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Any Radical Unschoolers Here?

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
Do any of you consider yourselves radical unschoolers? I'm trying to figure out where I want to be in terms of my unschooling--I do unschool...we unschool--and I like the idea of children becoming completely self-regulating with bedtimes, food, sugar consumption, T.V.-watching etc. But...the pendulum swinging from limited controls to no controls, so therefore a time of overindulgence on the part of the kids, I don't think I can handle, or want. Nor do I completely buy it all.

I think kids need walls. I don't mean in any arbitrary, authoritarian way, but in a safe, refuge kind of way. And in a way, I think that kind of bending over backwards because (for example) a child wants to stay up until 2 in the morning playing on the computer, or watching dvds and is scared to be by themselves, so you end up staying up too, is ridiculous. I've read people posting about that kind of thing happening on unschooling websites. I think it insults the idea that the kid is really a genuine part of the family. It treats them as if they are so fragile and that just because they want something it means that you will supply it without considering you, or the rest of the family, or balance or what your family culture is (limited T.V. little junk food etc.)

Any way, I'm toying with these ideas. I'm turning them over in my head and I am attracted to them. I'm not going to debate anyone.

If you are a radical unschooler I would love it if you could explain how you came to that choice, how things worked/didn't work before and how they work now.

Thanks in advance,
Laura
post #2 of 49
I consider us pretty radical. My kids do have certain limits. I don't let them do dangerous things just becasue they want to for example. The example you gave about staying up until 2 am but being to scared to be alone, is a situation where I would make my child go to bed. I don't think my kids need to do things that puts out other family members like that.
Mostly my kids do what they want during the day but they do have to pick up their toys and my dd (she's older) does wash dishes sometimes , feeds the cats and other such age appropiate chores. As a part of our family they need to do certain things and we do enforce said things. When it comes to "school" it is all them though.
post #3 of 49
I've always considered myself a radical unschooler. I don't control my daughter's sugar inatke, tv watching, bedtimes, or anything else, except when it affects me (like throwing myself to the ground at her feet and demanding a turn on the computer, for example )

OTOH, I've never stayed up all night with my daughter because she wanted to stay up and didn't want to be alone, because that's just not something I want to do. I did keep the computer in my bedroom for a while, so she could stay up late and I could sleep... I'd try to find a solution like that, if it were an issue, but my wants matter too.

I see a big difference, though, between your child being able to make her own choices on tv watching and your child being able to compell you to stay up all night because she doesn't want to be alone. The former only affects her, except for things like the noise annoying me or me wanting to watch a show of my own - but generally, it's not about me. If she wants me to stay up with her, though, it affects *me*, in a big way. Different ballgame. She can stay up as late as she wants - I can't even remember the last time Rain went to sleep before I did - but I go to bed when I'm tired. We do talk about how our actions affect the family, but I don't think her eating or tv watching is about the family - it's about her.

Dar
post #4 of 49
I think we followed many radical unschooling principles even before we started homeschooling. I'm only h/s one of my 3 kids, so I probably don't qualify right there but as far as the lifestyle? Yeah, I think it describes us a bit. I never felt the need to put limits on things like bedtime, tv, sweets, etc. I just never thought about it. My kids are 11, 9, and 4 and all of them are usually asleep before 10pm. My 11 y/o goes into bed at a very reasonable time (btw 9 and 10) and my other 2 usually fall asleep in the living room with dh and me. And even when in their own beds, they usually crawl in with us. No biggie.

I don't keep many sweets in the house and they never overindulge when they have them. All of them are aware of what happens to oversweetened, unbrushed teeth and I find them surprisingly mature about food choices. I remember the first time I gave each of the girls $5 to spend on anything they wanted in the supermarket. I meant anything. They chose apricots, crackers, soup, yogurt, and cucumbers. How fascinating was that? I learned a lot about my kids that day. They still do that, too.

TV has been my weakness all my life. I always watched too much. Maybe that's why I don't think it's a big deal. They watch it and I have no limits for them. Mostly it ends up being just background noise and I will shut it if no one is watching. They hardly notice. My cousin severely limits tv time for her dd and every holiday when we all get together and the tv is on, she sits in front of it like a zombie while none of the other kids even notice it's on. It's weird.

I would never bend over backwards in the way you describe. I can't see my children being inconsiderate in that way (even if it's unintentional). When I go to bed and someone is up, they will automatically go to bed, too, without a second thought. And I don't have to tell them to. Maybe it's because we have always lived this way. I don't know. If there's something I don't feel like doing I only have to mention it once.

I believe kids need walls as far as their safety and health are concerned. I will suggest things I think would benefit them, such as trying new foods or saving some of that money for tomorrow. And I issue plenty of reminders regarding cleaning up after themselves and brushing their teeth. So how fine a line is there between limits and guidance? I'll have to think about that one, myself.

Fully radical? I don't think so. But then again, I never even heard the term until this year. We just do what's comfortable and what works.
post #5 of 49
We are radical unschoolers. Well, from what I gather anyway

My kids choose their own media, foods, clothes, time spent on the computer, vocabulary, hair color etc. It's not about them being driven to having whatever they want always and everyone else's needs be damned, but rather about them being guided by parents who share info and opinion...and them being given the same respect I would want. We work stuff out.
post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnschoolnMa
My kids choose their own media, foods, clothes, time spent on the computer, vocabulary, hair color etc. It's not about them being driven to having whatever they want always and everyone else's needs be damned, but rather about them being guided by parents who share info and opinion...and them being given the same respect I would want. We work stuff out.
Yeah, that. But those were priciples we lived with before we ever even thought of homeschooling. Actually, I think it's that lifestyle that allowed us to become homeschoolers--although ps was initially our default choice, when it became clear that that wasn't right for us, we looked for alternatives rather than telling the kids, "All kids have to go to school."

But it started way before that. When my oldest was small and I'd be about to say "no" to something, I kept stopping myself and asking, "Well, why not?" Most of the time, there was no real reason, it was just a knee-jerk reaction to my own upbringing. So I stopped saying "no" so much and kept trying to find ways to say "yes" and it grew from there.

For us, it's about choices and problem-solving. I do want to help my kids find a way to get what they want and do what they want, but that can't happen through someone else's suffering. We try to find a way for everyone to be happy, while still being free to make their own choices.

I don't know if that's "radical unschooling" or just "radical" or just weird... :LOL but that's where we are.
post #7 of 49
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your responses, you guys. I have always communicated with my kids in a way that allows them, encourages them, to help find solutions to problems. So, I think they are good problem solvers--they always come up with reasonable, sensitive solutions. But, sometimes I just want to shorthand it and I do say "no", with an explanation.

I guess I'm bothered with the notion that some people would find that objectionable. That really shouldn't bother me, and yet OTOH I know I would be bothered with some of their choices. I don't feel this way with people who are freaked out that we homebirthed, didn't vaccinate, did extended breastfeeding, have a family bed. I don't care about their opinions.

I suppose I think of homeschoolers and other MDC types as more enlightened than the average bear and so to find choices of some radical homeschoolers so different from my own, and that they may judge my choices, is very unsettling. I feel uncomfortable.

I don't think there's an absolute truth...I don't think. And yet, in ways I kind of do. Breastfeeding is better. Homebirth is better. Homeschooling is better. I understand people not making those choices for their own reasons, their own way of having their family. OK. I try not to judge them. I see that they have a loving relationship with their kids, just as I see AP parents sometimes not being particularly loving or playful with their kids. A lot of good parenting is about how you are with your kids, not just lifestyle choices.

Do you guys think saying "no" contributes to a tyrant/victim relationship? Don't other cultures say "no"? I mean we were drawn to our other parenting choices because of the naturalness of them--and so they were universal ways of being. Around the world there has always been breastfeeding, family beds, playful parenting. Radical unschooling the way I have seen it expressed on some boards seems so unnatural and unbalanced I think that is what's been bothering me.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.
post #8 of 49
Quote:
I guess I'm bothered with the notion that some people would find that objectionable.
Sometimes, when I've felt this way, it means that, on a level I haven't examined yet, *I* find it objectionable too. It's sort of a signal to me to look deeper at what I'm doing. Other times, it just means I'm being self-conscious. I'm not sure what it means for you.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lauradbg
I
Do you guys think saying "no" contributes to a tyrant/victim relationship?
Yeah, maybe...I don't know. There are different kinds of "no" I think. There's the "Because I said so" type of "no" that's often arbitrary...then there's "No--don't hit the cat, that hurts him. Be gentle, like this." So "no" in and of itself is not a bad thing, imo.

I do know that the way I was brought up was very controlling, which I don't think is healthy. There were a lot of rules and they were non-negotiable. You did not question the rules, because that was considered disrespectful and respect for one's parents was expected to be absolute. Sometimes I followed the rules, more often, I broke them, which required that I be very good at sneaking and lying, which I was. I don't see any of this as healthy and I didn't want my kids growing up like that. I remember feeling that my opinions and ideas counted for nothing.

So, I questioned "the rules" and continued to do so as a parent and the more I did this, the less reason I found to say "no." My kids and I talk a lot. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort, sometimes it flows easily. Sometimes, I think it would be easier to have a list of rules and to be able to just say "no" and have the kids blindly follow my direction. But *I* don't feel it's right and it's not the way I want to parent. Almost everyone I know irl parents more traditionally. I know we're not the norm and that doesn't bother me (well, the spanking/screaming people bother me, but I don't hang out with them. )

Quote:
I mean we were drawn to our other parenting choices because of the naturalness of them--and so they were universal ways of being. Around the world there has always been breastfeeding, family beds, playful parenting. Radical unschooling the way I have seen it expressed on some boards seems so unnatural and unbalanced I think that is what's been bothering me.
Well, I can't comment on the other boards you're talking about...but this DOES feel natural to me. It feels fair and reasonable and gentle and respectful. My kids are people, who's feelings and ideas and thoughts are just as valid as my own. That's the basis of all the rest.
post #9 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joan
It feels fair and reasonable and gentle and respectful. My kids are people, who's feelings and ideas and thoughts are just as valid as my own. That's the basis of all the rest.

That sums up my feelings really well. I believe that my kids deserve the same respect that I do. Have I ever said "no" to them? I am sure I have. Though most of that was probably when they were very little and NO really quick escaped my lips in some moment of danger etc. Like Joan said, there is "No because I said so." (which drives me up the freaking wall to hear people say, btw. ) and there is "No, it's not nice to knock someones block tower over." etc.

I do feel that saying "No" a lot sets up a negative relationship or cycle I would rather not be in with my kids. I prefer just being a part of their lives and decisions as a guide, a helper, and a trusted source of info.
post #10 of 49
I also think there's "No, I don't feel like reading to you right now" (I had a general policy of not reading aloud after midnight) and "No, you can't watch that show/eat that cookie/etc." The former is me stating my boundaries; the latter is more tyrannical And even when I say no about something I won't do, I usually offer options - "But I'll read to you in the morning before work" or "but you can get a Jim Weiss tape and put it on" or whatever.

Dar
post #11 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar
...The former is me stating my boundaries;
Dar
An important point--I hate when people assume that kids having freedom means that they have no concern for anyone but themselves.

Actually, a short while ago, I yelled, "NO!" at my 5 y/o. Granted, it was from a point of shock and fear and not an arbitrary "no," but still. He called my name, and when I turned around I saw him holding a rubber band, ready to shoot it, aimed at my face about 2 feet away. After yelling "NO" I explained, more calmly, how that would hurt. I suggested he point it at an inanimate object, or explained that he could shoot it at me if he moved farther away and did not aim at my head. So, yes, I'll help him get what he wants (to shoot rubber bands) but no, I won't let him hurt me. Of course, he didn't really WANT to hurt me, he just didn't realize how it would. Now he knows, and he can happily shoot rubber bands without putting anyone's eye out.
post #12 of 49
Can I be the devil's advocate for a minute.....I am so interested in the whole unschooling/gentle disciplining/AP in fact we do homeschool and I like to think I lean towards ap...however, I was raised completly different and so I do have some "concerns" about "radical unschooling". Ok, help me out mamas to these arguments
1. If you let your child dictate what they watch, wear, eat and when they go to bed, how are you teaching them that life is not always about getting what you want when you want it?
2. If you treat your child as an "equal" (and i dont mean children are any less or more equal in the human sense...just in experience/knowledge sort of way), how will they learn respect for any sort of authority...mainly a boss or college professor when they are older?
3. Dont children need some limits, borders, structure?

Thanks mamas.....
post #13 of 49
Children learn that not everything goes the way they want it to without any forced stuff just because they see it and experience it as a part of living. I don't think I need to say "no" to something just to teach my kid some sort of lesson. We learn as we go that sometimes things just don't go our way. That being said, I don't think that deciding when to go to sleep, what to eat, or what to read has anything to do with that. That stuff falls into the category of me treating my kids with the same respect I want, and the same respect I would give an adult. Kids deserve no less.

My kids know that when you work a job there is usually someone "in charge". They can jump through hoops if they determine it's necessary and worth it to them for some desired end result. (which, in the case of a job, would be money/experience in a certain field/ a step up to a better position...etc)
post #14 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by mykdsmomy
Ok, help me out mamas to these arguments
1. If you let your child dictate what they watch, wear, eat and when they go to bed, how are you teaching them that life is not always about getting what you want when you want it?
*I* decide what I watch, wear, eat and when to go to bed, don't you do that for yourself? I don't see any reason for my kids not to decide those things for themselves. I think personal needs for sleep and food and clothing is a separate issue from getting what you want when you want it.

I'm not sure why getting what one wants is a negative. Of course, my kids are not growing up in a vacuum, so they are always having to consider those around them and know that they can't bulldoze their way through life, hurting others in order to get what they want. As long as you're not hurting others, what is the problem with striving to get what one wants? (Don't we refer to those people as "go getters" and "take charge" type people, and people who "make things happen?")


Quote:
2. If you treat your child as an "equal" (and i dont mean children are any less or more equal in the human sense...just in experience/knowledge sort of way), how will they learn respect for any sort of authority...mainly a boss or college professor when they are older?
I think that respecting our children is the best way to show them how to treat others. My kids relate to all kinds of people, just in their daily lives. Some they respect, some they don't. But they don't have a problem knowing how to speak with anyone, regardless of their position. Actually, I've heard from many people that they're surprised at the maturity of my kids and their ability to relate to adults.

Quote:
3. Dont children need some limits, borders, structure?
There are lots of limits, borders and structure in the world already. I don't feel the need to create more just...because. We talk about the limits that are out there already--natural limits, limits created by laws, limits that exist because of social expectations--and they develop their own internal limits (like treating others the way they'd want to be treated.)
post #15 of 49
Thanks mamas...just wanted to hear those arguments because "my" arguments were how I was raised and even though my mother was abusive, I still have to go against the grain in a lot of my parenting ....even when it feels like the right thing to do ie: homeschooling, ap parenting, eating more naturally, it still is not the way I was raised so it's harder, kwim? It just doesnt come naturally to me I like to hear other mama's who are parenting similiar to me so I know i'm not alone and my kids wont end up screwed up......hope that makes sense....just to clarify I agree with you all :LOL
post #16 of 49
"(for example) a child wants to stay up until 2 in the morning playing on the computer, or watching dvds and is scared to be by themselves, so you end up staying up too [...] just because they want something it means that you will supply it without considering you, or the rest of the family, or balance"

Unschooling is about learning in a non-coercive self-directed environment. Radical unschooling is about applying the philosophy of freedom, trust in self, and validity of making one's own choices to all areas of life. These parents are talking about something else. If they're claiming that it falls under the banner of unschooling, I guess they're free to do so, but it doesn't make any actual sense.
post #17 of 49
Isn't that the difference between unschooling and radical unschooling? I thought basically the radical unschoolers incorporate unschooling principles into their whole lives.

I kinda break it down like this:
Classical (purchased all-laid-out curriculum)
Eclectic (Creating a curriculum by putting different methods together)
Unit Studies (Covering many academic subjects using one main theme)
Unschooling (Non-coercive, child-led, interest-based, living is learning)
Radical Unschooling (Same as unschooling, but also following a non-coercive, child-led philosphy throughout all or most aspects of life)

Isn't that it? Or am I getting too carried away with all these labels ?
post #18 of 49
Quote:
1. If you let your child dictate what they watch, wear, eat and when they go to bed, how are you teaching them that life is not always about getting what you want when you want it?
Children have so little actual freedom to begin with. There is so much they can't do for reasons of safety, legality, or just plain developmental inability. They are already learning this lesson from the time they are born, naturally and without help from "teachers". Denying them legitimate choices is really about something else -- conditioning them to be accepting of the notion that people who have more power than them have the right to make arbitrary demands of them. Which only makes sense if your ultimate goal for them is to be nothing more than good little worker bees.

Personally, though, I don't think most people actually even put this much thought into it -- I think they say 'no' simply because it is more convenient for them, but don't want to look selfish so they parrot some theory they've heard about that says it's good for the child.

Quote:
2. If you treat your child as an "equal" (and i dont mean children are any less or more equal in the human sense...just in experience/knowledge sort of way), how will they learn respect for any sort of authority...mainly a boss or college professor when they are older?
I'm not sure how to answer this because I don't know what you mean by "treating your chlid as an equal". Examples?

Quote:
3. Dont children need some limits,
I'm assuming you don't mean it as a general rule, as in "children need to be limited" but rather that they may need a specific limit such as, "you may not play in the street where cars are rushing by because it's dangerous." Well sure, that's just common sense. Sometimes children don't have the experience to foresee the ramifications of a very dangerous thing, or they don't have the empathy to know to keep from hurting others. So if they try to, we restrain them. Of course.

Quote:
borders, structure?
It depends on how you are defining those things. I mean, in general human beings just do not thrive in chaos. But neither do they thrive in restrictive environments, or when everything is ordered for them in a way that has nothing to do with their own needs and desires.
post #19 of 49
Quote:
Isn't that the difference between unschooling and radical unschooling? I thought basically the radical unschoolers incorporate unschooling principles into their whole lives.
That's right, my point was that those principles don't involve being a slave to your child or your child getting to do whatever they want regardless of how it affects others. (Other post edited to reflect that. )
post #20 of 49
Quote:
If you let your child dictate what they watch, wear, eat and when they go to bed, how are you teaching them that life is not always about getting what you want when you want it?
I was also just thinking... this is like saying, "We have to teach you that life is hard, so we're going to make life hard for you." Or, "Love can be painful. So we are going to set up a situation where someone courts then dumps you, so you can learn that love can be painful."

Put in a different context, it's not hard to see how utterly absurd and pointless it is to teach someone a "fact of life" by creating a situation solely for the purpose of them experiencing it.
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