Unschooling in Response to Your Families Needs

-Guest Blog Post by Joanne Chorlton-

Please join me in welcoming Joanne Chorlton as our next guest blog writer:

Hi I am Jo, I am a 49 year old ex teacher. I am now at home full time, looking after my son and my husband, as well as working for our personalised gift business. I have ADHD, I love to read, sew, knit, crochet, bake, play video games like Pokémon Go and Animal Crossing, and any other activity that takes my fancy! I live just outside Eastbourne, on the South Coast of England. I am a Christian.

I am married to Adrian, another ex teacher, now retired due to long term health conditions. He has 4 grown up sons from a previous marriage. We have one 6 year old son, Simon. We also have 2 grand children. Simon spends lots of time with his aunty and grandma who are both very supportive of our unschooling journey.

Welcome to the LivePlayLearn guest blog post series. This series aims to share with you a diverse selection of families who are traversing the paths of life and learning with an unschooling mindset. The aim is to showcase how unschooling principles can be effectively implemented across the broad spectrum of lifestyles and yield a life of peace, joy, and learning. As well as this, participants will be sharing with you the stumbling blocks that have been overcome along they way, and the glorious variety of interests and activities that children access when they are living a life without school. I hope that it brings peace and encouragement to you.

Simon didn’t go to nursery as I was childminding and it seemed silly to spend money sending him off, when he could socialise and do similar things at home. Adrian suggested home education when it was time to start looking for schools. We both had concerns about the narrowness of the curriculum, and the pressure that is on both kids and teachers. Although we did visit the local schools, and they were fine, we just felt they weren’t right for our family. I read a lot about Charlotte Mason, and although I liked things about it, I wasn’t sure it was the best fit for my son. Where I live there is a big home education community, and I had met several parents who were considering home education at toddler groups. Some of them were talking about unschooling so I did some research, including reading some John Holt and following various folks, like Heidi.

We did try a more formal approach for a while, simply because that was what I knew from 15 plus years in the classroom, but it didn’t seem to suit my son who probably has ADHD like I do. (Actually, this is why I sought a diagnosis, as I read about it and thought hmm, that sounds like me!) It was a big step to abandon the security of a curriculum, to start on the deschooling journey for myself and Adrian, and to embrace the unschooling approach. This is still a work in progress as we learn what works for our family and all our various needs!

My son is currently interested in Pokémon, although the past year has also included Minecraft, Lego Ninjago and knights! Pokémon is everything at the moment, so we are supporting it by buying the Pokémon comic and sitting down together to do the activities. We also bought a Pokémon Trainers Journal which has activities in it, plus a couple of drawing books. He watches the TV shows and movies, listens to audio books and we play Pokémon Go which is installed not just on Mum and Dad’s phone, but also Aunty’s! Simon loves to talk about his interest, so we allow time and space for that, including showing his collection of cards and plushies to our friends.

He also likes to visit the local comic bookstore and toy shop to see what they have and has struck up a friendship with one of Aunty’s friends, who also likes Pokémon! He loves to play imaginative games with the friends from the unschooling co-operative that we belong to. We basically give him as much time and space and resources to follow his interest as we can manage, and work alongside him, as well as encouraging independent play and learning.

I love being able to support Simon to pursue an interest. A classic part of ADHD is hyperfixation on something, and unschooling gives time and space to pursue a hyperfixation until it runs it’s course, and I can remember feeling very frustrated about not being able to focus on what I wanted. Being able to provide that for Simon is amazing. I love the breadth of opportunity, the flexibility to have a easier or busier day. I really appreciate that he has time to develop without pressure to do it to a timetable. I also like not having to do the school run!

I have found applying the principles of unschooling to our lives has enabled us to be responsive to our own family needs. I need a framework, a trellis, round which to grow, and I have found that unschooling is broad enough to allow us to adjust the approach to suit our family! I am also constantly surprised by the deschooling that I need to do, and also how far I have come along that journey!

My top tips for those moving towards unschooling are:

#1 Unschooling for your family is exactly that, for YOUR family, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look the same as other unschooling families.

#2 It seems scary but you supported you child in learning to walk, talk, eat, use the toilet, so you can support them in this too! It’s just carrying in from what you have already been doing.

#3 Find a community to share the journey with you, either online or in real life. The lovely families in the unschooling co-operative I belong to have been such a source of wisdom, comfort, reassurance and laughs!

As someone who spent most of her life in the education system (from aged 4-18 in school, 18-22 at university, 22-43 working as a teacher in various settings, working as a technician in a secondary school and even being a mature student!) You can deschool yourself, you can shed those ideas and make room for new ways. You can also still support friends and family who are in school by remembering that what suits your family might not suit everyone else.

I am really grateful to those who freely share their stories and contribute to providing a fuller picture of unschooling in action.

If you feel able, or willing, to share your journey, as a way of encouraging and cheering others along theirs, please complete and submit your own guest blog post here

Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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