Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Radical Unschooling

Today I bought Dayna Martin's Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun.  I found it on for about $10, a much more reasonable price than what was offered on Ebay and Amazon. It wasn't available from my public library system, and my husband is done teaching at the college where he works an hour away, from which library I sometimes borrow materials. I also want to get away from obsessively researching unschooling online. I want to ween from too much computer use, so I bought the book. I have read postings by Dayna online and watched some of her youtube videos, and now I wish to delve more deeply into the subject. While I certainly don't agree entirely with her parenting philosophy, I think she is definitely onto something, and she expresses herself well in writing.

Dayna is like other radical unschoolers who allow their children unlimited media access. I believe in protecting my child's innocence and guarding her spirit against evil, so I simply can't buy into this practice. All potentially educational resources are not created equal!  For example, reading engages the entire mind, while television actually shuts down certain areas of the brain. It may be true that a child can learn from anything. The problem is in the content and other issues that may be detrimental, such as addiction to TV or video games. It's similar with food. Some foods are addictive and harmful to the body, and to me it is irresponsible to give unlimited access to toxic substances to a child.

But putting those concerns aside for the moment, a post at really intrigued me, which was about unschooling vs. permissive parenting. She says that radical unschoolers are not neglectful parents and are in fact very "hands on" with their children. And she brought up attachment parenting and how she sees unschooling as an extension of this parenting style. From the beginning of Beezy's life, my husband and I practiced attachment parenting, especially as advocated by Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha, who are a pediatrician and nurse, respectively. We wore our baby in slings and other types of carriers, did not believe in the cry-it-out method of sleep training, practiced co-sleeping, fed her real, whole foods (rather than the baby food in packages), and she breastfed into the pre-school years. In fact, I coined the term, organic mothering (yes, this is my original idea!) to define and provide a continuation of attachment parenting principles for when children are older. That was the guiding force in beginning to write this blog in the first place, along with advertising my belly dance classes.

Dayna has also mentioned other terms to describe unschooling, such as organic learning. If I think of unschooling as a process by which families live in natural ways, with children learning organically through real life experiences, apprenticeships, lessons of their choosing, and via the role modeling of parents and other adults, then I am definitely an unschooler! Even during our formal "lesson time", the materials chosen are enjoyable to my child, and the Charlotte Mason methods that are used are gentle and not textbook bound. We go at our own pace, and the lesson time happens whenever it best fits into our day. Reading, writing, and math are covered, as well as living books on religious, historical, or science-oriented topics for narration. These provide the basic tools for learning about anything. The rest of the state's curriculum requirements can be covered via 4-H projects, piano lessons, and an unschooling lifestyle.

I am excited to read Dayna Martin's book and to get a more intimate picture of her family's lifestyle. While she and her husband are not Catholic homeschoolers, and therefore some of their choices may be in conflict with the Church's teachings on education, they still very obviously care deeply for each other and their children, and their goal is to live life in the fullest, most authentic ways possible, equally for both parents and children. My very favorite unschooling blog right now is called Clean., which is also not about a Christian family, but it is apparent that Rachel, the author, loves her life. I adore her photographs and was inspired to get a nice camera for Mother's Day so I can do something similar here.

We most likely are not going to find others who think and homeschool and parent exactly in the manner we do, so we can take what we like and leave the rest. When I really think about how I teach, there are many avenues to accomplishing education. Any learning being done must be done by the child, and this can happen when the home is a rich environment, when parents role model virtuous ways of living and when they follow their own passions, by the child's own discoveries and experiments, through asking and answering questions, during conversations, and by interactions in the community. And that is certainly not an exhaustive list! Guidance, role modeling, and facilitation are methods of teaching. One of the comments on Dayna's blog by a Christian mother was especially interesting, suggesting that she imagines unschooling to be the closest approximation to how people parented in biblical times.

That seems like enough food for thought for the time being. I will most certainly be reflecting on Dayna Martin's radical unschooling book in posts to come.

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