In 2005 I created An Unschooling Life, a blog detailing our unschooling experience after adopting our three children. Over time, An Unschooling Life became a hub for unschooling support and advice. The blog has been featured in print and digital media and was home to the popular Unschooling Carnival (later known as Unschooling Voices). I’m in the process of updating and moving all the posts to this blog where they will be housed under the An Unschooling Life section. This post was originally published on April 17, 2007.
There was a discussion, on one of my unschooling e-mail groups, about how extended family members seem to have a hard time finding something to say to a child when they can’t ask about school. It’s like the only questions anybody can think of to ask a kid is “What grade are you in?”, “What’s your favorite subject?” and “How are you doing in school?” lol
I’ve found this to be true sometimes, not so much from family but from friends and people that we meet while out and about. I’d like to share the reply I posted on the e-mail group. It was written with my 9-year-old daughter Jacqueline in mind.
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Open letter to our friends:
Please don’t talk down to Jacqueline when you speak with her. Your eyes may see only a young child, but I see a person who is interesting and knowledgeable in many areas. If you give her half a chance you may learn something that you didn’t know before you met her.
Ask her what she’s interested in and she’ll tell you all about the Mars Odyssey satellite. Ask her what she did today and she’ll tell you how she fixed her grandmother’s VCR…after her daddy called her to ask for help. Talk a bit longer and she’ll tell you the Barbie story she wrote, and what her next story is going to be about.
Ask her about her life and she’ll tell you that she’s a four year Girl Scout, that she met an astronaut at the Kennedy Space Center and that she has her own plant at her grandmother’s house (which is next door) that she waters every other day.
Also, if you’re going to ask her why she’s not in school, be prepared for her to tell you she dropped out in the first grade. She has her dad’s sense of humor. lol
Don’t look shocked.
She’s being funny.
Speak to her like a human being and she’ll speak to you the same way.
i appreciate the time you took to write this
I had tears in my eyes when i read the letter ^^.
thanks so much..
I still haven’t had the courage to actually unschool (homeschool) my oldest son (5 yo) but I really enjoy your family’s story and your thoughts
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Mahatru Goyal says
Thanks for this wonderful post. By chance i came on your site and read it. It has really touched me.
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Loni Edwards says
Joanne this is such a great post. You’re so right. I love your eloquent response. It was perfect! There is soooo much more to life than textbooks, graphs, and grades!
GREAT post. My dd11 usually clams up when she gets asked the “What grade are you in?” “What are you favorite subjects?” Adults seem not to know how to relate to kids. I find that so incredibly sad, although I know they are trying to speak of things THEY think will interest the child. Sigh.
I’ve been meaning to write and say how much I enjoy your blog! I always find something interesting and thought provoking that continues to help us along this journey!
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My kids have finally learned to answer those questions with “We homeschool and I am really interested in ______!” The oldest two (ages 9 and 11) have gotten excellent at redirecting such conversations, even the “What grade are you in?” (they usually reply with their age and then point out that they read at a 10th grade reading level which shushes people pretty quick (they requested to take some of my educational asessments from when I was a teacher and their favorite to take and know their gradelevel in is reading.:)) The yongest is naturally shy (like his mom, dad, and uncle before him) and just looks to me to answer when people ask him questions. At that point I give his age and point out that he is really into volcanos and learning to read at which point he gets excited and less tongue tied.
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Great post! I have friend who just started homeschooling her daughter. I ran into them in the grocery store, in August, and I asked her 7 year-old daughter, “Are you going to school, or are you homeschooling?” She proudly said, “Homeschooling!” Later, her mom thanked me for phrasing it that way, and validating the homeschooling for her child. Happy Uncshooling!
Hi SAbrina…thank you! And I’m glad you stopped by. 🙂
What a wonderful family you have. I have just spent some time reading about your adoption journey.
Baby advice…yes, she is amazing. 🙂
Cami, I’m so glad you find something useful in my ramblings. May I say that I’m totally jealous of parents that homeschoooled from the beginning!! When we adopted our three, my older two were in the 3rd and 5th grade but Javqueline had just started kindergerden the month before but we didn’t take them out until the following year. Drat!
Thanks so much for all the info and support on unschooling. We have homeschooled from the beginning with our four kids, but have more recently evolved into unschooling. Your posts are insightful and encouraging!
baby advice says
That is a wonderful letter! Sounds like you have an amazing child
That’s great that you’re interested enough to ask. A lot of adults aren’t. Good for you! 🙂
Crimson Wife says
We’re not “unschoolers” but there are several families in our support group who take that type of approach. I always ask the kids simply what they’ve been up to lately since they always seem to have very interesting responses to that question 🙂
Of course you may. 🙂 Thank you for thinking it’s copy-worthy.
She gets her sense of humor from my husband. LOL
Thanks for stopping by!!
Elisheva Hannah Levin says
Thank you for this wonderful post!
May I copy the letter?
It was hard enough for people talking to my son when we were a new homeschooling family. Now that we have evolved to unschooling, it is even more difficult.
And I love your daughter’s wonderful sense of humor!