Are you taking the kids out of society if they are not in school?
Schooling is not the only gateway to social interaction or societal involvement. So yes we are definitely part of society. If you see society as a much bigger all-encompassing picture, which is how we see the word, then no we are not taking them out of society.
Do your children have any friends?
Yes, our children have a lot of friends. We were very lucky to have had the chance to meet an interesting group of people when we sent the kids to the alternative school in Italy. So they still are friendly with most of those children. Through our travels we have met so many people from all over and of different ages. So their friends are not limited to their age group, or to one country. They have good friendships with lots of different children. They also have friends from when they were younger in South Africa that they communicate with and friends from the UK. So they yes do have friends and some very deep friendships.
Do they get the chance to generally socialise?
This is a big question that often gets asked about home schooled and unschooled kids. It is a good question. Children at school see other children every day on a regular basis, so one assumes that they get to socialise at school. Socialising is different in an environment where the kids do not go to school. There have been times when they have been without friends for a period and that does not work for them or us. We do think it is important that they connect with other children. Hence the fact that we now move around to be with other people and find community. So yes, they do socialise with other children and with adults as we have worked on that being a top priority. Socialisation is different with unschooled children. They have more choice about with whom they socialise. So, they get to socialise with people that they really want to be with.
What about meeting people from other cultures and backgrounds? Isn’t staying within your unschooling comfort zone rather small-minded?
This is a great point; we do meet people from various backgrounds. We have been with a family that fosters children and they then experienced living with children from very different backgrounds. We have been living in four different countries, in South Africa they had friends from the local town and friends that came from the townships to play with them. In the UK, they have friends from living in a community in Devon that have become lifelong friends. In Italy, they were with Italian children, and in Spain they met Spanish and German children. On top of this we meet with friends from around the world on Skype, we have friends in South Africa, India, Slovenia, and the U.S.
In answering this question, it depends on what the unschooling family hold as their values. We hold the value of mixing with other cultures high, so therefore you could say that we do our best to make sure that they meet people from other cultures as part of their education. To open their eyes to the fact that there are different people around the world and we all come from different cultures, to hold an open view for them so that they do not become myopic and solely focused on their own culture.
Do you have to explain yourselves to everybody?
We think that it is important if you decide to unschool your kids that you can choose when and where you have your conversations. Sometimes, opening up a long conversation about unschooling at a kids party, for example, is not a good idea.
We have learnt when to talk about it and when to not talk about it these days. There are a lot of people out there who are genuinely interested in it and there are some people out there who are really threatened by it. This has been a lesson in learning to listen our inner guidance systems but if people do want to talk about the way we raise and educate our children, we love to talk about it but only if people are in a place to really listen and are not firing questions at us from a position of fear, doom and gloom.
How do manage to keep patient if they are around you all the time?
We are not always patient but we have learnt to be better at being patient. We do our best even when we are really tested, to think what is the situation from the child’s point of view? It has been a learning journey for us as well as the kids. We are not always patient at all; we are sometimes grumpy but we really try our best to have chats with ourselves if our own personal stuff is taking over. When we need to work and they are constantly interrupting us, we find that difficult. But then that is for us to put boundaries up and make it clear that we need to be left alone.
Aren’t you worried that they will never be able to get into a college, do higher education?
We are not at all worried because we strongly believe if they want to get into higher education they will and we will help them in every way possible to achieve that.
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