I hesitate to tell my radically unschooling friends about the occasional schoolish things we do — like deciding to follow a math curriculum or signing The Thinker up for some kind of class — for fear they’ll think I’m pandering to convention or indulging some latent personal control issues or doubting my child’s natural learning abilities or undermining the whole entire unschooling philosophy (and my child’s well-being with it).
I also hesitate to tell my conventionally schooling friends about our usual approach (despite the occasional class or workbook) of doing only what’s interesting and not forcing book work and not purging my child’s toys without his approval (and allowing unlimited screen time and serving a great many meals at the computer) for fear that they’ll think I’m disorganized or lazy or ignorant or not thinking things through or selling my child short or squandering his potential or ruining his self-control and his future, and shouldn’t somebody be holding people like this accountable somehow?
In short, I worry a lot about what people think of me.
When somebody reminds me to question the system and keep the reins loose and trust the child, I bristle. (Don’t I already know that? Didn’t we talk this to death already several years ago?) And when somebody gives me a helpful link to common educational standards or to state homeschooling laws or to “what your X grader should know,” I bristle. (Do you imagine I somehow missed this while scouring the Internet for every last little bit of educational information I could find while my child was still a toddler?)
I seem to be a little defensive. Which must mean that I am uncertain about some things. When you’re certain, you don’t feel the need to defend yourself. When you’re sure of yourself, you don’t need other people to be sure of you too. If they are, then great, but it doesn’t actually matter if they approve or not; you approve, you know what you know, and that’s enough.
I seem to want everybody to approve of me! — to believe in me, to trust me, to respect me. But really, I just want myself to believe in me. So I try to solicit their approval — all of them! — because then maybe I’ll have reason to believe in myself too.
That said, I firmly believe that it’s good to doubt. People who are too confident are annoying and even scary. Everybody makes mistakes; everybody misinterprets; the right decision this week might be the wrong decision next week; and it is OK and even noble to change one’s mind upon the receipt of new information. The goal should not be absolute certainty, I don’t think. The goal should be reasonable certainty (with the latitude to change one’s mind).
So about the reasonable certainty. We’ll start here: However we do it, I think homeschooling is terrific. And I seem to be reminded often that the more I allow The Thinker to direct his own affairs (including deciding when he wants my help and when he doesn’t), the better off he is: the more self-directed, the more confident, the more enthusiastic, the more inquisitive, the more creative.
Yes, those are two things I can be pretty sure of.