Usually when a title with product and process is involved, there is a “versus” in the middle. Product OR process is what the versus implies. I don’t think that’s how people work, and I know it’s not how I work. There is a product AND a process. There is always a product involved . . . it answers the WHY in what we are doing. Process answers the HOW.
People come to me for support, and inevitably, answers, on my Homeschooling Creatively list. I often steer them toward the process, but I feel that is shortsighted and incomplete on my part, and I want to give voice to my complete experience in order to better support others seeking the same.
I take you back to the beginning of my homeschooling journey. When people ask you why you started homeschooling, that why often answers your first “product” you were interested in pursuing on behalf of your children. I was no different. My oldest son loved to learn, and I wanted that love to continue throughout his learning journey. Fast on the heels of this proclamation came two more “products” I formulated based on my own experience and that of my hubby. Mine was that I wanted each of my children to enjoy reading. I wrote a blog post delineating this idea here. My hubby’s was that we wanted our children to be exactly who they are, supported to pursue anything they desired without society’s conditioned beliefs or expectations, whether emanating through us or society. These were some pretty hefty “products”!
Initially, these were weakly formulated subconscious ideas. Parenting my children before the age of 5 included incorporating a learning environment that was geared toward meeting these criteria. Although poor college students, our home was rich in books. We had already instituted a non-gender-based learning environment in which we enjoyed playing basketball with him in the basement as much as dress up with Mommy’s shoes and hats.
When it came time to register Eric for kindergarten, going through the motions seemed to disconnect us with our goals for our children. It felt robotic and impersonal. Suddenly, the experiences that Eric went through in his half year of preschool previous to registration crystalized. You can read the post I created about these lessons here.
I was at a defining moment in consciously recognizing the “products” I had in mind for my children’s learning lives. I knew public school would not support them. I had to find a resource that would help me consciously and mindfully embrace a lifestyle based on my desired products. I was looking for the process! This is what other parents are looking for from me when they seek out my right-brained learner group or my autism group. Although this next step of establishing the process was so crucial, in my opinion, at getting me where I am today, I cannot neglect to recognize the “products” as my catalyst and driving force.
Homeschooling popped into my head. Ah, this would provide the open forum in which to create the process in meeting our products. I found a woman in our church who was homeschooling and very warm and engaging about sharing her wisdom in helping me get started down the path of home education. In my opinion, she was the perfect mentor, and I didn’t even know it, although felt extremely validated in the moment. I always inwardly strive to meet the standard she created with my role as a mentor, but so often fall short because of my strong opinions.
Anyway, she said I first had to figure out what my style would be. Huh? Styles? She offered a book that shared blurbs about the various methods used by others in the homeschooling circles. She felt confident that I would know the style for me when I saw it. Sure enough, it was the style called unschooling. It closely matched what we had created before age 5. Coincidentally, this mentor was an unschooler. Now, here comes the important element in creating my process that I try to emulate for others.
Unschooling 15 years ago was rare. Certainly we did not have the ability to pool together because the Internet was non-existent at that time. Homeschoolers had to gather in real life. There were usually one or two unschoolers to be found, if they chose to reveal themselves. Growing Without Schooling (GWS) and Home Education Magazine (HEM) were our support systems. The writings of John Holt were our inspiration. My mentor gave me scads of back issues to both as well as a pile of books on the subject matter. I particularly pored over the letters in GWS and read John Holt’s works as models in forming my own unschooling environment. In those days, there was no one telling us the “do’s and don’ts” of unschooling. I don’t think there was such a thing.
My mentor supported this premise. As I hesitantly got my feet wet, I was constantly calling her, sharing my worries and my concerns about messing up my child or doing things “wrong”. She would ask me to tell her what I was up to that day or week with my child. I would relay what we were doing and she would always say, “Wow, you are doing so great! Just keep going.” She was also there to talk about “going against the grain of society” in order to buoy me up in my new process of working toward achieving my products.
John Holt’s writings and observations gave me inspiration to conduct my own observations with my own children. His questioning society’s conditioned beliefs about learning gave me confidence to pursue my own questions about the process of learning. Because I lived the conditioned experience, as did my hubby in a different way, he and I would have many conversations dissecting what was really important and what was not in our own learning experiences. All of these opportunities for discovery and new ideas meshed beautifully with our original “products” or goals for our children of instilling a love for learning, being an individual valued for one’s own path, and coming to reading joyfully.
None of these resources that were available to me at the time “told me what to do”. Each gave me a foundation of beliefs. John Holt taught me about the power of observation and the courage to question society’s valued learning beliefs. GWS taught me that as parents applied these processes of becoming an observation detective and as we question any of our concerns or worries that stem from conditioned educational values, amazing and profound information through experiences emanate from each child’s own perspective and style. And my mentor taught me that I had the power within myself and through learning at the feet of each of my children to discover our own process.
I have found myself often deflecting parents who come to me asking if something is “right” or “does this fit”? It’s because the process is so unique to the individual and family involved. It’s because no two children are alike, even when they share the same learning style or difficulty. I try to share like those parents from GWS did with me . . . how my power of observation and resisting conditioned thinking revealed the amazing process of each child I am partnering with. I want to support the foundations to the process, and encourage parents as they discover their own place with their own child. I want to share my own observations and experiences as an example of what can be learned using these foundations. I want to give courage through these examples that it really works.
One thing I may change is to share that I have products that I was striving for, and the examples from our process is toward meeting that end. If a person has another product in mind, our process may not make sense. Also, I’m thankful I had the latitude in figuring out our own process. It’s not a checklist that can be checked off. It’s about trying something and realizing it’s not working out, and going back to why (the product) we’re doing what we’re doing, and readjusting ourselves back to the correct how (the process) to get us there. The pendulum will swing back and forth for a while, until we find the right place for us and our children. This is what my Collaborative Learning Process was trying to reveal: the foundational process that is helping us reach our goals for our children’s learning lives.
It’s much tougher to explain and talk about our process than it would be to simply give some formula for a product. As I mentioned in a post here, I can share my foundation, but each person has to build upon it for their own child and family. But, I think the process is so important, even if it seems elusive sometimes to put to words.