2. How did you discover unschooling?
Tanikka Henriquez's reply: My second child was obviously gifted but her white teacher at Montessori felt three was
too young to learn to read. Consequently, I had to take it upon myself to educate her (which I should have done in the beginning).
Then, my older daughter was jealous because we were having so much fun everyday so I had to take her out of public school
and homeschool her too. Now, three years later, my daughter is six in the first grade and her older sister (who also tested
for gifted) is in the second and third grade. Had it not been for my frustration, rather my daughter's frustration --she came
home and said, "Mom, I want to learn to read and they keep telling me to go play"-- I would have had two gifted children go
through the school system without being identified as gifted. They would have been bored and probably would have ended up
underachieving, as did my husband and I.
Maisha Khalfani's reply: I didn't discover it. It was just the way we naturally did things.
Erika Davis-Pitre's reply: For me, I came to unschooling in a rather unorthodox way. I ran a small private school
for many years and it was truly a calling. When I started out, the kids were attending two to four mornings a week. It was
great, we were able to do some really fun things and the parents, many of whom were self-employed, got to have support in
living a family-led life.
But, as the years passed, the parents needed the kids to come more often and to stay longer. It was then that I threw out
the curriculum that I had followed and decided that we all needed to live much less structured lives. And that's when an amazing
thing happened. Kids started teaching kids, the adults started learning from those interactions, and we all began to experience
the joys of
natural learning. It was a great place to be. This went on for several years. Then, when the kids who attended our school
started to get into some of the best schools in the city, the pressure was on to make it happen for more and more children.
I agreed to mentor several other small school operators in my area. But in time I realized that there wasn't a formula for
joy that any school that has to be led by curriculum can follow, so I started to consider quitting altogether. But I didn't
want to let my families or my staff down. So I stopped mentoring and I was able to enjoy running the school for a couple of
more years. It truly was a joyful time. But when all the requirements started to change at the state level --they wanted
kids in school younger and longer, the state wanted people who taught to be more and more removed (i.e. professional), and
family time was being valued less and less by the new parents I was to be working with -- I decided it was time to move on.
It was truly a very sad time for me. So much of who I was, I got from my school and the children who came there (including
my own). I knew I needed a change.
So I went on a 3 month train trip in Europe with my then 12yr old son (I had always wanted to go, but there was never enough
time or money). It was just the thing I needed. Thanks to my very understanding family, especially my husband, I got to have
some one on one time with my third child. I learned more from him in those three months than I had ever learned in school.
We got to know each
other really well, and he learned that I was someone he could trust with his dreams. By the time I got back to my "real life,"
I was completely transformed into an Unschooler. I completely gutted my kitchen. I replaced the floor including the subfloor,
stripped most of the walls to the studs, hung new drywall and all the cabinets and replaced most of the lighting -- all by
myself! And I did all of this while learning most of the skills I needed along the way. It came out beautifully. I was so
proud of myself. I decided right then that that's how I wanted it to be for my children. To let them experience life in real
settings with real goals, and have the goals be what ever they decided they were going to be. It hasn't always been easy,
sometimes I can be very persistent when I think there is a right way of doing things, but they always remind me of what a
good job I have done so far in
trusting them. And if that doesn't work, then I remind myself who I want to be to them, someone with whom they can trust with