I can remember the moment we decided to homeschool our three boys. It was late June 2009. I had returned home from picking up my oldest attending kindergarten at his art-centered charter school. I relayed the scene to my husband.
“He was a little over-excited about it being the last day of school. So I asked him if he was going to miss it over the summer – hoping to hear he was looking forward to returning. He thought maybe he’d miss his friends. But when I explained come September he could spend all day with them because grade one was ALL DAY, he threw himself down on the parking lot pavement and sobbed, “Nooo! I can’t do it all day! That’s too much!”.”
This was after a challenging spring of feeling finished and yet enduring through tears and pleas for days at home.
He had a lovely and nurturing Waldorf trained teacher whom he adored. The other children were lovely for the most part, he got along with everyone, he participated…they did Brain Gym every morning! The walls were painted in mosaics, the halls lined with beanbag chairs, they had an artist-in-residence that the kids could visit and see what they were working on without needing permission. Completely free and open. It was, by every standard, the perfect school. And yet he didn’t like being there so much. It seemed to be just too much.
I still had two little ones at home, and by April, the daily dance I had to go through to get him to go was becoming tiresome. He wanted to be at home with us. But he had to go to school. Right?
My husband noted at the end of my story that he didn’t like school either and I offhandedly said, “maybe we should homeschool”. He shrugged and said, “why not”?
The next month was spent flirting with the idea. He bought Blake Boles’ book “College Without High School” because that’s where parents’ thoughts go first. What about university? This wasn’t the first time I heard the term “unschooling” and thoughts of a previous encounter made me wonder if this wasn’t exactly what we needed. Why not homeschool? Better yet, why not unschool?! With the charter school set to start August 15th, surprised ourselves by we making the decision right then to keep him home.
I didn’t drag my feet – I did my research, found out what we was needed to legally homeschool in our province (Alberta, Canada), registered with a schoolboard and called to withdraw him from grade one all in one day. Done. The emotional work of our decision would take years to unpack, then question, then justify. We had a great support person (all homeschoolers in Alberta are assigned a facilitator who is a certified teacher and works for the board in this role only. Usually, they also homeschool their own children). That first year, she helped us understand how varied and family-specific home education is. She provided us with the tools to determine our own pace and rhythm. She was a source for everything and a gentle hand in guiding us towards the realization that we are the ones making all the decisions and no decision is a bad one; just a path we are on that can be changed on a whim as needed. Thank you, Cindy!
In the ensuing years we moved boards, and subsequently facilitators. But every facilitator for every school board we’ve had has been outstanding. Unschooling stayed our gold standard because we discovered that the more we interfered, the less they did. When we got out of the way and schooled “from behind”, waiting for them to tell us in one way or another what they needed to grow and learn, they flourished. From the beginning, we have not used curriculum in any form. Admittedly I did buy some, but they were still in the wrappers when I sold them years later. We have tried many things, but in the end, they have learned most of what they know on their own with no help or interference from us. If they wanted to take a formal course, we would get them access – whether that meant driving them to and from or buying the materials they needed. We found that they bring us answers to things they discover, more than they come to us looking for the answer.
Over the years our oldest went to public school for grades 9 through 11 for access to a unique sports program. The pandemic brought him home to finish grade 12 and graduate in April 2021. He found a tutor for Japanese and will be leaving, when borders open, to spend a year in Japan immersed in the language and culture he loves.
Our second child jumped a grade (because they don’t follow grades) and tried grade 10 for only a semester of public school at 14 years old. Despite straight A’s he deemed school was for people not interested in learning, but only there because they were compelled to go, and thus a waste of his time. As of February 2022, he is also a high school graduate. He’s adding higher math and chemistry to his skills over the next few months and looking at a STEM degree that will “get him to space”. Both completed the government diploma requirements.
Our youngest, and most unschooled, is bright, and full of hope and wonder. Not at all interested in being in school but looking forward to following his own dreams and passions. There is no doubt in our minds he will be successful at whatever he pursues.
It has almost been 13 years since the decision to home educate was made. There have been countless moments of genuine concern and intense doubt. But mostly it has been a joyous ride and an amazing journey of discovery. We love spending time with our boys – they are funny, smart and a pleasure to be around. We look back on that summer and are so thankful for every moment of freedom we’ve had since.
Stacey Piercey left the corporate world to teach her three boys at home in 2009 and is an active member of the home learning community in Canada. She has run various home-school co-ops and was chair of her home-school board’s parent council. In 2014 she started a home-school program supporting children ages 6 to 17 in starting their own business, ending in a Children’s Business Fair. It was so popular, Stacey began presenting it to students in community clubs and eventually to schools that heard about the program’s success. In 2019 she scripted her curriculum for on-demand delivery and eventually sold her online course to Galileo XP, an online school for at-home learners. Stacey continues to teach her program at Galileo and to local home-school co-ops in Canada.
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