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  • Writer's pictureKatie Lane-Karnas

Unschooling in states with strict homeschool laws

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

A messy shelf is overflowing with art supplies (hot glue gun, duct tape, tape dispenser, markers, paint brushes, glitter).

In unschooling, we have the relief letting go of school-identified goals and instead, helping our kids with the interests, endeavors and projects that are important to them. It doesn't take long to observe that as a result of helping a kid with something he's interested in, the relationship feels good and he is learning a variety of skills. We know it feels exhausting to sit down to force, cajole, or threaten a child to complete tasks for a goal they do not deem important, and worse, it strains the relationship in the process.

And yet, if you live in a state that requires some amount of reporting in order to homeschool, there is the question of how to meet those requirements and unschool. The parent is in a position of power to allow their child to pursue their own life in peace by taking care of the paperwork. But the knowledge that you are keeping track of your child's life in ever so many quickly snapped photos, snatched up writing samples discreetly dated and saved, the unspoken hope that maybe your child will (against all evidence to the contrary) decide to join a math club--all of these are insidious ways that state oversight of parents aligns with parents' internalization of school subjects and behaviors as the standard for what childhood and learning are supposed to look like. It is what we were groomed for, it's what is comfortable to us as schooled people, it's what we receive praise for as parents in a schooled society.

As parents recognize and begin to uncover the layers of conditioned thought about what learning and peaceful life with children looks like, there can be a nagging fear keeping the family anchored in old patterns. The requirements of the state for homeschool enrollment can feel like the anchor that is restricting movement toward more flow, more peace, less control and expanded learning beyond school-identified subjects.

One tool for this stuck place is to map a child's existing interests BACK to school standards. Instead of molding the child to fit the school subjects, start with the kid's natural endeavors and note the many skills the child is building and see what "curriculum" is naturally emerging. (Letting this happen over the course of weeks and months--rather than panicking after two days snowed in doing nothing but Minecraft work!) I admit to loving the challenge of hearing from a parent who needs help with this! I invite you to throw out a hobby, interest, activity that your child is involved in; we can creatively brainstorm how that hobby meets state standards for homeschooling! Post in the comments, and I will give it a stab, and others can chime in and gain value from our ideas as well.

In addition to meeting the state requirements, this tool may gently reassure and quiet the voice of fear inside. The vague guilt that we are somehow not enough as parents, that somebody more qualified must be able to do more for our child. In shifting toward valuing my child's natural interests and efforts, including those that school does not hold important, I am stepping outside the cycle of competition, self-judgment, and overworking that burns us out so quickly. There is joy in modeling for your children that in the real world, interests flow from one thing to another, learning is valuable in itself, and the voice of guilt can be short-circuited.

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