“We stepped out of traditional education for many
reasons, but one of the main ones was the constant competition, tests, scores,
and pressure. So it is interesting to me to see that it can show up also
in the worlds of unschooling and homeschooling….”
We, as of yet, have no self-sustaining organic garden,
our kids don’t know quite how to fashion wooden spoons out of a tree nor
how to stick then roast an organically farmed pig. They are not musical
geniuses that we know of, yet, and they have not started, at the age of
eight, their own companies, which they are not now floating on the stock
market. These are not our kids; our kids may end up doing all those things.
Who knows? But right now, they don’t.
Now, this is such an interesting topic for me as I
put myself on the line and question the way I show up all the time. I am
tempted to help my kids be able to public speak; there is a part of me that
would love them to feel that they could address a room at a TEDx talk on
unschooling or even hackschooling. Why? Is that me or them? There is part
of me, I hate to admit, that is most likely a competitive parent. But then
perhaps it is in our genetic make-up; perhaps I should be more gentle on
myself; perhaps that is how we have survived all these years; perhaps, way
back, when I was sitting in a cave with my loin cloth on and picking at
my nits (no change there) my neighbor said to me, “Ooh, you think that the
rabbit that your children have caught is big? Look what my little Johnny
got for the pot. He is so good at hunting!”
There are stories of kids who are blacksmiths at the
age of fourteen, have become pop stars…. There are kids who have their own
companies. Our friends’ kids learned to play the accordion in three weeks.
(I have had a concertina for twenty years and I play it the same way I played
it twenty years ago: badly.) I do believe kids fly given the tools and the
support, I really do.
But another question I ask – and I ask this from a
mother’s point of view – is: How do you know when you are doing the right
thing, nurturing the right interest? When Ken Robinson does his wonderful
talks on creativity, he often mentions how the mothers took their kids into
a sports gym and then everything changed from that moment on, the child’s
life completely transformed. Or he would say something along the lines of,
she was there with her mother. She took her to see a specialist, who saw
that when they stepped out of the room the young girl was moving to the
music and from then on she knew she was a dancer and she became one of the
world’s best choreographers. There are often these magical, instinctive
mothers in the background being witchy and supremely clever and generally
getting it perfectly right.
So that leaves me with the feeling of erm oh er, overwhelm….
Then the other question I ask is: What is this getting
it right bit? And I quiz myself: Do I show off my children’s achievements
and show that I think we are getting it right because I want to prove to
the world that kids learn brilliantly without school? Possibly.
If I were sending my kids to school and was really
interested in unschooling or home- schooling, would I be totally put off
and intimidated and a bit bored by all the posts out there hat say how incredible
and successful unschooled children are?
We stepped out of traditional education for many reasons
but one of the main ones was the constant competition, tests, scores, and
pressure. So it is interesting to me to see that it can show up also in
the world of unschooling and homeschooling…but maybe it has just mutated.
Then I wonder how my kids feel when I show them a video
of an incredible child doing something, well, incredible. I asked them and
they said, “It makes me want to do amazing things,” “It is inspiring,” and
“I like it.” So they don’t seem to have a problem with all of this. I see
the brilliant kids and parents out there doing their amazing stuff and I
also know that it is wonderful when they shine. All kids shine to me, so
I say, “Shine on kids, you are our inspiration.”
But maybe the most important question that I would
ask myself as a parent is this: How can I best help my kids be fully themselves
and happy with who they are in the world however they show up. I hope that
in this way all the answers will fall in to place and their lives will unfold
exactly as they should.
Lehla Eldridge-Rogers is an
illustrator and an author of books. But prior to that she was an actress
and trained at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The
South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful
Womenand she illustrated a kid’s book by M.J. Amani called Excuse Me,
I’m Trying to Read. Above all, she is a mother to three fast growing
kids, and she juggles her time between them and working on new books and
projects. You can read more about her
Jump, Fall, Flybook at
or on Twitter.