I’ve been blogging (intermittently, I admit!) for 3.5 years here…that’s almost half of Kai’s lifetime! As is the way of things, my thinking on unschooling, and lots of other things, has changed and evolved a fair bit over those 3.5 years…especially as Kai has grown, and learnt, and turned school age – a constant process of deschooling. So I figure it makes sense to go back and look at a few posts and see how my thinking has changed over that time.
I found a post from almost 3 years ago – January 2011. In it, I wrote this: ‘Maybe people tend to over think unschooling because in fact its underlying premise is so simple. Just be. Live in the moment. Live life.’
NO. NO. NO!! Now, I completely disagree with my own statement! Unschooling is NOT ‘just’ living life. Unschooling is far from simple. Unschooling requires constant thinking and re-thinking as you and your children grow.
Calling unschooling ‘just living life’ is a complete insult to good unschoolers! Unschooling takes patience, effort, and time as you continue to work on your own deschooling, facilitating your childs interests and family harmony and joy….Unschooling isn’t ‘just’ anything. It’s a thing – only unschooling is unschooling. It’s hard work! - here are some tips.
‘Unschooling is *much* harder than school at home because it takes a great deal of self examination and change in ourselves to help our kids and not get in their way!’ —Joyce Fetteroll
By saying unschooling is just ‘living life’ that post also implies anyone can unschool, because everyone ‘lives life’. Maybe back then I thought that was true. But now, I don’t. Theoretically, yes – if you have the finances and health to do so, everyone *could* unschool. But I guess what I mean is, not everyone can do it well. If you can’t do it well, if you can’t make unschooling better and ‘more sparkly’ than school (I stole that from Sandra Dodd ) well – then it’s time to rethink it. Sometimes school is better than home. For some kids. Just sayin’.
‘Unschooling should and can be bigger and better than school. If it’s smaller and quieter than school, the mom should do more to make life sparkly.’—Sandra Dodd
Unschooling isn’t ‘doing what’s best for your family’ either. Yes, unschooling looks different in each family, and even for each kid in a family with more than one child. But from reading unschooling lists for well over 4 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘doing what’s best for your family’ essentially seems to mean doing what’s best for Mom (or the parents) and/or doing what the parents feel comfortable with…that’s not unschooling. Some parents think spanking is best for their family. Some think time-outs are. Some think workbooks and maths at the dining table are. None of that is unschooling.
And that is why I think this definition of unschooling is a REALLY bad one ‘I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear.’ Pat Farenga.
THAT definition is about parents, not about kids. To be the best unschooling parent you can be, you will be (and probably should be!) pushed out your comfort zone on numerous occasions, over one thing or another (such as food, TV, computers, gun toys, barbies…..the list could go on and on!), and then reassess and analyse your discomfort before your can move past it to fully embrace your children’s interests and passions.
The word freedom in that definition is also problematic….too many people new to unschooling thinking unschooling = freedom, and there are unfortunately a number of prominent unschooling advocates that push that idea. Often those parents do tend toward the side of unparenting, rather than unschooling, at least in the beginning..…
Letting kids swear, be obnoxious, generally run amok in public is not okay. Hurting or harassing other people or animals is not okay. Damaging property is not okay. None of that is anything to do with unschooling….these two links are awesome to think about these ideas….Misconceptions about unschooling, and freedom.
Another thing i’d like to analyse from my old post (read it if you must! At least my thinking has evolved, right?!) is the fact that back then Kai was only 4.5 years old, not officially ‘school age’, but I was still saying what we were doing was unschooling….
I’m still unsure on the whole idea of whether we can or should say we are unschooling from birth, or before compulsory school age…lots of people do. Heck, I did!
My reasons to now doubt this practice are thus – firstly, the definition of UNschooling, is NOT school…so until a child really is legally supposed to be in school, there is no school to UN! In that case, I guess you could call it respectful, attachment parenting, and say you plan to unschool, come school time?
Secondly, in the past 4 years we’ve lived on two continents and in 4 states, and I’ve known a lot of unschoolers – or at least a lot of people who have called themselves unschoolers! I’ve known even more people who were calling themselves unschoolers with toddlers and young kids, who then ended up sending their kids to school when they got to school age. So were they actually unschooling at all? It’s an interesting question….
For those (very) few adults who were always unschooled themselves, if they plan to unschool their children, then I think it’s probably safe for them to say that from birth – they know what they are in for! And ditto for those with younger kids who are already unschooling older, school-age, kids…..
But for people like me – not unschooled ourselves, with no older kids – I think it’s prudent to wait until school age until you declare yourself unschoolers…… But hey – I already did it – so who am I to judge!? But if you only have small kids at the moment – just know this – things WILL change when they become school age. The pressure WILL mount from friends and family. You WILL need more deschooling, more reading, more re-assessing. I’m assuming that the same will be true when Kai gets to High School age too….but I guess we’ll wait and see!
Finally, I want to recommend the best places to read about unschooling. The best places I’ve found, as time as gone by, and I’ve explored many other writers and options…..
Pam L: http://livingjoyfully.ca
Sandra Dodd: http://sandradodd.com
Joyce Fetteroll: http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/
Pam S: http://learninghappens.wordpress.com/
Yes, they are all in North America. Yes, some of the things they say may sound harsh and/or make you feel uncomfortable. If you have a problem with that, may I politely suggest you get over your xenophobia and step outside your comfort zone in favour of becoming a better unschooler.
All of the above writers radically unschooled their now grown children; they have more experience, and write with more clarity on unschooling than anybody else anywhere (and I’ve read a lot of peoples writing on unschooling…..a couple of other prominent unschooling writers have been shown to be liars, untrustworthy, and false….I’m not in the business of naming names, but suffice to say – do your research before taking for gospel the words of any writer!)
I went through a phase a few years ago when I wasn’t reading much; I guess I thought I knew it all already! It was to our detriment for sure. Now I read lots. I re-read links I’ve read before. I look for new links. I read, read, read – as much as I have time for! If you think you are beyond reading accounts and advice from more experienced unschoolers, you are just plain wrong! I was wrong, when I thought that…..
I’m lucky that currently I have a back room full of boxes of Sandra Dodd’s books (for her to sell at ALLive Australia) – The Big Book of Unschooling – which I’ve already read, and also ‘Moving a Puddle’ which I’ve never read before. Moving a Puddle is a collection of essays written by Sandra over the years she unschooled her three (now grown) children. It’s really lovely…and if you think Sandra seems ‘harsh’ in her groups, I suggest you read the book – actually, I just suggest you read the book anyway!…and even more, I suggest you come to Always Learning Live somewhere in Australia in a couple of months and meet Sandra in real life!
(See how I got another plug in for ALLive Australia….that was pretty tricky, you gotta admit!)