The minute I heard about unschooling it made sense. Learn what you want, when you want, and how you want. The first time I heard about it was in this Nashville mommy blogger’s post where she bashes the idea. I read that post and it all clicked. All of my future children would be unschooled. Case closed. I never read or thought another thing about it.
Today I know a lot of families that allow their children to practice self-directed education (aka unschooling). And I have yet to meet someone that became a believer quite as quickly as I did (my Simply Sudbury friend, Catherine, excluded). Most of my friends found it to be a journey. The ideas made sense in some ways, but many wanted more research or literature. How do unschooled kids end up? Do they get jobs? Do they survive in the ‘real world’?
I’ve been marinating on this. Why, God, did it click so quickly and easily for me? Especially when you consider I was freaking amazing at school. If anyone was going to think school is awesome, shouldn’t it be me?
Then I read this blog post, Ours First, from ASDE by Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor Henderson.
Marginalized groups have been learning the world for a long time, and without school. Before and throughout this colonialist era, it is the way we learned to manage our food systems and organize communities. It is the way we learned to predict weather and navigate seas. It is the way we learned transportation routes and our stories. It is the way we learned ourselves and others. It is the way we learned who the oppressors really were, despite what they told us about themselves in their schools.
It is the way we learned to survive under Western colonialism and imperialism. And it is the way we will thrive beyond it.
Your people have been doing this – existing and resisting, learning the world and their freedom – for years and years. They’ve been doing it for themselves and with each other, and without school as we know it. Despite how the narrative is compiled around you, then, and despite whoever tries to sell you whatever is already inside of you, remember:
Self-directed education, the idea that you can trust that you’ll learn what you need, when you need, and how you need, made immediate sense to me because it’s what I grew up seeing.
My mom and grandmother are two of the smartest, most capable women I know. I look back at my childhood and I knew that my mom didn’t have an education in the formal sense, but she is smart. Yes, she has her ditzy moments, but even that I saw as a sign of her emotional intelligence and playing to the reality that acting like you’re dumb can buy you social goodwill. I think about how she got on a plane in her early 20s and moved to another country to marry a man she knew, but not really. I think back to my childhood and how she always made the world feel safe for us, how it always felt like she knew what she was doing. And she did this without google, yall! She figured stuff out because that’s what you do.
Then there is my grandma. She came to live with us when I was in 2nd grade. She worked all over Nashville, and would get all over town on the city bus. This alone makes me open my mouth in awe because public transportation can confuse the best of us. And even though she also doesn’t have a formal education, she’s so smart. She knows how to cure things, how to farm, how to engineer. I remember being in labor with Otis, hooked up to all kinds of machines monitoring this and that, and my grandmother squinting and looking at my fingernails to see how my blood pressure was doing. This world was never scary to her because she is a fearless problem solver.
So I guess these women, and really all of the amazing Filipinas I am blessed to know and love, were always a testimony to me. I watched them build entire, productive, full, blessed lives without ever getting a stamp-of-approval from a school. I watched them trust their instincts, abilities, and eventually God to navigate this world.
I ‘got’ unschooling so quickly because I already knew that unschoolers turned out just fine because, in a lot of ways, unschoolers raised me.