I have to say I am amazed at the debate I opened up with my questions. I enjoyed reading what other Mommies think and I have to agree with the majority of you: labeling what we do isn't really what it's all about. Maybe I am looking for someone to tell me what I am doing is great, because I have many moments in my life when I don't feel like my kids are learning anything. And I really don't want them to grow up illiterate. Knowing how to read and write are the most important things to me. Basic math usually gets thrown in there as a prerequisite for everything else, but I really don't worry about math as much. Math is so logical that kids find out about it in daily life. Although I have heard of mothers with children who taught themselves how to read. I wonder what that would be like.
Anyways, I am grateful for all of your great posts. It really got me thinking about what we do and what we do it for. Letting kids be kids I think is one of the main concepts that drew me to unschooling, even though strictly speaking that is not what we do. It's hard not to follow the main crowd who wants their preschooler to be a good reader already. I have noticed that my four-year-old is just not ready for phonics, too, and I am letting it be for a while longer. I think I am just going to do reading with my 7-year-old and writing and then after that only more if the kids so desire. That would satisfy my need for them to learn to read by a certain age and also satisfy my desire to let them choose what they want to do.
Author of "DIY Motherhood's Guide to Childbirth"
Okay, I will tell you why I prefer labels and prefer people to use them correctly. We are long time unschoolers, active in our homeschool community. We have known hundreds of homeschool families, and have tons of close friends, who all homeschool. We are the only unschoolers we know really, (within an hour of here) and certainly the only radical ones. We love our homeschool friends, but man oh man, I get so bored when they all sit around talking about curriculum or complaining that their kids fight them during math or history or whatever. I try to walk away before my eyes glass over. ;)
So, when a new family joins and says "we unschool", I get excited! Until they start talking about the minimum 30 minutes of math and 1 hour of language arts that is mandatory, and how they unschool the rest of the time. Which to me, if NOT unschooling. My children are old enough now (11 & 14, plus a 2 year old) that they are also sick of hearing their friends complain about school work or get all excited because "today, I didn't have to do any homeschooling!" when we are at the park. They also LOVE spending time with unschoolers, because it just feels so nice to not have to explain, to not have to sit there quietly during certain discussions, etc. Their friends all say, "I wish I could unschool" but the parents don't. Again, my kids just don't know what to say to that. THey don't want to brag, and would just prefer to avoid those situations.
I can't even tell you how many people I have met in our homeschool group who seek me out to talk to me about unschooling, and ask me a million questions and talk about how interested they are in unschooling and how much they want to do it, and then I spend all sorts of time and energy talking to them, and well, so far no one I know has ever started unschooling, but I sure have spent a ton of energy explaining it. I tell myself that it's worth it, because perhaps this normalizes unschooling in peoples' minds, and as my children grow, when people hear they unschooled, it won't seem so foreign, or odd, and they will just nod and smile.
Anyway, I can't tell you how many times I have wished that people wouldn't say they unschooled unless they really truly did, for everything. I'm not mad at people who don't follow that ideal, but just figured you might want to know why someone might feel this way.