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© 2019 by Joyce Fetteroll

No right or wrong way to unschool

There is no right or wrong way to unschool.

 

I think you're confusing the philosophy of unschooling with the practice of unschooling.

 

While the practice of unschooling looks different in each family, there is a philosophy behind the practice that helps us decide whether something we're considering doing is in keeping with the philosophy. In other words, whether it's right or wrong.

 

Philosophy gets a bad rap ;-) It's what some old Greek and German guys with unpronounceable names droned on about. It's supposedly something people adopt so they don't have to think for themselves.

 

But a philosophy is a set of principles that resonates with us, that helps us decide what is right and what is wrong.

 

"Don't kill" is a philosophy. Some will feel that philosophy resonates throughout their being and will avoid all animal products. Some will feel it applies only to humans. Some will accept it as a generally good idea but wouldn't have a problem with killing someone who was trying to kill them.

 

A philosophy isn't something people pick up to hobble themselves with. A philosophy will free them from making decisions that felt wrong but they didn't know why. Without a philosophy to help us decide what's right and wrong, it's all just guess work based on a mish mosh of things we've absorbed from life. And unfortunately that mish mosh generally has pieces of philosophies that conflict with each other. (One part of us may know it's wrong to ignore a child's cry but another part of us know it's right to let a child cry at being dropped off at preschool because they'll get over it and a greater good (supposedly!) will come from it.)

 

Christianity is a philosophy. So is Buddhism. So is vegetarianism.

 

Most people will pick and choose from a variety of philosophies and cobble their own philosophy together. Someone could pick and choose from the Buddhist philosophy and mix it in with other philosophies and come up with something that worked for them. But it wouldn't be polite for them to go to a Buddhist center where other people had come to embrace the full philosophy and say "I have no intention of following what you say in a lock step manner. Here's how I do it."

 

Lists like this and UnschoolingDiscussion and AlwaysLearning (and perhaps others I don't know about) are in a way answering the question "If I were to fully embrace unschooling in all aspects of my life, what would it look like?"

 

From that, people can embrace the whole philosophy. Or they can pick and choose what sounds good to them. The list isn't about helping people pick and choose. It isn't about adapting the philosophy. It's just presenting what someone who wanted the whole package would need. From that people can take what they like and leave the rest. Or they can embrace the whole caboodle if the unschooling philosophy resonates with them.

 

I think many people who come to unschooling are coming not to embrace The Philosophy of Unschooling but because some of the ideas seem to fit in with their own philosophy of "Do what's best for my kids." But the two philosophies can't effectively be discussed simultaneously, especially if someone calls "Do what's best for my kids" unschooling.

 

The "Do what's best for my kids" philosophy is unfortunately too vague to discuss effectively. It helps people decide between doing something for their kids and doing something selfish. But it doesn't help anyone decide which of two ideas for kids are best. It's basically trial and error, best guess, gut feelings. People need to draw on other philosophies to help them decide if something is right or wrong for their kids. And that's why various parents who embrace the "Do what's best for my kids" philosophy can decide spanking and respectful parenting and sending their kids to school and unschooling and chores are all in keeping with that philosophy. It's not that "Do what's best for my kids" is wrong, it's just it's as different a philosophy from unschooling as Islam is from vegetarianism.

 

I think the vagueness of "Do what's best for my kids" is why people end up trading what-works-for-them ideas with each other and why it can feel off-putting when someone says "No, that's not in keeping with the unschooling philosophy."

 

There are other homeschooling methods, but each person has a different way of approaching it.

 

On the surface it looks like that. But unschooling is a whole way of life not a method. That might sound like a quibble but it gets to the heart of why unschooling is different than other ways of homeschooling.

 

Homeschooling has a particular destination that the parents want to get the kids to. The destination depends on the method and the parents. (A typical destination is preparation for college.)

 

Unschooling is about helping kids be who they are and to grow into who they'll become. The destination is wherever the kids end up. It isn't predetermined by the parents. Our job is to support who they are and open the world up to them so they have opportunities to expand their interests.

 

So my question is stemming from what you wrote, there are set theories, it seems, with unschooling - but isn't it left up to interpretation of what that person thinks how it affects their life? Like in your example of being a vegetarian, do you think that all vegetarians are exactly practicing the way the theory states or are they doing it in a way that works "best" in their life?

 

I think you're confusing the philosophy with the practice. The philosophy of not eating meat is pretty straightforward! But what someone will eat will look different from home to home.

 

Unschooling, too, will look different in each home. At my house it looks like a lot of TV, writing and drawing. But if someone else did that in their home it might be neglect because it wouldn't match what their kids need.

 

My daughter happens to be a writer and artist. It's who she is, not something I created. I can help someone see how I help her be who she is. But I can't help someone turn their child into a writer and artist.

 

 

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