We are not radical unschoolers. If you know, or have an idea of what unschooling is, chances are whatever it is you’re thinking of, isn’t us.
I’ve read most of the radical unschooling books, I’ve also read my fair share of many other types of homeschooling books. On a scale of one to 100, one being traditional schoolers, and 100 being radical unschoolers, we are like… an 80.
Radical unschooling extends to parenting. Out of all the things that could separate us from other unschoolers with a bold line, this is it. While we do give our children a lot of grace and space to make their own decisions, we have limits and their actions have parent-determined consequences.
I think one of the biggest examples of how our parenting slightly reflects radical unschooling but then dramatically differs is words we allow the kids to use. “Bad words” became a topic about a year ago. The kids were pushing boundaries, asking what words were okay to say and which were not. Words like heck, crap, sucks, and even the ones they”d only sound out, “shhh-iiiii.”
Herman and I both agree that “bad words” are just words. Jesus wouldn’t have scolded someone for saying “sh*t” because it wouldn’t have even been a thing. He probably would have though they’d sneezed. They made the decision that words that get a wow factor when they hear them from others aren’t words they’d ever say. (At least for now.) But words like heck, crap, and sucks (like, “oh, that sucks!”) weren’t bad, and we’re okay with that.
However, we have a very strict policy that if an adult ever corrects them they’re not to argue that we allow them to say it, just apologize and try to never say it around them again. We also ask them not to say words like that during co-op, play dates, or while participating in clubs because not every parent agrees those words aren’t bad, and we all agree they’d never want to be the one to get someone else in trouble for teaching them a new (bad) word. The novelty of those words wore off quickly and none of them use them anymore. The most controversial things they say are, “shoot” and, “see you later, hater.”
There are just some things I feel more comfortable teaching my children in a “sit down and listen for ten minutes” environment, and then there’s other things that I don’t think a special song, or curriculum is needed for them to learn something organically. You’d be surprised the things your children learn when you step back and allow them to lead.
Hayden has always been a traditional learner. So, during the short time span we ALL unschooled fully, he was bored, and sometimes felt lost when it came to finding something else to learn about. He’s a sponge and absorbs so much all the time, but for some reason the freedom to choose when and what to learn about overwhelmed him. He’s done an online curriculum since. So, not everyone in our home unschools.
-Have screen time limits because we notice hard-to-handle behavior and bad moods when we don’t. Yes, we’ve tried before.
-Have strict rules when in stores or unfamiliar places because I don’t trust strangers or that the kids won’t push boundaries in public settings. The golden rule for stores is “one hand on the cart at all times,” and we remind them when they do let go and try to roam (Because they’re still kids and need reminding.) that, “if I cannot reach out and touch you, I cannot prevent someone from grabbing you and running away.”
-Have some sort of almost daily lesson. We do drop it if we are going to be gone all day, or if the weather is nice and we don’t stay indoors. Perks of almost-unschooling.
-Don’t force reading. I think this is the most controversial thing we do, and also the thing that makes us resemble unschoolers the most. We work on letter recognition, counting, letter sounds, and sometimes blends, but there are not tests, grades, and required memorization. We do make exceptions, though. Like, Gabriella was diagnosed with Dyslexia. Her doctor was super cool about it, and told us that unless we had plans to put her in school, to go slow. Allow her to take her time learning and use resources that best work for her and that a large number of school children are discouraged by their dyslexia because of peer disapproval and rushed education, and she’s lucky not to have those issues. She’ll be starting a program called All About Reading soon, though it’ll be on her time and not rushed.
So, while my kids aren’t free to do as they please all day everyday, they do have more freedom than most. I kinda wish I could coin a term that works better with how we live, but for now unschooling it is.
What are your opinions on unschooling?