pam laricchia

when we really started to settle in to our comfortable place/routine here at home, the question arose, stuck and didn’t leave – can i go to school next year? at first it did not feel good. the discussion did not naturally evaporate as it had in the past. usually, talking the idea through led us to -yes, we are unschoolers. we know what school is and we know it is not for us. that said, all of the families close to us are in school, it is the right decision for their families. we support them and they support us. the play dates she has everyday and the class that she takes are with kids who are in school. as a result, the curiosity had been building and now it was a temptation she could ignore no longer.

as i began to realize that she was going to go to school by choice, i tried to look my fear in the face. i looked to a couple blogs i like to reference written by experienced unschoolers – coincidentally there was a recent post written by pam laricchia titled “when you and your child see things differently”. it spoke to what i was experiencing and her words ended up opening my mind to what i could not see clearly. in our discussions, while i felt like i was being trusting, open and supportive, i realized that in addition i was using scare tactics to convince her she did not want to go. if you go to school you will have to do it their way, you will need to show us that school is where you want to be by following their rules, i do not want to be responsible for making sure your homework gets done – this is all on you, you will need to help me make your lunch, etc….this was so clearly not what i wanted to be doing. it did not feel good. all this, mixed in with questions as to what it was she felt like she was missing at home, what she was hoping to get out of school, did she need more structure, let’s find a way to make whatever it is happen at home, more play dates? let’s do that, etc…ad nauseam. i think we all felt sick.

her answer (for the first time) was – it is hard for me to explain. this became her refrain. she is not known to have a difficult time describing her feelings or reasoning. i felt like i could not understand how we had arrived here. after i wrote to pam, she encouraged me to do what (i thought) i had been doing – talking it through, figuring out ways to provide what she was looking for in our life, being present with what she might be feeling, etc….but it was her last sentence that nailed what needed addressing.

“Another piece to consider is that if she does choose to try school, it’s going to be a different experience for her than most students because she knows she has the option to leave: she’s there by choice. And while she’s there you can support her however she’d like, but you don’t need to buy into the whole system. Meaning you don’t need to force her to do homework, or study for tests, or put any stock in her grades. She can be there for what she gets out of the day-to-day experience. It needn’t become a wedge in your relationship.”

right. of course. what was i thinking? i ended up reading the entire post and conversation out loud to my daughter. i explained how it had changed my thinking. i apologized for trying to convince her not to go to school by using scare tactics. i said i was there to support her in her decision and i trusted her to do what was right for her. i acknowledged her strength in knowing what she wanted despite what her father and i felt so strongly. after all, we have been trying to give her tools to think for herself – she was doing just that.

we ended up going down to the sfusd office with a list of three schools we would give a try if there was space next year. there was a spot at one of them to start the NEXT DAY. i looked at her and she was quite excited. neither of us had thought it would happen so fast. i asked her if this sounded good and she without hesitation said yes, i am ready. i will admit i was excited too.

we got on our bike the next morning, rode up 19th street, walked across dolores park to the top of the hill and coasted down 19th to the school. it was fun. it was different. it was exciting. there were so many people. so many kids. i felt myself trying it on with her. this could be good.

we enrolled tuesday and ended up starting on wednesday. she went three days. the teacher was awesome, very sweet. the class was warm and receptive to her. the community seemed strong which is a real success on their part. then there was spring break. she at first seemed to be digesting it all on her own and then slowly when she was ready the words started coming. her reports were mostly positive with a few notes about what was not so great. by the middle of the week it was clear she was thinking of not going back. a couple days later she was resolute. i am an unschooler.

an amazing experience and big lessons learned by all – ida sits back and observes. ah, the benefits of being the younger sibling – there are a few.