This was originally written when my oldest was 6 years old, my middle girl was 19 months and my 3rd girl was but a dream. 🙂
I remember unschooling my oldest daughter Jaiela before I even knew what unschooling was. It was just a natural thing for us – like breathing. I was in college in Florida when she was born and was very active in both the drama club and opera ensemble. It was nothing to come to rehearsal and see me on stage leaking through my nursing pads because of the crying baby in the wings, or with a script in one hand and my nursing baby in the other. As she grew we enjoyed laughing, reading, singing, acting, dancing, cooking, baking, operas (both adult and children’s), library storytime, frequent trips to the beach, and so much more. I soon began to dread the day we’d have to stop and send her off to school.
One day at some sort of expo, Jaiela, then two, began to talk with a little boy of about eight. After his mother had watched them for some time, she came to me and said “You homeschool, don’t you?” I had no idea what she was talking about and asked her, and to my delight, she was a homeschooling mom. We exchanged information, and I immediately left the expo and searched out every book I could find on homeschooling. I was so excited; I didn’t have to send my daughter off to school after all.
To my dismay, I did have to place my daughter in daycare off and on until she was four years old. While there, we experienced a myriad of problems. She was two at the time, and as a result of a helpful set of three-year-old twins, she quickly moved from being in training for the potty to being fully potty-trained. So, she was moved from the two-year-old class – and away from her new best friend – to the class of three-year-olds whose room was conveniently located next to the bathroom. In a matter of months, she was moved from the three-year-old class to the four-year-old class because she knew the material being taught. At that point, things began to get strange; all the children treated her as if she were a baby, and my once self-stated “big girl” began to act like a baby, something that was completely out of character. I was able to take her out in the middle of this confusion and have her home again.
Some months later, we moved to Washington, D.C., and again I had to place her in a school. I felt absolutely terrible every morning during the year that she was enrolled; however, I was able to get a real glimpse of what “school life” would be like as a parent. One thing that had me particularly horrified was the field trips. Whenever there was a field trip, I managed to take off from my job or go in late so that I could accompany the class. While on various trips, I learned how little the teachers minded the children in their care. I remember that during an outing to the zoo, a teacher had to keep up with four children, but one boy often let go of another boy’s hand, and the teacher never noticed. At one point, I witnessed a family that was not part of the group bringing the boy back to the teacher. Later, the teacher looked back, and the little boy was holding the hand of a complete stranger, walking merrily along. I also remember bringing my daughter to school one morning to find a teacher screaming a child’s name; she’d lost the child! When she saw me, she asked if I’d seen him, and my first thought was to run out of that building with my child as quickly as I could. At that point, my husband and I began searching for a date that I could take her out, quit my job, and come home for good.
As if that weren’t enough, other problems soon arose. Jaiela would often complain about not being able to do the things she wanted to do at the times she wanted to do them. She loved math and hated when “math time” was over, and she was forced to move on to the next subject. She began to beg me to take her out. It was absolute agony. To make matters worse, I received a progress report that seemed to describe a totally different child. It was very apparent that her teacher knew nothing of her capabilities. She stated that Jaiela could not do things that we did together all the time. I became desperate, and knowing I couldn’t quit, I asked my boss if I could change my schedule to four ten-hour days a week, Sunday through Wednesday. He immediately replied no, stating that it just wasn’t done and he could get in trouble. However, with my persistence and ingenuity, I was working my Sunday through Wednesday schedule in two weeks. I was much happier knowing that Jaiela would only have to go to school three days a week, but my husband and I still discussed taking her out, altogether. Eventually, we settled on September of 2002, and that was the last Jaiela saw of school. The first week in October I quit my job, and we’ve never looked back.
During the first year, we deschooled ourselves and just lived. The next year, though, I became nervous, bought a packaged curriculum, and bored Jaiela witless. Luckily, I quickly came to my senses and sold most of it. When I saw that she learned better without it I figured hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve been happily unschooling ever since.