Posted in BIPOC secular unschoolers

We Are All Unschooling

Dancing down Bourbon Street.

When we first embarked on this homeschooling journey, it was all about what WE can teach our children, how will WE go about educating THEM. Yes, we paid lip service to how much we were also learning from our kids, and how much this is about our education as well. At least I did, my husband has always been ahead of the game on our homeschool evolution. But looking back, I realized all that talk was all very much on the surface. I was waiting through a puddle rather than jumping in the deep end.

For the first time, it truly hit me that we are indeed correct, ALL unschooling.

It took me a lot of digging and transitioning and deschooling before; I was, for real for real with mine. It occurred to me on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, while with two of my kids on our way to run errands that while I have come a long way, I have a long way yet to go. For the first time, it truly hit me that we are indeed correct, ALL unschooling.

I had a revelation when observing my 12-year-old son interacting with his 8-year-old sibling, in a moment of childlike enthusiasm. The act of the two of them merely breaking out into a foot race up a hill gave me a moment of pause. My thought was “dang, to have the energy to willfully and without complaint run uphill.” At that moment I realized that I need to tap into that enthusiasm. The kind that gives no fucks about how hard something may be or how we may look doing that thing. I also realized that if I thought about it, I did not grow up with that enthusiasm, not in the same way as my kids. This was as a result of being brought up by working parents who depended greatly on my grandmother for childcare; my grandmother was amazing, and loving, and very old school. She was of a world where girls didn’t do certain things and believed that she needed to hover and police my every move to protect me. And looking back on this, part of my upbringing, that devil may care, throw caution to the window attitude was snuffed out. I was a very cautious, self-conscious kid that wouldn’t want to run for fear of what others may think of how I ran, or that I would fall and gravely injure myself. I never learned to ride a bike because of my self-consciousness. I missed out on some experiences because the fear of getting hurt was so greater than my sense of adventure, but this fear wasn’t enough to keep me from regretting playing it safe. It wasn’t until I decided to become a mom that I considered any of these things in how I was going, parent.

This unassuming action of running an impromptu foot race, was a lesson for me, from my children, to always throw yourself into the things that interest you with reckless abandon.

I knew even before I had my first child that I did not want to install fear and self-doubt into my children. However, it wasn’t until we began homeschooling did I get how much deeper this was then just allowing my kids to be playground warriors. And if we want to go deeper, it wasn’t until this moment of witnessing the free-spiritedness of my children in this simple action that I realize that this learning journey is as much about me, continuing my journey of exploration and wonder. This unassuming action of running an impromptu foot race, was a lesson for me, from my children, to always throw yourself into the things that interest you with reckless abandon. Who cares if you fall and get a little banged up? Why worry yourself with how it looks to other people? It was a moment of clarity given to me when I was in true observation, that showed me as much as I preach these things, I need to work harder at practicing them.

On this crisp fall day, I got a great reminder that I too am unschooling, myself.

Posted in BIPOC secular unschoolers, BIPOCinsde, BIPOCLGBTQIAFAMILY, Feminism, parenting, revolutionary parenting, self directed education

Everything We Do Is Political

Quote: Robert Jones aka Son of Baldwin 📸: IG @qweenamor

Last week I posted an Instagram story that was an introduction to anyone who is not familiar with me, my family, and what we choose to post about as it pertains to our unschooling philosophy, and why we choose to post it. The reason I felt moved to do this is that my followers have grown to over 2,000 (thank you for following, no for real thank you!) and I want all my new Instagram friends to understand who we are. We are consciously working on building community and growing our platform to reach as many homeschooling/unschooling families, and families that may be curious about homeschooling or unschooling. We focus on our experience as a BIPOC family that chooses to unschool our five children, four of which identify as either bisexual, pansexual, or gender nonbinary. While we welcome and want everyone to visit and follow our journey, we center the voices of BIPOC and LGBTQIA families, because our voices are not front in center in society at large, and that goes for the homeschooling and unschooling space, as well.

We post about policy, current events, the fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA community, the BIPOC community, women, immigrants, etc. and the intersection of all these
communities.

So what does all this mean, exactly? It means that while we definitely post about the projects our children create, the classes they may take, how we implement certain tools to support and encourage our children’s self-directed learning journey, we also post about the things that go on in the world that affects us. We post about policy, current events, the fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA community, the BIPOC community, women, immigrants, etc. and the intersection of all these communities. It means that our posts speak often and loudly about where we stand in the political fights that pertain to these issues. We are unapologetically, a feminist, pro-immigrant, anti-racist, anti homoantagonism, anti transantagonism, anti-Muslim antagonism family. I understand that many homeschooling and unschooling Instagram accounts are purposefully apolitical because many feel that politics has no place when talking about educating our children, or that it isn’t polite to speak about this in public forums. While I respect everyone’s right to use social media platforms as they see fit, I do not take this approach in my presentation of our unschooling journey because it is not possible for us to extricate from politics. The politics of our time directly affect my family. The policies put in place to silence and erase, BIPOC and LGBTQIA people is something we should all fight and I am naturally hard-wired to fight against bigotry, always have been, but the reality is, these things are not just wrong, but they directly affect the people I love most. And like all people, I will fight for those you love.

This way of living and educating is inherently political, radical, and social activism work, whether we want it to be or not.

But all that aside, the reality is that if we are going to uschool and be a family that believes in self-directed education then that means raising liberated people. We need to hold space for our children to be able to take up space, have true autonomy over their bodies, be free to express themselves in their culture, gender, sexuality. This way of living and educating is inherently political, radical, and social activism work, whether we want it to be or not. If I want to build a community and be a resource I have to be transparent we must talk and post about it. If anything I post makes you uncomfortable I say good, it means I am making you think about something you don’t usually have to think about. If because it makes you uncomfortable makes you want to unfollow me that is fine, I am not for everyone, but I would challenge you to think about why you are feeling so uncomfortable by my posts and reflect on that. I say that as a person who is also flawed and has a lot of work to do in being a better ally, and who will most assuredly make mistakes in word and deed as my partner and me navigate raising BIPOC LGBTQIA kids, as cisgender, heterosexuals. I welcome and I ask for those Instagram friends with or without children, who are also themselves LGBTQIA, to feel free to check me and tell me when I need to go back and do some work. I know that it will not always be sweet and sugarcoated but it doesn’t have to be.

Posted in BIPOC secular unschoolers

2nd Homeschool S.T.E.A.M Expo

Presenters from our 1st S.T.E.A.M. Expo

Last fall, I challenged my kiddos to think about a project, no matter the subject, something challenging, that required some research and that was going to take time to execute. The main objective for me was to instill follow through and completion, We all had a terrible time following through and finishing projects so this was my way of working on that problem area. And in the meantime, they got the chance to take full control of what they were learning, how they were executing that learning, and these projects had them reading, writing, and problem-solving.

The kids took to it with joy and gusto, we went to the library checked out books, researched articles and they got to work. It turned out they all chose to do projects related to S.T.E.A.M. (stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). And they were big projects with display intricate displays. I was proud of my kids and so happy with how they got up every day and worked on learning the subject matter and taking care in how they were going to display and present what they learned. Then I thought, dang, it would be great if there was some way or some place in which they can present their work. I literally said to myself I wish someone would organize some sort of S.T.E.A.M Expo. Not a competition but an exhibition of different S.T.E.A.M. related projects that homeschoolers and unschoolers can present to other homeschoolers and unschoolers, as well as the parents. Then I thought, well shit, why don’t I do it. So I set about putting a plan together. I booked the community room at my local Public Library Branch, which was free. And I put together an event page and it was a go and a success. In that short period of time, I managed to get a really great group of kids to present amazing projects.

A few of the projects from the 1st S.T.E.A.M. Expo

It was a blast, and the parents said this should be a recurring event so I listened and I have planned the 2nd Homeschool S.T.E.A.M Expo, with the help of the Homeschoolers of Color Collective it will be held at the main branch of our local Library. We hope to have a larger group of children, more diverse in age, to be presenters, and to have more homeschoolers and unschoolers come through to see the projects being presented.

We will also have some mini projects attendeed can do on-site, the CTS StudioLab from Princeton University will sponsor paper piano making, and small coding projects at a coding Corner sponsored by Black Star Analytics, a local black owned data analytics group, from.Newark, N.J.

So, if you are in the Newark N.J. and are a homeschooling family or Coop, we would love for you to either be a presenter or come through and support and learn something new. If you have a homeschooler between the ages of 5-16 and they are interested in registering as a presenter please follow the link below.

https://goo.gl/forms/9YoZmfKcbP5fZ6Gp1

Posted in BIPOC secular unschoolers, BIPOCinsde, POC Homeschoolers, POC unschoolers, Secular Homeschool, self directed education

Navigating the Homeschool/Unschool Myths Unsolicited Questions and Comments

There are common misconceptions, myths, and misunderstanding about homeschooling and unschooling. If you are thinking about homeschooling or unschooling I am here to tell you will be confronted with at least one of these, more than once during your time as a homeschooler. And if you are wondering, no it never ends, you will always get these questions and “concerned” comments.

đź“· IG: @secularhomeschooler

1. SOCIALIZATION

Ok, let’s talk about the biggest most popular, almost cartoonish question ever asked of a homeschooling family, and it is asked in many ways. Such as:

How will the kids make friends?

Or

What about socialization?

Or

How will they learn to interact with other kids?

This is the question that never dies. One thing we have done is to answer with a question of our own. For example: what do they mean by socialization? Do they feel that their idea or expectations of socialization are being met by their own children in a traditional school environment? Usually, this makes them think about what they really mean and forces them to think about what socialization is and isn’t, or at the very least think twice before asking that question again.

đź“· Twitter: @joemartinphotog

2. ARE YOU EVEN QUALIFIED TO TEACH?

This one really grinds my gears. No one asks if you’re qualified to parent. If the assumption is that you can raise a child than why would you assume that a person wouldn’t be able to teach their child.

The idea that the only place for a child to learn is in a school is counter-intuitive in my opinion. I have been asked this very question by many a person, including by my children’s pediatrician. If and when you are confronted by this question remember this:

As our children’s first main contact we teach them to talk, express love, how to deal with rejection, anger, sadness. We do this intuitively, by modeling the behavior, by giving them comfort, being patient with them, and just supporting their exploration and curiosity. This is all that is needed when you homeschool or unschool your kids. That’s all you need to say, and just keep it pushing, you owe not one person an answer about your ability to educate your child.

And if that doubt creeps in, trust that you will know when to outsource and reach out for help in finding resources for your child.

3. HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THEY ARE LEARNING EVERYTHING THEY SHOULD LEARN?

Aside from reading, math, writing, learning how to consume information in a responsible way what is it that children “should” learn. Should they be reading Shakespeare? What about history? How will they know they learn grammar? Here is the truth, if they read, or get read to,if they write their own stories they will get all they need in terms of Language Arts. Writing gets better with practice, reading books gives them the insight they need, to know what a good sentence structure looks like. Math is math is math, and there are many ways to skin that cat, especially when you get to learning to multiply. They don’t need to know how the children in a traditional school are learning to “do” math, in order know how to add, subtract, etc.

These are arbitrary methods that will change again in a few years, really a kindergartener from the twenty years ago and put them into a kindergarten of today, they would not be at grade level. So why focus on these arbitrary guidelines? And if you point that out, people will likely leave to alone.

Unknown source

4. THE PERSON THAT DECIDES THEY NEED TO QUIZ YOUR KIDS

You will inevitably have that, neighbor, family member, or complete stranger ask your kids a million questions about what grade they’re in or if they know some obscure historical fact they don’t need to know, or to calculate the square root of 3,567.

It is frustrating, intrusive and rude. And while for many of us we feel the pressure to explain our choices, but n hopes to make it easier for ourselves or our kids down the line. I am here to tell you that you it is OK to not be nice or answer these questions. This is when you say, no my kids are not performing for you to make you feel comfortable with our decision to home school. No way.

It may not go over well initially but guarantee they won’t ask again.

WHAT’S THE TAKE WAY?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you handle these questions. Some days you will proclaim not today. I am not explaining our choices to anyone, sometimes you will have the time and you may have answers and responses that most may not like, and sometimes you will be kind and patient with your responses. And all of these are legitimately ways to respond. The point is that you will confront these sorts of quetions and misconceptions, all the time at any time, just steel yourself to this fact and do and say what you need to at the time to handle these interactions.

Posted in BIPOC secular unschoolers, BIPOCinsde, revolutionary parenting, self directed education

Our First Flame-Con

Georgia and Aang The Last Airbender

About three weeks ago my partner in crime, (read, my husband), found out about an event that was going on in NYC called Flame-Con. According to the folks at Geeks Out it is the largest LGBTQ Comic-Con, and it just so happened that Sunday, August 19th was Youth Day so anybody under 21 was free if accompanied by an adult. We were excited! A day of comics, nerd culture, and specifically for the LGBTQ community, it was the perfect activity for our geek, BIPOC-LGBTQ family. And we were not disappointed. Our kids, in particular, our gender non conforming little one and our Bisexual Tween, loved it. Our Bi Tween, told us they felt at home and welcomed.

Me and Wonder Woman 📸Georgia Lucas

Our kids, in particular, our gender non conforming little one and our Bisexual Tween, loved it.

It was great, with rows and rows of tables filled with art, and comics and graphic novels. The kids had a great time talking with artist and taking pictures of and with people in cosplay. We came away with so many goodies, and even made a real connection with a local artist who agreed to meet up with our kids to talk about art and all the cool careers they can pursue as artists.

Some art from Flamecon

Flame-Con, is now on our calendar, and an event we will look forward to attending again. It was such a wonderful experience, it was very inclusive and intersectional, we felt like we always belonged.

Posted in BIPOC secular unschoolers, BIPOCinsde, revolutionary parenting, Secular Homeschool, self directed education

Best Laid Plans

The “first born” perfecting her cannon ball skills

During this chill, mellow, low-stress summer, I have also been having some really great conversations with the kids.

This summer has not gone as planned…at all. That’s ok. It happens. Although the summer hasn’t been what we planned, it has been what we needed. This summer was perfectly and deliciously “lazy”. We got some pool time in, there has been plenty of playing with neighborhood friends, drawing, painting, experimentation, a few visits to the library, reading, and tons of screen time.

This summer was perfectly and deliciously “lazy.”

This is the first summer I was not riddled with anxiety over whether my children are getting what they need from our homeschooling. In the past those feelings have often crept up on me and jumped me into a spiral of anxiety and depression, specifically around the twins and their reading and writing “skills.” However, I have slowly but surely let go of ideas regarding where they “should be” and just let them be where they are. I know from experience they will become perfectly adequate readers and writers at the minimum, maybe even voracious readers and prolific writers, who knows? It doesn’t matter, what matters is that they will be independent, self-sufficient and literate because we gave them space and time to get to where they need to be. As a result I had the time and head space to do some planning of activities and events for the fall and winter, work on some personal projects, and actually read, for fun.

Roxie-roo enjoying a summer breeze at Pier 17

During this chill, mellow, low-stress summer, I have also been having some really great conversations with the kids. I found out what they are into now. My son has discovered a new found love for mysteries. He wants to read books about unsolved mysteries and crime/detective fiction. I introduced him to my beloved Sherlock Holmes. The twins have been really delving into their creative sides, through painting, coding and tons of imaginative play. Our older girls and our son have grown closer by starting their own YouTube channel where they film, edit, and come up with their own content. And the coolest thing that’s happened is that the older three have taken on second (and third) language acquisition on their own. They found an app and are learning Korean, Japanese, Germany and Spanish. They have even dragged us into it to. It’s been fun learning along with them.

“Space” by Sonia her completed summer project.

During this time of doing “nothing” I have gotten plenty of ideas and inspiration for the coming fall and winter. Instead of trying to make a schedule I have taken my notebook and written down the things my kids have been interested in. This way I have a record of subjects and topics that will guide me in the types of books and materials that may intrigue them. I can use this information as a guide to further their interests.

During this time of doing “nothing” I have gotten plenty of ideas and inspiration for the coming fall and winter.

As of now, plans for getting back to a full swing unschooling routine with less “down time” will not happen until the end of September. That is just where our lives are right now. We, as in me and my husband, are taking some extra time to work on our own projects. The entire family is getting ready for my sister’s wedding (YAY!). I decided to not get worked up or overextend myself, or my family, in reaching this arbitrary homeschooling start time. This is an easy decision, since I live in a state that doesn’t foist these timelines and deadlines on homeschooling parents.

Sonia sketching at the Newark Museum.

I hope you are all enjoying what is left of your summer and are having a smooth transition into the new homeschooling/unschooling year. Drop me a comment, let me know what you have done this summer? How are you prepping for your homeschool year?

Posted in BIPOC secular unschoolers, BIPOCinsde, Feminism, parenting, revolutionary parenting

The Best Gift I Have for My Children

I
On set for “Bush for the Push” photo credit: Alex Brook-Lynn ig:@alexbrooklynn

****The content is for grown folk, no nudity though****

In May I did a thing. It started in April, when I saw an open casting call for a music video, for the artist known as Miss Eaves. Miss Eaves is a creative dynamo that puts out these amazing body positive anthems, in which showcases all manner of amazing humans of any and all shapes, sizes, ages, and color. Anyway, since her summer song from 2017 “Thunder Thighs” is a favorite of mine I decided to answer the call. The song she was casting for is called “Push for the Bush”. A song that is about body autonomy, and not letting society dictate what you should be doing with your pubic hair.

After shooting off the email and getting a positive response of interest, I was asked to make a short video of me lip synching and dancing to a clip of the song. I almost immediately began to second guess myself, and made all sorts of excuses around why I couldn’t do it. How will I find time to make the audition clip, who will take care of the kids if I get asked to do it, and the best excuse, this is not for me, how would I look, a 45 y.o.mom trying to be cool and hang with millenials? Houston, we have a problem.

The ideals set forth by society, family, and friends of what a “mother” or “mothering” looks like is another form of oppression.

In my last post I went in, on the hard work that goes into raising free children and liberating myself. I was as honest as I know how to be in speaking my truth about what it is to break those bonds of oppression in how we raise our children. I told you all the struggle I have in letting go of the reins, and old ideals. But here is the thing, I cannot raise liberated children who live by their own terms, if I don’t live that way myself. The ideals set forth by society, family, and friends of what a “mother” or “mothering” looks like is another form of oppression. And I am not trying to be oppressed.

If my goal is to raise children to be free people who are unapologetically themselves then I needed to model that shit.

All those creeping reasons in my head as to why I shouldn’t go for this opportunity was me succumbing to oppression. If my goal is to raise children to be free people who are unapologetically themselves then I needed to model that shit. So I made the video, and recruited the help of my kids. They graciously obligated and I sent it off. I got cast as a dancer, and it was an awesome experience. I look fly af in my bikini top, orange booty shorts, and merkin. And my kids have watched the video.

Selfie of me in my bikini top, hot pants, and merkin being cheekie on set.

Society may have a hard time seeing women in anything more than one dimensional tropes, and I may not be able to slay those tropes in society single handedly, but I can do it at home. By showing my children, I am not just mom, I am a layered, complicated, intelligent human being, that my personhood, anyones personhood, is not defined by any one thing. If they learn that at home, then they will not ever question the humanity of any person.

Addendum: I would be remiss if I did not make absolutely clear that, this “gift” I am giving to my children, is something passed on to me by mother. She was and still is unapologetically her authentic, perfect, flawed, amazing self. Thank you mami for this gift, and for modeling the way for me to do the same for my children.

Link to “Bush for the Push” by Miss Eaves

https://youtu.be/8EIkO3tueJw

Follow Miss Eaves on Instagram: @yoeaves

Follow Alex Brook-Lynn on Instagram: @alexbrooklynn

Follow me on Instagram: @brickcityhomeschool

Posted in anxiety, parenting, POC Homeschoolers, POC unschoolers, revolutionary parenting, Uncategorized

I Really Don’t Have My Shit Together. And I Need You to Understand That.

Me and Roxie

Let me start by saying, I don’t have my shit together. Not. At. All. When I began blogging about our homeschooling journey, I promised myself that I was going to be the voice I wish was out there, that voice of a BIPOC, who is raising liberated children that told the good, bad, beautiful, messy, ugly truth. This post is about the messy, ugly of it all. Particularly about the messy work of fighting myself in letting go of the oppressive tools we were told we needed to use to raise, “good, smart, respectful” children that will be better then us.

Us at NY Comic Con 2017

A big part of my life is that of primary educator/facilitator of our children’s learning. And I chose to chronicle our journey. In putting myself out there I did find other BIPOC unschoolers in social media speaking, doing, and sharing, with plenty of room for me to add my voice and perspective. And as I share our journey, and put ourselves out there in the digital space and in our community, the things we are doing, and the way my children navigate their spaces are being seen and talked about. Which is awesome, the feedback I hear directly from those in social media, people I know personally, and from others in our community that heard of us is amazing, and humbling. But I will let you in on a secret, the some things that are said to me about my parenting, or about my children, while have always been positive, leave me really uncomfortable, at times, particularly when people say that we make this look easy and want to know our “secrets”. Some, legit think I have a magic bullet, some people almost scoff when I tell them it’s work, it’s hard, and messy and I struggle often in keeping my shit together. Some don’t want to believe that my kids can be really shitty at times, I am really shitty at times, and we react to each other in the most asinine ways. They don’t want to comprehend that I struggle. Every. Day. I struggle with not being the controlling Latinx mother that is ready to lose her shit and take the slipper to ass. I constantly work on what I preach about giving our children autonomy, and really, honestly fostering an environment that encourages children’s independence and liberation. When I get those reactions of disbelief in my struggle it leaves me feeling some kind of way. It disregards the amount of hard, messy, real work that goes into this. It feels like a back handed compliment.

New Orleans 2017

We as a family work really hard at learning and educating, raising, truly liberated children, and on becoming truly liberated adults. In this growth their can be a lot of pain, the pain of shedding old ideas, that although are toxic, can feel real comfortable. But as you know with any real growth process there is pain, difficulty, and discomfort. In real growth, when you hit an obstacle,you have to strip yourself down and look at the role you are playing in stunting that growth. For me it is acknowledging my controlling, bullying tendencies that rise up when my children choose to test their boundaries and their independence. Some of these contests of the wills have ended in spankings, yelling, harsh ugly words. I have since stopped the spanking, but the violence still rears it’s head in my words. This has also gotten considerably better but it still happens. This is not right, it’s fucked up, and it’s ugly to want to make someone you love hurt. It is a childish, selfish reaction, and I can only guess that this is residual pain from some past experiences from my childhood, this does not give me the right to inflict it on my chidren.

The beautiful struggle has beautiful results.

In this pain and struggle I have learned to apologize unequivocally, I have also learned to not allow for those feelings to dictate how I handle those situations, I walk away, I take time. I do not always succeed. But I am getting better and better, I also do the work to heal the hurt I have inflicted by my words as soon as I can. I speak to them honesty, I take blame and responsibility for my actions, full stop.

This work, is THE WORK. The growth that happens to build an environment of learning, love, and liberation, it is the messy, hard, beautiful work. So the next time you see me, or another person you admire, who is doing things you admire, tell them you appreciate them and see the work they are putting in.

Continue reading “I Really Don’t Have My Shit Together. And I Need You to Understand That.”

Posted in anxiety, parenting, POC Homeschoolers, POC unschoolers, POCinSDE, revolutionary parenting, Secular Homeschool, self directed education, Uncategorized

Mini Series on Success Part 2: Deschool Yourself

 

Deschooling: What is it?

I didn’t intend to write a series on success, but after having written my last post, I kept thinking that there was more I could talk about when it comes to reimagining and expanding our notions of success as it pertains to raising liberated people, and liberating ourselves.  So, we are going to talk about deschooling; what it is defined to be and how it is usually implemented in the homeschooling and unschooling space, as well as how I define it and how we utilize it in our own self-directed journey.

Deschooling is a term of art, as it were, used by homeschoolers and unschoolers. According to http://www.en.oxforddictionaries.com deschooling is:

1. The action or process of transferring the function of education within society from conventional schools to noninstitutional systems of learning which are held to allow the student to develop freely.

2.  The action or process of removing a child from the school system so as to educate him or her at home; the transitional process undergone by a child removed from the school system.

Basically, deschooling is something that happens after you take your child out of a conventional school model, to help your child make a smooth transition into homeschooling or unschooling. Many people adhere to the one month of deschooling per each year your child was in school. And during this time the child, or children, take time to NOT do anything they would have done in school, or to do anything “school” like. The idea is to help the child get out of the mind-set of what school is supposed to look like as dictated by our education system. The reasons for doing this is because children will resist the new way of learning and being educated because it’s not the way it was done in school, or they may need time to adjust to not seeing their school friends and interacting in a school setting. Basically, you are deprogramming them, then reprogramming them.

Deschooling: why and how we did it.

We didn’t deschool when we first began to homeschool,  because I knew nothing of homeschooling and for us it was a stop-gap, due to our very transitional situation when we moved to Florida. I was basically trying to replicate school at home until we got permanently settled in our  home and we could register them in school. I had no idea what I was doing, and it wasn’t until about 2 years into our homeschooling experience that I learned of deschooling, and I still didn’t utilize this tool. The reason I decided not to implement deschooling was because, I figured we were already in flow, I thought I had a handle on things and believed we were well past that “phase”, for it to do any good.  It wasn’t until quite recently that we implemented the idea of deschooling, although we had already been homeschooling for a while. I realized there was definitely a need for us to deschool, and not just the children, but me as well, my partner had already been deschooling, or more like decolonizing himself for quite some time, he was ahead of the curve.  Once again I found myself doing things in “the wrong order” and in the “wrong way”, but really  there is no wrong way.

I decided to deschool after having homeschooled for about two and a half years, and I decided not just deschool the furious five but myself as well.  During our first deschooling period we took our time, it happened after we got back from our San Francisco family vacation in 2016. I took time to reevaluate how we homeschool, and really started to explore the idea of self-directed education and leaning into unschooling ways, and getting away from putting together a curriculum. I will tell you this time of deschooling prove to give me extra anxiety and not less, but that was because I was fighting it all the way. I was having these internal dialogues in where I kept convincing myself that I needed to have more control and that my children needed to learn specific things at specific times to be “successful”, to be college ready by the time they turn eighteen. It was a struggle.  But in this struggle, learning and change was happening, my children where still flourishing, even more so than in the previous years, and my ideas of education and success where changing.  I already questioned what was taught in schools and how it was being taught. This deschooling process, was when I began to truly question the arbitrary educational “milestones” and “goals” placed upon our children when they enter school.  As a result I was able to truly see the growth we have all made, deschooling cleared away the clutter. It helped me let go of the societal ideas of success and I was able to clearly see the benefits of  homeschooling for our family, and it helped me to let go of the idea of controlling how, when and what my children should learn. For my children the deschooling time was a time where they continued to learn, but in their own way. They discovered a love of anime and manga, they began writing fan fiction, they taught themselves to draw in the anime style, they continued learning and practicing their music, they learned coding, they worked on math on their own. The idea is that they kept learning and thriving but strictly on their own terms,  This was what the first round of deschooling did for us, but as I said it wasn’t the only time we deschooled.

Deschooling should be an ongoing process

As my kids evolve and grow we take time to reevaluate and deschool in small doses, and by that I mean this, as human beings we are constantly growing and evolving, or at least we should be if we want to continue to be better versions of ourselves. As children, however we do our most growing and evolving, and I, as the facilitator or guide, of our children’s education  need to evolve in how I help. The needs of my children are different due to age and personality, what my children need from me change as they grow and are different from one child to the next, from one stage of development to the next, being able to take time every few weeks and deschool on a mini scale keeps us grounded in our purpose and keeps us from becoming stagnant in our learning.

Deschooling is for everyone

When talking of deschooling it is exclusively discussed when it comes to homeschoolers, and even then it is pertaining to just the children and not often the adults. There is now this small although very real groundswell in the homeschool space, particularly among us that are very much interested in raising liberated children, and having our children learn through self-directed learning, to deschool ourselves as adults. It is important for us as adults to shed the trappings of what success looks like, because these notions are tools of oppression, and as my favorite podcaster, Akilah Richards, has taught me we can’t be steeped in oppression and think we can raise liberated children. But the tools of deschooling can be used for any of us looking to re-evaluate how we achieve success, and in finding ways to rethink how to achieve goals, complete projects, and to live a fulfilling life on your own terms.

I still have to deschool myself on an almost daily basis

Last thing I want to say is that since I began the deschooling process in my forties, I have a lot of deprogramming to do, and for me deschooling is an almost daily process. I constantly check myself and my children have no qualms in challenging me daily, and making really think about why I am doing things the way I am doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in parenting, POC Homeschoolers, POC unschoolers, POCinSDE, revolutionary parenting, Secular Homeschool, self directed education

Success, Who Wants It?

We have been a homeschool family for almost five years. For me, this journey has been the most challenging thing I have undertaken, more than working my way through college, more than getting myself into law school, more challenging, even, then the one and only year of law school I completed, (forever a 1L). I can give a million reasons as to why it has been so challenging, but the number one reason for my constant struggles, *anxiousness, and worry was buying into the conventional views of success. Striving for success is part of human nature and there is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve success in our lives. The problem is that we have been purposefully shaped by society to have a very specific view of success.

Success, as current society will have you believe, is being the most industrious we can be, not for ourselves, but for others. We have to be the best student by “learning” and regurgitating the information they give us in exactly the fashion they tell us to give it back. We have to be the most productive at work, to generate the most money, not for us, but for whomever employs us. And if we do these things, we get the best grades, get into the best college, get the best salary,  so we can get the best house, nicest car, fanciest clothes.  All this to show how successful we are to the rest of society. We have been brainwashed into believing that the amount and a specific kind of “success” is tied to our self-worth. We all go along with it, and do all we can to show the world how great we are through our “successes” and the “successes” of our children. There is nothing bad or wrong with wanting, to excel in work or school, or to want financial security, or home ownership, etc. But I want to challenge the notion that these are the only real markers of success. In particular I am challening the notions of  “success” in education, today. Academic and educational success is nothing  more then a measure of  whether we can follow directions, and take a test to show how well we followed those directions, nothing more.

For many of us the pursuit of  this particular kind of success is a road to unhappiness, and stress, mainly because these are not our ideas of success. I would argue that these ideas of success are actually tools, put in place to keep us in check. These ideas are all a form of social control, a method of the engrained system of white supremacy, racism, and classism that permeates our culture, government, and society. We are all victims of this, people of color, and white people. Do some of us benefit from this more than others? Yes, of course. However, the reality is that most of us are victims of the effects of these ideas. And we all play a part in perpetuating this fraud.

The irony is that those of us that decided to educate our children at home, do this because we do not want our children to fall in line with the status quo. We found that the education system in this country does not adequately take on the task of educating our children. Be it the wanton teaching of false narratives in history and science, or willfully being ignorant to the realities of racism that our Black and Brown children deal with, or not having the means to educate our children with special needs, we all found the education system sorely lacking. We all knew at a some level that the conventional ideas of success, are not at all a real measure of how well our children are doing, intellectually, or emotionally. These ideas do not help our children to be independent thinkers, they don’t give them the tools to be leaders, nor does the false narrative of success foster the natural curiosity of children. Yet and still, many of us continue to use the strategies that have been used on all of us, to educate our children. We hold on to these notions of succcess to measure how “well” we are doing in our homeschooling.

The mistake that some of us have made when taking on our children’s education was to hold on to the idea that our children have to hit these arbitrary milestones in their learning. I know, because this is the trap that I fell into when we started our homeschooling. Another trap some fall into is to begin actively homeschooling our children at the ages of one to four years of age.  We hear that other parents are putting their children into daycare and pre-k, we hear stories about how their children are already learning letters, and getting “work” at these young ages. We worry that if we don’t begin “teaching” at these young ages our children will be behind and will not be “successful”. The truth is if you engage your babies, in play, read to them, show them love and attention, and let them explore they will learn. For toddlers playing IS learning. They don’t care about any of your plans or how you have made up a Pinterest worthy curriculum, or homeschool corner. Your babies will quickly disabuse you of those well laid plans, and when they do, let them.  Following their lead and giving them the support and tools they need to fulfill their curiosities will lead to far more “learning” then memorizing letters and sounds. As our children grow we must remember, there is no need for our children to be engaged in “school activities” for 8 hours a day. There is no need for your child to be doing four hours of busy work to “reenforce” their learning. If  you give them support, space, and guidance your children will learn. Encouraging them when they show interest in things that you may not think as “educational” can lead to the best learning experiences. For example if your child loves video games, encourage them to learn how video games are made, and maybe even ask them to make their own video games. If they love watching YouTube videos, ask them  what they like about the videos, would they like to try making their own videos? If so, encourage research about what is needed to make a video and see if they can put your own videos together. They will have to read, think, organize, depending on the interest, math may even be involved, learning is happening they are getting all the skills they need and creating amazing things in the process.

Remember our reasons for doing this, we want to raise independent, self reliant people, who can live a fullfilled life on their own terms. If we refocus, reimagine what success is for ourselves great learning will happen. Success should be about living life on your own terms, doing what makes you fulfilled and happy. Trust that you have what you need to teach your child, and the wisdom to know when you need to contract out some of the education of your child to the village.

I am constantly asked how I do it. How are my kids so, smart, creative, happy, well adjusted? Well, truth is, we are constantly evolving in how we go about our education. During this evolution I came to the realization that I need to take my kids lead. They are smart, wise, and know what they need. Believe me when I say there were plenty of missteps, especially with the three oldest, they were definitely guinea pigs. By the time it came to the twins homeschooling, our homeschool evolved into this hybrid, an unschooling, project based, self directed learning, monster that completely works for us. My kids, want freedom in some things, and want structure in other aspects. I learned to hang back and let them rock, when they need me they tell me. My husband says, at this point we are just the adults in the room, the ones they need to get them on the ride, as it were. They love being creative, we helped find outlets for them and let them run with it. Music, fan-fiction writing, poetry, cosplay, drawing, learning to make their own pop up books, coding, these are all their ideas. We throw in math and help them to read, sprinkle in some history with a healthy dose of science, and technology and that’s it. I understand that this may not be the recipe for success for everyone,  point is that we figured out our own recipe, and I greatly encourage you to do the same. The way I went about striving for success as we saw it,  was by no longer worrying about how it looks to others. I stopped getting myself tangled up in knots over whether they will be “ready” for college at eighteen years old. The questions about socialization, and what “grade” they are in, and if they were reading and doing math at “grade level” no longer fill me with dread. These questions always make me roll my eyes, and if you catch me on a bad day you may get some heavy shade, if I choose to answer those questions. Really, I couldn’t care less what society as a whole thinks about our family and how we educate ourselves. This is as much, and sometimes more, of a learning journey for me and my husband. We are constantly learning, and I still have to fall back and check myself when those old notions of success creep in to tell me we are doing it all wrong.

Let me end by sharing some things I wish someone could have told me when we embarked on this journey. First, do not play the comparison game, that just leads to stress that is unwanted and unneeded. If you are thinking of homeschooling, take time to unlearn the bad habits, deschool, decolonize, and talk to people whose homeschool style you admire before you begin. Seriously assess how you view success and think about whether your quest for success has left you content, fulfilled, joyous, or has it made you feel like a hamster on a wheel. If it’s the latter check that shit before you engage in homeschooling, and do some soul searching on what you would like success to be for you as the educator. If it’s the former then go with that. Talk to your children always and often, let them define success for themselves. If you are currently on a homeschool journey and are feeling all these stresses. Stop. Breathe. Reassess. Deschool. Reevaluate. And finally construct your own definition of success, write it down, keep it close, and when you feel those old feelings and stresses creeping back, read it to yourself. Remember success is what YOU make it. Your success, your children’s success can ONLY be defined by you and your children.

*( I know I have mentioned my own anxiousness through out this piece, I am by no means saying that if you have an anxiety disorder that changing your definition of success will keep you from suffering from any of the effects of anxiety. I am only speaking of anxiousness not tied to anxiety disorder or any other mental illness. I would never suggest that this will be a fix for any mental health disorders. Please, always take care of yourself and seek professional help if you suffer from depression and anxiety. Peace.)