|Some of my wild unschoolers|
If you do a Google search on unschooling it won’t take you
very long to find someone criticising unschoolers. The most judged unschoolers are
those who have adopted a radical way of life: those who do not force a set of rules and
regulations upon their children, in the area of parenting, as well as education. The critics are quick to point out that
without parental control and rules, children will go off and do whatever they
want without regard to anyone else. They will run wild and be inconsiderate,
lazy and selfish. They won’t learn right from wrong.
Maybe not, but you’re not radical unschoolers, you might say. You limit your
unschooling to educational matters, and are sure to impose limits and rules
upon your children to ensure they are well brought up. You are parenting
responsibly. At one point in time, I might have agreed.
regulations. I wanted to train my children well. I considered it my duty. It
wasn’t long before I discovered something very interesting about rules: they
result in children and parents fighting for power. It was such hard work
staying in control. The end result wasn’t a well-disciplined child who accepted
my rules because she saw they were in her best interests. Instead she longed to
rebel but couldn’t because I was the parent and she was the child, and if she
did decide to ignore my rules, she knew she’d be punished.
homeschooling, we knew things weren’t right and gradually, and naturally, rules and power
struggles fell by the wayside. The end result? Wild selfish children? No, we
have hard working, well-balanced, considerate children who know right from wrong, and who love their Faith.
bedtimes, dress codes and attending Mass. We do have a roster for chores but
somewhere along the way, it was taken over by my children, and it no longer has
anything to do with me.
watch TV. They enjoy a DVD here and there. They each have a computer which they
use every day, but they don’t spend excessive time in front of the screen. They
play computer games whenever they feel like it which isn’t that often. They
dress appropriately and I’ve never had even one battle about what they want to
wear.* They all choose to go to bed at a reasonable time they have decided is
appropriate for their needs. Without fail and without complaining, they contribute to the
upkeep of our home. They always come to Mass with us, and turn up for morning
prayers. Even the issue of appropriate books and movies doesn’t seem to be a problem.
live like that.”
things we don’t particularly enjoy doing.”
better than being forced into doing it. Motivation comes from within and so
will remain even when parents aren’t physically present with the threat of punishment.
and know right from wrong without imposing rules and punishments. Could it have
to do with modelling the values, beliefs and practices we want to pass onto our
children? Could it involve showing respect to all, about regarding everyone as
valued members of the family team, about listening, about acknowledging everyone’s
needs and responding to them with love and not punishment? Might it be about
building up children’s inner sense of ‘right’ feeling? Is it about parenting
gently; is it about attachment parenting? I don’t really know. These are just random thoughts.
seem to lead lives so different to ours. I listened to such words as ‘neglectful’,
‘lazy’, ‘allowed to do whatever they want’ and ‘wild’ and I didn’t want to
know. These days I am trying to look past the obvious life-style differences, in an
attempt to understand. I am pondering new ideas.
popular belief, radical unschoolers do not practise hands-off parenting at all.
I have actually come across the words ‘attachment parenting’ in association with ‘unschooling’ quite a few times. Could it be that radical unschoolers have well-adjusted
and well-parented children after all? Could the critics be wrong?
Could we have moved towards ‘radical’ unschooling?