Monday, November 05, 2012

Am I risking too much to unschool?

There's this false assumption that if you’re on a modest income, you can’t unschool. The thinking goes that unschooling is for the financially secure; those who can afford activities like travel, entertainment, exposure to costly cultural events, cutting-edge resources and of course tutors.
This is certainly untrue in my neck of the woods. Nor is true in almost every other unschooling/homeschooling milieu I know of. Most families I know who unschool have financial constraints. These families are usually one income households on tight budgets, or parents running their own businesses, or parents who work part time. These families make it happen. They barter services, they're constantly on the look out for free opportunities. The library is their greatest supporter. The great outdoors is a steady friend and teacher and of course community resources are invaluable. Redefining expectations of what a 'good life' is is key to successful unschooling.
Still the question arises; are we risking too much to unschool? What happens in the event of an emergency- say a dental emergency? What happens if you can’t make your mortgage payment and it’s your fault- because you should have put the kids in school and got a real job?
It can be a really tough call when you decide to give up job opportunities (that you studied hard for besides) in order to unschool your kids. Family members can be quick to criticize you and you secretly wonder too, if you are crazy.

It boils down to priorities and priorities do change. When my kids were little I was determined to stay home with them so that living in city housing was the only way our family could live on one income to make it happen.

Having too little money can cause untold stress; that’s why many unschooling moms try to maintain a part time gig, or some arrangement to earn money while the kids are very little. This also helps keep your foot in the ‘working world.’
If the stress of  having too little money becomes unbearable, families will make arrangements to put kids in school for a year or so and continue to use the unschooling philosophy in their homes. You have to do what you have to do. I know people who wish they had not stuck it out with unschooling; their children suffered too much because of the poverty they were in. This is particularly true when a couple does not see eye-to-eye on unschooling; that is, when one parent is not on board with the idea and only consents to do it grudgingly. If both parents are on board, it makes unschooling on a budget a whole lot easier.
Reality Check; the economy, in general, is in rough shape and maintaining a job that has long term benefits is getting harder and harder. Making one's own way looks like a good alternative and if that includes unschooling, then all the better.
I call on all unschoolers to be active citizens for unschooling. This means making working to ensure universal medical care continues to be available; that affordable housing is available, that there are community gardens and other opportunities available. To unschool we need to have those basic necessities met. This is the same for kids who go to school; if they don’t have daily meals, if they live in a shelter, if they have no decent coat or shoes to wear,  it is going to be a whole lot tougher to focus on what is being taught in the classroom.
My next post will be unschooling on a budget.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this honest and frank post about a real concern many of us who unschool have. Many times I have been tempted to put the kids in school but they do so well at home I just don't want to disrupt that. Things are really tight for us right now but we are determined to make unschooling work. I have just taken on part time work as a waitress (evening shifts)and this will help us until my husband's business takes off.

Darcel - the mahogany way said...

This is something I struggle with lately. I don't have to question that my children know they are loved, but I feel awful that we can't provide various activities. I'm looking into the YMCA and Rec centers now. They are happy but are asking for more and I want to provide them more.

rfs said...

@Darcel-Sounds like it's time to get creative. One thing I did often, was to organize group lessons and that way, get a cheaper rate per person.
There are also lots of programs at the public library and also at college and universities that are open to the community. We do this with rock climbing and dance. Lots of free concerts at the university as well and of course art!

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