When one of my children asked me one day; ‘Mum, why are we doing this?’ I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, nor could my husband. We had seen with our own eyes how the kids learnt so brilliantly when moving around and choosing what they wanted to learn for themselves. We realised that we could not say why they were at school and be truthful. We decided we were not prepared to perpetuate a lie.
So, we questioned, could there be another way?
At this moment in our lives we find ourselves living on a hill in the centre of Italy with many cats, surrounded by olive trees in a beautiful place we are lucky enough to have rented which has been our home for the last three years. When we walk around places in this most wonderful country, most people think that we are tourists as we look typically English. However when our children speak and order ice cream, it is clear that we are not…quite.
Our kids have learnt Italian (they speak it better than me) and they have been blessed with the warmth and kindness of the Italian people. They have experienced the craziness of Italy, the many Italian festivals, wonderful circus classes, the confusing bureaucracy and they now know what good food is! All this to me is their classroom and I would not change it for a blue or grey uniform at all and neither, I don’t think, would they.
The twins Olive and Amari (both 12) and Jahli (aged 9) are now self-directed learners
free to decide how, when and what they want. This enables them to have the confidence to make clear, strong choices as compared to being in school where they had no control over how or what they learned. Where ‘doing well’ meant fitting into a system, doing as they were told, learning what they were meant to learn, playing only at break time and adhering to a curriculum regardless of how they felt about it.
An example of how unschooling has worked for us is that one of our kids was struggling to keep up with the reading in the curriculum when she was at school. It became a real point of tension and anxiety for her. Yet at home we were able to step back and let her learn in her own way and this approach worked. Without stress or a strict time framed involved, reading became joyous for her and now she’s often to be found with her head in a book. This may not have been the case had she remained in a school system.
I am an illustrator and author, teaching online courses and my husband, Anthony is a recovery to wellness coach trainer and social entrepreneur. Throughout this unschooling journey, you could say it has been financially bumpy for us and we have lived on a hugely reduced income. However, I at least know that we have experienced our children’s childhood with them. You could say we have chosen to trade having stuff for the luxury of time, as that is something we can never get back. With all the ups, downs, the colourful bits, they are learning through life and we have really got to know each other as a family. They direct their days and are already starting to know their passions, which is possibly what I would like to have been discovering when I was their age. They are flourishing and we have faith in them and their ability to learn.
More than anything, they are who they are and hopefully living and learning in this way will give them a strong sense of self as they progress through their adult lives…
Lehla Eldridge writes at www.unschoolingthekids.com
and is also a writer and illustrator and runs online courses at www.lehlaeldridge.com
Lehla and Anthony’s book Unschooling the Kids is coming out soon.
Anthony’s online Recovery to Wellness Conference can be found here http://www.irwcconference.com/