Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting Beyond Unschooling

I also think it would be a mistake to equate unschooling with never doing anything resembling school. Home educated kids do many of the same things done in schools--learn to play a musical instrument, watch videos, create art, read books, compose poetry, make things out of wood, play games and sports, write, ask questions, share their opinion, solve math problems, cook--the list goes on. The difference is that as home educators we can create our most authentic life possible and learn on our own terms, in our own way, in our own time. We can put God and family before academics. We have a myriad of choices, but if we close our minds to any "schooly" methods or materials, we have effectively blocked the path to open source learning.    --  Rita Michele

Why am I quoting myself today? This is a comment I made at the Whole Life Unschooling FB group. A mother is interested in unschooling but doesn't have her husband's support. She was wondering if she could combine homeschooling and unschooling in order to appease her husband but still give her children the benefits of unschooling. Surprisingly, many members responded in the affirmative. 

Group moderator and high profile unschooling advocate Dayna Martin seemed a bit unnerved by this, perhaps because by the murky parameters of its definition, unschooling cannot be done "part-time". Naturally she thinks the ideal is radical unschooling, but she conceded that a combination of traditional homeschooling with unschooling would be better than subscribing entirely to the mainstream. She shared that her kids learn by exploring their interests and passions without engaging in anything at all "schooly", but she also supported the mother doing whatever she wanted or needed to do. She indicated that curriculum materials and structure are fine if the child wants them. However, "forcing" those things, as the dogma goes, would surely be gravely detrimental. 

To her credit, Dayna aims at a nonjudgmental, balanced response, and I am not criticizing her personally. I am intending to show the difficulty in navigating this whole issue and am suggesting making a concerted effort to get beyond it.

Obviously, with my endeavor of implementing what I find to be good in the French lifestyle and way of parenting, I am leaning more toward the importance of consistent routines so that our lives have a framework upon which to authentically grow and bloom. I am thinking of a wooden, arched trellis that was once in my yard. White roses and purple clematis would climb the trellis and be displayed in all of their glory. When strong winds damaged this structure and we had to pull it down, the flowers didn't thrive. They needed to be able to reach a higher place to get enough sun and have a sturdy foundation upon which to stretch out and take shape. How's that for an extended metaphor?

In the extremes of radical unschooling there is a tendency to reject any methods or materials that even remotely resemble school or so-called "authoritarian" parenting. As a home educator, I feel inhibited by such a mindset. I feel like my hands are tied, because we wouldn't want to put limits on our children. We must give them total and absolute freedom in all choices, in every area of life. At the risk of beating a dead horse, this is not only in opposition to the Christian parental vocation, it's simply nonsensical and irresponsible. How can one parent with confidence while being told that he or she is merely a partner and facilitator in learning and life, rather than the primary educator, as the Church teaches?

We have seen the ugly truth of what befalls our society which increasingly rejects its historical traditions. Families, churches, marriages, job security, morals, ethics, values, education, and physical and mental health have all progressively weakened. Sure, there is such a thing as too much structure. I just heard today that children have 50% less free time than they did a generation ago. They are over-scheduled and over-stimulated. As home educators, we have more control over our time and what fills our days and our children's minds, hearts, and souls. Why would we want to abdicate our God-given parental authority? Here is our chance to direct the vine toward the sun and behold the explosion of Beauty.