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What is radical unschooling?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Is there any other kind? I mean, unschooling *is* radical. Is radical unschooling even more radical than that? Are they two different ideas? Seriously, I want to know!
post #2 of 19
It depends on who you are asking really. First it helps to define what you think unschooling means. Does it mean that you are following the childs interest and building lessons and curriculum they have to do around that? (Not unschooling to me) Or does it mean that the child learns by living life, following his interests, and is free to do or *not* do something? (Qualifies as unschooling to me)

We mostly call ourselves just unschoolers. However, I have added the "radical" to differentiate our version of unschooling from some other peoples' definitions. In our home it means that the children are entirely in control of their education. There is no persuasion, control, or interference from the adults to get them to "do" something/more. Also I think that the radical gets tossed in to describe how unschooling has bled over into other parts of life. For example my kids have no bedtime, no mandatory chores, and no limits on media or food. We encourage them to set their own limits that feel natural and healthy for them, and we try to model such things ourselves. Now the latter example isn't necessarily an accepted part of unschooling but it does often accompany it. Smiles
post #3 of 19
As I've seen it used, the term usually includes unrestricted access to media and non-coercive parenting practices in all areas (eg. diet, bedtime, chores) and a conscious effort on behalf of parents to avoid strewing resources that are schoolish in format and content.

We don't count ourselves in the 'radical' camp. We have no assigned chores, no enforced bedtimes and no rules about dietary intake, but while I don't impose time-limits on media right now, I do insist that if the kids want to watch TV that they choose their show(s) ahead of time and watch just what they've planned. And I do expect daily music practising. They take music lessons because they want to, on the understanding that I consider it an issue of respect and responsibility in exchange for all the money, time and driving others have to put out to make it work for them. If they don't practice, I will with-hold lessons. And among other things, I have been known to provide (without any expectation that the kids use them) workbooky math, music theory and handwriting programs. Two of my kids are currently very keen on these resources. The eldest has no interest and that's fine.

Miranda
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the explanations. It makes sense to distinguish between the two since the term "unschooling" is often misunderstood/misapplied.
post #5 of 19
Thanks for asking and answering the question! I was wondering that myself.
post #6 of 19
I've been pointed out as a "radical unschooler" a two events in the past month (as in, "Well, Daron over there is a Radical Unschooler"). Odd, but I kept smiling. Anyway...

I never bought into the whole "strewing" thing - it feels phony and manipulative to me, so I don't do it, and we happily unschool anyway. We have stuff, but I don't strew things around hoping that the kid will see the and be inspired to use them or read them or whatever. I do take the direct route - "Here's a book you might like." She's been into the musical Ragtime since we saw it a few months back, so when I found the book at a thrift store for a quarter I picked it up for her, because I thought she'd like it. And she does...

We have some textbooks and workbooks around - the Key To series, some Harold Jacobs texts, and more. They're just tools, like a zillon other things. They either seemed cool to one of us at thetime, or potentially cool, or met a need. No biggie. Banning "schooly" stuff seems as wrong to me as banning Tv or computers or pretty much anything. It's all grist for the mill...

I think radical unschooling includes the notion that kids may never do anything "school-ish", whereas a lot of people who call themselves unschoolers are still invested in academic-type learning - they just try to find more palatable ways to present it.

As far as outside lessons, like music or dance or whatever, I consider them to be between teacher and student, and as I'm neither, I just drive and pay and act as audience when requested. Some teachers are willing to work with students who don't practice, some aren't. I don't think lessons are about creating a great singer or pianist, unless that's the child's own goal. For Rain, ballet is purely a fun thing, even as she's moved into technically more demanding classes. Voice lessons were more of a means to an end - she enjoyed them, but mostly she wanted to get cast in better roles in musical theatre. She practiced voice stuff far more than she ever practiced ballet, but her ballet teacher adores her anyway...

Dar
post #7 of 19
I totally agree Dar, this explains us as well.

Dar wrote:
I never bought into the whole "strewing" thing - it feels phony and manipulative to me, so I don't do it, and we happily unschool anyway. We have stuff, but I don't strew things around hoping that the kid will see the and be inspired to use them or read them or whatever. I do take the direct route - "Here's a book you might like." She's been into the musical Ragtime since we saw it a few months back, so when I found the book at a thrift store for a quarter I picked it up for her, because I thought she'd like it. And she does...

We have some textbooks and workbooks around - the Key To series, some Harold Jacobs texts, and more. They're just tools, like a zillon other things. They either seemed cool to one of us at thetime, or potentially cool, or met a need. No biggie. Banning "schooly" stuff seems as wrong to me as banning Tv or computers or pretty much anything. It's all grist for the mill...
post #8 of 19
"For example my kids have no bedtime, no mandatory chores, and no limits on media or food."

i am impressed. but also skeptical ... would you keep doing this if it resulted in watching junk tv (redundant?) and eating junk food? i mean, i would love to do this if it worked ... for example i did not "feed" my daughter solids after 6 months but made suitable foods available and acted more like a dining companion. this raised plenty of eyebrows but i had confidence and the method never "failed" ... and i believe she enjoys foods so much and is such a healthy eater today because she has always been allowed to eat (or not eat) when and how much she wants (though i am very careful about WHAT she eats). but what if it just didn't work? how long would i have continued?

last question: do you ever feel that this method you describe is just "lazy" - does it encourage laziness? or more imptly, can a person who is inclined to be lazy afford to use this method ... i mean it is fine for people who are invovled in all kinds of exciting things all the time but what about those whose work is more routine (boring)?

needless to say, i am asking because i am really interested.
post #9 of 19
Wowa. I never realized unschooling included unrestricted media access. Interesting. I'm just lurking here since unschooling as an approach really resonates with me. But so does not letting my four year old and one year old watch much/any TV. I guess I'll need to do more research into this at some point, before DD is "school" age. Interesting thread, thanks!!
post #10 of 19
Momtokay,

Unschooling may or may not include unrestricted access to media. I live in an area rife with dyed-in-the-wool original crunchy unschoolers several of whom actually met John Holt back in the day (see below), and T.V. is not a part of most of their lives at all.

OTOH, there has been a movement among certain unschoolers to not restrict access to any information, and even to make sure that the children have satellite dishes, video game boxes, etc. (as the family can afford).

The first person to coin the term unschooling, and the "grandfather" of the whole movement was John Holt. He himself never discussed unschooling in terms of bedtimes, food choices, media (restricted or unrestricted, etc.). His definition of unschooling was with regard to educational decisions in the family. The rest of the decisions regarding the above have been recommended by paticular unschooling parents or groups of parents who have found that living with unrestricted access to media, for example, fits their own family well. When they say that it is part and parcel of unschooling, and only true unschoolers do not restrict media - they are on shakier philosophical ground.

HTH,
Laura
post #11 of 19
Rumi,
We don't really put labels like junk on tv or food in our family. What is junk to one person is very interesting and informative (or hits the spot if we mean food) to another. My husband likes to watch boxing, and I do not. I like to watch Cold case files about unsolved homicides, but my husband doesn't. My son likes to watch anime shows, and my daughter loves cartoons like SpongeBob and Hey Arnold among others... We each like what we like. The only "rule" with such things is that we respect the comfort level of others as best we can. (Example: I don't like shows that feature extended scenes of graphic violence, or horror. The rest of the family honors that.) We have encouraged them to watch things they feel ready for and good about.

The same goes for foods. We feel that cookies, celery, soup, sandwiches, ice cream, and salsa (just picking random things..) are all perfectly acceptable choices at any given moment. We feel that banning and restricting foods for the kids isn't respectful of their needs and feelings. I wouldn't want someone to choose my foods for me after all. It depends on how we are defining lazy for me. I think that allowing a child to follow their interests and their heart without educational "supposed to/have to's" leads to happiness rather than laziness. Just my .02 (or .50 lol ) Smiles
post #12 of 19
OpenSkyHeart wrote:
"The rest of the decisions regarding the above have been recommended by paticular unschooling parents or groups of parents who have found that living with unrestricted access to media, for example, fits their own family well. When they say that it is part and parcel of unschooling, and only true unschoolers do not restrict media - they are on shakier philosophical ground."
================================
Yes, I totally agree. Unrestricted access to media and living without chores/bedtimes/ and food rules did not "come with" unschooling. It just happens that some families live this way in addition to unschooling (or come to it via unschooling). When I was answering what the "radical" in radical unschooling meant I just meant that this is what it might mean for some families like mine. I do not think that unschooling has to include these things, just that at my house it definately does. Sorry for the confusion there! Big smiles.
post #13 of 19
I really think the hardest part about unschooling is having faith, especially in the beginning. I was lucky in that Rain's academic-type skills were really "ahead" when she was younger, so it was easy to let go and not worry. By the time she got "behind" in some areas, I had already seen how it all worked out, so I didn't really worry...

Dar
post #14 of 19
UnschoolinMa wrote:


Quote:
When I was answering what the "radical" in radical unschooling meant I just meant that this is what it might mean for some families like mine. I do not think that unschooling has to include these things, just that at my house it definately does. Sorry for the confusion there! Big smiles.

I wasn't referring to you or anyone else on this forum in my post above. Just didn't want Momtokay to think that her decision to restrict media in her family would preclude her from unschooling.

Laura
post #15 of 19
Thanks for the explanation. I could totally see how unrestricted media would work with and/or flow from unschooling. I just think at this time I'm not ready to let my 4-year old watch whatever she wants on TV. I'm glad to know the two don't always go hand in hand.
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Wow, lots of input in the last 24 hours! Here's some more. I know that the original concept of unschooling referred only to the traditional meaning of education and, as others have pointed out, did not include lifestyle choices like tv watching, diet, bedtime, etc. Some people took the idea further and believe that *all* areas of life involve learning, and if you place restrictions in those areas you are therefore restricting learning.

I think Dar is right on when she says that you have to have faith that kids will learn what they need. It does require a huge leap for most people to accept that there is any value in video games, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, cartoons, etc. In my thoughts, I believe that unschooling is the best way to learn. We have gone through times where we appear to be unschoolers and I see that my kids are learning all the time. They even sometimes choose on their own to do "schooly" things like reading and writing. Other times they'll say something that really impresses me and I'll ask them where they learned it and they'll go, "Sponge Bob."

Every once in a while, panic sets in and I start worrying that they don't know things that they "need" to know. Even though I rant all the time about how much of my childhood was wasted on useless memorization, I struggle to let go of my own expectations. In my heart and my head, I'm an unschooler, but in practice I'm still just a wannabe.
post #17 of 19
Just wanted to say that I've found this thread very interesting and informative! My dd will be 3 in two weeks and although I used to "teach" her a lot in the past, I'm now working on really relaxing and just going along with her (and by doing this I'm amazed to realize how often I want to control a learning experience for her!). I have no plans to homeschool or unschool her, as of yet, but I'm trying to keep her home enviornment like that now so these type of threads are helpful!
post #18 of 19
Openskyheart wrote:
I wasn't referring to you or anyone else on this forum in my post above. Just didn't want Momtokay to think that her decision to restrict media in her family would preclude her from unschooling.
---------------------------------------
Totally understand
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar
I really think the hardest part about unschooling is having faith, especially in the beginning. I was lucky in that Rain's academic-type skills were really "ahead" when she was younger, so it was easy to let go and not worry. By the time she got "behind" in some areas, I had already seen how it all worked out, so I didn't really worry...

Dar
I think this is a very good point! And one that doesn't get discussed often. My oldest read very early and was always asking to do things...he was quite "advanced" academically. My second child still struggles with reading at 12. It may have been much harder for me to trust the unschooling process if she was my first child....to be honest.

I know that I sometimes will get frustrated in reading about all those who are freaking out about their very young children and their concerns about things. I often have to remind myself that most of us were just as concerned and prone to panic in the very beginning of our own unschooling days. It's a process.

To stay more on topic. I'm not really sure what the difference is between "radical" and "regular" unschoolers. I think it depends on the individual perception. I know there are lots of times when people say we are "radical unschoolers". But there are lots of times when I read things on some of these boards and don't feel that we fit in the unschooling category. I honestly don't really care for any of the labels. I've always had a problem with the unschooling term anyway - so many seem to think that it just means you don't ever do anything.
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