You can miss out on maths or chemistry or literature studies now and learn it whenever you please later. The same cannot be said as readily for the building blocks of emotional literacy.
My experience is not unique. All of my unschooling friends report the same. Guiding our children emotionally is where we are making the greatest time investment and also the greatest impact. When I look around our group, things are not perfect. Obviously! We are all human. I have seen all of the kids at one time or another do things that affect others. I have seen all of the children encounter conflict together. But because there are so many adults and a multi-age peer group around to provide support and guidance, these issues never grow. Everyone is working together every step of the way to help our children navigate and understand the situations they are faced with each day. When difficulties are addressed with respect and understanding in their infancy, there is less scope for them to develop into anything more pervasive. I look around our group of children and I see social interactions and relationships that are overwhelmingly positive and healthy. There is no chance to get lost when you are walking together with people who know the way. Perhaps it is only when you are left to navigate alone, unsure of the path, that you can arrive in a scary place.
I feel like this is what we see over and over in the education system. There are no bad children. There are no children incapable of learning the tools they need to process their emotional responses. But there are a lot of children left to walk alone and further isolated with each misstep. There are a lot of children burdened with shame when they are unable to learn emotional regulation at the pace of their peers. There are a lot of children ignoring their emotions so they can toe the line. And I see now, if we forget for a minute all of the academic stuff, there is something much greater at stake. It is impossible to condense the kind of emotional mentorship that a young child requires into the time they spend outside the classroom. It is the kind of support that needs to happen in the moment with all of the information at hand, with a person who has time to offer the support needed, no matter how long it takes.
There is no chance to get lost when you are walking together with people who know the way. Perhaps it is only when you are left to navigate alone, unsure of the path, that you can arrive in a scary place.
We are not all fortunate enough to be able to opt out of the education system, but we are all capable of lending voice to this issue. We are all able to stand up and say that the emotional health of our child is more important than learning to read at four. We are all able to say that if our child is coming home and falling apart or shutting down, something isn’t right. We are all able to say that it is time to shift focus. I want people to know that unschooling isn’t about learning everything you learn in school, in a different format. It isn’t about what is equal or what is lost. It is a seized opportunity. Because I can see now, that there is so much that is gained.
Originally published HERE.
My name is Courtney and I am the mother of three incredible children. We are Australian, but currently live in Toronto, Canada via stints in Zambia and Chile. I blog about unschooling and respectful parenting at www.theuntamed.net and share more about our days on social media @theuntamedfamily.