Homeschooling, Unschooling…

We are homeschooling, or unschooling or…  I actually don’t know how these terms are defined and haven’t had time to do the research necessary to speak about any of this with any authority, let alone knowledge.  In fact “time” and what that means has kind of blown up in our faces as there never seems to be enough of it.  Richard and I are scrambling to make this work, while making jokes about how many clones we would need to do so, if cloning were an actual thing.  All of this is very new and we have not fallen into a routine yet.  I guess the best description of what we are doing at the moment is – winging it.  We are winging it, though this will change as time goes on, we think.  We hope.  We expect.  What I can say is that Richard asked Emma what part of history she was interested in learning and she chose ancient Egypt and ancient Rome.  This then led to several lessons on the Druids.  Who knows where all of this will lead next!

Meanwhile, Emma and I have embarked on the exciting adventure known as the German language, as per Emma’s request.  We had a particularly hilarious conversation a few weeks ago when Emma first brought up her interest in learning German.  I was somewhat incredulous and kept saying things like “Really?”  and “Are you sure you want to learn German?”  and “What about Spanish or French?”  But no, Emma was not to be swayed, so German it is.  And guess what?  It is SO much FUN!!  We are using a couple of different programs, one is Duolingo, which was recommended by a couple of people.  It’s a free online language program.  Did you know all nouns in German are capitalized?  Why?  Who knows, lots of theories, but there is no one answer as to why, that everyone agrees with.

In addition Emma is working on several writing projects.  One is a chapter idea, in which we will write alternating chapters.  Emma wrote, “How about starting on what you presumed parenting would be before I was born.”  I said, “Can you ask me questions, things you want to know?”  Emma wrote, “Very happy to ask.”  I said, “And what will your chapter be about?”  Emma wrote, “What I presumed the world would be like when I was a baby.”  I cannot wait to hear what she has to say about that!

We continue to make our way through Malala’s autobiography, I am Malala about the Pakistani girl who fought for her right to have the same education as boys and was shot by the Taliban.  This has led to some terrific discussions about advocating for one’s rights, oppression, prejudice, violence, silencing, education, and the lack of.  Recently Emma wrote, “Her life is unlike mine.”  (Referring to Malala.)  “But the oppression is similar to what I have experienced.”

While I continue to go through periods of abject terror at the thought of what we have undertaken, these moments are tempered with the excitement and joy I feel knowing that pulling Emma from school was by far the best thing for her.  She is ecstatic and the marked change in her anxiety and stress levels makes all of us very, very happy.

Emma chose this image for today's post.

Emma chose this image for today’s post.

39 responses to “Homeschooling, Unschooling…

  1. Some of my happiest memories of my education were when the narrow confines of the curriculum were left behind and I got to explore in whatever directions my curiosity took me. I’m sure this is why I have a love of learning coupled with a deep curiosity that has stayed with me to this day. It sounds like you all have a very stimulating time ahead of you. How exciting!

  2. Hi Ariane and Emma, I love this post! My Son is 12 and is currently in the diagnosis process for Autism and sensory processing disorder. I removed him from public school last year for a long list of reasons, and started “winging it” as a “secular eclectic homeschooler”. Reading your post made me feel so happy, as Emma is so far having a similar experience and making her own choices, just like Connor did. He’s learning Italian with Duolingo and Fluenz, and recently announced that he wants to start learning Latin.

    History for him has been all about exploring ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, and he’s recently gotten into Norse mythology. It’s just amazing to see what paths he chooses when he is self-directed and not being forced.

    Homeschooling has been a huge boost to his confidence. We were having a lot of deep depressive episodes and anxiety for him in public school. He still has some anxiety, but so much has improved- he has blossomed.

    I am really excited to see how homeschooling goes for Emma! I too, had no clue how I would fit it in- I’m a single Mom and I work full time running a small business. Oh yeah, I’m also autistic. Somehow, working together, we have made it work. And the only thing I regret about it is that I didn’t do it sooner, for so many wonderful reasons.

    Last night, Connor announced that he would like to start his own neurodiversity blog and become an activist against Autism Speaks. He has become very in tune with many social justice issues in the last year, but it distresses him greatly that Autism Speaks would like to see that people like him and his Mom are not born.

    I don’t think that he would have announced such a project if he were still in public school. I can’t wait to read more about your homeschooling journey!

    • Oh my gosh, this makes me so hopeful! Thank you. I also have to say, I have been feeling so overwhelmed, but reading that you are a single Mom running a business AND homeschooling, makes me realize my fears are in my thinking and are not reality. I so appreciate that you shared all of this.

      When Connor begins his blog will you please send me the link so I can add it to my “Resources” page and also so I can read it?!

  3. We did a similar form of eclectic homeschooling for years, which led my son into a vast military history fan, with a focus on the World Wars with an interest in period time mechanics in regard to Sherman and the Sherman tanks. He is now a high school Sophomore, very interested in learning and advancing in the field that interests him. Luckily for us, he is at a high school that while has a core curriculum requirement is mostly interest led. So, as a Sophomore he is taking 3 history courses (to AP), a Lifegaurding course (with a cert to work next summer), ROTC, Math and English. He decided to take his Science in Summer School so he had more time for interest led courses. I am not sure if he would have enjoyed education so much if we had not homeschooled for 7 years.

  4. You are going to have a ball! We’ve been officially home educating (radical unschoolers I think is how we would be labelled in the US) since 2000, but really since our eldest daughters were born in 1996. None of our 4 have ever been to school. and whilst it can be scary, it’s also FABULOUS, especially for those on the spectrum. Really looking forward to hearing about your adventures. That joint writing project sounds like it will be an incredible experience for you both. Enjoy xx

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  6. Great to hear about your new adventures! Especially the reduction of anxiety. Amen!
    I know the “terror” of which you speak! We have enrolled in community college and share the same ecstasy/je ne ce quoi!
    Interesting that Nick also mentioned German when I asked him if he understood other languages. So much to explore…
    Also fascinated with the concept of knowledge from birth, Emma. This is an area new to many of us. After his Grandmother’s recent passing, I was curious about this very thing. I mentioned to Nick that his Grandpa helped me deliver Nick into this world. I asked Nick if he knew Grandpa from birth and he said, “Yes.” I anxiously await your chapter on this!
    Hugs to you both!

    • Ha! Me too. I need a flow chart to keep all of our projects straight.
      German is really, really fun. Emma isn’t as interested in saying the words, but she is a whiz at translating the spoken German and written German by pointing to the appropriate photograph depicting what’s been said.

  7. drids and german! what fun. a lil jealous but supportive b

  8. Bis mörgen, Emma und Ariane. Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch, aber nicht so viel. Drei yär und das ist allen. Schäde. Ok god knows how terrible that was hopefully yall aren’t far enough along to know. If yall would like a semi practice partner id like to refresh my memory…not much use for it here in the south. Still struggling w this homeschool issue myself…a year to figure it out, but so far not doing so well w lessons i was experimenting with. If you find a cloning option share please 😉

    • I was able to understand all but the last sentence. That part I had to look up and still cannot figure out. “Three years and that’s all. What a pity” ?
      We have been studying for about two weeks, so give me a few months and maybe I can write (at least some) in German.
      Cloning is Richard’s area, will keep you updated. 😉

  9. It makes me SO happy to read this post! How about home education as a (maybe temporary) expression of what you are doing? It takes away the whole notion of school and opens up a space in which the education becomes an everyday thing that is so much a part of life it is simply expression of what your individual and collective learning processes are (in my experience home education is never simply about ‘teaching the child’), but is an organic process of opening to their own and each other’s learning abilities for children and adults alike.

    I am also DELIGHTED about your and Emma’s chapter project as i was thinking a few months ago how AMAZING it would be if the two of you were to write a book together.

    Reading this post has made my day. THANK YOU with ALL That I am for writing it ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Right, I think the word “school” will not be used any longer. I like “collective” learning.
      Thank you for your encouragement and enthusiasm. Your comment made me smile!

  10. It makes me SO happy to read this post! How about home education as a (maybe temporary) expression of what you are doing? It takes away the whole notion of school and opens up a space in which the education becomes an everyday thing that is so much a part of life it is simply expression of what your individual and collective learning processes are (in my experience home education is never simply about ‘teaching the child’), but is an organic process of opening to their own and each other’s learning abilities for children and adults alike.
    I am also DELIGHTED about your and Emma’s chapter project as i was thinking a few months ago how AMAZING it would be if the two of you were to write a book together.
    Reading this post has made my day. THANK YOU with ALL That I am for writing it ❤ ❤ ❤

  11. What a great path you took and what an awesome journey this will be. Bon Voyage, ahem, sorry, Gute Fahrt Zurcher-Long Familie. ❤

  12. I think you’re doing her a HUGE favor w/homeschooling her. I’ve always wondered if you’d try it. Just what she’s learning so far is so exciting!! Regular teachers would put limits on her, you guys do not. Teaching her what she is interested in, in a non-condescending way, can only be a good thing.

    And sure, you’re winging it now. But you’ll figure it out. My only question, how does this affect you and Richard’s careers? Have you essentially given up your business?

    BTW, I *finally* finished school and am contemplating my options for working from home. Very excited!

    • I just shut down my studio and will still design and work, but it will be different now. I’m also trying to finish the book I began and that I have almost 300 pages that need to be edited way down. Richard continues to write as well. So the real answer is – we aren’t sure how this will work, but are hoping it will work out…

  13. So happy for you both! and honestly, call it what you like: you needn’t have the word “school” in the title – yours isn’t an “institution”. You are creating a unique, individualized learning program just for Emma in which enrichment is certain ^_^

  14. I am quivering with excitement not unlike Lucy anticipating a treat! I am confident that this will be a eclectic and absolutely beautiful journey for all. ❤

  15. This is so amazing! I am overwhelmed with joy with every word that emanates from Emma. I am astounded by what she comes up with and the vast well of subjects she wants to expound upon. This girl of yours is just so incredible! I don’t know if she cares for hugs but please give her a vitural hug from this mom out here in Asperger land with my son. Hugs to you all!

  16. Oh my gosh, all of this just makes me so happy to hear!

    If you haven’t had it recommended to you yet, “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” is a great book about what unschooling can be. It’s mostly aimed at teenagers who have to convince their parents to let them leave school, but the second half has a lot of great stories and ideas for things that teenagers can do to pursue expertise in their interests outside of school.

  17. Hey Emma welcome to the club. We escaped the stress of school and teachers who insisted it was their way or no way. Life now is unpredictable, tiring, exciting and stress free. When you need a ‘gentle day’ you get it. If you want to bounce on the trampoline you don’t have to wait. Best of all, days out when all the other kids are in school feel so decadent and fun. We are a year into home ed. School is a word that no longer features in our house. Check out this blog. – we used it as a basis for our unique IEP. Life is for living and learning how to live. Life is way too short to stress over ‘quiet hands, quiet feet and quiet mouths’…

  18. Hooray! love it!!

  19. I am so impressed that she wants to learn German! We unschool/homeschool as well and just finished our first year of doing so and it has been an amazing experience.
    Leaving the stress of public school has been such a hugely positive thing for my son. He is so much happier now and I’m not always angry at the school district. It is a whole new world for both of us!

  20. Susie Christensen

    we lived a typical mainstream life (school, therapies, etc) until our son was in the second grade…..we realized that our son was not a “neat and tidy, fit in the box even if we have to smash you through the opening” kinda guy. We moved, stopped all therapies and have been unschooling ever since. It has been THE best thing we ever did with regards to supporting our autistic boy……he is happy, SO much less anxious…..perfect? Nope, but a billion times better than expending energy to keep him in school where the idea of presuming competence is almost unheard of (….and I am a special education advocate so I have attended hundreds of IEPs…..I know what goes of out there)

  21. I can’t speak to the home education experience, but I know what Emma will NOT experience now, and that’s bullying. Like every autistic kid in a public school, I was bullied, both physically and verbally. But for a hyper-empath like me (and, I suspect, Emma), the bullying doesn’t have to be expressed, either verbally or physically, to be felt. I *knew* others saw me in an extremely negative light…words are failing me, I feel this so strongly, and I’m sure you know this already…but thank you for sparing Emma *that*–that censure and judgement–and *distaste* (oh, I can still remember how that felt!) from people who do not *get* her and make no effort to get her. Now that magnificent, creative brain of hers can flower, in a place where she’s safe and understood and loved!

  22. Expect her stress and anxiety to stay way down. And yours too!
    I assume you have seen Logan LaPlante’s TED talk. So look at it this way:

    Emma’s autism has left her without the ability to tolerate an inferior education.

    She was deprived so long, and her brain is so HUNGRY…. Feeding her will suck you dry, exhaust you, make your brain scream, and will be the most fun you will every have.
    Your life just took a turn for the better!

  23. Excited to read about your homeschooling adventure. I just pulled my 11 yo ASD, high anxiety daughter (just diagnosed 6 months ago) out of school against her psychologists’ wishes. Everyone is worried about her not getting enough socialization and group work, but I felt like the anxiety was preventing any of it from seeping in and she was having more negative social experiences than positive ones. I feel nervous that maybe I’m doing the wrong thing but reading your post and some of the comments I’m feeling less alone. I just want her to get her feet under her, have some success and we’ll go from there. I’m not sure that everything she needs to learn will happen in a structured school setting.

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