Monday, February 25, 2013

The Fender family

We are the Fender family, Jeff, Rachel, Jordyn, and Levi. We have been homeschooling for three and a half years, moving towards unschooling in the last year. We live in southern Indiana.

Jeff is a quality director at Cummins, an international engine manufacturer. My background is in education, I taught elementary school for several years then went back to graduate school and earned a Masters and an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology. I worked as a school psychologist for three years immediately prior to us beginning to homeschool.

We were never a family that intended to homeschool. When our daughter went to Kindergarten and I cried every day for the six months before she started I was told that was normal, all moms were sad about their kids going to school, you just had to deal with it. Our daughter progressed through Kindergarten, first, and then second grade, but I missed her. I felt her growing apart from us, but, again, everyone around me just said that was normal, and good for her to be developing her independence, so I was sad but we moved on. Looking back I wish now I had listened to the very small voice in my head and heart that was urging me that these feelings were not normal, that my children needed to be with their mother.

The year our son was set to start Kindergarten we moved to a new town. The move was very difficult for us and was not a move we sought, but was necessary because of my husband's change in employment. We knew our son was already struggling, but, again, we just continued to go with the norm, and hoped he would settle out after our move was completed. Well, he did not, but continued to struggle more and more. He was sick literally every day for the four months he was in public school. Eventually things came to a head, and I collected my son and daughter from school on a Friday determined that they were not going back.

That night and all weekend my husband and I talked about our options. There is only one private school here and the tuition is exorbitant. However, I knew in my heart that my son needed to be out of the classroom setting altogether, at least for a time. Homeschooling seemed our only option. So, I resigned from my job, we pulled the kids out the week before Christmas, and we started homeschooling.

Looking back it was too much change at once. Everywhere I read I learned about deschooling, but being new to homeschooling, and determined to do it right (read perfectly) we jumped right in with curriculum. My kids were fine at first, because honestly doing textbook style learning at home with your mom is still better than being at school, or at least that was our initial feeling. Then after about six months they started to resist doing their school work. My son and I pretty much battled over school every day, my daughter would do her assignments but without much enthusiasm and just wanted to get them done. There were many days that ended in tears. Once again, I persisted, because I thought I was doing what was best for my kids.

In 2011 I somehow stumbled upon the writings of John Holt. Reading his work was like having a window opened to a beautiful vista, and because of my background in teaching and extensive work in graduate school learning about how people learn everything he said made perfect sense to me. From John Holt I started researching people who were writing about unschooling, and Sandra's site was the first one I came to. I began reading, and thinking, and reading, and thinking. I prayed, I had long discussions with my husband, who, to my great surprise was supportive of giving unschooling a try. However, even though I was thrilled with the possibilities that unschooling offered I was afraid. Afraid my kids wouldn't be prepared for college if they wanted to go, afraid they would never have a job, afraid they would look back and say, "Mom, why did you do this to us??"

We continued with school at home methods, although by now much more relaxed until the fall of 2012. All that time in between I continued to read, to think. I joined a Facebook group of Christian Unschoolers, because another hurdle I had to get over was if I could be a Christian and an unschooler. There are voices in our community that say you cannot be both, I had to settle that in my mind as well. By November of 2012 I began to attempt to unschool. All the time between now and then I have continued to read, write, think. Watch my children, tweak things, try again.

I know this is a long introduction, but I think you will have a good idea at this point where we are in our unschooling journey. I hope to learn even more at the conference that I can take home and apply in our home with my children. I am thrilled that my husband has decided to accompany us, as he does not have as much time to read and research, but wants to be an active support to us. We are looking forward to meeting everyone.

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