Homeschoolers: Do you want to be stuck in a stressful role?

Awesome unschooling adventure. Photo by Freya Dawson

When you’re raising a child, society expects you to take on a certain role as a parent. I found many of the expectations and responsibilities that came with being a conventional “good mother” extremely stressful. Especially since my eldest child just wouldn’t cooperate with the role of “good boy.”

He was so determined to do things in his own way and his own time that school wasn’t an option he was willing to consider. I’d heard of homeschooling, but had my reservations. When you chose to homeschool your child, society expects you to take on a role a teacher. That worried me.

The roles of parent and teacher are defined by conventions that are passed down the generations and reinforced through relationships, the media and institutions in our society. Some aspects of these roles are defined by law, but most are defined by commonly held beliefs in the community.

The conventional roles of parent and teacher come with unwritten rules, responsibilities, expectations and judgements about how to do it the “right way” or the “wrong way.” Like me, you may find that neither of those conventional roles works well for you or your child. I discovered this very early in my parenting journey. I decided, right from the start that I didn’t want to adopt any form of punishment or imposed discipline. That was a huge step outside of convention.

As a direct consequence of choosing not to punish my child, I completely failed at getting him “under control”, which is what people around me expected me to do.

I wouldn’t and couldn’t control, manage or train him to conform in his sleeping, eating, emotional expression or behaviour. His “out of control” way of being managed to trigger a whole lot of repressed emotions and confusion in my mind. I was on an emotional and mental roller coaster of intense reactions.

When conventional schooling isn’t going to work

It soon became clear that my son wasn’t going to cooperate with the conventional role of “school kid” either. When he refused to go back to preschool at age 4, I discovered the role of homeschooler.

The concept of homeschooling relies on the parent taking on a similar role to a teacher in school. There an expectation that you will control your child’s education by teaching them the school curriculum in the conventional time-frame using conventional methods.

That clearly wasn’t going to work with my son. He was very, very clear that he wanted to learn in his own way and his own time. My younger son soon followed his lead.

The idea of homeschooling (doing school at home - or something similar) certainly didn’t sit well with me. I rejected the notion that I should force or emotionally manipulate my children to learn in a certain way or force-feed them a predetermined body of knowledge. I also rejected the expectation that I would test or grade their learning or compare it to other children.

Fortunately, I discovered that there was something called unschooling!

There were parents who rejected the conventional role of teacher and were actively unlearning their beliefs about education and teaching.

I discovered that it was possible to investigate, question and unlearn both the conventional roles of parent and teacher at the same time!

I heard these unschooling parents describe a new way of being in relationship with their child that was based on respect, trust and joyful flow.

The whole idea was simultaneously exciting and terrifying. The determination of my two sons and my natural inclination towards freedom meant that conscious parenting and unschooling became our journey.

Having made the decision to unschool my sons I had to face bucket-loads of fear and yet, it was one of the best decisions that I ever made.

It’s all about unlearning

To make unschooling and conscious parenting work for us I had to commit to the process of unlearning the conventional roles and beliefs.

It’s been a pretty wild and amazing ride for the last 16 years. The freedom that comes from that dedication to unlearning is amazing.

When the conventional roles of parent and teacher are unlearned there is a wonderful intimacy, spontaneity and flow in our relationships and learning. There are many surprises, challenges and adventures.

The heavy, stressful feeling of the conventional roles has been replaced with light-hearted joy. This was is huge weight off my shoulders.

I want to assure you that you can do this too.

You can reject and unlearn the conventional roles and expand into a much more free-flowing way of being with your child.

You can even do it without breaking any laws! You can have your freedom and pass through the eye of the legal requirements (homeschool registration) without trouble.

The belief that you can or should control your child’s development and education is simply not true, but please don’t take my word for it. There are an increasing number of parents who have stepped off the conventional path and unlearned the conventional roles and have embraced the freedom and challenges that brings. Most, that I know, are delighted that they did. They count it as one of the best decisions they ever made. But there is only one way to find out if it is right for you and your family. You have to test this out for yourself.

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I’m a parenting, unschooling and spiritual mentor and writer. I help parents live with their children without stress or struggle.

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Freya Dawson

Freya Dawson

I’m a parenting, unschooling and spiritual mentor and writer. I help parents live with their children without stress or struggle.

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