Friday, May 09, 2008

Why We Aren't Unschoolers

We aren't "un" anything.  What does it mean, anyway?  Back in the '70s my family played a game called The Ungame.  It wasn't supposed to be like a game, except, well, it was a game.  It looked like a game, we kept it with the other games, and we sat around the table to play it.  The content was unique, but it was still a game.

Is unschooling supposed to mean that it is unlike schooling?  Is it not schooling?  I've met parents who say they are unschoolers who teach math from a math book, and unschooling parents who would say that using a math curriculum isn't unschooling.  No one can really agree.

Many homeschoolers who don't unschool think of unschooling as a lazy parent's way to homeschool (for the record, I don't think there's anything lazy about it ~ letting go of scripts and lesson plans requires engaged parents).  They envision children staying up until 3 am playing video games nonstop from waking to sleep, with nary a stop to eat (unless pizza is wafted under the gamer's nose).  I, however, have encountered many self-labelled unschooling families who don't own televisions or game consoles.

No, the label is too fraught with connotation.  It conjures up stereotypes, some derogatory and some fantastic.  Lazy parents, plugged-in kids, kids who can't get into college.  Or freedom, life experience, trust.

But we aren't willing to take on the unschooling label?  Why?  Because I jettisoned the schooling part of our education philosophy a long time ago.  We aren't schooling, we are learning.  Not just the boys ~ all of us, all of the time. I've tried a lot of methods and philosophies, and they all have pluses and minuses, but in the end, any attempt at homeschooling as an educational philosophy flopped.  To me, unschooling, in its attempt to be unlike schooling, still suggests that schooling is the major focus, even if the attempt is to turn it upside down and inside out.  Many unschoolers still feel the need to justify themselves by showing how unschooling measures up to schooling ~ at home or away from home.  I call it the why-my-method-is-better-than-yours-is mentality.

We live.  We're human, and learning is the human condition.  Our word is full of wonders, and we have more information than we've ever had before.  Fact gathering is easy, if one wants to gather facts.  Living and learning brings facts into experience and understanding.  No, we aren't unschooling, which in the end sounds more like a political statement to me than an educational philosophy.  We are pro-learning, really learning, through living and being human.

(I suppose I'll still have to keep the term homeschooling in my purse, ready to pull out whenever someone asks the boys why they aren't in school.)

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