When our daughter was born 4 years ago I had never heard of Unschooling. It wasn’t too long though that I was knee deep in the Unschooling online world, which seemed a natural progression from Attachment Parenting (another term and concept I learned about after my daughter was born). It seemed many who were in the Unschooling community subscribed to Attachment Parenting philosophies when their children were infants, leading to Unschooling as their children grew.
Unschooling immediately rang true to me. It made complete sense. Children will learn when ready, at their own pace, when they are interested in a subject matter (and really, they’re always learning but I digress). Trusting your child learns this way and not dependent upon a curriculum is key.
It can be scary, trusting that your child will just learn how to write without you sitting them down for hours a day reviewing the alphabet. Will they ever be able to read or write if I don’t quiz them, make them follow lessons? Stand over them while they work? Force them to complete exercises? These are the questions, fears that pop in and out. I allow them, then I let them go as quickly as they showed up.
If anything I’m learning how to trust the process. Her process. I am learning to let go of my need to control; of my need to figure things out, to have an outcome in mind. I’m learning to put her needs before mine, to allow her the space required to play and learn.
I’ve caught myself trying to orchestrate learning and found myself frustrated that she wasn’t interested enough in what I was showing her. It was during those moments I realized my frustration belonged to me and wasn’t a result of how she was or wasn’t responding.
Let me take you back about a year or so to when my daughter was 2.5/3 yrs old. I noticed more and more that she was interested in talking about letters and numbers. Every once in a while she’d ask, “what’s that?” and I’d say E for Evie (her cousins name) or J for Jason (her uncles name). She’d take stickers with a letter on it, place it somewhere and ask what it was. It was casual. It was here and there. As the months went by she’d point out E when we were out and about and say E for Evie! This progressed to more letters, and numbers.
About 6 months ago I realized there was something different about how she was processing things so I bought some wipe clean alphabet and number books where she could trace letters and numbers. They’re great books, fun and easy going ~ she loves them. She traces letters, draws on the page and has fun. No pressure, no instructions, just fun. Around the same time I had also read a blog belonging to a fellow Unschooler where she discussed how her son was picking up writing, mentioning a few apps he loves ~ I immediately downloaded them to my daughters iPhone (our old 4). Up until that point the only games she had played were from Sago Sago. She opened her iPhone and started playing. She was immediately taken. She loved them from the word go. She was learning and having fun, a lot of fun. Fast forward a few months and she’s now writing her name. She has become so interested in writing she’ll write letters using straws and pipe cleaners on the counter. She throws them together to create an A, switches them slightly and creates an H. Writes a P flips it and sees the b. Then she writes her name. She loves it. Her face lights up with such pride. She is doing it. Her impulse is to create the letters for her, no one else.
I noticed something interesting when we first got her wipe clean books. The letters have large dots leading to an arrow and a second smaller dot leading to another arrow to show where pen strokes are to go. I remember sitting down with my daughter one day when she had pulled the book off the shelf. I noticed these dots and arrows and said, “Hey, cool! Look at this, this large dot is…” she didn’t care. She didn’t want to hear it. She just wanted to trace the letters and scribble in the book. The more I tried to show her the awesomeness of these dots and arrows the more she shut me out. I became frustrated, how could she not want to know about these dots? Or the direction her marker is supposed to go! Then I realized it’s more for me than her. I was insisting she listen so I could feel I was ‘doing something’ to help her in this process. I was trying to validate my role by ‘showing her’ something. It wasn’t for her. She was already into the book. She was already right in there, doing and learning. That was the moment I realized much of what I do for her is really for me to feel like I am doing enough, showing enough, involved enough. I didn’t trust her process or that she was going to pick up on the dots and arrows her self, when ready, if she needed to at all.
It seems like the magic combo for her, these apps and books. It seems like the perfect time. She is picking things up quicker than I imagined it would happen. It’s as if over night she has become a letter master. And she has. Because it’s the right time for her, in her own way, her own pace and because she is 100% into it.
I’m learning to trust the process. Even though up until this point I’ve witnessed hundreds of things she has learned without my tutelage whatsoever. Crawling, walking, speaking… all these and more she has learned at her own pace, when ready. I knew she would, I didn’t interfere. I didn’t do tummy time. I didn’t assist her when making her way up or down stairs. I spotted her of course but, I never showed her how. I didn’t show her how to put on her underwear and I didn’t potty train her. I didn’t sleep train or show her how to hold a fork. I trusted these things would happen when she was ready, and they have. When she accomplishes something new she becomes overjoyed. It’s for her that she does these things, not for me, not for my approval. She accomplishes new challenges and I see it affect her, her confidence blossoms.
I suppose it’s challenging as a parent to trust the process as our children grow older beyond crawling/walking/talking because Unschooling for most is a brand new concept ~ despite families having been living this way for decades now. It’s still just reaching the surface of mainstream consciousness. I suppose it’s also a shift in thinking because it’s just a given for most, they go to school to learn. “How else will they learn history or geography? Of course they go to school, why wouldn’t they?” A shift in perspective; trusting a persons’ innate ability to learn and grow without the use of modern standardized schooling.
Learning to trust the process is as much about my growth as it is my daughters.