Many years ago, as I was learning about unschooling, a woman in the group I was conversing with wrote a tearful story about her daughter. Someone had been asking about rules and such which had started the conversation towards ambiguous thoughts in the mainstream on the ways children grow and learn. This story has stayed with me through the years as it truly made me consider just what is really important. Having lost my older sister when she was barely twenty and I was only fifteen, has lead my thoughts down this road before and left me to ponder just what does really matter in this life.
I guess I should tell you the gist of this mother's story. This mother had a beautiful daughter whom she unschooled. They spent wonderful days together exploring, and learning, and being as joyful as they could. One day, the daughter died leaving behind a heartbroken mother. She was able to share with us that had she the chance to do it all again, she would still love and spend her days with her daughter the same way. She was so glad their days were not filled with fighting over homework, chores, and other ambiguous things that would have tainted the joy of the every day.
Recently, I rushed my son to the emergency room for extreme abdominal pain. On the way, he told me he couldn't feel his arms nor even his heartbeat. He began to panic. So did I. I called 911. They dispatched an ambulance as the dispatcher, too, began to panic with us. The fire truck met us. (Here Firefighters are first responders trained in emergency medical skills.) They advised me there was nothing to be done accept to get my son to the Emergency Room, and considering where we live, it would be quicker for me to continue the drive myself. So I did.
In the ER we learned that my son was fighting an infection and that part of his bowel was inflamed. It was bad enough that they put him into the hospital and called in a Specialist. Anyway, he has now had further testing that revealed he has ulcers in his colon and severe swelling of his small intestine. The doctor started him on three different meds and has ordered more testing. So far all we know is the first biopsies weren't found to be cancerous but they were very infected. It's looking like he is suffering from Crohns but the doctor hasn't made that a confirmed diagnoses yet. She is still waiting on more tests results.
Last week, during the follow up doctor's appointment, when we learned of the biopsy results, the doctor mentioned that school would be starting soon and that my son would need to learn coping methods for stress as stress is thought to make the attacks worse. My son told her that wasn't a concern as he is unschooled. She started to debate 'school' then quickly altered it to asking him if he planned to go to college. He told her yes, he was. She then went on to explain that school and youth come with immense stress. >.< This is where getting into a debate about the concepts of learning with someone who obviously has devoted much of their life to learning, isn't worth it. Obviously, the GI Specialist enjoys learning as one would require this ability to truly enjoy their work, but chances are, they were also traditionally raised, plodding through school the way most people do.
So later, when my spouse and I were alone, we talked at length about our son's future and whether or not college was really a necessity. If it was a choice between serious stress that would cut our son's life short, or not going to college, we were all for skipping the killer stress. There are many ways to live one's life without throwing a mountain of stress on one's shoulders. College is possible without carrying a mountain of stress, but to do that, is really up to the person involved.
So me being me, I got talking to my son about this and he told me that he wanted to go to college so it wouldn't be stressful to him. Recently, before his trip to the ER, he had read an article about the person he most admires: Tarn Adams, the creator of Dwarf Fortress. This lead to a discussion about how Mr. Adams has chosen to live his life and the point that seems to come across the loudest, is he is happy!
How many people can truly say that they get to be happy in that which they do? It's a wonderful place to have one's life. This is the charm of unschooling. Unschoolers get to be happy about life and learning! So many people hear 'unschooling' as 'un-educated' and that is so far from the truth! The GI Specialist after spending a short amount of time with my son, told her staff she was impressed with the intellectual young man. Yes, over hearing that, did in fact make me smile.
Through the freedom of unschooling, my son gets to learn at his own pace, things of interest to him. He tends to enjoy the weightier subjects of math, physics and computer languages. He has been putting forth effort to write well, as he has become active on a forum where other intellectual types converse. He has found his intellectual peers. I do not need to force him to study. Recently, I came across another online free resource for learning Python called 'Snake Wrangling for Kids'. I had printed it out and left it on his desk for him to peruse should he want to. (He has already learned some Python via other means so I wasn't sure if this manual would be helpful or not.) Last night, I found him working his way through this new manual and he showed me his beginning progress on a simple program he had just written. Recently, there's been other times, I've found him working his way through Kahn's Academy which is another terrific free resource. He is enjoying learning. He does in fact, plan on going to college and therefore, he is making sure he will be ready.