I remember the look of concern...okay maybe it was horror...on my family's faces when I explained twelve years ago that I was not only going to homeschool my son Tyler, but we were going to try unschooling. Gasp! The homeschool moms I met were fantastic. They were an end to end spectrum of the different homeschool styles and I learned so much from them. To this day they are my favorite humans I have ever met. They told me I was his first teacher and now I was cutting out the middle man. No disrespect to teachers at all but I knew they did not have the time to spend on him that I would...and that was going to make a huge difference in my opinion. And it did.
You see, I had recently attended a homeschool conference, you know to get prepared to become the best homeschool mom ever. Um, right. <insert laughter> I had researched about 4 straight months, and read oh I don't know, maybe 100+ books, drove bloggers mad with my questions and in the end, they all said that I would figure it out. I think Tyler's father thought I was either having an online affair or losing my *entire* mind I spent so much time reading and researching. I was laser focused. It was the same focus that I had when I was at work as a makeup artist, and it always proved a success for me. There were certainly "programs" and "curriculum" to follow, and I was interested (a little) in those. I mean I couldn't let him just not do any "school work" right? I was frustrated. But I knew that brick and mortar school was not for us anymore, so I was going for it. I really was trying to find some answers because my school experience and effortless learning was not Tyler's and it never would be. I specifically went to this particular conference because during one of my internet deep dives I had come across a lady with 7 children, and she homeschooled them all. I planned my whole day around being able to attend her session. Her children all had different abilities and as she spoke, about her children and described all their different learning styles. I was almost sold.
So, I waited around until the conference was over, and I sought her out. It was a long day of presentations, and vendors selling stuff, and we were all tired. Still, unbelievably, she spent another hour talking to me. In the end, her advice has lasted me all these years... all the way until today. She first asked me what would Tyler do if I let him do whatever he wanted, what was he naturally drawn to? Hmmm, I thought I knew, but of course, the true answer was video games, reenacting movies, or "working" with his Dad. Naturally, as his Mom wanting him to succeed, I thought that meant sheets of math problems, learning spelling words, writing (which he hated-and still does) book reports and taking tests. I was prepared with activities to do that I thought would be interesting to him. I had a complete paradigm shift, and as my PERFECT plans were being demolished, she continued with her wisdom. I needed to deeply value his interests and whenever there wasn't perceived value to them, I should assign them value - NO MATTER WHAT. This was about trust, acceptance, self-esteem, joy and fulfillment. This was the true definition of child-led. I've always said he grew up very organically, without the pressure of conforming to someone else's idea of, well, anything. It turns out instead of being hyper focused and relentless in pursuit of success (my way) we needed to just RELAX.
My goodness he was a clever child, he took things apart to see how they worked and had
the BEST imagination. Most of his days as a kid was pretending, and I tried to fuel that creativity by every means possible. Maybe I will blog about some of our learning experiences some day, but let's move on. By allowing Tyler to choose how he would spend his time - most of the time - he was greatly fulfilled in having exactly the questions he had bubble up in his mind, answered. And he did it by either asking, or figuring it out on his own. Let's get something clear, he wasn't a feral kid running through the woods eating with his hands (much).
Now 23, Tyler spends his days building furniture (and all kinds of other wooden creations), researching new carpentry projects, reading for pleasure, exercising, playing guitar, educating himself on the specs and design of tools, and yes growing our company that we are partners in. We are going to be an anchor vendor for an upcoming outdoor craft market in Willow Spring, NC where we live and we are very busy getting ready for that. He answers questions online from customers wanting his gorgeous furniture, arranges payments and schedules deliveries. He's a successful entrepreneur. Oh and he still likes video games too.