I'm Karen, mom to Joshua, 15 and Eric, 9. We began this journey with Josh in a "very good" public school system here in Massachusetts. I would say he was a classic case of a kid that learned differently. I always told him that, but that didn't help him feel any better about going to school where the work was either too frustrating or painfully boring. He had been diagnosed with so many things: ADHD, Tourette's, Sensory Issues, handwriting issues- oh, and social skills issues!
With intense intervention and medication, Josh was reluctantly reading at grade level by third grade, but by then he was miserable. We tried school for two more years, still hoping things would get better, but I knew in my heart that there was nothing wrong with this unhappy boy, he just needed to get out of school!
I unfortunately didn't start homeschooling until after 5th grade. I tried for two months- and then I knew I needed to let him completely deschool. Josh spent the rest of the year building amazing things with Legos -and hot glue, tape, sheet metal, wood, string, pvc pipe, and anything else he could get his hands on! By the end of the year, we had heard of unschooling and Josh asked me to please let him unschool for a year! I did so, reluctantly, while my younger son went to 1st grade. I thought maybe he would enjoy it- hah!
Long story short: First grade was a disaster and I was finally done. (I know, I'm slow!) I half-heartedly tried to do some light homeschooling while I did some research and let the unschooling philosophy marinate in my brain. In my heart, I knew we needed to unschool, but it was so scary for me to let go and let it happen! When I saw Sandra speak Feb 2011 I finally understood that unschooling was a process of joyful living! So, it's been a long road, but we are all finally enjoying the journey as we continue to grow and learn as a family.
Last spring, I separated from my husband of 22+ years, who is fortunately supportive of unschooling. I realized, among many other reasons for separating, that I could not unschool while in an unhappy relationship and I am happily learning to embrace my own life once again. I am studying to be a holistic health coach, enjoying watercolor, knitting, writing, learning to garden and walking my new puppy, all while I continue to work part-time for my husband's landscaping business! As a family, we enjoy camping, biking and road trips. In the winter, we just like to stay warm at home!
Josh will still play with Legos on occasion, but his true passion is downhill mountain biking. He loves the thrill of the speed and the challenge of landing big jumps! He is even planning on racing this year! He also enjoys radio control cars, Minecraft, reading, photography and would someday like to be a bike mechanic and live at Whistler Mountain Bike Park in Canada! Josh has a nice network of friends- both schooled, homeschooled and unschooled and I rarely even think about any of the diagnoses that defined him as a younger child in school.
Eric also loves Legos and has also recently discovered Minecraft! He also enjoys the outdoors and nature. But Eric's real joy lies in having fun! He loves to play (and invent) all kinds of sports and games and especially likes to show off his unicyling and circus arts skills- the diablo and devil sticks! He will be going to Circus Smirkus camp again this summer in Vermont- a very unschooly camp, actually!
I share our story with the hope that it reaches other families who are struggling with the decision to leave school or are finding the road to unschooling overwhelming. It has turned out to be the most natural experience for our family and I only wish I had known about it much, much sooner.
Note from Sandra: He's not that young anymore but look at that hair: