I hesitate to write this post, as I know some will take offense. I hope that I can be well-reasoned and diplomatic enough for that not to happen.
If you have perused unschooling forums or browsed through unschooling blogs, you will sometimes see a recurring theme that seems to come close to bringing the philosophy of unschooling–or life learning, or free range learning–over that fine line into what can only be described as dogmatic or even, sadly, cultish.
You are not a true unschooler if you own workbooks.
You’re not really an unschooler if you ever structure any time to do certain activities with your children that are deemed educational.
You are not an unschooler if you yourself hold any kind of schedule or routine in your life.
And the list goes on…
It reminds me more than little of how women fought for equality and freedom only to become so anti-homemaking and mothering that most of my generation is out there running themselves ragged trying to do both simultaneously because of the lack of recognition that now comes with raising one’s children and managing a household.
Unschooling is freedom. Unschooling is allowing our children to learn naturally. But to deem any type of structure as some kind of “offense” is ridiculous and detrimental to our children’s development. I’m not saying everyone should have structured time. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t refuse to have it because that means we’re not unschooling. That’s just silliness.
I know of families whose only structure is mealtime and some kind of rhythm coinciding with the working partner’s schedule and time at home, and that’s just fine for them. We ourselves go from very open and free days (aside from my own housework or any classes at the gym or activity outside of home happening) to what I described in my book, where the kids are free, doing their thing, but I have made a point of shutting the tv off & perhaps pulling out some reference material, books, games, etc., and maybe even logging on to some fun French games online with them, or math games, but it is not imposed. It is “offered”, and if they choose to do it, great. If not, that’s fine too. To some, that means we are not unschoolers. That’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it. But we shoot ourselves in the foot as a community whose core values include whole and natural development and growth for our children when we become… snooty about these things. Exclusive. It’s just not good.
I started a PEI unschoolers group on FB recently. I still remain part of the general island-wide homeschool group, and enjoy all that comes up in it, but I sensed at times that among some more structured and religious homeschoolers, I needed to be careful as to what I said or posted. So sometimes having that little place where there’s a bit more freedom of expression is a good thing. And everyone is welcome to join, which I made clear. There are members who are quite structured in their homeschooling, and that’s great. That works for them. The more the merrier. I was informed a while back by two separate people who had attended a meeting that someone had warned others that my pro-unschooling ideas were dangerous and people should watch out. I get it, different can be threatening. I don’t find myself threatening, and I love getting to know people of all sorts of backgrounds and philosophies, so I hope that over time the person who felt that way has a different opinion of me, but even if they don’t, that’s ok. I have no desire to step on toes and offend anyone, so sometimes creating a space for weirdos like me ( 😉 ) makes everyone happier all around.
All that to say that while it is great to be able to share with one another freely as unschoolers, and support each other in our families’ journeys, exclusiveness is detrimental. Shunning people or putting them down because they are crossing the fine line between homeschooling and unschooling is counterproductive in helping society to move forward an recognize the validity and benefit of home education and life outside the box.
Being an unschooler is not a status symbol. It’s a path. And no two paths are the same. So let’s be nice, peeps.