Friday, March 9, 2007


I've noticed that when unschoolers want to explain unschooling to those who are involved in public schools, or are school-at-homers, there is a tendency to use radical unschooling in a really negative way, for contrast. The assertion usually amounts to: "We're not letting them be raised by wolves, like radical unschoolers."

I know that they do it to show the difference between active, involved, respectful unschooling and being neglectful and self-absorbed. So they use the phrase "radical unschooling" as a synonym for "neglectful," and "unparenting" is a word that gets tossed around in a denigrating way. Basically they see RU as "You're on your own, kid." And honestly, in the past I was very sure that radical unschooling and unparenting were one and the same. Plus, one has to consider the demographic that they're speaking to: people who don't really get unschooling at all. So quibbling about the definition of one label or another is pretty silly at that point. The idea of releasing any limits on children with good results is foreign to most people, and saying, "Oh, and my kids don't have a bed time!" would be counterproductive, branding all unschoolers as NUTS. Not even plain nuts; salted ones.

I know that my unschooling friends don't think of me as neglectful, and that they enjoy my children. So it's not personal. I don't want to make an issue of the way things are worded - but I also don't want these ideas of RU perpetuated. I have in the past broken in to say something to the effect that while some radical unschoolers may be neglectful, really it's just an extension of the idea that children will learn the academics that they need when they need it - RUers also believe that their children will learn other things such as ethics, morals, limits, and their bodily needs without being forced to.

Honestly: why would a child be naturally wired to learn to read... but NOT naturally wired to learn to sleep when they're tired and to be a connected part of the social group? When I looked at it like that I was SOLD on RU.

And if what we're trying to do, and working really hard at, is "unparenting," then I guess it's kind of a worthy goal, in my opinion. Maybe I should just get comfortable with it, own it, and sell it as positive?