Here’s another way that our return journey might play out. Let’s remember where we’re starting:
Yet … it’s here that we can also begin to stagnate. Life feels wonderfully satisfying in our “unschooling bubble.” Safe. The bubble was so incredibly helpful in the initiation/deschooling phase, giving us the time and space we needed to observe and contemplate how real learning happens, to better understand ourselves and our children, and to explore ways to live together as a family. And now that our unschooling lives are flowing reasonably smoothly, it can be tempting to stay in the comfort of our bubble. (Refusal of the Return)
In fact, we may have done a lot of personal soul-searching and paradigm-shifting work to to get to this point and we are taking this time to rejuvenate, but be careful not to hibernate too deeply.
And yet, in so far as one is alive, life will call. Society is jealous of those who remain away from it, and will come knocking at the door. (p. 178, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell)
If we dawdle in our unschooling-centric world, we may well find ourselves being pulled back to the ordinary world by others.
The knock may come from friends or family, asking to get together. Maybe you’ve been avoiding social gatherings for a while, almost automatically replying with a gracious “no, thanks.” But take a moment to honestly consider it. Maybe the thought doesn’t seem so daunting any more. Ask your spouse, your children—what do they think?
In another interesting unschooling twist, maybe it’s our child knocking from the inside, looking out to the wider world. Be sure to listen for it.
My children loved the unschooling cocoon we created for many months, but eventually, feeling safe and secure with their home base, they began looking to follow their interests beyond the embrace of our family. Lissy found girl guides, and later enjoyed volunteering at the local animal shelter thrift store. Michael wanted to explore karate. And Joseph wanted to expand his gaming world, getting into MMORPGs and connecting with other gamers around the world.
So one thing to watch out for is whether we continue to cling to our unschooling bubble to the detriment of our children’s exploration of the world. Sure, we can bring lots of the world to them, but when they are interested in venturing out we want to support that too.
It can definitely be tempting to seek out and favour unschooling, or at least homeschooling, communities when looking for opportunities for our children. Sure, we hope find a more comfortable environment surrounded by families with similar perspectives on learning, but that doesn’t mean our children’s personalities and level of interest are going to mesh well with the group.
We may find a homeschooling guide or scout troop, or homeschooling rec classes, or a server full of unschooling gamers—and it’s cool to try them out!—but don’t have higher expectations that things will go smoothly just because the other children don’t go to school either.
Our children aren’t usually looking to connect with others over unschooling—that’s our interest. Just as kids in a school classroom don’t find being local and the same age very fertile ground for connection.
Children (and adults!) enjoy connecting and engaging with others around their particular interests. The interest itself is the key parameter, not the lifestyle of the other participants. So be open to trying out several different environments for a particular activity to find one that meshes well with your child—and that’s where the best learning will happen too.
For unschooling parents, our foremost focus is on supporting our children’s learning so, instead of expecting our children to adapt, we are willing to do the work to search out an environment that meshes well with how our children like to learn. Understanding that the atmosphere surrounding many activities is dictated by the individual adults who run them, we look for a good fit between the group’s atmosphere and the child’s personality and goals. (Exploring Outside Activities)
Whether the outside world comes knocking, or your child is keen to begin exploring beyond your doorstep, the key choosing to begin the return phase of your unschooling journey is to be aware and attentive.
Are you and your family, or some of your family, ready to say yes to the knock?
Are one or more of your children interested in engaging more directly with the ordinary world?
If so, let’s go! 🙂
If you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments! Here are a few questions about the “rescue from without” stage to get you started:
1. Did you feel pulled back into the conventional world by others?
2. Or feel pushed back out by your child’s eagerness to engage with the conventional world?
3. When pursuing an activity, have you and your child checked out more than one place before choosing?
The road so far …
Departure phase of the journey
Call to adventure: We discover unschooling and excitedly imagine the possibilities.
Refusal of the call: The many implications of choosing unschooling hit. Do we commit?
Supernatural aid: Our children guide us on our unschooling journey.
Crossing of the first threshold: Confronting the guardians who claim to protect us.
The belly of the whale: Transitioning to a learning mindset.
Initiation phase of the journey
The road of trials: The heart of deschooling.
The meeting with the goddess: Seeing the value in all experiences.
Woman as the temptress: Accepting our nature.
Atonement with the father: Accepting others where they are.
Apotheosis: Moving to compassion.
The ultimate boon: Unschooling with confidence and grace.