Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Decider

[photo by N.]

One of the most important factors that has confirmed us on this unschooling path is that N. has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want to go to school, that he’s never going to school, that he’s only going to high school or only going to college. I know he’s not opposed to learning; he loves telling me, in a rather schooly way, in fact, about things he and Daddy have learned during the day. I don’t really know why he says he doesn’t want to go to school – his habitual timidity about the unfamiliar, his awareness that he is the only one of his friends who doesn’t go to preschool, his awareness of our homeschool predilections – but I nonetheless take these statements seriously, just as I would take an expression of desire to attend school seriously. So I am glad I have the opportunity to respect this desire of his, this expression his identity and needs, instead of having to mount a lengthy in-home PR campaign to convince him that school is good for him.

“His desires are his needs,” counsels Dr. Sears in his wonderful Baby Book, and this was our mantra during the first year of N.’s life. He was an intense baby, and this mantra helped me stay true to the kind of parenting I wanted to practice during those challenging months. The principle is still a central tenet for us, though we don’t go as far as the parenting style known as Radical Unschooling. Why shouldn’t a child’s desires be a significant element in a decision as foundational to his life as his mode of education?

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