I'm just about finished reading "The Teenage Liberation Handbook" by Grace Llewellyn, and I can't recommend it enough! (Quester asked me if I wasn't a bit too old for it, and my answer was an emphatic "no!" and a big smile). It's such an amazing book. I already had a similar philosophy, that if allowed the time and space to learn, kids (and people in general) will learn amazingly well by pursuing their passions. But the book has propelled my interest in self-education to a new level (not just for my kids, but for myself as well - can I unschool my Masters' degree? Oh yes indeed). The voices of the teens and parents quoted throughout the book are just so inspiring.
Here's just one of many amazing quotes, this one written by teen unschooler Kim Kopel, who describes herself as "self-educated."
"I began to see that so much of this pressure to go to college, get a 'good job,' be successful, and so on, was based mainly on fear. 'Do this, or this will happen to you.' 'Go to college, or you'll never be able to get a 'good job' and support yourself.' And so forth. No one expected me to go to college because I thought I'd find a life worth living there, or that it'd be a place where I would mature as a person. They expected me to go because I'd end up a social reject and would starve to death on the street if I didn't.
"Something inside of me snapped at this realization. 'That's it,' I said to myself. 'I'm not going to run my life on fear; what point is there in a life in which you do things because you're afraid of what will happen to you if you don't? How can you ever be happy if you live on fear - there will always be something else you have to do to keep something terrible from happening to you. I'd rather starve to death and be rejected than be afraid forever and never have a moment's peace!'"
Last night we had our Maine Wholeschoolers' Midyear Review, a sort of talent show put on by the kids in the group. Each participant does some kind of presentation on something they've been working on or a topic of interest. We've been doing it for several years. Now that the kids are all in the double-digit age range, and many of them are teens, the show has gotten more interesting, and the kids' projects more self-directed. The kids in the group are mainly unschoolers. Last night we saw presentations on some of their passions (ballet, drumming, sports, making paper airplanes, art), reports on subjects of interest (owls, The Gettysburg Address), and a performance (guitar and vocals) of a song one of the teens wrote. It was wonderful to see the kids up there showing what they love to do.
Over the past few months, I'd been a bit concerned about my own kids (especially Dryst, as he's the eldest) and their motivation to pursue their passions and their education. I've had many conversations with other parents of teens about motivation, when to push and when to let go, and college preparation. Through these talks, and the reading I've been doing, and just spending time with my kids and their friends, I'm reassured. We're part of the wave of the future, when education will be considered a joy rather than a burden, and we as a culture will realize that the love of learning, when given the freedom to grow, comes as naturally to us at all ages and stages of life as it did when we were babies learning how to crawl and walk. Our family is self-educated - and thriving!