Tuesday, August 12, 2008

(Not) Back to School

School began this week in our southern Indiana town, the yellow bus rolling down our street at 7:45, the kids pulling their wobbly wheeled packs down the alley.

Dragonstar and I wave at the bus, and continue with our summer. We're not smug (really, we're not) but we truly do love not going back to school.

About a month ago we met some other local unschoolers, which was a godsend for us. For the ten or so years we’ve lived in this area, we’ve known only one other unschooling family, though we know lots of homeschoolers. Now we have the makings of a tribe of our own, a small group of honest-to-goodness radical unschoolers who live as if school doesn’t exist. We don’t use curricula. We don’t follow grades. We don’t break the world down into subjects for study. We don’t want a broken world; we want a whole one, a holy one: intact, interconnected, complex, mysterious, miraculous.

For many years Dragonstar and I have sought communion with unschoolers online, via email lists and web forums. Last year we went to the Live & Learn Conference in North Carolina, the largest gathering of unschoolers and prospective unschoolers in the country. We’re going again this year, in less than a month, and we’re looking forward to being among so many like-minded people once again.

But here at home, finding others like us has been a lean search. And that takes a toll. When you don’t see much of yourself reflected in the world, it’s easy to pick up doubt, to question your path, to second-guess your decisions. And every year, as we see the first yellow school bus roll by, I do question, and I do second-guess.

But I no longer doubt.

Unschooling is a lot like faith – any faith, religious, metaphysical, political. (And if you don’t think politics is based on faith and a belief in things unseen, you probably haven’t thought much about politics, let alone about faith.) If we never probe our beliefs, if we never look deeper into the what and why and how come and who says, our convictions will be thin and brittle, dogmatic, received wisdom at best. Our faith – not to mention our lives – will not be our own. We will not grow. We will not thrive. It isn’t a betrayal of faith to question it; it’s essential.

Dragonstar and I have been unschoolers for many years, and we think differently today than we did a year ago, five years ago, ten. Don’t you? And while we answer criticism and queries about our lives with confidence born of experience, we can’t be afraid to reconsider our path from time to time, to check in with our hearts and hold some open space for new and different choices to emerge. Very little in life is ever really decided “once and for all.” Few truths are whole truths. The world is still big, and we know a lot less than we think we do.

We’re always learning. And we love not going back to school.

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