I’m passionate about unschooling and still might send my daughter to school
There are a whole bunch of us out in the world that, no matter how dismayed we are by institutionalized education and “the system”, circumstances are such that school becomes the only feasible option. How so? Take low-income families, where both parents must work. And take single parent families (hello!) where working full-time is the only option to pay the mortgage/rent and put food on the table. Imagine that one or both parents work full time, meaning 36-40 hours per week, add transportation time and it’s more like 46-50 hours of childcare needed. Imagine you pay $10/hour (quite a minimum) for a babysitter, that’s $500 per week, and not doable on most incomes. Say you are lucky enough to work 9-5 and you can put your kid in a center and you pay only $6/hour. That’s still $1200 per month. (Sidenote: I take home about $3000 a month and one-third of that, $1297.80 to be exact, goes to preschool and child-care.)
Personally, I can’t afford to pay even a few dollars more for child care, and I’m still depending on my mom for 15 hours of free childcare per week at the very minimum. Public schools are free, and provide not only 6 hours of free childcare, but latchkey and other after school programs which can bring you up to 9 or so hours per day of child care. If you do shift work like me, you’re gone 13-14 hours in a day, and still need to pay someone for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening after the after-school care, but that’s certainly a dollar amount that is doable.
My daughter will be ready to start kindergarten in the fall of 2018, and we will have the option of keeping her in the same building’s Montessori public school (7 1/2 hours of free childcare). I don’t know of any other free Montessori schools in the entire country! (Readers, let me know if you have some near you!) We also have an alternative public school that is popular with home/unschoolers here who have lost the ability to stay home from work with the kids.
There’s one more reason I’d send my daughter to school (albeit with much reservation and regret): we don’t live in a neighborhood with children available to play with, of any age. Even introverts need playmates and a community of all ages to interact with, and my daughter is an extrovert who feeds off of her time with others, especially children. She loves time with her mommy, but she doesn’t care at all to do things alone. She will if she has to, but it’s vital for her mental and emotional health that she be surrounded by peers and community members more often than not. That doesn’t happen here at home. I feel very strongly that she will really want to be in school for only that reason.
What about world schooling? Or travel nursing? We are back to the 14 hour per day, $10+ per hour conundrum and the pesky fact that we would still have to eat and pay bills. (So when I get a volunteer to travel with me and stay home with the kids while I work 3 days a week, we can go ahead with the plan! Lindsay at Solo Mama Life, I’m talking to you!)
So what is a proponent of unschooling to do? Move to Massachusetts and put her in Sudbury Valley School, of course! Or my nearest city has a lovely unschooling school with financial aid… except I live an hour away and can’t afford to move and pay a tuition and before and after school child care. Finding a few other moms to take turns supervising the unschooling process (and watching each other’s kids), that would be ideal, right? I’m accepting applications right now, and so far I’m on my own. So until I find the travel companion, or the group of fellow unschooling moms, my only option is brick-and-mortar school.
I hate that because I’m a single-income family, and because I don’t live in a community-like neighborhood or extended family group that provides my daughter with the socialization time she craves, I have to subject her to a system I not only feel is ineffective, but also think is damaging and destructive in countless ways. I’m heartbroken over it. Never before now have I wished so much that I could’ve been born into a culture in which children are raised by a village and spend all their time playing and interacting with each other and nature!
All I can do is opt her out of standardized testing, find the most free-minded school/teacher possible, and try not to fight with the administration/teacher more than once a week. Or- move to Nepal. I’m seriously considering both options.