What's Your Definition of Unschooling? - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-20-2010, 09:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Old 10-21-2010, 11:48 AM
 
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USing supports and values that the learner is in charge of what they learn.
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Old 10-21-2010, 11:55 AM
 
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Not using a curriculum, no set time limit for the day or the subject or even the year. Life is learning and high value is placed on being happy and fulfilled, less on knowing state guidelines for the grade.
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Old 10-21-2010, 12:20 PM
 
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I'm trying to figure out if we are venturing our way into unschooling or if we're just ultra relaxed just because I'm curious.

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Old 10-21-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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No uninvited teaching.

Freedom from external learning expectations/requirements.

My child has the ultimate say in the pace, direction, content, format and nature of his or her learning.

************

My unschoolers sometimes use formal curriculum materials if they want. They sometimes attend classes or take lessons. I don't want them to be restricted by my (or others') definition of the term.

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Old 10-21-2010, 01:18 PM
 
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I define it based on how I determined whether I was comfortable defining myself as an unschooler. Because I do have an agenda regarding my daughter's learning, I don't classify myself as an unschooler regardless how much child-directed learning is happening.

I have a baseline that I keep in mind regarding reading, math, and handwriting. We work as a team (me, DD, and DH) to explore together.

So, as relaxed and eclectic as we are, I don't classify us as unschoolers because I do have an agenda, albeit an extremely relaxed one compared to others, but it's there. So, I recognize it and acknowledge it.

But, I still lurk and read here because I learn so much from unschooling families!

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Old 10-21-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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i say free ranged when asked in passing

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Unschooling is a form of homeschooling in which education happens without the use of a schedule, curriculum, testing and grades. Unschooling is child-led education, interest-led or child-led learning. so if the child chooses to learn about a subject or interest, they are still unschooled, as they were not coerced or persuaded to learn it, but chose to do so of their own free will..


forgot to add my lable is relaxed/unschooling
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Old 10-21-2010, 02:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by littlemizflava View Post
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling in which education happens without the use of a schedule, curriculum, testing and grades. Unschooling is child-led education, interest-led or child-led learning.
I'm curious how the first part of your definition fits with the second part if the child says "I want a workbook to learn about proper punctuation." Or "I've decided to spend an hour after lunch every day on math so that I can pass the GED in March." Would you consider your child no longer an unschooler at that point?

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Old 10-21-2010, 02:49 PM
 
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I'm curious how the first part of your definition fits with the second part if the child says "I want a workbook to learn about proper punctuation." Or "I've decided to spend an hour after lunch every day on math so that I can pass the GED in March." Would you consider your child no longer an unschooler at that point?

Miranda
the first part means that my kids are free to do what they want. i will add "to a limit". i dont structure their day. i may buy it and bring it in the house but they control what they learn. yes if my child is saying they want to learn something. they would still be unschooled because they are following their interests and their wants. when i see my dd take out the math flashcards and a abacus, a book or a workbook, i dont tell her to put them back and not to do them because they are "learning".
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Old 10-21-2010, 03:27 PM
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But how does that mesh with not using a curriculum?

I also don't see a problem with unschoolers using curriculum or taking classes, which generally means there's a schedule.

I would say it's an educational process in which the learner decides what, where, when, and how to learn, with as few constraints as reasonably possible (for example , "I want to go learn French in Paris next week" is not happening) *and* in which the parents actively support the learner by providing relevant information, modeling active learning, and being available to answer questions, help find resources, and engage in conversation.

 
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Old 10-21-2010, 04:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by littlemizflava View Post
the first part means that my kids are free to do what they want.
Except, according to what you wrote, they're not free to schedule their lives or use a curriculum:

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Originally Posted by littlemizflava View Post
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling in which education happens without the use of a schedule, curriculum, testing and grades.
I get what you said in your response, but your definition of unschooling seems to contradict it. I realize it's just semantics, but definitions are semantics.

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Old 10-21-2010, 05:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, I'll share mine, and add that I'm not sure if we are unschoolers or not

I do have expectations for my kids - that they know how to read well, can do enough math to, at the least, handle their own finances when they become adults, know how to act appropriately in various social situations (including respecting other people's rules and boundaries even when they don't like it) being responsible for various things, such as caring for our animals, personal body care, keeping track of one's own possessions, etc.

I've seen some people who define themselves either as 'unschoolers' or 'radical unschoolers' who don't hold their children responsible for much of anything, and that just rubs me the wrong way Isn't it our job as loving parents to prepare our kids to be successful in the world that we live in, no matter WHAT they choose to do? Do we limit their options when we don't provide them with as many tools for life as we can? I think the answer must be yes. For example, what if your 17 year old decides they want to use some money that a grandparent gave them to go on a trip abroad, but they have no idea how to handle money, how to handle themselves in a foreign country, etc, etc. Or, what if your child decides after turning 18 that what they'd really like to do is be an astronaut, but they cannot, because they didn't learn very much math and science while unschooling because they were not interested in it?

Anyway, I'm not trying to pick at anyone, just sharing my thoughts on what I've seen IRL lately, and questions that I myself have

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Old 10-21-2010, 09:46 PM
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I've seen some people who define themselves either as 'unschoolers' or 'radical unschoolers' who don't hold their children responsible for much of anything, and that just rubs me the wrong way Isn't it our job as loving parents to prepare our kids to be successful in the world that we live in, no matter WHAT they choose to do?
Can we do that, really? What if my kid decides at 17 that she wants to be a gymnast? Am I not a loving parent because I didn't take her to gymnastics classes, even though she never asked for them?

I think it's the opposite, really - unschoolers or radical unschoolers hold their children *more* responsible than most, not the other way around. It's my kids responsibility to choose the tools that she wants to be successful in the world, not mine. I offer them all to her, and I tell her which ones I think are important and why, but the responsibility is hers.

My sister - conventionally schooled and now 30 - is scared to death to leave the USA. She's not great with money, either - she has a fairly substantial credit card debt and doesn't understand how she has it but is sure it's not her fault (she also has a miata... and she sees no irony here). Honestly, I think she's more "normal" in the US today than my 17 year old kid, who is comfortable traveling in a number of different countries and has money in the bank and no debt (money that she's earned).

So did my parents limit my sister's options by not teaching her good budgeting skills and not traveling internationally with her? Maybe. Maybe that's how life works - as we move forward, some options are closed off to us and others appear. I don't think that's because of unschooling...

 
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Old 10-21-2010, 10:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Can we do that, really? What if my kid decides at 17 that she wants to be a gymnast? Am I not a loving parent because I didn't take her to gymnastics classes, even though she never asked for them?

I think it's the opposite, really - unschoolers or radical unschoolers hold their children *more* responsible than most, not the other way around. It's my kids responsibility to choose the tools that she wants to be successful in the world, not mine. I offer them all to her, and I tell her which ones I think are important and why, but the responsibility is hers.
I LOVE this. Thank you for posting it. Not only did you help me clarify my thoughts, but you also assuaged some of my 'mother guilt'

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Old 10-21-2010, 11:52 PM
 
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this is my sig for emails:
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling in which education happens without the use of a schedule, curriculum, testing and grades. Unschooling is child-led education, interest-led or child-led learning. so if the child chooses to learn about a subject or interest, they are still unschooled, as they were not coerced or persuaded to learn it, but chose to do so of their own free will..
This sounds about how I'd describe it, except that I'd probably say "education happens without the use of externally imposed schedules, curriculum, testing or grades".

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Old 10-22-2010, 12:05 AM
 
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I've seen some people who define themselves either as 'unschoolers' or 'radical unschoolers' who don't hold their children responsible for much of anything, and that just rubs me the wrong way
I'm not one known for thinking before I speak (or type, for that matter!) but I'm learning that it behooves us to be careful about passing harsh judgements on things we don't really understand, based on a few sound bites. RU is not as you describe it. Unschoolers get harshly slammed by people who read one or two mainstream media articles and think they "get it" enough to pass judgement, therefore I think we especially should be careful not to pass judgement on others when we aren't intimately familiar with the lifestyle.

As for the definition of unschooling, I refer to it sometimes as "natural learning". Because to me, unschooling is giving my children the freedom to learn the way Nature intended. I think they have an innate ability to learn without coercion or interference, and I think unschooling is simply allowing that process to unfold the way Nature designed it to be.

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Old 10-22-2010, 01:24 AM
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Also, merely choosing to homeschool/unschool does not automatically make one a good or effective parent. You will find mediocre and sub-par parenting in all walks of life.

I have been friendly with an RU family for a few years. Their family is dysfunctional and I've learned things about them over the past couple of years that bother me. We obviously have a difference in values, but I don't consider them to be issues associated with unschooling.

As a hypothethical....if an unschooling couple drinks too much and beats their kids, that's not a problem with unschooling.
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Old 10-22-2010, 02:32 AM
 
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That's a good point, 2xy. I think sometimes we hold unschoolers up to higher standards because what we do is in the minority. How many of us feel judged by friends and family to a higher extent than others who choose the path more well-travelled?

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Old 10-22-2010, 08:04 PM
 
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I'm new here as I just recently discovered that the way in which I parent my son is life-learning or unschooling (although he is too young for "school", he's only 3.5 yrs.)

Basically I respect his decisions and opinions as a person and don't make him feel like he's less important than me based on his age. I make sure that I expose him to different things so that he has the opportunity to learn them. Like I have lots of books in the house and workbooks for learning his letters right now that he can look at or play with if he wants. I have also let him try different classes like gymnastics and karate that he can choose to continue if he likes and as he gets older I will let him try other things like soccer and dancing. I think that if unschooled kids aren't exposed to an array of activities and knowledge they cannot choose to learn them. Also I try to listen to him when he asks for knowledge in a new area like an interest in spanish led me to start talking to him in spanish and trying to remember more of it so that I can teach it to him.

Although I try to respect all of ds' decisions we all have to compromise because no one person's needs are more important than anyone else. We talk about what he wants compared to what his younger brother wants compared to what mama and papa want and any needs involved as well as how our decisions effect others and then re-evaluate what we think we should do.

Anyway, I think I may have gone off on a tangent.

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Old 10-22-2010, 08:44 PM
 
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We are also new to this, but what's most important to me, personally, about unschooling is not differentiating between academics and non-academics. In our family, they're all the same. We are not a consensual living family (though we are pretty close), but we try hard to let everyone in our family make their own choices when possible. So far, I've had neither inclination nor motive to intervene wrt DD's academic choices, and I don't really expect that I ever will. But perhaps someday she'll decide she wants to study pyrotechnics in the basement, and I'll definitely intervene then.
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Old 10-22-2010, 08:59 PM
 
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It's a good question and a tough one, for my part, to answer. For some reason, it's much easier to describe what it isn't than what it is.

I guess I would define it as a conscious choice to see education as something to be shared and experienced rather than something to be bestowed or enforced. Schooling sets limits and boundaries as to what is or is not educational and age-appropriate. Unschooling is a practice wherein the parent recognizes those boundaries as artificial (because the child is an individual with his/her own priorities/values/talents/interests) and removes them, so that the child is free to follow her own goals and desires without the pressure of externally imposed benchmarks and expectations.
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Although I try to respect all of ds' decisions we all have to compromise because no one person's needs are more important than anyone else. We talk about what he wants compared to what his younger brother wants compared to what mama and papa want and any needs involved as well as how our decisions effect others and then re-evaluate what we think we should do.
This is what I was trying to say. It seems as though I've seen some RU's put their child's needs and wants above everything else, including other people's needs and wants, some of whom are not even in their family. Case in point - a teenage girl we know from a self-professed RU family asked that a 3 year old child be cooped up in a playpen while we have our gym time because she 'couldn't bear to watch her almost get hit by balls, etc.' It wasn't the girl who asked that this be done - it was her mother, on behalf of her daughter. And it happened two different times. Another example - an older daughter of another family we know hasn't been doing anything except going out and being with friends. She comes home at all hours, makes messes, and is generally disrespectful to the fact that she lives with other people. I'm not saying that those are typical, or anything. However, in every RU family that I have PERSONALLY have seen around me, things such as this are a general occurrence and it bothers me.

That said, some US'ers I know do a great job providing stimulating/fun/interesting things for their kids, and, some don't. Like a PP said, I think it depends on the family more than their unschooling philosophy.

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Old 10-22-2010, 10:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It's a good question and a tough one, for my part, to answer. For some reason, it's much easier to describe what it isn't than what it is.

I guess I would define it as a conscious choice to see education as something to be shared and experienced rather than something to be bestowed or enforced. Schooling sets limits and boundaries as to what is or is not educational and age-appropriate. Unschooling is a practice wherein the parent recognizes those boundaries as artificial (because the child is an individual with his/her own priorities/values/talents/interests) and removes them, so that the child is free to follow her own goals and desires without the pressure of externally imposed benchmarks and expectations.
I like this!

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Old 10-23-2010, 10:57 AM
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I'm not saying that those are typical, or anything. However, in every RU family that I have PERSONALLY have seen around me, things such as this are a general occurrence and it bothers me.
Well, I only know the one RU family IRL, and it's the same way over there.

I recently began thinking, though, that it may be just correlation and not causation. For example...I don't believe that violent video games make people violent. I believe that people with a propensity for violence are attracted to violent video games.

Likewise, I'm beginning to believe that RU doesn't create permissive parents, but that permissive parents are attracted to RU philosophy. It doesn't mean that all families who practice RU will be permissive....but the ones who are will paint a picture for RU, unfortunately.
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Old 10-23-2010, 11:26 AM
 
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Well, I only know the one RU family IRL, and it's the same way over there.

I recently began thinking, though, that it may be just correlation and not causation. For example...I don't believe that violent video games make people violent. I believe that people with a propensity for violence are attracted to violent video games.

Likewise, I'm beginning to believe that RU doesn't create permissive parents, but that permissive parents are attracted to RU philosophy. It doesn't mean that all families who practice RU will be permissive....but the ones who are will paint a picture for RU, unfortunately.
ITA. For a long time I didn't consider unschooling because most of the ru i knew were permissive and i thought that was a necessary part of us until i met new us and saw how they parented like me then started researching.

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Old 10-24-2010, 03:17 AM
 
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My definition is that learning is natural and happens all the time and everything counts, for children as well as adults. Our learning happens in a relationship-based environment, our home (plus anywhere we go), and it is reciprocal: I teach my children some things, my husband teaches them some things and they teach us some things. We, my DH and I, have the role and responsibility to be parents and we love, care for and enjoy life alongside our children, while teaching them personal safety skills and habits that will enable them to find happiness for themselves in life. We have unschooled right from the beginning. My kids are now 8, 5, 3 and 1. I believe that we can learn the things we need to do to get along in life by just living life. Sometimes that means 12 hours of video games, or another week, it is a weekend of camping with Dad, or another week it is lots of Lego play and time with some friends, or listening to stories with Grandpa or Mom. It evolves as the person's needs and interests evolve. It is always growing and changing, it's a living thing that needs to be fed, that inborn curiosity and desire to experience life.

Our learning flow changes week by week and day by day. For 6 weeks, I read aloud to my oldest and he practiced his handwriting a la Charlotte Mason each morning for 15 minutes. Then, we spent some time practicing singing in the morning. Another week, it was outdoors in the morning to parks and time with friends. Then, recently, it has been time with Dad and playing video games and Legos. We aren't afraid to go with the flow and change things up when things need to change. And I do not fear the word "teach" :-D
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Old 10-24-2010, 04:54 AM
 
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Likewise, I'm beginning to believe that RU doesn't create permissive parents, but that permissive parents are attracted to RU philosophy. It doesn't mean that all families who practice RU will be permissive....but the ones who are will paint a picture for RU, unfortunately.
I've mused on this occasionally too. I know a number of unschooling families irl. Most, while they would fit written definitions of RU (no set bedtimes, self-regulated food/screentime etc) don't call themselves RU. If asked they would probably say something diplomatic about attempting to fully meet their children's needs in all areas and trusting their children know what those needs are. Unfortunately the one family we know who do identify as RU seem to me to fit the scenario above.
My definition would be something along the lines of learning with no external agenda.

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Old 10-26-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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I first wrote about this on http://familyrun.ning.com

Describe what Radical Unschooling means to you:
First I'll describe "Unschooling", which is one of the ways to homeschool. Unschooling can be described as life-long self-determined learning. When someone learns something, in a way that is actually understood and retained, they need to be intrinsically engaged in that thing. When someone tells you "You need to learn this" when you are not interested in it, you may learn enough to pass their test, at least initially, but you will probably not retain it because it wasn't meaningful to you - your brain isn't working to create the strong connections to other things you already know because you aren't truly motivated to do so.

Kids are natural learners - I remember my daughter memorizing complex dinosaur names, not because I made her, but because she was interested in them; she was 3 years old. My son did the same thing with our solar system at the age of 5. It's when we, as parents or educators, get in their way & start telling them what they "should" know that we end up squelching true learning.

Unschooling doesn't mean one never uses more traditional methods of learning, such as going to classes, reading text books or studying something complex. It does mean that this doesn't have to be the only method of learning - in fact, it probably is only necessary for sophisticated material or specialized skill sets. My kids have learned some pretty amazing stuff from rather unexpected sources - & that is the beauty of unschooling - that learning opportunities are everywhere & that the love of learning can be life-long.

So where does the "Radical" part come in? Radical Unschooling means moving past the "schooling" aspect entirely. It's not just about how we home school but how we as a family live together, grow together & make our way in the world together. It's about being fully engaged in your children's lives. It's about helping them explore the world around them - not because they might "learn something" but because it makes life so much better. It's about honoring & trusting their abilities & passions, knowing that these will lead to a richer life.

It's not about "un-parenting", the anything-goes behaviors that unfortunately seem to haunt the image of radical unschoolers. In my family, there absolutely are consequences for each of our choices and behaviors. The key is that the consequences are logical and directly related to the behavior. Punishments are rarely logical - they are a form of external control. I want my kids to develop internal control, so that they will choose to do the right things even if I'm not there with them.

~ Christine Yablonski: Living, Loving, Laughing & Learning through Radical Unschooling
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Old 10-26-2010, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by unschoollife View Post
I first wrote about this on http://familyrun.ning.com

Describe what Radical Unschooling means to you:
First I'll describe "Unschooling", which is one of the ways to homeschool. Unschooling can be described as life-long self-determined learning. When someone learns something, in a way that is actually understood and retained, they need to be intrinsically engaged in that thing. When someone tells you "You need to learn this" when you are not interested in it, you may learn enough to pass their test, at least initially, but you will probably not retain it because it wasn't meaningful to you - your brain isn't working to create the strong connections to other things you already know because you aren't truly motivated to do so.

Kids are natural learners - I remember my daughter memorizing complex dinosaur names, not because I made her, but because she was interested in them; she was 3 years old. My son did the same thing with our solar system at the age of 5. It's when we, as parents or educators, get in their way & start telling them what they "should" know that we end up squelching true learning.

Unschooling doesn't mean one never uses more traditional methods of learning, such as going to classes, reading text books or studying something complex. It does mean that this doesn't have to be the only method of learning - in fact, it probably is only necessary for sophisticated material or specialized skill sets. My kids have learned some pretty amazing stuff from rather unexpected sources - & that is the beauty of unschooling - that learning opportunities are everywhere & that the love of learning can be life-long.

So where does the "Radical" part come in? Radical Unschooling means moving past the "schooling" aspect entirely. It's not just about how we home school but how we as a family live together, grow together & make our way in the world together. It's about being fully engaged in your children's lives. It's about helping them explore the world around them - not because they might "learn something" but because it makes life so much better. It's about honoring & trusting their abilities & passions, knowing that these will lead to a richer life.

It's not about "un-parenting", the anything-goes behaviors that unfortunately seem to haunt the image of radical unschoolers. In my family, there absolutely are consequences for each of our choices and behaviors. The key is that the consequences are logical and directly related to the behavior. Punishments are rarely logical - they are a form of external control. I want my kids to develop internal control, so that they will choose to do the right things even if I'm not there with them.
I really like your post - can you explain more about what you mean by giving logical consequences?

I dig the 'internal control' aspect, how do you encourage that? Learning how to help my DS control himself, his actions, and think about others, etc. is one of my biggest challenges right now.

Me,yummy.gif   DS, Peace.gif and DDdust.gif Grateful to the baby I lost for sticking around long enough to teach me what I needed to know so badly  candle.gif  We  love our forest valley home, our goats and chickenschicken3.gif, and wild harvested food-medicine coolshine.gif

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Old 10-26-2010, 10:24 PM
 
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With respect to "logical consequences", here are some examples from my own home:

DD chose to stay up late in bed doing crosswords last night (we have a set bedtime, but so long as they are quiet and the room is relatively dark - save a couple of nightlights - they don't *have* to go to sleep). She slept in so she missed out on some activities I did that morning with DS, who is an early riser. We talked about how, if she wants to have that opportunity, perhaps she needs to put down the book/crosswords/drawing earlier. Or if it is more fun or meaningful for her to have that evening time, she has to accept that I'll be doing things with DS when he wakes up and she might feel she missed out.

DS thought it would be funny to open the car door while I was driving. I put the child lock mechanism on (it had been off for a while) and let him know that, due to safety, this had to be in place. Also, he ran off on me one day in the supermarket, so now he has to ride in the cart. These consequences are presented as a safety issue and the topic is always open for discussion. If they feel ready to try again, they get to try again. I don't set the limit on how long this goes on for.

In our tiny house, anybody who is having a hard time expressing emotions in a way that doesn't disturb everybody else in the room (yelling loudly in exuberation, or anger, for example) needs to go to another room (or outside, weather permitting). The child is not "banished" to their room, and doesn't need permission to come out again. But being removed from the main living area is a logical consequence of disrupting everybody else. It's not done in a punitive way, rather "You have a lot of energy right now and the way it's coming out is disturbing the rest of the family. Let's see what we can do about this problem."

HTH!

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