Unschooling, Community and Choosing to say Yes

horses and fairies

 

Fourteen children of varying ages troupe around here, sometimes together, sometimes in small groups. They are shoe-less school-less the sun is out and so are they. Their parents are all doing different things, some working, one making a cake, another on a business call, someone else is writing.  You are not allowed to walk across the verandah you have to ‘swim’over the rainbow fairies and the small horses. The small ones have turned it in to their ocean and swimming is what has been decreed. Yesterday our son was the leader of their pack, the small girls made him their king. My daughters have been running with the older kids, they go with them to the beach without parents and like to wrestle, although my girls are not quite sure about this and like to watch from the sidelines. They all speak different languages but they have one main language in common, unschooling.

We were invited to visit this group of people by a lovely family that we know. We initially said no. There is always a reason not to go, not enough money, too busy, not good timing etc but then two things happened. Somebody I knew from my past unexpectedly died way before his time, a lovely man. Then another lovely person I knew from my past ended up in intensive care and is now fighting for his precious life. My husband and I looked across at each other and said ‘We are going’ simultaneously. In that instant, once again we were reminded that this is it, this is the time we have now, this is their childhood, this is our short experience of parenting. Rarely have I heard of people on their deathbeds wishing that that they had had more money in their lives. Not actually fulfilling dreams, is a common complaint, or wishing that one had spent more time with the people that they loved and their families. As a wonderful woman I once knew said to me at the end of her life ‘I wish I hadn’t been so scared all the time, it wasn’t necessary and I wish I had more fun!

 

So here I am and right this minute the sky has opened and I am now using my car as my office. The rain is pitter patting down and I realize, not that it took much realizing, that we as a family are living outside of the societal norms. It is great to be with people who see our abnormal as normal. Who, when one of our kids falls over is there to support them as well, to show them the ropes, to teach them things that I may well not be able to teach them. Unschooling can be isolating, so living with other like-minded people this week has been fantastic. I do firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child and we as two parents are not enough. Our kids are learning from everyone and from each other.

 

It is easy to say ‘no’ and stay in your comfort zone, talking about comfort zones, I am not keen on camping and have been sleeping in a tent for the last week. The wind batters the tent at night and I have taken to going to bed in my coat. As the sun comes up and the birds wake us early each morning it becomes clear to me that the lilo we are sleeping on has gone down. When I get up from the bed I feel very creeky. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am glad that we actually said yes to this trip.

 

And to the two lovely people I mentioned at the beginning of this piece this is a thank you to you, for your gentle presence in this world and for reminding me how precious life is and that every day is a beautiful gift.

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About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid’s book by M.J. Amani called ‘Excuse Me, I’m Trying to Read’ and also ‘I am Me, You, Us and We’ by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony ‘Jump’, Fall, Fly – from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling’ Her art work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-

4 Enlightened Replies

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  1. What a lovely group! I’m a big fan of “yes” and it’s cousin, “why not?” It always leads somewhere more interesting!

  2. Nazneen says:

    Hi, I recently realised on occasion that I was imposing rules and societal norms on my child against his wishes and it made me sad inside. I wanted to say ‘yes, go ahead do it your way’ but reluctantly I followed all that I had been taught. Is there a middle ground? A best of both worlds? How did you start unschooling yourself? Your advice would be appreciated. Naz

  3. Hi Nazneen,

    I guess I would need more information so I can understand what you were referring to re imposing rules and societal norms. It is a great topic and thanks as you now have me thinking…there is, I think a balance and I often think the best rule of thumb for me within this process has always been to follow my instincts over and above what I think ‘unschooling’ should be. We started Unschooling mainly as we realized the children did not want to have me ‘teach’ them, it was a process, there was school, then a democratic school, then homeschooling, then the ‘aha’ moment which was they wanted to pursue their interests themselves and so we as parents had to rethink our approach, it is a long story!! We are nearly finished with our book ‘Unschooling the Kids’ where we go in to detail about how it all happened and is happening!! Thanks for being in touch and would love to know more about what was going on with your child and the rules you thought you were imposing. Am not one to give advice but am curious to know what I would have done in your situation and could share that with you if it would be helpful.

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