Just the mention of “baby” and my ovaries twinge. I loved the baby years. That newborn smell. Their tiny bodies curled into mine. Their wide eyes drinking in every detail around them. My heart swelling further than I could ever imagine as this tiny human takes their forever place within it.
The baby years are equally exciting and overwhelming. They are all consuming in the best and worst of ways.
It was so hard to visualise what life would look like outside of the sleep deprived haze of parenting a baby and toddler. It has got to be the worst time to ponder unschooling. To question everything I had ever been taught about education. To challenge my mind to open up to new possibilities. To make one of the most important decisions of our child’s life. All while experiencing “baby brain”.
I had plenty of mums tell me “it gets easier” but it’s hard to believe it when you’re in the thick of it. How on earth could I possibly be considering unschooling when I was barely coping now? I was sleep deprived. Struggling with anxiety. I didn’t feel capable.
Despite the fear and doubt I kept on reading. I read every day. I was enthralled in all things unschooling. It felt right down to my bones but how could I do it? I couldn’t visualise what it would look like. I was in baby/toddler land and couldn’t see out of it.
I wasn’t just worried about if they would learn, how they would make friends, or if they could go to university. I was worried if I was enough. I wondered if they would want a break from me.
How? How is it that a mother worries whether or not she is enough for her own children? What does that say about our society?
But it’s not just whether I’m enough for them. Society asks you, “are they enough for you?”
“Don’t you want to do more with your life? Won’t you want a break from them?”
Even now that I have committed to this life I can’t say what I will feel when they are grown. No one can. Will I regret walking away from my career? Will I feel like I “lost my identity”?
If you look for them, you will find cautionary tales from mothers who have come before us, those who have chosen family over career and regretted it. Would it happen to me too?
Regrets. I’m sure I’ll have regrets if I have the fortune of living to an old age. Will choosing unschooling be one of them? I don’t think so. I think I would regret making this huge life altering decision based on fear.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”. Nelson Mandela
So many fears. I went around in circles for months. Doubts, worries, fears. I realised that which ever way we went with this huge decision, there were doubts, worries and fears. For every “what if” about unschooling there was one for schooling as well. But what about all that we would gain from choosing unschooling?
Freedom. My kids would be free to learn what they wanted, when they wanted and enjoy it. They would not be dictated to. They would not be compared to their peers. They would be free to discover their true selves. Free to spend their time how they want and with whom they want.
Time. We would have time together. So much more than school would allow for. They would have time with each other. Their bond is so precious. How could I separate them? Time for adventures together. Time to just be. Set our own pace. Nothing is more important than time, because life is too short to be separated from your loved ones.
I’ve said before that getting out there and actually meeting unschoolers was the turning point for me. I watched as the parents relaxed and socialised while I was up and down, forward and back, this way and that way being what and where a one and three year old needed me to be. But I finally saw what unschooling would look like. I could visualise past the intensity of toddlerhood. Independent kids, playing together, living life with their families.
In late 2016 everything fell into place, we found our unschooling village. I would soon have a 2 and 4 year old and the haze of sleep deprivation was lifting. We were no longer on the sidelines looking in, trying desperately to imagine what this life would be like. We were living it. And every single day reiterated how right it is. This life. This life of freedom. This life of autonomous kids. This life of respected kids. We choose this life.
If you’re pondering unschooling under the haze of sleep deprivation and struggling to see what life will look like, you’re not alone. You have time. I know it’s hard not to worry, that’s what we mamas do so well. From a mum who is now beyond the baby years, my advice is to enjoy those baby snuggles and toddler wildness, the beauty of it will be gone just as quickly as the struggle. And when it is, choosing this life won’t feel so scary after all.