I Might Just Give Up!
Trying to not label ourselves as unschoolers leaves us hemming and hawing and somehow people think we aren't owning up to what we do. No matter how you phrase it ~ child-led, delight-driven, relaxed ~ people who homeschool are going to identify you as a unschooler. People who don't homeschool aren't going to get it at all, so why bother with the fancy words?
I really, really hate labels. I hate being pigeon-holed or stereotyped. I reserve the right to change my mind. If we do unschool, we still limit TV and video games (note that this has moved to limiting, not elimination). We still loosely uphold bed times, and there isn't a Dorito or Twinkie in sight. (Before you hit me over the head, I know that unschooling doesn't mean that people are uninvolved with their children, or that their children watch TV 24/7 and eat nothing but junk food ~ It's the stereotype I rebel against!) Still, I'm starting to see that while the unschooling label may conjure up negative connotations for some, it also creates solidarity with others. Its like a secret ~ life with our kids is great ~ club.
And damn, I'm pretty radical. I've always been radical, but now I am really listening to myself and how often I say no to the boys, and I'm asking myself why. In fact, I'm now having this internal dialogue before I say no, and I'm saying yes. I'm saying yes so often and so quickly that my boys are often surprised. That means I must have been saying no too often before. I think the no stifles learning.
They really are growing up and showing maturity, and I want them to make decisions. In fact, I think I've been a bit of a control freak, and well, I want that to stop. I want them to have the freedom I had as a child. I see it as part of their growth, and part of mine. And honestly, now that they are 8 and 9, I don't care what they have for a snack. If it is in the house and isn't raw meat set aside for dinner, have at it.
Saying yes has positive effects right away. A couple of months ago I started saying yes every time they asked to play in the front yard (we live on a somewhat busy street, so I needed to know that they were mature enough to look for cars before chasing a ball into the street). Within a week they stopped asking for permission, and just regarded it as part of their territory. Since then we've had the opportunity to talk about strangers walking on our street, and the difference between being polite and being too friendly, and how they can develop and trust their intuition.
Is it possible that I am a radical unschooler? Could it be that I have reconciled what it means to be radical about living and learning and to reject the idea that floats around out there that radical unschoolers are actually unparenting (I've always maintained that they are separate things, and that neither homeschooled nor away - from - home schooled children are immune to having parents who end up not doing much parenting, for whatever reasons. But I think I've been afraid of the word, radical.
Maybe it is time to take back the words and wear them proudly. It is certainly something to think about.