Unschooling has evolved from simply not being in school (John Holt), to life learning in the 1980’s, to child led learning in the 1990’s. These days there is a plethora of radical unschoolers, who to be honest make me feel a little uncomfortable.
I am glad I have been looking into unschooling from a place of homeschooling confidence and comfort. I have chuckled to myself as I have read strong, in your face (and sometimes downright rude) answers to innocent questions potential unschoolers have asked on various unschooling forums. There seems now to be a very definite definition of what it means to be an unschooler, and if one does not adhere to it fully then one is not deemed to be a proper unschooler. To be fair, I think it is probably the newer ‘radical unschooling movement’ which is perpetuating this ‘them and us’ situation. Radical unschooling refers to where so much trust is placed in the child they are allowed to choose their own bed time, food and snacks, meal times, whether to be part of the chores or not and how much screen time to have. My issue isn’t with the definitions or lifestyle choices per se (families should be free to choose their own preferred ways of living), it is the fury with which the followers attempt to push it onto others. Anything taken to an extreme has the potential to become a place of judgement.
I like the educational philosophy of unschooling but as a whole life style choice it is not for me. I love the idea of placing more trust in one’s children to choose what and how they learn, but believe it should always be with a supporting adult, advising and sharing their own wisdom, which comes from the simple fact of being around in the world longer. I do not think, for our family, the whole life style choice of allowing the children to decide everything in their lives would be helpful or even healthy. And I absolutely do not want to be part of a movement which on the one hand espouses trusting one’s child and allowing individualization yet on the other hand mocks parents who do not adhere to the practice in its entirety. These parents allow their 5-year-old child the freedom to choose but do not extend the same courtesy to their fellow grown up home schooling compatriots.
No, radical unschooling is not for us. We do not want to hand over a responsibility to our children and give them a load they are not fully old enough to carry. From the many, many discussions I have had with them on this subject, I know they lack the full understanding to appreciate the long-term consequences of the choices they make now. To allow them to choose whether to work or play; do chores or not; eat healthily or not (and yes all three have come up in each Unschooling book I have read) seem a little premature for my guys at the developmental stage they are at right now, especially the younger ones.
So I wonder is there a middle ground, and I am hopeful there is. This is where is pays, I think, not to box oneself in with a label. It seems I will remain a nothing homeschooler, and yet there are significant changes afoot in our home school. I am certain that the road less travelled is the road worth travelling because it will make all the difference (to almost quote Frost). I am still praying about how deep to take these changes, but I am excited about our new path even though I know not how far we will travel down it, or how fast.
I am coming to the end of my musings. It has been incredibly helpful to make sense of them on paper, so to speak, and navigate the murky seas of my brain. I have come full circle. I was a nothing homeschooler at the start, I remain a nothing homeschooler now. I like the freedom this non label allows us. But things are changing in our little homeschool, and possibly even radically (!). I’ll share these changes just as soon as I have consolidated them in my mind. Thank you all so much for letting me chat for a few days. I have so enjoyed your input into this great conversation called homeschooling.
We are blessed to have the freedom to be ourselves instead of a poor copy of someone else. May we all enjoy that freedom and may all of us thrive as we seek to find the very best education for our children!