It was inevitable. Now that families have been holed up for weeks at home, some parents are finding that doing school at home is a slog. As a result, we’re beginning to see stories about parents deciding to ditch the curriculum, and the stress that goes with it, in favor of a more relaxed approach.
Case in point, Elizabeth Broadbent at ScaryMommy describes what’s happening in her household in a piece called “The Pandemic Has Turned Our Homeschooling Into Unschooling.” Meanwhile, a wonderful 13-year-old homeschooler I know just asked me to read an essay she wrote about her own experiences of “evolving” into unschooling, or as I like to call it, slow homeschooling.
These stories ring particularly true to me as I recall my own early experiences with homeschooling. Did I buy curriculum materials? Yes. Did I use them? I tried, but the vision I’d entertained of smooth, peaceful, effective learning did not turn out to be the reality. One of the purported benefits of homeschooling that I looked forward to was strong relationships with my kids, something power struggles over school work did little to foster. So I let go, and in doing so I gave myself room to observe. I, much like Broadbent, saw that my kids learned readily without me poking and prodding them with traditional, mainstream curricular materials.
As those early weeks unfolded, I began to understand that the most effective educator role I could take was to be a guide or facilitator, offering resources and materials, answering questions, providing love and support, and holding the reality that my kids were intelligent, competent, and capable individuals. That last thing was perhaps the most important. Not only did it help see me through when doubts crept in, it was always there for my kids to draw from, like a silent, invisible, sustaining core of truth.
Parents with kids home from school in these trying times have an opportunity to experiment, explore, and try things out for themselves. Whatever you care about, share it with your kids. If your kids express an interest in something, support it. Expose your kids to a lot of books, music, ideas, and stuff overall, because you can’t really predict what they’re going to latch onto. No matter their age, let them play as much as they want.
Finding out what works is a challenge taken on by every homeschooling family. Not having the wider community to engage with, and the resources available in the world at large to draw from, makes what families are facing now quite different and in many ways more difficult. In light of the fear, uncertainty, and isolation the current crisis is fomenting, I believe the flexibility, patience, and openness to possibilities that come with slow homeschooling can provide a balm for many families.