As someone who has spent over a decade enthusing about home education and unschooling, it is rare that I talk about the more difficult bits of these practises. Mostly this is because I love doing it so much that it doesn’t feel hard most of the time, and partly it’s because raising children has hard bits no matter which way you do it. (If you aren’t familiar with unschooling, read my post ‘What Is Unschooling?‘)
But there are certain things in home education that can be quite a bit of effort, especially if you choose to follow a style such as unschooling. These alternative approaches require something from us that is one of the most difficult things for a person to do, and that is to be absolutely, brutally honest about ourselves, our past and the world around us.
It is difficult because if we do this- if we are radically honest with ourselves- it causes pain. Whether you had a great/OK/terrible childhood, there will be things for all of us that we have stuck an emotional plaster over and ignored, hoping that it will be healing by itself without us looking.
Things that we often rose-tint and create a more comfortable story about include how our parents raised us, the impact of their parenting, our school experience and the lasting impact of this. If you think about it, these two things- how we were parented and how we responded to school- make up the vast majority of our childhood experiences. Many of us graduate to adulthood without giving either of these a second thought.
The thing is, there is not a human alive who hasn’t made mistakes or who won’t make plenty more. As a parent I mess up every day; I frequently wonder what is is my kids will complain to their therapist about me.
And rightly so- as someone who respects my children’s autonomy and their right to have their emotions held as valid, I also completely support them thoroughly processing anything I’ve done or will do that has caused them pain (even though I haven’t meant to).
In the same way, our own parents may have been doing their best and our school may have been doing its best, but that doesn’t mitigate or really help the mistakes they made or how that affected us.
Our brains are funny things- they would rather cling to the familiar even if the familiar isn’t good for us. It is for this reason that you will find adults who have been smacked as kids advocating for smacking kids. “It never did me any harm” is a very comfortable thought- we want to believe that the people who raised us, or those in whose care we were left, did a perfect job.
We want to believe that we were worth it– we were worth them making the effort to thoroughly think about how they treated us, and so what they did must surely have been in our best interests. And so we cling to this belief that hitting kids is OK even when science disproves it completely.
Something that is not often talked about or recognised is that as parents, we are still growing. We are not ‘finished’, we are all developing adults who are changing and working through our own stuff in this life-long process. Now that we are parents we have to do all that at the same time as raising small people.
The alternative is that we don’t change and grow, and we stay in the same patterns as previous generations. Maybe that’s ok if you’ve had a family with several generations of immaculately healthy emotional adults- but for most people, this isn’t the case.
So it’s this that I’m highlighting today, just really for the sake of letting people feel ‘seen’. If you are working on breaking cycles, either of unhealthy parenting practises or educational approaches or both, I just want you to know that you’re not alone, and that what you’re doing is valuable. Your work won’t be rewarded in public; most people won’t even know you’re doing it.
The Hardest Part Of Unschooling: Why It’s Worth It
However, even better than explicit recognition is the results you will see in your child. If you felt unheard, confused, misunderstood or unloved as a child, the work you are doing is ensuring that your own child has a very different experience.
Your child will feel heard, and seen, and loved, and will know that their feelings are valid and that they deserve space in this world.
And if you feel anything like I do, there is nothing more rewarding than that.
Do feel free to browse my other posts on home education (including unschooling) and gentle parenting. Please consider sharing this post with others!