Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Getting Out of the Rat Race

While writing my previous post where I mentioned forcing S to do math while she was young, a floodgate of memories opened. It really made me start thinking, "What have I done?"

Then, as if God were speaking to me himself, a friend of mine told me a story the other day. She said her daughter is in Heritage Girls, a Christian Girl Scouts group. They receive service stars for serving 5 hours community service outside the group. She was so excited that her daughter was going to get a star. I mean, come on, how many other kids were going to have 5 hours under their belt? That'll show them when her daughter is the only one up there with a star...Then she heard these words, "Rubby Sue receives NINE service stars for her work in the community this Fall." 45 hours? In 4 months? On top of her schoolwork?! She couldn't believe her ears. They needed to step up their game if they wanted to beat-

It hit her like an 18 wheeler truck. This isn't a competition. Children's lives are not a race. That's one reason why we chose homeschooling to begin with. So we can just be ourselves and our kids can be themselves and not worry about the imaginary race so many people seem to be running. But it is everywhere we go. We have to continually resist the temptation to join in.

And she is right. So many years I have tried to resist joining the race, yet I have this amazing sense of accomplishment when we "out do someone." Is that wrong? Sure it is. But most of us feel that way. Doesn't make it right. Just means if you bash me or think bad of me because I said it "out loud", chances are you get the same feeling too. Think about it. That sense of pride you feel when YOUR child has the "the best looking project in the room." Even though you *may* have taken over just a teensy bit. The project instructions stated that parents were allowed to help. Doesn't controlling almost every aspect of the project count? It doesn't hurt to tell them that the head can't go next to the tail on their turtle Valentine box. It doesn't hurt to tell them that they need to trace a picture of the globe instead of drawing their own interpretation so their Geography Fair project looks nice and neat and presentable. Or does it? You know that feeling you get when your child can recite all the states like the back of their hand and the other child couldn't even tell you what a state is? (Of course their child can probably build their own Minecraft mod and well, yours can't. But never mind that.) You get that over inflated sense of pride while lying to yourself about how far ahead your child must be. Better than all other children IN THE WORLD! (Ok. Maybe not quite that far.) You know that smug feeling you get when you talk about all the raw foods your family eats and how much your children just LOVE fruit. And chores. They love doing their chores. You never even have to ask! Well, I think I have made my point. It isn't right. But we do it because we have this inherent need to be better than others, which, once we make it to motherhood, kinda transfers to our children, and we want them to be better than other people's kids because, well, they are our children. And that just has disaster written all over it....

This feeling of wanting to be better also does the opposite. It doesn't just give us pride, it also gives us an over inflated sense of being a failure when the other Mom talks about how she makes her own detergent (which you gave up on a year ago). Or when the other Mom's child can read better than yours, add better than yours, subtract better than yours. "Little Johnny can tell you all about the Chinese culture and traditions." You forget all the things your child knows that makes them unique. And you go home to innocent little Susie and you start drilling her on those math facts or practicing those easy readers-yea, we have been there. I think all of last school year we battled with that.

And where do we get? Is there ever an end? Oh wait, isn't that why it is called a rat race? I do believe the definition of rat race is "an exhausting, competitive routine."Accurate. It is in mommy groups, corporate jobs, NON-corporate jobs, schools, HOMEschools, between friends, between family members. It. Never. Ends. So how do we get out?

Well, I am not sure. So why did I write this post? Aren't I usually the all knowing Unschooling Mommy who has only been doing it for 3 years? Not really. But I like to think I have all the answers. Guess that is the rat in me. Honestly though, I wrote this post to remind MYSELF that my child is an AMAZING child. And so is everyone else's! The thing that makes them amazing is that they are all so unique. One of the Heritage Girl leaders was telling me one day that they girls are allowed to earn any of the badges that they want at home. And most of them do. They can purchase the badges and put them on the back of their vest. And it is so neat because you can tell a lot about their unique personalities. Samantha likes art. Brianna likes cooking. Andrea likes the outdoors. And Rubby Sue likes volunteering. How great that God made them all so different so that they can all contribute to this world in a different way. So why do we think it is okay to put ourselves and our families in a box and constantly compare them to other families?

If I could go back, there, there being when S was younger, especially her really early years when I wrote out schedules that included "Your Baby Can Read" and "Physical Therapy Time"....there are things I would change. Looking back I can appreciate that I was able to spend so much time with her, to see her learning and having fun too. I remember how she would beg for her favorite book-"Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" again-again! And she would laugh and point to the letters and repeat the parts she remembered. I recall doing "nature walks" in our own back yard. When she was just 3. She would pick up leaves and put them in her little basket. She would giggle as she dug in the dirt and found worms and I would tell her a little about them. We would walk around the neighborhood across the street and she would ask questions. I would answer. (Her questions required a lot less Googling back then.) We had fun. And she learned. My did she learn! In fact, that is the way she should have learned the whole time. But when it came to "the basics," the colors, the shapes, the numbers I just went crazy. I set up a school calendar on a bulletin board when she was just 2 years old. I told her the date every day. I had a special worksheet we did and an informational video or something to go along with that theme...And now, I can't help but regret. I would change all those times that I held flashcards in her face. All the times that I sat out the counting bears and told her to count them or sort them out. To me, I was just being a good Mom. I was doing what any good Mom would do-getting her ahead of the game. But I wasn't doing what was best MY child like I thoughtI was. I was teaching her that the rat race is a way of life that you can't escape. If you can't beat them, join them, and make sure you are faster!

But when we chose to unschool we said we were going to get away from that. We were going to set aside all that we had learned and start anew. If we haven't escaped that way of life, we aren't doing it right. We need to reevaluate, and fast! Something for me to ponder...

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