Five Things I’ve Learned from Our First Year of Being School Free.

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1. Nothing beats living for learning …(my learning through life mission has come true)

It was amazing discovering the Inuksuk with my daughter, through sharing and exploring an amazing book. It was even more amazing to find Inuksuk that other people had formed with mountain rocks, while mountain hiking. My daughter made her ‘welcome guy’ out of her rock collection. Other people had left their ‘welcomes’ on the mountain path.
My son, who hadn’t been at all interested in joining us to explore the book, was completely interested in how actual people, in our actual country, in this actual time, had balanced very large heavy boulders on top of very small ones to leave these stone messengers. That. Was. Cool.

Yep! Life is learning.

2. School free life gives more ‘me’ time (to me!).
Many people who consider home educating are worried about their loss of personal time. Sending my children to school always felt against the grain for me. I like being with them and school took away my time with them. So I wasn’t so much worried as preparing myself that those six hours of school day would now contain less coffee and down time for me.

I was wrong!

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Going school free and having my two children with me all of the time actually freed up time for me. The school schedule no longer rules me. Yes, my children are home from school. I hadn’t cottoned on that I would be school free too. Free of the morning sprint to make the first bell. Free from the afternoon pick ups, the concerts that neither child ever seemed interested in but that required hours of Mum As Costume Designer and Freight service. Free from the projects that for some reason parents have to prepare for. Sure, I kinda miss finding out what grade I scored for each of my projects. But I have more Me time than ever. I can offer the children more Them time to do the stuff they want, too. It is more possible for them to join the sports teams and interest groups that they want to be a part of because we all have more time.  It is more possible for us to get out and about. There’s no six hours of school routine to fit in. We are free to be in the mountains if we want to be. We have time to share life together, and some of it happens with a quiet moment of me time.

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3. My children have their own minds.

Sometimes you buy stuff for them that you think is totally cool and that they’ll love, and you even learn to use it yourself to inspire them when they see how cool you think it can be (probably because you’re not), and they don’t go near it, and that’s okay. (Like the ukelele this ex music teacher diligently bought for her children, thinking it would be a total hit. Wrong.)
Children have their own interests. They don’t need yours, and they don’t respond to staged or fake. I’ve learned to only buy or source stuff that they’ve already shown an interest in, or better yet let them source it for themselves, and leave the stuff they couldn’t care less about, even if I thought they would (like ukeleles). And to show them enough of the world that they know what these interests are. My children would much rather play minecraft than ukelele. My daughter will pass up a musical instrument for a pile of pebbles, shells or trinkets any day.
Whatever. There’s maths in music and there’s maths in minecraft. There’s beauty in music and there’s beauty in design. There’s even music in minecraft. You get to be original and inventive wherever your interests fall. Doesn’t matter.
I can’t set interests for my children. They might as well be back in the classroom switching their brains off because what is being presented is irrelevant to them.  Even when you set them on a well trecked mountain path, my children will wander from it if it doesn’t take them where they want to go. That is more than okay with me.

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4. Star Wars and Poh’s Kitchen are on the ‘curriculum’.

My altruistic, purist, Life Without Branding or Screen ways have been chucked out to compost. As I write this, my children are inside on a beautiful rainy day, the sort they love to play in, watching movie trailers on tablets. One child is planning for his own animated trailer that he will soon make with his Star Wars figurines. The other child is laughing her head off’ and talking about the comedy genre of the film and how the trailer uses sound, script, and funny character shots to make her want to watch it. She’s not interested in making a trailer of her own. She wants to keep cooking recipes and creating them, and she wants to go to market to meet Poh. For her, the kitchen, not a desk, has been the place for learning health, science, creativity, culture, history, maths and practical skills. Even in these moments when both children are doing the same thing, the places it leads them will be different. As it should be. They’re different people. The only clones we have here are Star Wars Clone troopers.

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5. My Children Matter.

They really do. Reclaiming their childhood matters. A lot. Empowering them matters. It matters that they can make decisions. It matters that they can try things for themselves. It matters that they can be free to fail. It matters that we don’t use that label in a negative way or measure each other in comparison to others. It matters that they know their own strength and capabilities, and can try again. It matters that they are not being raised as clones. It matters that they are people. It matters that they are not spending six hours a day, five days a week with adults I do not know well, whose values I do not know or share. It matters that these adults cannot impose forced activities upon my children, instead of letting them choose.

It matters that my children can be themselves, and that they are respected, because they matter. They really do. I knew this before, of course. Being school free has really brought this home, pun and all.

It matters that the world now says welcome to my children, and that it’s a place that fills them with wonder, that they want to explore, that is not dominated by imposing schedules, or compulsory physical, creative or intellectual confinement.

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