the network for radical unschooling families
Our family has been unschooling for 16 years. Unschooling is often misunderstood. For one thing, it's not just about the decision to go to school or not go to school. It is a holistic lifestyle choice. It is about embracing all members of the family as equals; It's about Taking Children's Choices Seriously and allowing each member of the family a say in the decision making process.
Unschooling means respecting every family member's opinion even if it differs from our own.
It's about Finding Common Preferences when the family can't agree.
Go on any unschooling forum and people are under the impression children are running wild (technically not a bad thing), eating and doing whatever they want, with no guidance. This would be based on an assumption that there are no parents (with opinions) around. As parents, we still need to protect our children; It's just important to explain our opinions to them. They will want to know why we guide them in the way we do.
This way of living within a family will challenge every "rule" (arbitrary or otherwise.) Arbitrary rules will be rooted out by children, as will any unclear or unfair request or demand. It is inevitable: we will become better communicators if we choose the unschooling lifestyle.
One of my favorite parenting educators is Scott Noelle who really calls it like it is. He has a daily e-mail called the "Daily Groove." Very enjoyable.
So, as it stands today, our youngest unschooler (10 years old) decided to go to school this year (5th grade.) She loves it and even with the added work load, still stays up on her study of violin/fiddle, is on the gymnastics team (12+ hrs/wk) and spends hours drawing.
Her being in school hasn't changed the way our family works together. It has changed the amount of freedom we have. It has changed the amount of family time we have and the amount of time spent wandering the creeks barefoot. But the smiling face of my daughter is worth the trade-off. She sees school as just another activity to enrich her life. She knows she is not bound by it; it is just one more choice in the bottomless pool of choices.
Isn't that what we all want for our children: to be self-directed, happy, confident and curious human beings?
As I write, Kiva is on stage playing the fiddle with 12 other musicians. They were all chosen to be in The Sharlot Hall Museum Historical Music Conservatory. They meet weekly for two hours and have already begun to play out in public (they've been playing together for about two months.) This choice is all hers. She practices happily every day without being asked. The director of the Conservatory asked for a commitment. She gave it and takes it seriously.
An unschooler from day one!
Check out the Creek and Mesa website for more about our wilderness life.