>Guest Post : My Case For Radical Unschooling

>Heather Burditt is my guest post today. She is a Unschooling mama to three boys.
Her blog is a great resource on unschooling, and mindful parenting. Check her out at Swiss Army Wife
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When I spoke at UWWG, our presentation closed with a Q&A session. It was a slightly… somewhat… ok VERY heated exchange. It seemed that it was the first time some listeners had heard of extending a child’s autonomy to all aspects of his/her life, rather than just not using a curriculum. I think a few were confused by it and immediately became defensive of what they assumed to be an Unschooled life. I know that I became confused that some had never heard of that concept before!

Recently, I blogged about the difference between Unschooling and Radical Unschooling. I asked for comments (and I’m still accepting them!). Through our presentation, and through the comments on my earlier post, I’ve begun to realize that Unschooling is a continuum. It most certainly has a beginning, ours began the very day Skylar ended his public school career. However, it doesn’t have an end, because life never ceases to exist. Even when you pass on, your children and their children (and so on) will be there to carry on with life. Unschooling IS life.

In the beginning, Unschooling doesn’t usually come very naturally to us parents. The only experts that truly exist on Unschooling are our children. They do it perfectly. We parents have to deschool and drop all those expectations we somehow ended up learning in our childhoods. It can be so hard and some people might even wonder why we are doing it if it takes so much energy. But it *feels* right doesn’t it? It *feels* right to treat our children with the love and respect we wanted. It *feels* right to give them freedom and allow them to learn through passion and joy, rather than coercion and force.

When it comes to academics, that seems to be the easiest thing to let go. The hardest seems to be the control over the children’s life choices. Wouldn’t it be right to say that a child should learn about his or herself first? If we consistently put a child to bed at 8pm and that child isn’t tired she isn’t learning very much about her body’s internal clock. If we consistently make a child eat certain foods or clean his plate then he isn’t learning very much about what it actually means to be hungry or conversely to be full. I wholeheartedly believe that the more we limit a child’s ability to learn about his own body, her own being we are limiting how that child goes about learning about the world around him or her. It *is* a continuum and it is all connected.

A lot of unschooler’s who say, “I unschool everything except for math” or “We aren’t *radical* unschoolers” are still living with that fear of letting go the illusion of control. (I say illusion, because it IS an illusion. Once that child is out of your sight or your home, you’ll understand!) I would advise not to limit the Unschooling continuum. Let it keep moving, let it naturally unfold and let yourself gradually let go. Just like you shouldn’t limit your children, don’t limit yourself with “can’t” and “won’t” and “never could” and “not for me”.

That’s my case for Radical Unschooling in a nutshell. Let it be. Let it naturally progress, IT WILL! Keep the strict schedules and the rules and the limits in school. Afterall, it seems to be the only place they are relevant, and even that is highly questionable.

Heather – Swiss Army Wife

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9 thoughts on “>Guest Post : My Case For Radical Unschooling

  1. >Bob – I don't know if you will see this so I'll try and get it to you in another way if possible. First of all, what I discuss in the post was inspired by conversation at a conference I had recently spoken at. With that out of the way, I appreciate this comment. It's something I've been struggling with lately. I'm always amazed with people who come to this place you describe BEFORE hearing about unschooling. For me, the word came first and it intrigued me to learn more. It is a point of reference. I really love sharing these perspectives on children with others and it helps that my passion is writing. 🙂 My question is, how does one spread a message without labeling? It seems inevitable that a label should be used especially in the age of technology and keywords. 🙂 Also, just as inevitable there will be people that reject the label, much in the same way that some reject political affiliation. In my own writing though, I do feel an urge to get away from using the word unschooling so much. Not that I don't love the word… because I do, but even in the unlimited world of radical unschooling it feels limiting when I'm trying to send a message. Hopefully that made sense. :-)Truly amazing are you and your wife for having the sense that your children are their own people. Not many of us did.

  2. >Bob – I don't know if you will see this so I'll try and get it to you in another way if possible. First of all, what I discuss in the post was inspired by conversation at a conference I had recently spoken at. With that out of the way, I appreciate this comment. It's something I've been struggling with lately. I'm always amazed with people who come to this place you describe BEFORE hearing about unschooling. For me, the word came first and it intrigued me to learn more. It is a point of reference. I really love sharing these perspectives on children with others and it helps that my passion is writing. 🙂 My question is, how does one spread a message without labeling? It seems inevitable that a label should be used especially in the age of technology and keywords. 🙂 Also, just as inevitable there will be people that reject the label, much in the same way that some reject political affiliation. In my own writing though, I do feel an urge to get away from using the word unschooling so much. Not that I don't love the word… because I do, but even in the unlimited world of radical unschooling it feels limiting when I'm trying to send a message. Hopefully that made sense. :-)Truly amazing are you and your wife for having the sense that your children are their own people. Not many of us did.

  3. >The problem I have with this (my problem not yours) is that the parenting philosophy you describe that makes the difference between an unschooler and a radical unschooler is not exclusive to unschooling, and I sometimes get the feeling that it's being 'sold' as if it is.My son has been out of school only since the end of 2002. The parenting philosophy my wife and I share of allowing him freedom of choice in when he sleeps, what he wears, what he eats, what he does, etc. – maximum control over his own life – goes back to 1985 when his ten years older sister was born. She was parented with freedom of choice before she started school at the age of five and throughout her 13 years in school the way she was parented didn't change. A desire for success at school was a contributing factor to decisions she made no doubt, but still she had the freedom to take time off school whenever she wanted to no questions asked and her time out of school was entirely hers to do with as she pleased, right down to choosing whether or not she would do her homework and what time she went to bed. When my wife and I removed our son from school at the age of seven, since which time he has enjoyed a lifestyle others would certainly describe as "radically unschooled", there were no changes to make in how we parented.Of course, I might just be one isolated case – an unschooling parent who objects to my parenting philosophy being promoted as "radical unschooling" (elsewhere not here I hasten to add). Allowing a child maximum control over his or her own life seemed to be a rather unique way of doing things back in 1985, so I don't suppose there would be many unschoolers in my particular circumstances.Or it might just be another example of how difficult it is to explain "unschooling", and especially "radical unschooling", to those who haven't been there.

  4. >I really enjoy this post. I know people look at my family as if we are crazy…I know the teachers in my daughter's school do for sure. We don't force her to learn but encourage her to succeed. I think there's a difference.Great post.

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