’s capacity to learn that which they desire or need, not of being judged for it says more of their circumstances and fears than our own reality, not of our ability to navigate negativity together because of the relationship and openness we have. I am scared of people who care more about a skill than the child, of a society where that cares more about a skill than a child, I am scared that the world continues to lean into such rather than pull away from it.

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  1. We experience a similar issue with our kids having their shoes on the ‘correct feet.’ Just about every other month, a ‘concerned’ adult alerts me to the fact. The more hilarious ones wait with bated breath for me to tell the kids to change their shoes over, (which I of course don’t.) Some of them then try to save face for both of us by backing up, looking at the shoes again, telling me they might be wrong, looking again, and then saying, no, now they’re certain those shoes are on the wrong feet. To which I reply, “Hunh, would you look at that,” as they once again wait for the inevitable shoe changing, that once again doesn’t happen 🙂

    I don’t have the time, or the patience to explain to them that I now have two kids aged five and four who can reliably get their own shoes on without me messing with it. Not to mention that both of them can easily walk a mile without getting winded. Plus, I don’t figure they’d appreciate all my bragging 😉

  2. Our daughter is 15 yrs old. She’s been unschooled since she was 9 yrs old. She didn’t learn to read until just before she was 12 yrs old. Hmmm…I was just about to write about what she reads now…but that would be me going into some kind of justification of the age she stared to read and I’ve had an enough of justify anything to anyone anymore, espeically my children’s natural learning process. Our son is 9yrs and not interested in learning to read. We get a lot of shit from his grandmother, luckily we don’t see her much.

  3. Our children didn’t learn to read until around the age of 12, and they love reading now, I made it a ‘thing’ for a while and then they told me to stop it, so I learnt from them and thankfully they are now happy avid readers, who LOVE books. I think that you are making the space for them and for the learning to unfold, so how wonderful is that!! What a joy for them to have you have faith in them and their reading journey! May you confidently know deep inside the gift you are giving them and let the rest fall away.

  4. :(:(:( I am so with you on this one!!! My newly 11yo still has little to no interest in reading. Although she can. It’s just far below “school standard level”. It’s sad that so many people are so blind to recognizing the intelligence of each individual child as an individual!

  5. Thanks for sharing…..
    My daughter left school two weeks into 4th grade. After being humiliated by her teacher for not being able to read as well as the other children in her class.
    Setting up “special” testing and looking for something “wrong” with her.
    We have now been unschooling for 3 years. My daughter reads all the time! She found her way naturally. With no stress or comparisons to any one.

    It took me a few years to de/ unschooling myself, trying to loose the preconditions of school. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night worried that she is missing something by not being in school.
    Now I wake up….thankful that I get to spend so much time with such an amazing person!!!

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