Un-Schooling Another Generation: The Interview, Part 2

Well, the last post was… a lot. And, like I said, it’s ultimately very personal.

I came away from Monday’s post reflecting on how almost everyone I know went to school. But Josh, like other partners of unschooled adults, has a very small sample to look to. My sisters and I are the only people he really knows who grew up the way that we did. And imagine marrying into that!  It must be a little overwhelming.

My mom and I were talking about the last post. She said, “The things that Josh says he would cherry-pick as the best of your combined experiences as an unschooler and a schooler sounds like what I would have picked, too, if I could!”

So, where Josh and I are now is a place that’s hopeful, excited, and with more and better options than my mother had; but we’re probably less romantic about unschooling, too. As an adult, on the one hand, I feel very attached to child-led learning and the wonderful childhood I had. On the other hand, I went through my early teens with tremendous angst about how to direct myself! I was fascinated by, anxious about, and terrified of structure. I wanted to be a part of something that didn’t seem to exist — I researched alternative high schools and found a very expensive progressive boarding school all the way across the country, in Vermont. I didn’t go, of course. In my later teens, I avoided paths that were “blocked” by standardized tests, tests that I saw as other-worldly, tests that were so foreign that it seemed like evidence that what lay on the other side might not be for me.

I would like to think that there are ways to have it all… To create community, stimulate innovation, provide structure when needed, encourage personal voice and development, and build confidence in tackling external hurdles to reach one’s goals.

But I feel like having the incredibly great family and childhood and education that I had, and still not be perfect…  Maybe that just lets me off the hook as a parent. Perfect probably won’t happen. We will do our best, based on what we know; that’s the goal.

And I’m sure that doing our best will include unschooling in some form, for some time. And I would model on how I grew up, but I would do some things differently, too, building on what I know worked for me, and being sensitive to what didn’t, and taking cues from the actual kids when I meet them!

And Josh is on my side. He would just love to rename “unschooling.”

Josh and Me - parade in the streets of Portugal, 2009

Josh and Me – at a street festival in Portugal, 2009

Lindsey: I want you to imagine with me how this conversation is different than the conversation my parents had. We’re comparing my experience to yours, with our very different lives growing up. Of course, both my parents went to school. But now, we have me to look at, and compare to everyone else we know. It’s hard not to take it personally, in a way. We can look at my real shortcomings… I am what the experiment resulted in! 

Josh:  Yeah but, you know, you’re so great and successful in a lot of ways! I mean, I think we’re both late bloomers. But you’re very focused, and you always apply yourself, without anybody telling you to apply yourself. Your education developed that for you.

But I don’t know. Maybe we are who we are, and we become who we’re going to be no matter what system we go through, anyway?

Lindsey: But then it’s just experiential. So what experience do you want your kids to have?

Josh: I want my kids to be encouraged and engaged in their lives, and have options and opportunities, and be happy kids that become happy adults.

Lindsey: When I talk to people, a lot of them don’t want to homeschool their kids for the lifestyle. Education aside, they don’t want to be with their kids all the time! I think people are very comforted by the community aspect of schools. Does it freak you out to imagine it being “all on us”?

Josh: Does it freak me out to think about being around our kids? No.

Lindsey: What about financially?

Josh: It might be hard to figure out.

Lindsey: Does “traditional” success feel like an important value for you to impress upon your kids? Or is it ok for them to re-imagine what success means?

Josh: It’s important to do what they need to do to be happy. That’s the goal, in my opinion. But I think you need to be able to function in the society you live in, and having practical skills and priorities to do that is important. It’s great to raise your kids to be free, as long as they can take care of themselves in a good way.

Lindsey:  Right, I know what you mean. There’s a value to being aware and critical of “the game”… But it’s important to feel empowered to be a player and a winner in “the game.”

So, how important is creativity?

Josh: Really important; you have to be able to think in innovative ways and solve problems in any field.

Lindsey: Do you think that my family has good problem solvers?

Josh: I think your family did a great job. I do. The only things I get hung up on… you know, I know your family. I see them in the good times, and bad times, and so it’s easier to be critical of a family that you’re a part of, and can see from the inside.

(He is quiet for a while to consider.)

I probably don’t give your mom enough credit. It’s just that, as your partner, I’ve seen you struggle and try to figure out what you want. I don’t know where to place that, so maybe I’ve blamed homeschooling at times.

Lindsey: In my family, homeschooling was my mom’s idea from the start. I saw her as the main driver of that, growing up. But for me and you, if we have kids and homeschool, even though it’s how I grew up, myself… I can’t imagine you not being really opinionated and active in that process. Can you imagine homeschooling?

Josh: Yeah. I think I would be completely involved, no matter what we do, I want to totally be a part of my kids lives. That’s what I didn’t have. My parents weren’t there to know who I was and what I did. That’s not what I want when I’m a dad.

Lindsey: Are you excited to look at schools and see what’s out there?

Josh: Yeah.

Lindsey: So are we going to have kids?

Josh: I mean…Yeah. We’ve talked about that already. Are you just trying to get it on record? In case I change my mind?  

Lindsey: In case I do!  

(We laugh.)