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When Your Unschooled Child Proves You Wrong About Learning

When Your Life Learning Child Proves You Wrong
By Sage Justice

Please indulge me while I share some humble pie and a proud mama moment.

As a homeschool mom, I struggle with trusting the process of child-led learning. I have a base curriculum that I would like for my daughter to do just so that I won’t feel guilty or responsible for any holes in her education. But I have to let that go when she tells me that she would rather write a story or play chess. I believe that the time she spends teaching herself a passion is serving her more than if I or a teacher forced her to spend her time learning something I know she is unlikely to retain if she isn’t interested in it – in that moment. There will be another moment when the other subject is more interesting to her via inspiration from others or self.

It takes a lot of trust to facilitate a child’s education in this way. Sometimes, fear gets the best of me and I just want to power through the common core basics by making it fun myself and becoming the entertainer to get her interested. But time and time again I have learned that the most sustainable learning happens when she is led by her inspiration alone to engage in the subject of her choosing.

Today, I decided to choose faith, and low and behold, she proved life learning successful once again.

We were playing chess and I made a foolish move. My daughter swiftly and gracefully mastered the game to a checkmate. I’m really impressed with the board. She executed a gorgeous fork! She had her Knight on f7 which put my King in check and threatened my Queen. And she had both of her Bishops c4 and c5 controlling g8 and f8. She won the game a few moves later by bringing her Rook from h1 and her Queen out for checkmate! I’m really excited for her growing passion and skill level for a game I so admire and enjoy. I think the film we saw, Queen of Katwe, inspired her to want to do another chess tournament soon.

Her energy is high. She is in a confident place. And now she is ready to take on some of the standard educational requirements that will make me feel better. (I’m obviously still working on the “me” part in all this.)

She earned this confidence on her own. This is not a participation medal. This is not a condescending “good job” for a correct spelling test. This is a “Wow! You put your mom in checkmate, fair and square, because you are an observant and skilled player.

She awoke with a desire to play chess more than a desire to eat breakfast. Now, she feels stronger because she listened to her intuition. She feels loved and supported by her parents because we didn’t tell her, “No, you have to get your other schoolwork or reading done first.” We didn’t douse her flame of inspiration; we fanned it and now her brain is fired up on all cylinders and the other learning seems easy, effortless, and fun.

Her dad and I still have to work on conquering our beliefs around rewards: “If you do this, then we can do that.” When she was younger, we did use rewards to motivate and I’m learning all the ways that limits potential. But that’s another article for another time.

Who knew that when homeschooling chose us, we would learn more about faith, patience, acceptance, love, nurturing, and how to trust the process of life? I am feeling grateful, proud, and humbled by life. What an amazing journey!

Sage Justice is a minimalist with two storage spaces: a complicated woman of nuanced contradictions. She is in her third decade of marriage with her BFF. When SJ is not being a beach bum living and traveling in a broken down, old RV, she’s probably fighting the good fight for patients' rights. She and her child live with a rare life-threatening genetic disorder: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and its gang of disabling comorbidity hoodlums. She spends most of her time managing their health and homeschooling through life learning principles. She writes open letters to her daughter on her public blog, and is a firm believer in gentle self-deprecation, poised authenticity, and puns (well placed or otherwise). Her bucket list includes being a contestant on Jeopardy, but her fear of not knowing a single answer in the form of a question stops her from auditioning.

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