When we started homeschooling in 2010, we never thought that we had an entire journey in front of us. We thought that getting the kids out of school would be easy and homeschooling would come natural to us.
Now, ano 2017, we actually feel that way. Homeschool (/unschooling) IS easy and it does come naturally. But it took us all that time to actually get here.
When our oldest daughter went to kindergarden when she was only 3yo, we didn’t think further than that. Here in Belgium it’s normal to send you kids to school when they are 2,5yo. So that’s what we did, without thinking more of it.
Because we both were bullied when we were younger, we did choose a school that was different than most public schools. We went for a Freinet school, because of what Freinet stood for. We liked the part where we as parents were a part of their education and would be participating in school activities. And we liked that the kids weren’t forced into their schooling, but had a say in what they wanted to learn. We liked that 2 years were put together in 1 classroom and were only separated for a few hours every week.
But things supposed to happen in theory and things that happen in real life are not always the same.
It was an okay school, don’t get me wrong. But… it didn’t work out the way we hoped it would. Teachers were nice to us, but we being different than most people (the eternal odds one out) made them treat us differently. Teachers had their favorite parents and those parents were accepted into participating in school activities. Us… not so much. I remember trying to get into a few of the work groups that they set up for parents… and then never receiving any calls or messages about when those groups came together to discuss things. I remember me wanting to come on outings with the kids, because I truly believed in parent-participation and wanted to be a part of the education of my children, but never being asked. We were not popular enough to be a part of the parent-group, so they rather had us out of their way.
It was pretty much elementary and high school all over. But instead of the kids being bullied by other kids, it were the teachers that didn’t like us -the parents- and wanted nothing to do with us.
But… if that was the only thing that went wrong, I would have sat it out. The kids were the ones who had to be good there, not us. And we have to admit, the teachers were amazing when it came to the children in their classes.
Our kids weren’t good though. The first year that Troia went to school, she was okay. Kind of. Atlanta was never ok, though. The moment she started school, she developed asthma. We didn’t link the two together as Atlanta was always a very sensitive kid and was sick the first 19 months of her life. She was a child that was ill a lot, so when she started to have asthma, it was no surprise and we didn’t think twice.
The asthma got worse and she started to need medication. Unknowing as we were, we followed the doctor’s advice and medicated here for her asthma. It helped a little bit, but not much. Asthma continued to get worse over the next months and the doctor prescribed more and heavier medication.
After a year, we were done. Atlanta had no friends, was bullied by her classmates (yes, at only 4yo!) and it didn’t matter what time you check up on here, she was always riding a little bike on her own and talking to herself. She had created an entire world inside her head with imaginary friends where she escaped to during schooldays. Her asthma-attacks got so bad that we had to go to the ER a couple of times a week to put her on oxygen (no, we still didn’t connect them to going to school).
And also Troia was becoming more and more unhappy. She cried from the moment we brought her home, felt asleep crying in my arms and woke up crying until we brought her to school. There she “sucked it up” and it repeated itself when we came to get her.
Something had to happen. We had to pull them out of school.
The last straw was when Pelagia (who never went to school) started crying and asked us if she really had to go to school when she was older. Fear making her body shiver. We took the kids out of school and never looked back.
The next few months, we had a severe deschooling period. The kids acted out a lot to get it out of their systems. But after this period we started to see change. They were living again. They were breathing again… literally, because Atlanta’s asthma-attacks melted away. She never had an asthma-attack ever since. Even the doctor was flabbergasted. Our daughter healed her asthma.
After the deschooling period, we started homeschooling for a while. Our kids started following the normal state program, but within 3 months of only learning 3-4 hours a day, they finished their schoolyear. We made their program a little bit more challenging, adding subjects that schools don’t teach. But they adapted very fast and 3 months later another schoolyear was worked through. We continued this way, making their programs more challenging until it was at their level. But it didn’t work. They went in a very fast speed through their study material. By respectively age 8, 7 and 6 they had worked through 3 years above their age. We couldn’t keep up. And they started to resent schooling and get bored.
We read up on unschooling and decided to give that a try. Let them learn from life and see what they come up with. They had an advancement of 3 years, which was enough time to see if this was the way to go for them. They thrived like they never did before.
They each started to follow their own path and learned their way through life. They were finally happy within every aspect of their lives.
But then… the laws started changing, including homeschooling laws. The last few years, more rules were added each schoolyear, creating an unfree environment for homeschoolers. Our kids, who were finally happy after years of finding the right way of educating them, saw their happiness getting ripped to shreds. The government, who didn’t know the road we followed to get our children thriving in live, decided that homeschooling was a disease that should be discouraged. So they started to take away more and more freedom, until a point that unschooling was forbidden. They also started to oblige mandatory tests and exams. Everyone who knows my kids know that it doesn’t matter how smart they are, exams will ruin them. We decided that we didn’t want them to get through the stress of it all. Those new laws are not worth their happiness.
That’s the moment we started to fight for our freedom. The moment we started to work to selling our house and getting out of here. We finally found a way for them to be happy, we can’t let anything ruin that for them.
So… it’s time to leave. It’s time to find a place that allows them to be happy in their lives, without forcing absurd rules upon them.
It’s a sad thing that this country changed this much, that they think they have the right to tell people how to live. While the only thing we really want is to be happy, to thrive in life and find our way.
We had an amazing homeschool-journey so far, we can’t stop thriving now… we can’t stop our journey here and adapt to the rules forced upon us, while knowing that it would make every single one of us unhappy.
If being happy means that we have to search for it elsewhere… than so it is.
We came this far, we will continue to grow.