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she asked this question yesterday on our way home from a friends house. the drive was an hour and the conversation lasted about 20 to 30 minutes. one of our longer more focused conversations. she clearly had been thinking about it. i told her that while a different teacher would indeed be a different experience and probably much better than last year, the general set up would be the same – 25 kids and one teacher, everyone learning the same thing at the same time, there would be a schedule to follow, workbooks and homework to be done and tests to be taken. she asked many questions about what it would look like and how the details of the day would be different or the same in comparison to last year. she gave examples of what she did and did not like. i gave examples of what i did and did not like.

at the end she said that she wants to try 1st grade and see how it compares to kindergarten.

i said “sounds good.”

“i can decide to stay home after the first few days if i want, right?”

“yes, it is up to you.”

this conversation was challenging for obvious reasons, but i tried to remain present with her and her questions. after all, this is what we are trying to achieve – an open dialogue about her choices. while i dread the early wake-up and the challenge of integrating school into our life again, i am so happy that my daughter is collaborating with us in this decision. i am glad that she knows she has the freedom to choose.

so again (but on the opposite end of my personal choice spectrum), i take this for what it is worth – a valid declaration that is not set in stone.

after listening quietly to the whole conversation, her 4 year old sister announced – “i am never going to school, so i am unschooling right now, right mama?”

“yes ida, you are unschooling right now – we all are.” a few moments later i added – “if at anytime you would like to try school, you can.”

i really wish “unschooling” was not the word that stuck – because i am realizing that to truly unschool and give freedom to your kid means keeping the door open to whatever they may chose to try – even school. in free learning, you always have choice. one cannot force their child to not go to school if personal freedom is part of the equation. i thank my husband jason for reminding me often of this, for i have found myself saying, “we are the parents. we know why we don’t want her in school. we should make the decision.” i might as well be saying “i know what is right for her.” – and that is not honoring her freedom.

that said, there are moments when a parent should make an executive decision, and i am not declaring that this will not happen with this school. there are concerns that we have regarding the general climate of the school. eventually these could inform the need to pull her out ourselves. we will continue to feel it out moment by moment, together.

our family is continually working on honoring each of our personal space and freedom to do as we like without interfering or disrespecting that of the other. this is not easy. it takes a lot of communication. we often don’t behave well, but we are learning all the time.

“never a dull moment, always a dull roar.” – the albany free school