This past week, what message did I receive when I prayed over my homeschool? The message I got was peace in my heart. Even when I also got an unexpected shock. A high profile, radical unschooling advocate whom I have admired is involved in a tremendous scandal. I learned of something being amiss directly from her, because I subscribe to her blog. Her post was vague, and I was worried. Someone had made accusations of unprofessional and destructive behavior on another blog, and only God knows what is true. By her own admission, the unschooling guru had failed to practice what she preached, and her world was crumbling. The story has all the classic drama of a soap opera: alcohol abuse, marital infidelity, lies, financial deception, emotional manipulation, domestic violence, a nervous breakdown, and devastated children.
Wow, my life is so normal! It was almost eerie, after what I wrote about the cultish elements of unschooling and its gurus, and I wasn't even thinking specifically of this person, though I was thinking of the FB group she moderates. What do these events mean to me? I think I was a bit starstruck by this woman, and though I didn't have her on a pedestal, the experience brings home the warning that we really need to avoid making anything, whether a person or a homeschooling method, or even homeschooling itself, an idol. Sure, we can be inspired by others, by our friends, or a beloved relative, or an author whose words resonate with us. But if we are not looking to God first, every single day, then when our hero falls, we will feel the earth tremble.
So much of what I have witnessed in the radical unschooling community is profoundly dysfunctional, and this episode takes the cake. But I don't know that unschoolers are any more dysfunctional than society in general. The fall from grace of one guru doesn't necessarily discredit unschooling itself. Yet if I had a dime for every unschooler, Christian or otherwise, who mentioned or quoted John Holt (and they definitely reference him over Jesus, the Church, or the saints), I would have a fat piggy bank. And John Holt is dead. The unschooling movement as it exists today was built on a secular guru, and when he was gone, others picked up his crown. But certain radical unschooling advocates actually made it a religion. Just consider that for a moment.
The question here is whether there is intrinsic to unschooling philosophy something that tends toward dysfunction and is antithetical to Christianity. And not only that. Is radical unschooling a cult complete with fear mongering, shaming, and the brainwashing of parents? If I had to boil radical unschooling down to one definition that seems true across the board, it would be this: the insistence upon children to be primarily responsible for their own education and upbringing. Does this reflect the word of Jesus? You answer the truth for yourself.