Radical Unschooling in Vermont
Last evening I attended Author & Radical Homeschooling Advocate, Dayna Martin’s book signing (Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun) at Boxcar & Caboose in St. Johnsbury, VT. A big thank you to Amber & Dennis for coordinating this booksigning and to Boxcar & Caboose for happily welcoming so many children into the store! Some of the coolest, sharpest and most forward thinking parents I’ve met in the NEK attended the signing. I knew the NEK was homeschool friendly, but I was amazed to see so many families attending the event.
Upon meeting Dayna and her family (she has four children) and listening to her speak, it’s impossible not to feel energized by her passion for radical homeschooling, interest-led learning and respectful parenting. Dayna travels the world speaking about her unique family life–and for those of you who like talk shows, she has even appeared on Dr. Phil.
I admit, I call myself an unexpected homeschooling mom, simply because I never imagined that I’d homeschool my children, never intended or even wanted to homeschool–once thinking, what ‘normal’ parent wouldn’t send their kids to public or private school? And… homeschooling creates freaky kids and worse, freaky moms! Those thoughts were before becoming a mom. Before my child’s nearly two years of daily complaining about her ‘top notch’ public school. Before I realized that homeschooling is a natural extension of attachment parenting. Before I realized that what I want more than anything for my children is for them to be happy, and to create meaningful and creative lives for themselves as defined by themselves–pursuing their own, authentic, self-inspired and motivated dreams and interests. I came to believe, each day more than ever, that this simply couldn’t happen in today’s “mainstream” schools. I came to believe that lifestyle, living and education could be one in the same.
So, hello homeschooling! Though I use “box” curriculum (Oak Meadow) and structure learning very loosely around it, I find a much more eclectic, interest-led approach is a better and more exciting fit for my family–drawing from sources and materials EVERYWHERE (e.g., the Internet, library, museums, road trips, outdoor adventures, community classes, camps, homeschool groups, etc.). We are constantly learning! And no, we don’t stop learning for ‘Summer Vacation’ or Spring Break.
But radical homeschoolers in the purest sense we are not. I just haven’t yet found the ability to “completely trust” that my children will learn basics on their own in a manner that is somewhat on the general socially acceptable timetable. What if, I need to or change my mind and want to put my kids in school someday? However, as I find a deeper and increasingly meaningful love and appreciation for interest-led learning and supporting my children’s individual creativity, strengths and interests, I am discovering ‘trust’–in my children and myself, is already there. It has simply been buried under society’s expectations and need for conformity–which can cause anxiety when departing from the mainstream.
Listening to Dayna, however, speak about radical unschooling has pushed me closer to what I had always said I wouldn’t do–couldn’t do. Just like how I felt once about homeschooling. Listening to her reminded me of the importance of staying flexible and open about education and what fits best for your child and family. She re-energized my attention to patient mothering, noting that you wouldn’t threaten to withhold making dinner for your spouse for a week if s/he didn’t mow the lawn, so why pose such a “do this or else” ultimatum to a child. She re-invigorated my belief that there is nothing you can’t learn at home, especially with today’s technology and access to resources. She reminded me that it’s awesome to want to “facilitate” my kids’ learning, rather than be “the” teacher–I never wanted to be an elementary school teacher, anyway. 😉 Dayna awoken me to what she calls the Revolution.
Unschooling philosophy suggests you trust your children in their ability to learn what they need in life, as they need it, by giving them the freedom that all humans deserve. Learning through life is as natural as growing physically and emotionally. – From Dayna’s Book
I do not look at myself as my children’s teacher. I am not standing in front of them pouring knowledge into them as the all-knowing authority. My job is to expose them to as much of the world as possible from as many resources as possible, so they can realize and pursue their interests. – From Dayna’s Book
Does last night’s talk mean that I’m going to ditch the brand new curriculum I just bought for the upcoming school year? Probably not. But with Dayna’s book in hand and words in my head, I’m going to freak out less about what my kids “should be” learning and when. I’m going to do better at remembering that learning is a lifelong adventure. It’s not about twelve school years or academic milestones. It’s about instilling a love and passion for learning and self-discovery in my kids. If that means they spend a day, week or month obsessed with Shakespeare, worms or horses, building gnome villages in the backyard or mapping out a business plan for their ‘someday’ business without doing worksheets of math, I’m just going to embrace it. And, if I start to freak out, I’m going to sit down on the couch and read a few pages from Dayna’s book ’till I’m back on track.
Sounds kind of radical, don’t you think?
Our son is enrolled in public kindergarten in VT. I’m planning to home school next year and am curious about the process to transition from public school to homeschooling. What are the laws and requirements?
Thank you for sharing this article on the book talk last night. I share your experience of the event and it’s place in my life. Wow! It’s as if I wrote the article myself! We even loosely use Oak Meadow 🙂 I was also surprised at the amount of unschooling support in the NEK. We have been hard pressed finding other like minded folks. I don’t see your contact info on here, but I am friends with NEK mom’s on FB. It would be fun to connect!