I have been homeschooing since… well, since my oldest was born almost 15 years ago. I went into it one step at a time and fairly analytically. That’s just how my mind works and always has. That’s why I am really good at research, why I could pick up programming so fast that I was hired to do it and why I had such a diverse course of study in college. I like to learn as much as I can about something. When it came to homeschooling, the one of thing that kept coming up for me was this “unschooling” label. It piqued my curiosity! I’m a pretty open minded gal, after all. After checking it out and being around many families that have called themselves unschoolers my conclusions may not please some of you. Why? Because from what I have seen and experienced unschooling has become a religion for some people! And a divisive one at that!
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the premise of unschooling. Personally, I consider it life learning as opposed to strictly curriculum based learning. Nothing more complicated than that. But if you run into most, not all, people that use the label they would have a huge issue with my definition. They will quote others that came before them that have been self-proclaimed or group ordained authorities on what the correct definition of it is. People get into such a tizzy over what it is and isn’t that it becomes a battle of rhetoric usually resulting in anyone not agreeing with them being bullied into silence and excluded from the “club”.
The first part of the problem is the WHO people are looking to for a definition. I don’t care what perceptions are, people are people. I hate to even say this because I have heard people say this and it wasn’t the least bit true for them personally, but I have been around enough famous people to know that people ARE just people. I can’t tell you how many times I have spent time with someone who was looked at as an authority on something and found that they really didn’t know half as much or have the experience that people gave them credit for. When it has come to the unschooling label, I have had personal experience with a few of those “authorities” and they turned out to be not very kind or the open-hearted people they are duping everyone into believing they are!! And it's funny how they each had their own different definitions that they believed were the only right ones.
This made me wonder about the experiences I have had with people that use the label. I have seen people get chastised because they dared ask in an online unschooling support group setting if it was ok to use a workbook since their child saw them at the store and wanted one. Then they were told if they did buy one for their child then they clearly weren’t unschoolers. The person is then literally ignored if they ask for any more help. I have seen things like this happen in every single local and national online unschooling support group I have been on. If you don’t live by that particular group’s accepted definition then it was made clear that you weren’t welcome.
Other unschoolers have jumped on the label simply because they loved how “anti” mainstream and rebellious it sounds. For some it is used as a means of pushing other people’s buttons. They really enjoy going out of their way to tell people how they don’t have a schedule or curriculum. It gets them attention they feel like they need. It is even used as a rebellion against their own family members who do things “how they have always been done.” I have continually seen it divide families because unschooling, for them, is in reality a continuation of the teenage rebellion against their parents that they never grew out of.
For some, unschooling is used it as an excuse to un-parent. For them it becomes some “free life” way of living, reminiscent of the hippies that were irresponsible of years past. Or for others it’s an excuse to let their kids learn the hard way much like “tough love” parenting where no help or guidance was given. In these cases it’s not a new idea, just a different label.
Some have gone as far as adopting the “radical” unschooling label that has the same “anti” feel but it crosses over even more so into parenting. This is where you’ll find things like allowing your children to decide if they are going to brush their teeth, letting the kids have complete say on what they eat even if they decided to eat all candy or things they are really allergic to, etc. Obviously I bring up my health related concerns with this since I think this is where it crosses the line into ignorance. Knowingly letting your kids’ teeth rot is not called trusting your children to make the best decisions for them. It’s plain neglect!!
I am only sharing my own conclusions here and my conclusions based on my experiences tell me that unschooling attracts the most of one type of person. Unfortunately time and time again it is those that are attracted to rebellion. I’m not saying this is an inherently bad thing. On the contrary, I’m obviously a bit of a rebel myself or I wouldn’t have even dared write this. The problem is with the ones who are so attached to their rebel status that they take it too far.
I really do want to end this blog on a high note. I want to address all of those people that discover unschooling and are truly relieved to find others that put a definition on what you already do or what resonates with you and your family. It’s great to feel like you aren’t alone! I completely understand that! While I have had experience with people who do unschool in a pure loving sense, most of them don’t feel the need to call it that. Either they put their kids first, above any labels, or they are afraid to be lumped in with those that have the bad behavior. You don't need to follow a label or anyone's definition to do what's works best for your kids!!
When homeschooling or parenting, and we all know how those two things are not mutually exclusive, don’t turn off your instincts, common sense or life experience. USE the lessons you have learned and don’t choose to ignore them so that you can fit someone else’s method of raising your kids. They may not have the life experience or life lessons under their belt that you do. And that’s fine. Take what you can learn and what you feel may work for you or you may want to try and ignore the rest.
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As a Parent Coach and Mentor, my passion lies in empowering parents to make the best decisions they can for their children and their families as a whole. As a well-trained coach, I can be your facilitator and accountability partner for long-lasting, meaningful change that has a permanent, positive impact for your family. By focusing on the values that you hold most important in your life, I can help you create and maintain the type of parenting relationship you want to have with your children, now and into their adulthood.
I am a homeschooling mom of four children in Massachusetts. I am also the author of a book called The Herbal Beverage Book, which can be found on amazon or directly on my website. When not coaching, writing or spending time with the family, I enjoy Hayao Miyazaki films, new and classic Dr. Who episodes, anything related to American history and a great glass of mead.
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This blog is a collection of thoughts, articles and perspectives I have at any one time. While I am pretty consistent in my beliefs, life changes and evolves along with experiences. You may feel a connection with me through my writing yet I never want any of my readers to misunderstand that the connection you feel is with a perspective I have shared and not me as a person. I am continually humbled that I am able to connect with my readers, and I hope to continue to be able to for many years to come, but it doesn't make us connected in any way beyond this. If you connect with what I write and know me as an acquaintance, this in no way reflects that I have any knowledge of you, your situation in life or that I am writing with you in mind. It is merely that I have shared a human experience that most likely very many others have had has well. This also goes for anything I post on my Twitter account, Facebook Page and Facebook personal page. I wanted to make this disclaimer as clear as possible so you know that any misunderstanding you choose to have is not my responsibility.