When I was young, there were a lot of homeschooling parents who would brag about the chapter books their children were reading and how many grade levels ahead they were. I wasn’t reading yet, and my mother — feeling somewhat overwhelmed I’m sure — repeated for years, “She’ll learn to read when she’s ready.” It became a mantra of sorts, in the face of surrounding pressure. When she’s ready, she’ll learn.
My mother was right, of course. I was growing up in a very literate household, and without any learning disabilities. By the time I was 10, I was reading at least as well as my same-age peers. Surrounded by other parents who were very pleased to have poster children, my mother had resisted outside pressure and held true to her beliefs in natural learning.
When my family shifted more into unschooling-friendly circles, we started seeing less comparing of children to each other within the community. But holding up unschooling poster children — and poster young adults — to those new to or outside of the unschooling community seems every bit as common.
The message seems clear: In the face of widespread misunderstanding and criticism, we have something to prove — and the best way to prove it is to show how spectacularly impressive unschoolers can be.
I get the drive behind it. It’s hard to be such a small group doing something so unconventional, and it can be easy to feel a ton of pressure to prove the validity of our choices.
But, it can be really hard being one of those teens and young adults who are held up as examples, and even more difficult for the ones who end up feeling they don’t measure up to poster child status.
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