Next month will be a year since we took our oldest out of school when he was at the end of his first year of primary school. Since then, we have been doing "homeschooling".
Maybe you already have a bunch of questions in your head, just like I had when my wife and I were going through the pros and cons of moving forward with this.
First, what? Is it possible (and legal) to remove your child from school? Yes, absolutely.
Obviously, the pandemic will have allowed a large number of families to discover this option. It is not something that is discussed or taught in society in general, so it is still rather marginal.
Knowing that this is possible, what does it mean and how does it work? There you have to search. There is the government site, Facebook groups, parent experience blogs, etc.
Let's go back to April 2021, when we were rather desperate as parents. Our boy had difficulty with language development. Even while he was in daycare, this was already a “detected” problem. Luckily, we were able to get speech therapy services at the CPE once a week. He was making some progress, but didn't seem able to really catch up.
This delay was highlighted in first grade, when being able to express oneself clearly became a necessity in the classroom environment. With the pandemic, speech therapist follow-ups were practically without result (forcing the use of masks). With this language problem then came other problems: slower learning, lack of self-esteem, intimidation. Our boy has a positive attitude in general, but you could tell he wasn't happy.
During the months preceding the withdrawal from the school, we had quite a few meetings with specialists and members of the school. Overall, what we were told was that it would take him "more of everything": more speech therapy, more remedial education, more private learning, more, more, more... At this point, we were really confused.
That's when we did: wait a minute. Do we want to give our 6-year-old a chance, or do we want to make him a college graduate next year? Society pushes all children to be at the same level at the same time. But what if that wasn't the right way to go?
During a "summit meeting" where there was the teacher, the speech therapist and the remedial pedagogue in the same room as us, seeing that the discussion was going nowhere, we simply said: "we think to take our child out of school. Of course, general panic ensued, all telling us that this would be the worst thing for our boy.
Almost a year later, this is the best thing we could do for our boy. I remember the last report from the speech therapist mentioning that the number and duration of meetings had to be doubled. Good news: two months after the withdrawal of our boy from school, without speech therapy or other services, his language development has improved exponentially. Truly unbelievable.
There is certainly a lot of good in homeschooling. I would like to add a nuance here. I'm not a teacher, and I don't want to be. We have not taken our child out to do the same thing as school except at home. No, that wouldn't make sense. I don't have the training, I don't have the interest, I don't have the time, and I just don't want to teach a class in my dining room (although it often looks like an art studio, the unorganized and jumble type).
What I just wrote here, I wish I had read when I started researching how homeschooling works. But most of the Facebook groups added a layer of stress to me as I read all those parents worried about figuring out which textbooks to use to teach. If we dwell on wanting to do like at school, yes, then there is certainly something to lose your mind.
Because initially, my wife wanted to do like at school. So she sat down for several hours every morning to teach what can be taught at the primary level in school. But she was getting frustrated with our boy's lack of attention after the first hour. After a few weeks like this, she wanted to put him back in school.
I thought to myself, something is wrong. Is it normal to push children like this to tell the difference between a verb, a subject and a determiner, all day long? I'm an adult and I still confuse some grammar concepts.
So I continued my research into homeschooling techniques. The more I inquired, and the more I prayed for a solution, the more I opened my mind to something else: unschooling.
When I read this, I ran to my wife and said, "That's it! That's exactly what I want to do, unschooling! ". I looked like a kid who just got the Transformers box from his parents for Christmas.
Basically, unschooling is the concept of letting your child learn at their own speed and according to their interests, with the aim of promoting learning autonomy. If the school suggests doing page 24 of the English exercise book, I suggest reading the toy catalog instead. If the school suggests doing the two pages of exercises on fractions, I suggest doing the banana bread recipe instead. You get the idea. Learning is not just in school books, it is everywhere in our daily lives.
You say, "That's nonsense!" My wife said that too at the beginning, certainly with a grain of reason. After all, my wife and I have a long education up to university level, so it is not easy to leave school so deeply embedded in us. For this, we must "rewire" our brain.
The human being is an incredible creature. We are born with the abilities of curiosity, discovery, learning and creation. Babies and toddlers are hyper-creative beings, seeing the funny things they do that amaze us every day. This is why human beings are able to grow and learn. It is innate, the interest to learn.
Unfortunately, once put into school, this interest slowly wanes. Why? Because we are told what to do. We put up walls and we are shown the path to follow. There is no longer the aspect of discovery, or at least, it is much less present. The creative child gives way to the passive child. There comes a point where when the child does not learn something in school, he will not learn it on his own.
Unschooling is the opposite concept: let's not force the child and let him discover for himself according to his interests. Curiosity and creativity will do the rest of the work.
Do you doubt? Alright here. Our second boy is kindergarten level. He learns to write words on his own, according to his interests, for example by looking at books on Mario Bros games. Sometimes I show him the letters and some sounds, but he learns quietly without us even realizing it. One moment he arrives and he reads a note, to our amazement. "How did you learn that?" He shrugs, smiling. Truly unbelievable.
Here we are in the 11th month of homeschooling. Obviously, there is much more than that to discuss, for example the place of the government in all this, because we have certain "accounts to render". Topics for next time.
From our personal experience, I can say that it has been very positive for us. It is certainly not for everyone, it is already necessary to have certain flexibility at the work level for example. But if you can afford it and you hesitate, I invite you to think about it because there are many possibilities. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment or write to me, I will make another post inspired by your interests.
Bouge Petit is a café and physical activity center for parents with babies and young children located at 6546 avenue Papineau, Montreal.