18 June 2012
unschool monday :: when you are five
These days, according to the world outside our nest, five is the general age by which there are things you should be able to do. By now you should be learning to read and write. You should be able to sit still for a period of time. You should be able to answer questions and think logically. You should eat your lunch, stand up straight and learn to tie your shoe laces. You are deemed able and willing to leave the nest, at least for the biggest part of the day. For some children that last 'should' happens much sooner... As a parent, you should be encouraging all these things and find a way to place your trust in others to provide an education and the right kind of care for your child. But where I live, not all five year olds are the same...
In our nest five means playing all day and making friends and learning about the world you inhabit, just by inhabiting it. It means much the same as four and three meant, only you can do much more stuff now. It means wearing a paper tiara to afternoon tea and long days spent imagining and negotiating with friends. It means eating when you are hungry and sleeping when you are tired. It means learning to listen to your own body. It means knowing yourself and getting to the 'shoulds' when, and if, you are good and ready for them. For some children, this happens much earlier than five, for some it comes later. And that's ok.
Unschooling gives us the space to live removed from the word 'should'. Instead, we acknowledge where we are at and observe it and encourage growth. In an unschooled world, children of all different ages spend time together. The comparisons of where you 'should' be up to don't apply. At five, you are striving to catch up to the big kids and be like them, do what they do. And you will.
So, as parents, how do we know our child is doing ok? Is it even legal to just give them that kind of space? If they don't read now, will they ever? These are questions I'm always asked as an unschooling parent... Home education is legal in Australia. In Tasmania, we have a body called the Tasmanian Home Education Advisory Council (THEAC). They are made up of representatives from the education department, and home educators. They recognise Unschooling and Natural Learning as a legitimate form of education.
At the beginning of each period of registration (2 years for us), we write up an outline of our program. This is a little tricky, but generally we list all the things we hope to do and the resources we have available to us. Then later, we have a visit from a monitoring officer to chat about how things are going and make sure that we are monitoring and keeping track of our own child's development. They want to see that we are aware of the 'shoulds' and are working towards them in some way, although they understand that not everyone gets there at the same time. They let us be the best judge of what our own 'shoulds' are and whether we are meeting them.
In other states in Australia this process is trickier, with Home Educators expected to stick to a particular curriculum, while in Victoria you just have to let them know you are home educating and everyone is happy... There are also a number of non-registered home educators out there and I expect that freedom and autonomy is behind the reasoning there. There may be a little extra creative license at play when preparing family reports for registration in some states. I'd like to hope that one day Unschooling will be accepted in all states as a legitimate method of learning and that parents will be trusted to keep tabs on where their child is at, without the help of NAPLAN tests and such like.
Personally, if an owlet is lagging behind in some area, they'll probably notice it first, or we will, when we see them amongst peers and we chat amongst friends. At that point, we can work to rectify it, or nurture said owlet in an encouraging setting until they get there under their own steam. There's time later on for life to get hard and for children to measure up, but right now, at five, it is time to be free to play and to dream and to learn about life just by living it.
Thanks for joining us again for Unschool Mondays. I'm loving re-connecting with such a wonderful community of peeps doing their own awesome things in their own way. As Helena's post last week pointed out, no two 'schools' are alike and that's what's so exciting about what we do. I'm excited to see more and learn more about what unschooling looks like at your nest. Please add your link if you'd like to join in. xx