When we started out with our unschooling journey, we felt a little like knights in shining armor freeing ourselves from our own self-imposed shackles. Hence the name of the blog.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The why and how of our being on the RU path

We have gone thru stages of different parenting and education philosophies over the last couple of years. In fact I'm sure our current RU path might be mis-understood by or be baffling to some friends/family who have met us at earlier stages. I have one friend who was on quite a Waldorf path and i really hope i have not alienated her by sharing our blog of RU experiences off late... with no preamble of how and why this change came about.

So I thought I'd list our experiences and how one led to another:

- Early on when Raghu was about 2.5, we enrolled him in a lovely little Montessori school for 3 hours a day. Raghu told us he only liked being there on Fridays (the day they made Challah-bread)... So i sat outside the classroom (the only way Raghu agreed to stay in the class) reading John Holt and others on homeschooling/unschooling... and the first strands of freedom-from-school thoughts percolated in my head. My memories of school left me with a distaste for schooly-people telling me what to do and how to do it... unless it was someone i gave that right to... like my ex-professor at SVA... whom i loved and admired. And despite the absolutely lovely women who ran this Montessori, the splendid classroom layout and freedom given to children etc... Raghu still resented being told when to work with what and when it was time to go for circle time etc. So we pulled him out.

- Then we transitioned into a Waldorf-esque lifestyle at home with little TV, tons of food restrictions (however lovingly imposed...they were impositions),
no-battery toys, more of wooden stuff (if you can't afford them... make them... yeah right... ), lots of some what false conversations with children... with me thinking i know what is best for them. We thought this was The PATH! All along there seemed to be serious discrepancies in the Waldorf way. But it took us more than 6 months to see this phase thru to its natural demise. While i love wooden toys... i love electricity too ;-) Also the artist in me was irked by the curved corner papers and the wishy washy style of painting and withholding black crayons/paint from the child. There were wonderful things too that we learnt from this phase though... like making candles, using an axe, doing needle work and including children in all our regular work.

- We then got busy with the adoption of Zoya (Raghu is our biological child) and watched the love that only siblings can share. Meanwhile I had to read up on more unschooling practices as Raghu kept pushing the limits our homeschooling had set. And he kept learning things that weren't on the curriculum for an almost 4 year old. Esp not on a Waldorf curriculum.

- We then moved to Singapore and found out slowly by the end of our 9 month stay there that Radical Unschooling was a big scary place... ""where our dreams might come true."" Where everything in the world was food to be played with (still can't bear to watch my kids play with food though... working on this), where work and play were one, where everything was freedom-oriented and hence resulting in laughter, joy and complete respect for one another... surprise, surprise! This was still a RU theory stage though.

- Then we moved to India and settling here brought its own peculiar issues. Everything kept falling into place with Law of Attraction type precision.... i found a lovely Radical Unschooling Mentor, a homeschooling group formed which helps me out in many ways (Me and mentor are the only RU'ing families in the city). Kids are grooving like never before. Dh and I are not worried at all about schoolish learning... but still working on deschooling other habits.

- Battery driven toys, wooden trucks, TV, DVD, mud, straw and glue, composting, playing with screws and bolts.... you get the picture. Everything is connected and everything leads to learning. Even when Raghu is immersed in Lego all day long sometimes.... being given the freedom to explore this to its fullest means that when his body aches from being bent over and in concentration mode for too long... he simply stretches, goes for a walk, does some swinging from the beams, chases his little sister around and then just goes back to his hunched over Lego position. In the meanwhile as i observe this intense Lego phase he comes up with number combinations, simple equations, playfully creates war like scenarios with his Lego characters, talks to his imaginary pals, tells me about his latest creations and shows so much play-versatility that we are astounded.

- Today we were at the typical mall (I can't stand them but find them the best places to shop in Pune as they have clean bathrooms available... imp as Z needs to pee every 30 minutes or so!!) to get jeans for the kids. The kids spent 30 minutes staring at the transparent sided elevator.... we talked, observed and absorbed the mechanism of the elevator. Pulleys, levers, weights, cords, emergency lights, pistons.... what fun. I can see this coming thru in his lego creations soon. Like the space ship he made for E.T. after watching E.T, the movie. Also at the mall... Raghu spent his Diwali gift money (from his Nainamma) and had fun weighing the options between one hot wheels set and another. I just can't take it any more... there is just too much learning going on in our lives!! And we don't even go to school!

My choices of food, holisitc type stuff, love for all things wooden, vegetarianism, need for cleanliness and neatness, etc. might never be those of my children... nor those of my dh. Why would we force our personal choices on them? There are enough choices that our young children are not a party to.... like where we work, where we live because of work, how much money we choose to make etc. So we'd rather not force them to finish the milk in their cup... but rather see if we can add it to the kids-yogurt-making ;-) Or add it to the kadipatta plant in our garden after the milk sours... so it grows well.

My inner drive to reach for more... more freedom, more happiness, more peace, more everything... has even me reeling sometimes. Often, Ravi comes home and asks if he needs to read up on anything before he says hello to the kids ;-) But I think the path is now set for us...

2 comments:

Fioleta said...

Interesting post. I'm currently reading few books on various type of education (Just finished Holt's How Children Fail). Montessori school sounded wonderful to me at first, but further research makes it feel restricting. I think Waldorf is going to be good for the kindergarten years, but since I was very good at maths, physics & such I'm worried that eventually their approach won't fit all of my daughters needs. I guess for now I'll just keep on reading :-)

Hema A Bharadwaj said...

Hello Fioleta, Thanks for reading here.

You could try reading Sandra Dodd's "Moving a puddle and other essays" http://www.sandradodd.com/puddlebook

She describes it as: "The overall theme is how learning, parenting and everyday life can be in the absence of school, viewed from different vantage points over a dozen years. I hope there are ideas to help every reader, whether homeschooler or not, whether unschooler or not. Any parent or anyone who loves learning for fun should find something to help thoughts form and swirl."

Much happiness to you and your little one as you find your path.
Hema