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Can you unschool part of the time?!? - Page 3

post #41 of 92
I see this so differently. I think it depends on what someone means by "unschooling" - whether they think of it as a whole life philosophy or whether they just incorporate an educational form into their lives in terms of not copying school but letting learning happen in a more natural way. If someone is willing to let go of all the trappings of school except for doing something more formal about math, because they think it's important and don't think of it as something that can be learned in other ways, I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to feel comfortable about calling the rest of it unschooling. Sure, maybe that person isn't taking unschooling into the cells of her mind and being in the same way as someone who can see a bigger pattern and deeper experience of trust - but I don't think that negates the basic term at all. A lot of unschoolers don't realize that they have other agendas of their own that they bring to parenting - whether it's vegetarianism, or nutrition, or gardening, or ecological and community activism, or spiritual beliefs, or a work ethic, or whatever - and I don't see how those things are so different from something like the math that seems important to another unschooler. If someone, however, says they're just going to unschool till the child is of school age, or they're just going to unschool over vacation - that sort of thing - they're clearly not on the same page, and that's a whole different thing. And, actually, I've never understood why anyone should feel the need to label themselves anything, for that matter. - Lillian
post #42 of 92
I wasn't saying that I necessarily feel compelled to set anyone straight, or tell them that their interpretation/application is wrong. I don't actually have a problem with someone saying, "We unschool except for math" -- it may not be what I see as an unschooling lifestyle, but it's fine with me for someone else to see it differently.

And I bit my lip when a friend went through a phase of calling her style "structured unschooling," and talking about how, in response to her child's "needs," she'd lock him in his room without distractions when he was taking too long to complete an assignment.

I guess my friend saw her approach as unschooling because she didn't purchase a boxed curriculum, and she didn't make her son spend more than (I think) about 2 hours a day on school work.

She'd build unit studies around subjects that she wanted to learn more about ... as I recall, she once told him that he had to write a 3-page essay on a courageous woman of the Bible -- I guess the "unschooling" part was him getting to choose which woman. He still had to be locked in his room to do it, but he finally got it done.

Oh, well, my friend finally decided that she was more Eclectic than Unschooling. Without any nudging from me.

But I'd have more of a problem with a leader of a homeschooling group presenting such inaccurate descriptions -- such as the one I've shared, as well as the descriptions shared by the OP and at least one other poster.

I think if you're going to lead a homeschooling group, you should be willing to take some time to learn about the different philosophies -- and yes, I now realize that even my very basic definitions are different from how some of my fellow unschoolers perceive unschooling. Still, it just doesn't sound like the "unschool is very cool for holiday fun" person made even the slightest effort to learn about this way of life.

But I'm open to criticism. I was trying to give very simple, basic definitions for the two concepts: Unschooling and Radical Unschooling. I see Karen's point that with my unschooling definition, you literally could just take a week or a month off from your lessons and say you're an unschooler during that time. Just as public school families have summer and holiday breaks where the kids often don't have to do anything.

And maybe I was over-simplifying Consensual Living by by likening it to Radical Unschooling. I just can't see a difference between these ideas in practice (though I realize that CL, TCS, and RU were all developed by different people with different worldviews) -- because in each case, you're seeking to work together as a family, rather than applying the traditional model where parents "know best" and impose their wills on their children.

These philosophies seem more similar than different, but I'm probably wrong to use the terms interchangeably.

And it's honestly okay with me if parents want to use the unschooling label to describe certain times of their lives, even though I agree with everyone who's said that it really takes a while to de-school -- and if a child's been in school for a few years, and you just take off for a month to unschool and then say it "didn't work" for your child, it's my opinion that you didn't give your child or unschooling an adequate chance to flourish. But you're probably not asking for my opinion anyway.

I agree that one short sentence definition isn't adequate for someone who's really endeavoring to embrace unschooling philosophy and apply it to life. I guess the point I was trying to make was that it shouldn't be that hard for someone to google "Unschooling" and get at least a very loose, general idea of what it means -- at least enough of an idea to know that it doesn't include locking your child in his room 'til he gets his assignment done.

Still, I agree that it's usually more diplomatic to just bite my lip and let people butcher the concept to their hearts' content. The same friend who thought it included locking-kids-in-rooms, went through a phase of calling my style "hands-on learning."

That was so irritating to me, but I just let her ramble on about all the hands-on learning stuff I could prepare and implement with my child. She'd go on and on about these extensive projects -- and especially as my oldest was just a toddler at the time, I was puzzled as to how she expected her to be able to follow so many step-by-step instructions.

Oh, you mean she actually thought I'd want to do all that hard work myself? I guess she's been slow to grasp the concept that unschoolers are lazy -- or at least I am.

I couldn't see the point in me doing all that stuff, and planning out science experiments, when my little girl was having so much fun just looking under the patio-bricks in the yard for bugs, for instance. And also, though I realize that an unschooler has way more freedom to pursue learning in a hands-on way, which is what small children generally prefer, many children also enjoy learning through books and stories, TV, computer games, and so on.

Unschooling allows total freedom for children to pursue life in their own unique ways -- which may sometimes be hands-on, and sometimes be more focused on observation, reflection, or discussion. But my friend just saw it as "hands-on learning" -- possibly because we first got to know each other when my oldest was a toddler, and that's what my friend saw happening most of the time at our house. I guess it makes sense now that I think about it.

I just couldn't understand why my friend thought I'd want to knock myself out with all those projects, when my babe was already doing such a great job on her own!
post #43 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lillian J View Post
[COLOR="Indigo"] I think it depends on what someone means by "unschooling" - whether they think of it as a whole life philosophy or whether they just incorporate an educational form into their lives...
This is what's been floating around in my head as I read this thread. I understand what people mean when they say they "unschool everything but math." or they're "unschooling for the summer." I do get what they mean by that.

However, *MY* idea of unschooling is that it's a whole life philosophy. So, if someone asks me, "Can you unschool part of the time?" I'd say no. That's based on my idea of what unschooling is, and I'd hope we could discuss the concepts/philosophy/ideas without it becoming personal.

But, I wouldn't tell them what they can and can't call themselves.
post #44 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
And I bit my lip when a friend went through a phase of calling her style "structured unschooling," and talking about how, in response to her child's "needs," she'd lock him in his room without distractions when he was taking too long to complete an assignment.
I wouldn't be able to bite my lip, because my mouth would be so wide open. I may not give a rat's patoutie what people choose to label themselves, but I have a real problem with that kind of behavior. :

Quote:
The same friend who thought it included locking-kids-in-rooms, went through a phase of calling my style "hands-on learning."

That was so irritating to me, but I just let her ramble on about all the hands-on learning stuff I could prepare and implement with my child. She'd go on and on about these extensive projects -- and especially as my oldest was just a toddler at the time...
You bit your lip through that too? Wow - - you must be seriously easy to get along with! - Lillian
post #45 of 92
Quote:
I guess the point I was trying to make was that it shouldn't be that hard for someone to google "Unschooling" and get at least a very loose, general idea of what it means --
It's not that hard, but if it's not important to the person, they won't do it. I know someone who insists that what we is "just like unit studies." Although I did make an effort to explain the difference, she couldn't accept it. Since it didn't make a difference to my life if she understood unschooling or not, I ended up just dropping it.
post #46 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by SagMom View Post
However, *MY* idea of unschooling is that it's a whole life philosophy. So, if someone asks me, "Can you unschool part of the time?" I'd say no. That's based on my idea of what unschooling is, and I'd hope we could discuss the concepts/philosophy/ideas without it becoming personal.
Ah! Yes, that's what I thought some of the people here must be feeling. I personally feel that unschooling in the looser sense of the word leads to that whole life philosophy, but I think of that as a great benefit and expansion of unschooling rather than the thing itself. If you have the whole ball o' wax, fantastic - but a lot of people are providing their families with a wonderful opportunity even if they're not there yet and may never be - in my own opinion among many, that is.

Lillian
post #47 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lillian J View Post


... but a lot of people are providing their families with a wonderful opportunity even if they're not there yet and may never be - in my own opinion among many, that is.

Lillian
Sure. It's a good thing, no argument from me. This always reminds me of a conversation I had years ago when a relative found out I was vegetarian. She told me she was too (which was a shock to me.) Then she added, "I only eat chicken occassionally. And sometimes fish." : Having cut out red meat was a good thing for her, and perhaps it could have led to eating no meat, but since I'm of the "I don't eat anything that had a mother" variety of vegetarian, I couldn't quite get on board with her claim. But, whatever.
post #48 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by mama in the forest View Post
I think the point of understanding what these words mean..words like 'unschooling' and 'eclectic' is so that we can communicate with each other and be understood. How a parent (or even if a parent) defines their own style is something very personal, but if we're going to communicate with each other we want to be clear. When a parent tells me, "I unschool everything except for math"......well, that tells me right off the bat that they aren't unschooling. But it doesn't matter I guess because I do understand what they're saying and that is the point of it all.
Yes, I agree! I'm seriously not in the business of telling people, "No, you don't qualify as an unschooler -- because you make your child do math (or whatever)."

I just find it helpful to agree on some general definitions ... but I'm not saying they have to be "my" definitions.

How we apply things is always going to be very personal. But why can't there ever be a discussion where the people like me, who enjoy grappling with definitions, don't get accused of being too narrow?

I don't think it's narrow to say that unschooling is non-coercive education ... I'm not saying that's all it is ... and I'm not saying that I get my panties all in a wad if someone says "I unschool except for math" -- but when people come to forums to discuss these ideas, I have a hard time with those who say, "Unschooling means whatever you want it to mean."

(But it'd really be fun to hear a parent say, "We unschool except for playdough. They have to work it for 20 minutes, three times a week, whether they feel like it or not.")

Also, as I live out my life with my family, I don't evaluate my various actions as being "unschooling" or "not unschooling." However, since I've embraced the unschooling ideal of trust, I question myself when I feel I'm behaving as if I really don't trust my children. And yes, as I travel this road, there are many times when I catch myself acting out of character with my beliefs.

I think there's a difference between sometimes acting out of character (and acknowledging it) -- and redefining a concept, to prevent myself from having to feel that I'm acting out of character. Also, as with any other philosophy, I keep discovering deeper layers and seeing discrepancies in my life that I hadn't seen previously.

That's another reason why I'm not in the business of judging others as "unschooling" or "not unschooling." That person may have just started working through her own layers -- in the same way that, as a Christian, I can acknowledge that there may be a genuine convert who still feels okay about practices that I personally see as sinful. And that person may never be convicted about the same things I have.

It's not my job to police their practice of their beliefs. But if they bring issues to a public forum -- say, asking questions like, "Is it Christian to deal drugs?" -- or "Is it 'Unschooling' to force my child to play with playdough?" -- I think it's okay for people to say no, and give their rationale for why.
post #49 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by SagMom View Post
Sure. It's a good thing, no argument from me. This always reminds me of a conversation I had years ago when a relative found out I was vegetarian. She told me she was too (which was a shock to me.) Then she added, "I only eat chicken occassionally. And sometimes fish." :
: Well, I see that a little differently.

And I guess this is pretty close to the heart of what I was saying. I think a lot of people think of unschooling a lot like vegetarianism - a very clear either/or thing - whereas a lot don't think of it in that kind of category. But you've certainly made your point. Lillian
post #50 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
(But it'd really be fun to hear a parent say, "We unschool except for playdough. They have to work it for 20 minutes, three times a week, whether they feel like it or not.")
post #51 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post

How we apply things is always going to be very personal. But why can't there ever be a discussion where the people like me, who enjoy grappling with definitions, don't get accused of being too narrow?

I LOVE mulling over definitions and discussing what unschooling, or RU or GD or whatever means. It's like all those philosophical discussions we used to have in college. It helps me work out my beliefs about things. I enjoy working out supporting my ideas and I like to consider others ideas which are new to me.

I think some people here are really into that. Others aren't.

I have seen a number of these discussions derail into complaints of "Who do you think you are to tell me I'm not an unschooler?" and I'm always disappointed by that.
post #52 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lillian J View Post


I wouldn't be able to bite my lip, because my mouth would be so wide open. I may not give a rat's patoutie what people choose to label themselves, but I have a real problem with that kind of behavior. :
Honestly, I think I've been outspoken enough with this friend, that she knows I don't agree with locking-kids-in-rooms.

But, yeah, I probably should have told her that I thought that was awful. But I think my expression probably told her. I'm sure she knows that I can't even imagine doing such a thing to one of my children.

Quote:
You bit your lip through that too? Wow - - you must be seriously easy to get along with! - Lillian
Actually, I've often cut her off midstream, because she gives way too much detailed info. for me to remember, especially when I'm not even interested enough to write it all down. I think she has a photographic memory -- she can read or hear something once and it stays with her.

Well, some things stay with her -- such as animal facts and the like. She never quite seemed to remember, though, when I'd explain that I wasn't interested in doing such complex projects (as the ones she described) until my child reached the stage of wanting, and being able, to do most of the work herself.

Now that my oldest is older, I see the value in having some ideas "on file" in my head or knowing where to access them. As a toddler, she usually found our house and yard to be an endless cornucopia of exploration. It was so easy to just go outside, or let her explore a drawer, and watch her take off on her own tangents.

Now, at 7, dd periodically comes up and tells me she's bored, and she wants me to help her make some changes in her life. But I still don't feel a need to have my friend's ideas stored up in my head; after all, we have the internet at our fingertips!
post #53 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by SagMom View Post
I think some people here are really into that. Others aren't.
Yes, I can sure see that. And I'm certainly not saying that people who aren't into definitions, aren't welcome on threads like this one.

But it's hard for me to understand why someone who prefers the "It's whatever you want to call it" philosophy, would be interested in a thread like this one, which is so obviously going to be a discussion that gets into definitions.

Quote:
I have seen a number of these discussions derail into complaints of "Who do you think you are to tell me I'm not an unschooler?" and I'm always disappointed by that.
Me, too!

Edited to Add: I also don't think that saying, "I see such-and-such practice as inconsistent with unschooling ideology" is the same thing as saying, "How can you call yourself an unschooler?" After all, I've already shared that I'm continually finding inconsistencies in my own life. I'm practicing -- I haven't arrived.
post #54 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post

But it's hard for me to understand why someone who prefers the "It's whatever you want to call it" philosophy, would be interested in a thread like this one, which is so obviously going to be a discussion that gets into definitions.
well, because it's a 'discussion' board.

and because the original post was asking how everyone handles encounters like that, it didn't start as a discussion on definitions.
post #55 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by SagMom View Post
I LOVE mulling over definitions and discussing what unschooling, or RU or GD or whatever means. It's like all those philosophical discussions we used to have in college. It helps me work out my beliefs about things. I enjoy working out supporting my ideas and I like to consider others ideas which are new to me.

I think some people here are really into that. Others aren't.

I have seen a number of these discussions derail into complaints of "Who do you think you are to tell me I'm not an unschooler?" and I'm always disappointed by that.
I agree! It's why I love arguing, well, in general, but specifically politics. It's fun and I'm forced to learn about what I think and figure it out. I was once told I was trying to force everyone into my rigid, unschooling box. Which is hysterically ridiculous, but also, I just wanted to not talk about curriculums and worksheets and waldorf programs in our unschooling group.
post #56 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmama
Unschooling is not just what's left over when the lessons stop.
Exactly. Defining unschooling as "not doing school in the time that we're not doing school" is ridiculous. "Not doing school" is not equal in meaning to "unschooling". If it were, we'd all be unschoolers, because no one is always doing school. And if we're all unschoolers, then the term "unschooling" becomes useless for differentiating between philosophies.
post #57 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
But why can't there ever be a discussion where the people like me, who enjoy grappling with definitions, don't get accused of being too narrow?
I think it's like a lot of other things - it's hard in cyberspace to do all this without facial expressions, gestures, tones of voice, etc. It can get pretty frustrating.

And, on the other hand, I remember two close acquaintances who were big on being unschoolers who rudely scoffed and walked out of my kitchen muttering to one another "...just leave them alone.." after I'd shown them a fun math manipulative I'd worked out. And yet, one of them set aside two hours each morning that she called "school," when her kids were expected to do something of an "educational " nature, whatever they wanted - which I felt was pretty odd for someone who talked "Unschooling" so much. She also scoffed at one of her sons' love of reading - because her values went more to sports and mainstream social skills (as compared to being nerds). You joked about making children do playdough, but in some homes, certain things that are not at all academic are pushed for a variety of personal reasons. Quite frankly, I think there's a lot more to a lot of people's "unschooling" lives than meets the eye or ear - but maybe that's a whole other thread. Lillian
post #58 of 92
Edited to Add: I also don't think that saying, "I see such-and-such practice as inconsistent with unschooling ideology" is the same thing as saying, "How can you call yourself an unschooler?" After all, I've already shared that I'm continually finding inconsistencies in my own life. I'm practicing -- I haven't arrived.

I can appreciate this distinction, because I also consider my life and my relationship with my kids and their eduactions to be a work in progress. I really enjoy hearing people explain their philosophies and making an attempt to define them. Often lightbulbs go on for me several times when I'm reading this kind of discussion. However, the other sounds like a nasty back and forth of 'you can't tell me what to do!' I find that kind of discussion pointless and annoying.
post #59 of 92
Quote:
How we apply things is always going to be very personal. But why can't there ever be a discussion where the people like me, who enjoy grappling with definitions, don't get accused of being too narrow?
Oh absolutely! I don't think you're being narrow at all. This reminds me of the conversations I've had with people about unassisted birth. I'll be talking with someone who's telling me all about her unassisted birth and at the end of the story I find out that the midwife did this or that.....and I'm left feeling because I was believing the birth was actually unassisted.

Clarity is a good thing.
post #60 of 92
I thought I should come back and clarify what I meant when I said that my friend "locked" her son in his room so he'd finish his assignments. I don't think she ever used an actual lock -- just told him he had to stay in his room 'til he got his work done.

I don't see a big difference between verbally confining and locking -- but I realize some people do. For instance, I don't think CPS gets involved over a child being sent to his room -- but they might if there were locks involved.

Really what my friend did was no different from a schoolteacher keeping a child in from recess because he didn't get his homework done. I still think it's wrong, but it's condoned by a large, powerful segment of our society.
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