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#1 of 32 Old 09-02-2014, 01:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Prescriptive vs. descriptive labels

Hello everyone! Can we get philosophical about the topic of unschooling for a little while and hopefully everyone will end up still liking one another and feeling like they are doing ok? This is my fondest wish.

(My local unschooling email list is strictly non-discussion because they want to only be a support for facilitating in person meetings. Some of these things are hard to discuss in person and I don't like getting too philosophical at the park. So I'm back to MDC, where I learned a lot of this stuff originally.)

Now with those disclaimers in place, I want to talk about being an unschooler and what that means. Let's start by assuming I have a massive inferiority complex and I walk into most situations assuming "Any group would reject me on principle" just because that makes the conversation more festively accurate.

I *really struggle* with feeling like "being an unschooler" means holding a party line or doing things in a particular way. And I am not sure I am capable of Radical Unschooling. That requires a level of trust in the universe I lack. I'm sorry that I am this untrusting... but I am.

I believe with all my heart and soul that it is wrong to waste the time of children who *should* be working on figuring out the things they need to work on for adulthood. That varies so much from person to person that I believe that any attempt to "set a standard for people to meet" is inherently abusive.

I grew up in a Might Makes Right environment and I struggle with my impulses. I have to cut myself off in mid-sentence sometimes as I autocratically announce, "You WILL DO THIS because I say so." I really and truly believe that if you have to use force you don't deserve to be in charge.

I fear that all of my ideals would go out the window if my life got just an inch harder. If I HAD to show up at a job every day I would all of a sudden not be patient with lollygagging. And when I run out of patience I am... genuinely not a nice person. I have elaborate systems in place in my life to ensure I have enough patience. I work tremendously hard at ensuring that my kids come first and I always have how much patience I need for them. I will drop anyone and anything else in favor of being able to act appropriately around my kids.

But that entire statement rests on so much privilege. What do I do the next time something terrible happens and my carefully constructed house of cards comes down? It won't be ok to start lashing out at my kids.

I draw comfort from the fact that my kids know that if I go off on them the correct way to respond is, "It is not ok to talk to me like that." Once or twice I have started being a big jerkface to my oldest and she gave me a look like . I took a step back. It was a whoa stop face. Then she told me never to talk to her like that again. My response was to blink and say, "Ok, good boundaries."

I am so proud of her I could burst my buttons. She will never allow people to treat her how I used to let people treat me. Never. She has an inherent sense of her own value.

So I feel like I run into trouble with the prescriptive vs. the descriptive aspect of unschooling. Is it that I sign up for being an unschooler and now there is this list of behaviors I have to follow? (I know the answer is 'no' but hear me out.)

I understand that when people go off on me... it's usually not about me. It is about them. But man I've had a few Radical Unschoolers sneer at me and tell me that I should not be sullying the label of unschooling because clearly I am just eclectic.

As a result of other people on the internet having bad days... I doubt myself a lot. I do recognize the idiocy. What does it matter anyway? If someone wants to say we are unschoolers, whatever. If someone wants to think we are eclectic, it won't change the price of tea in China.

But I come back to whether or not I am actually living up to my ideals. Am I truly allowing them the autonomy that I believe they deserve to have?

I have limits. I have big limits and I have to structure my life around them. I do a lot of negotiating around my limits. Going out is sometimes very hard for me. (Watching my kids while I am crying in the bathroom at an event doesn't work out very well. And I spend a lot of time crying when I go places. Stress has done a number on my central nervous system.) I can handle a few days a week out, but if we leave the house for 6/7 days I'm a basket case. Even if we were only out of the house for an hour on a few of the days.

The thread on house cleaning and chores is part of it. Is there a "right way" to be an unschooler? Does being an unschooler necessarily mean that you can't give your kids chores? Err, from my readings of Holt I got no such impression. His kids were students in a school and I'm pretty sure they had family responsibilities.

Where does the line between "family" rules and "school" rules fall when you are home schooling? I'm really not sure. My shrink pointed out that I am parent, teacher, principal, and big sister to my kids in the ways I facilitate different parts of their lives and... it would probably be healthier to split those roles up a bit more.

I work really hard at ensuring that my kids have lots of role models. They are intimately connected with a number of different families. (Homeschooling/unschooling/traditional school--whatever.) I'm not "normal" and I know that and I want my kids to have a better perception of normal than just seeing me.

But does that mean I have no business home schooling (let alone unschooling) because I am not the kind of person who can "properly" follow some set of guidelines?

AHHHHHH!!!!!

You can see why I've been longing really hard to talk about unschooling in a more philosophical way. Lots of things in my head. We don't know that many unschoolers. The people we hang out with are supportive and awesome and never criticize (ok maybe 'never' is too strong of a word) what we are doing. So it isn't really that I feel habitually attacked.

Just having feelings.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#2 of 32 Old 09-02-2014, 05:02 PM
 
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In response to the whole:

Screw labels. It sounds like they're causing you loads of anxiety. What good are they doing you? You can think of them more like keywords- 'unschool' and 'homeschool' may help you find like-minded people and relevant advice, but that doesnt' mean you have to identify as either. Find communities that work for you, and if they happen to all use one label- awesome. If you happen to make friends with someone who's put their kids in boarding school and still gives amazing advice that's relevant to your situation, great!

But, really, look at it- are labels helping you? They can do a lot of good, sure. They can be affirming, empowering, fill you with a sense of rightness and direction. They can also do a lot of harm. If you say "I unschool" and it gradually becomes clear one of your kids needs more structured homeschooling or even to just go to school, and saying "I unschool" makes you ignore your child's needs- that's bad, obviously. And it's entirely possible to happen. I've seen a few parents who took "I'm an attachment parent" to the extreme even when it clearly wasn't working for their family. At least one person has worn their baby to the point of doing serious damage to their back just because they want to be a person who babywears.

Whether a label is prescriptive or descriptive is very individual. For some people, saying 'I unschool' is purely descriptive and they don't feel it puts any pressure on them. For some people, saying it feels like restricting themselves. It sounds like you're in the latter. These aren't natural differences, they're human-made words and categories, if they dont' work for you- ditch them.

Also, labels tend to only be for those who aren't in the mainstream. I don't think many people who put their kids in public school identify as a "public schooler" or take any label or identity based on where their kids go to school. You don't need to label yourself or your family based on where they go to school.

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#3 of 32 Old 09-02-2014, 08:24 PM
 
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The reason I still hang out in this little corner of the internet after all these years is that there are no Unschooling Police here. Sometimes we get into intricate discussions about semantics, and sometimes we tease apart, for the benefit for those attempting to get a handle on what unschooling is about, how we view and interpret the idea / the philosophy. But there's no judgement here. We're all taking inspiration from our understanding of the ideals and values of unschooling as we understand them, and we like talking about our journey, and how our paths differ from each other.

I think what we share here is a desire to trust our children's natural learning.

Labels are words. If we interpret words in similar ways, we can use them to communicate about ideas. To me that's the function the word "unschooling" serves. It brings like-minded people together to talk about issues we all find interesting.

Prescriptive or descriptive? I'd say descriptive. Or both. Or neither. It doesn't matter.

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#4 of 32 Old 09-03-2014, 02:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Part of the trouble is that my local unschooling event list is moderated by someone who frequently tells people that if they do x then they aren't unschoolers and they don't need to be on the list.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#5 of 32 Old 09-03-2014, 08:41 AM
 
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OK, that's an entirely different need! She must have some need to weed out people that don't adhere to her description of unschooling. Perhaps to keep run-of-the-mill homeschoolers from co-opting the term, or to prevent those with different circumstances at home from giving radical unschoolers grief for their choices and circumstances. That's being generous on my part. I can can think of several other scenarios that aren't so kind. I tend to run as far as I can from people like that, (unless I've had a discussion with them that helps me to understand them better). Take the contact numbers of a few great people and never look back. But I can see the point of avoiding philosophical discussions online-- that's torn a previous group apart in my area and the group (what was left of it) reorganized as a homeschooling/unschooling group. (ETA: avoiding them when you know the people personally. I like those discussions in this, relatively anonymous forum, and in person, but not with people I know and online .)

For me, unschooling is descriptive. I've done it from the get go, though only drifting towards looking more radical as the girls get older (I know I'll never "get there" ). I can see unschoolng being prescriptive by parents trying something different, looking for guidance, seeing what might work for their family. Hopefully it doesn't stay prescriptive, hopefully they find what works whether it falls inside or outside the classic unschooling definition.

Personally, I draw the unschooling line where parents insist upon educational activities, like math for 20 minutes every day. I don't know any unschoolers whose educational philosophy doesn't leak into everyday life (because learning *is* everyday life), but still have a few top-down rules, usually made not out of hand but based on their circumstance. And I know very few 100% radical unschoolers.

I do think it's helpful for me to have these open, philosophical discussions. One thing that seems to mark unschoolers as a group is that the ones I've met tend to be deeply conscientious. They tend not to follow the "party line" just because they've chosen to work with a philosophy. I think I would have more respect for the relaxed homeschooler who is sensitive to the needs of their children than I would the unschooler who follows the bullet points of the philosophy without much consideration of the effect on their family.

"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."

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#6 of 32 Old 09-03-2014, 09:03 AM
 
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I agree. Make connections, and then either ditch the group or just bite your tongue, smile and nod, and remember that this appears to be nothing more than a person on a power trip.

It is possible that this person was hurt and is only responding to that hurt, but in that case the person really shouldn't be running the group. Trying to play "One True Unschooler" is only going to cause feelings of alienation, not support.

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#7 of 32 Old 09-03-2014, 05:49 PM
 
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I would like to jump in and say that I often find the views of those who call themselves radical unschoolers neither radical nor unschooling.

My understanding of integrated / holistic / natural / from-the-root "radical" learning comes from the Continuum Concept. SO much of what is expounded by self-styled RU folk doesn't jive with that and when in doubt I find more rootedness in the continuum.

no longer  or  or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?
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#8 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 09:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Seriously, the moderator got on the list this morning to yell at people because the list has been too homeschooley and not unschooley enough lately. What does that even mean? One person asked one question about math curriculum and lots of unschoolers talked her down off the ledge.

I DON'T UNDERSTAND.

I'm feeling so frustrated by human interactions.
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#9 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 09:38 AM
 
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Shaking my head right along with you.

I remember my unschooled ds at age 9 or so asking me if there was such a thing as "a university-for-kids book, for learning about all kinds of stuff," because he'd really like that. I tried to tease apart what he wanted. He wanted some sort of big book that he could read through and learn a variety of things. He wanted it to be suitable for his level, so it would expose him to information and give him a chance to practice skills he could learn easily. He wasn't sure exactly what skills and knowledge he wanted. He wanted to be exposed to new things in written form, and to have a place to write and practice to learn them (i.e. a workbook). A book he could tote around and write in when he felt like it. Learn about what? Well, maybe some sciencey stuff. And with numbers and words too, so yes, math and something that would help him improve his writing and spelling would be good too. Why a book? Well, so he could have it all in one tidy place and take it with him like a wordsearch book to amuse himself when the urge struck him, but more interesting than that.

It turns out he was asking for a basic curriculum-style multi-subject workbook. As an unschooler who had never been exposed to that type of thing he didn't have the words to describe what he wanted, nor did he even know that such a thing existed but he hoped I might be able to help him find something suitable.

If I had posted on your local unschooling group asking for resources for an 9-year-old boy to learn knot-tying, the moderator would no doubt have been fine with me asking for resources. But asking for a decent multi-subject curriculum workbook would no doubt have got her back up.

But here's the thing: to a fully unschooled child there's no freaking difference!. A book to learn knot-tying is not categorically different to him than a book to learn spelling. It is only in the mind of someone who has internalized schooling conventions that book-to-learn-spelling equals schooling and book-to-learn-knot-tying equals unschooling.

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#10 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 09:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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You are clearly articulating my frustration, Miranda. My kids own things that look "schooly" but they bought them at their own initiation and I have never assigned work from them. If I'm kicked out of the unschooling club for allowing my kids to do what they want... I'm not sure I want in the club.

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#11 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 09:50 AM
 
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If I'm kicked out of the unschooling club for allowing my kids to do what they want... I'm not sure I want in the club.


Beautifully put! This is why you shouldn't worry about being "unschooly enough" according to prescriptive labels, and why you should put your inferiority complex to rest on this issue.

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#12 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 09:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Heh. I'm glad you are so perceptive as to say "on this issue".

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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Heh. I'm glad you are so perceptive as to say "on this issue".
Lol! Well, inferiority complexes are never healthy.

I guess I just felt like within the scope of this discussion I didn't have enough information to encourage you to apply the "people are weird: just ignore them!" platitude to all areas of your life.

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#14 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 10:19 AM
 
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Yes, I think it might have been here that I learned that unschooling does not depend on "whether or not you used a workbook" and I have found that when I repeated that phrase in discussions concerning how children learn and different approaches to homeschooling, many people nodded with understanding.

If an unschooler *can* use a curriculum etc then is the *only* difference who "chose" it? I don't really think so. That it is the child's choice to use it or not, as well as to choose HOW to use it, i.e. not necessarily answer the question but also question the answer, go off on tangents, etc, all that is very impt. But I think there is something deeper to the concept of unschooling, that has to do with learning that is not recognized, learning that happens precisely because no one is watching for it to happen, or even noticing when or that it happens.

no longer  or  or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?
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My issues are so numerous they are better described as subscriptions. My inferiority complex is one of the smaller ones I wrestle with so I don't know how quickly it will be managed. I've got bigger fish to fry.

Thus: I think internet forums where people will let me emote are just the best.

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#16 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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But I think there is something deeper to the concept of unschooling, that has to do with learning that is not recognized, learning that happens precisely because no one is watching for it to happen, or even noticing when or that it happens.
This is really interesting to me. For example: my daughter asks to take a lot of classes. Pretty much inevitably she asks for physical skills classes and she shows up and is the lowest skilled person and makes virtually no progress for almost an eternity. (She's been in swimming for almost three years and she can now kinda sorta maybe dog paddle if I'm standing right next to her.)

But she is fantastic at drawing. She sits and home and draws for hours and hours and hours and hours. I paint well enough that people are happy to let me come paint on their fence when it faces a major thoroughfare. She's going to be better than me before she is ten. She is really talented. But she never ever has an interest in an art class.

She told me, "I don't want them telling me how to see. I'm ok with someone telling me how to move." Whoa. That is what I want from unschooling. That is what is important to me. I want her to know what she wants and how she wants to go get it.

It is really important to me that it be *truly ok* that she is many years behind in some skills. So what? She will catch up when *she* decides she is ready. I've already seen her do it with a bunch of physical skills. She does things on her own darn timetable.

Yes, sometimes she is frustrating to live with. I am *incredibly frustrating* to deal with and she's nice to me. I suppose I can return the favor.

To me, unschooling means that they are not imposing when they interrupt me to ask me to teach them how to do something. *My job* is to teach them. I signed on for that for a twenty year shift. I *wanted it so bad I talked about it for a decade before children*.

But I do bring stuff up. "Would you like to be able to bike to ___?" "Yes!" "H'okay. We best start practicing so we can make it that far."

I present tantalizing options of independence. Sometimes they grab and sometimes they say no. When they ask for a class I say yes. Even if the class is entirely top down and includes a teacher wagging a finger. I'm not going to ensure that the whole world unschools them.

They need to find out that making choices has results. So I only say "no" when I *have* to.

But that means I revert to a lot of my formalistic teacher training sometimes. My kids say, "How do I do...." And I start setting up some kind of structure. I have written one book aimed at teenagers talking about how to make decisions--I don't tell them what their decision should be. I don't want to control where you go. I just want to give you an easier frame for making up your own mind. My husband writes books about computer programming languages. We like explaining things. We both really love teaching.

I need to not care about the opinions of other people.

I would kind of like to go to the bigger national conferences and I'm scared of that. I am not always the easiest person to like on the very first day people meet me. :-\ I'm an acquired taste. (I'm told I grow on people like a fungus.) And I feel semi-shut out of my local unschooling community because of Stalin-esque leaders. Yes, some of the people must be more reasonable. So far they are shouted down.

Erf.

Hi, I'm Krissy. My family unschools.

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#17 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 10:57 AM
 
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Here's a cool little idea to muddy the waters of unschooling even further.

We pretty much all agree that human beings are primarily learning creatures. We are not born with the instincts we need for survival hardwired into our brains like so many animals are. We don't drop out of the womb and take off running. Our success as a species is due to our capacity to learn. Our children are born helpless, and are entirely dependent on their parents for locomotion, nutrition, survival. Gradually they learn what is needed to flourish, but it's a process that takes years and years: up to a quarter of their lifetimes.

So it makes sense to say that "human beings are natural learners." We are hard-wired to learn. Being able to adapt to and change our environment is our species' super-power.

But where do the skills and knowledge that we learn come from? Well, largely from other people, right? Even evolutionarily speaking ... prehistoric humans learned to hunt and build tools and make fires and communicate from other humans in the tribe.

So it would make to complete sense to expect that not only are human beings natural learners, but they're natural teachers. Meaning that teaching is hardwired into human development just as firmly as learning is.

To me that casts a new light on my role as an unschooling parent. Much as I want to tap into my kids' natural capacity to learn -- and avoid contaminating that capacity with artificial constructs like rigid group structuring, extrinsic incentives and prescriptive courses of study -- I want to do the same with my own natural capacity to teach.

Unschooling. Unteaching. Anyone care to discuss?

Miranda

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#18 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 11:07 AM
 
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Unschooling. Unteaching. Anyone care to discuss?

Miranda
Thinking a bit....

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#19 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 11:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh yes.

I tend to make friends with people who are accurately described by the phrase "know it all". I surround myself with people who have a *thing* that they really like talking about. Given where I live I am blessed to have a variety of subject areas covered--I find my parties are most harmonious when I have friends who work in different fields from one another. The OpSec guys don't lecture the squid researcher and no one argues with my friend and her encyclopedic knowledge of the difference between different custard/pudding/flan/Idon'tforkingknow (obviously I don't listen that closely...).

I like sharing things I know. I am in the most unfortunate position of having a lot of what I know be things I learned in the school of hard knocks. I'm *great* with rebellious teenagers. I don't want to tell them what to do. I want to give them more information about their options. I can do sex education at the 101, 201, and 301 levels. I taught English for years and I think I'm a pretty good writing teacher. I push people to "dig deep" fairly effectively.

I have a variety of areas in which I am (literally-not in a pejorative sense) socially retarded. I am very underdeveloped in a number of areas and I have mastered some coping skills that are very useful to people in the autistic community so many friends ask me for information on some of my processes. I've had to work really hard at being appropriate. I've made really big progress. I'm proud of me.

And I like sharing what I know. I *can* sit down and do a year plan down to unit plans down to daily lesson plans where I have minute by minute what questions I will ask and what worksheets we will do every day... but I generally don't bother. Learning isn't like that. I like to use as little structure as possible. But I'm totally obsessed with the idea of schemas and I'm constantly trying to help people around me build connections.

I can be kind of annoying. To be frank.

I love to teach. I know a whole lot of things that are not part of most peoples lives. I like talking about them. It's hard finding the right forums...

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#20 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 01:44 PM
 
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I don't know if anyone's heard of the 'continuum concept'. I haven't read the book, but I read the site. I don't agree with all of her conclusions, but reading about her experiences was very interesting. It's really got me thinking about our society.

The author spent some time with a pre-historic tribe, one of those "cut off from all modern conveniences" tribes that somehow have managed to still exist. And that's basically how we've evolved to be- surrounded by other people. Some of what the adults do has to be done away from kids (hunting) but a lot of it, the kids are there. Kids from across the tribe interact and tend to spend a lot of time with kids of every age. Kids primarily learn how they're supposed to act by example, because they're surrounded by kids their age and a little older up to the adults. And there's not loads of behavior issues because the kids are easily able to see what's expected of them, they have a lot of freedom, and there's no real point to acting out.

And our modern society is pretty much the opposite of that. It's very difficult to avoid that. Even in unschooling families, a lot of the time at least one parent has to WOH to make ends meet. Most WAH jobs nowadays are on the computer, not really something very young kids can really learn from. Not many families are able to create that kind of community where their kids are surrounded by other kids all day- I think very large families are the closest you'll get to it, and not everyone can afford 10 kids. I think there's a lot more families than we may think who send their kids to public school out of necessity and then basically unschool them afterwards.

I read about a family who bought land, built a cheap and efficient house, and managed to decrease their bills to the point that the dad only has to WAH 10 hours a week to make ends meet. They raise crops and animals, do washing by hand, there's loads of "taking care of the house/family" that the kids can be right in the middle of and involved in. I would love to be able to do that.

So even if we are talking about our natural inclinations one way or another, we have to remember that we're not living the way we evolved to live, which can impact things a lot.

Of course, it's still disturbing to me that we take kids who naturally want to learn, put them in school, and end up with kids who hate learning. We went really off-track with that.

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#21 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 04:34 PM
 
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Kids from across the tribe interact and tend to spend a lot of time with kids of every age. Kids primarily learn how they're supposed to act by example, because they're surrounded by kids their age and a little older up to the adults. And there's not loads of behavior issues because the kids are easily able to see what's expected of them, they have a lot of freedom, and there's no real point to acting out.

And our modern society is pretty much the opposite of that.
I think the Continuum Concept was mentioned upthread somewhere. I haven't read it, though I'm familiar with most of the ideas. I think that it is very much possible to temper the opposite-ness of our modern society. Particularly if you choose to keep your children out of school.

Up until their teen years my kids have did most of their group play, activities and socializing in multi-age and multi-generational settings. The Suzuki violin program I helped build had group classes that included kids from 5 to 16 and adults too. My community orchestra encompassed ages 6 through 80. Aikido classes for kids were ages 5-13, and the weekend classes included adults too. Fiona's dance classes, while somewhat age-levelled, are enhanced by weekly multi-age-multi-level technique classes that include ages 9 to adult. And homeschool gatherings in our area always cover the full range of ages from preschoolers to teens and parents too of course.

While most of my dh's paid work is away from home and some of mine is, he and I both do a lot of work at home that the kids are witness to. It may not necessarily be paid work, but it's meaningful and useful work and I think that's what matters. A lot of it is outdoor and housekeeping stuff: water supply maintenance, just now he's grading a fresh load of gravel onto the driveway, I just finished installing the electric fencing, we're building a trail and finishing a mud room, between us we have skills in cooking, sewing outerwear, blacksmithing, woodworking, writing, knitting, animal husbandry, music composition and orchestration, playing guitar, piano, violin and viola, spinning and weaving, shibori dyeing, welding and so on ... all things our kids can bear witness to and get involved in.

I believe it is a choice whether our kids grow up in an environment that is the opposite of the socio-educational environment in primitive societies. Yes, there may be expectations that push us away from those things if we aren't careful, but there are always choices we can make to push back.

One of my closest IRL unschooling friends has 5 kids and 2 step-kids, and lives on a homestead very much in the way of the family you described in your post. She works a day a week as a teacher-on-call and her husband and a family friend work at home. The kids participate in raising the animals and tending the gardens and keeping the homestead going. There's a lot of lovely learning that goes on: kids breeding goats and bunnies, sheepdogs being trained, fences built, peaches canned, mushrooms foraged for and dried, firewood harvested and split. Sadly for them the economic and physiological pressures of leading such a life have taken their toll. The work truly is dawn to dusk and beyond, animals get wiped out by predators, accidents happen, there isn't enough money to replace the windshield on the truck, or to pay for lumber to fix the barn, or to buy the kid who is passionate about violin an instrument that fits him. The result is adults and older teens who are so tired and stressed that they become unwell, anxious and unhappy, and children who can't help but suffer as these effects trickle down. I don't think anyone who knew them would claim the kids have had idyllic childhoods.

So yeah, we can make choices that give us some of the perks that existed in primitive societies, but I think it's important not to under-rate the positive effect on learning that comes of kids growing up in a basically secure 21st century modern lifestyle: knowing that they have a safe place to sleep and food on the table and a contingency plan if someone gets sick.

Just some meandering ideas reflecting on your thought-provoking post.

Miranda

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#22 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 05:38 PM
 
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This may be a class difference. When you've seen a lot of families where the parents WOH long hours, requiring their elder kids to take over the job of parent, and everyone ends up exhausted and stressed and completely distanced from their kids and still unable to afford a violin or to fix the #$#@ windshield- having to deal with financial troubles while at least being able to spend time with your family and loosing your ties on this ridiculous economy is considerably better.

I can understand why someone who's able to do what you've been able to do for your family would see it as a bad choice, though.

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#23 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 06:07 PM
 
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This may be a class difference.
I'm not trying to start some sort of contest over which scenario is better. I'm not saying anything is a bad choice. I'm trying to point out that while the homesteading life may look like idyllic natural learning and family togetherness, it is rife with stresses that interfere with those very things, just like modern urban life has things that interfere.

In the family I know the kids have huge amounts of responsibility and huge amounts of work. The parents are there, as in, on the farm, but they're so overworked and overstressed that the kids don't get quality family interactions. They get mom sobbing with exhaustion and anxiety over dad's angina, and dad out in the west field for 14 hours dealing with a fence breach and the sheep escape and a lame mare they can't afford a vet for, and the siblings trying desperately to keep up the animal chores, fix the outhouse door, cook something to eat and get the house warmed up in the dark of a January evening. The cozy togetherness you imagine is tainted by the insecurity and anxiety these kids have about things most North Americans take for granted, and therefore they are afraid for their parents and for their family. As a result several of them are experiencing serious anxiety, are emotionally shut down and/or trying to get away from home every chance they can. Dirt poor is dirt poor, and it sucks whether your parents are out on the back 40 or pulling an extra shift at the pretzel shop.

All I'm saying is not to idealize that kind of lifestyle as being conducive to family closeness and natural learning. It is just as prone to stress, insecurity and emotional distancing as modern urban life.

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#24 of 32 Old 09-04-2014, 07:45 PM
 
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Thanks, Miranda. It's helpful to be reminded about the realities behind the perceived idyll. Also, the grass-is-greener and all that. If we did homesteading in any way, shape or form, we'd be at risk for all those things that you mention, even though it's been a dream of mine for my whole life.

I read the Continuum Concept when I was pregnant with my first, and it has by far been the biggest influence on my parenting thus far. Simply put; keep your children with you, and go on with your daily life, whatever that may be, be you plumber, intellectual, rock star, farmer, or what have you.

As for 'unschooling' as a descriptive or prescriptive label; I've been having some interesting conversations about this lately. We just got back this afternoon from the Not Back To School Camp-out. Several of the families there are DL (homelearning overseen by government Learning Consultant, with- or without B&M component), several are 'eclectic' homeschoolers, several are unschoolers, and a smattering of folks who don't identify as anything in particular. The age range of the kids was 2yo - 16yo.

What I took away from talking about various labels while there, is that there is a general dislike and distrust of the term "Radical Unschool" because of all the connotations that we're familiar with. Definitely a sense of "they're giving us all a bad name" overall. Several of the group that I would happily classify as 'unschoolers' prefer NOT to use the term.

Are we unschoolers? Yes.
And lifelearners (my current favourite).
And homeschoolers.
And homelearners.

Are we radical unschoolers. No.

Why are we unschoolers? Because we don't do school.
When people ask, I don't preach about unschooling. I talk about child-led learning, life learning, and homeschooling.

If there is a scale of unschooling (similar to that of being gay, say), we'd be in the middle, I think. I need and appreciate a steady rhythm to my day, and that includes my kids (see Continuum Concept again), and so we might not look as unschool-y as the anything-goes types of self-identified unschoolers.

We do our own thing, independent of anyone else, and so perhaps that's the most apt descriptor? Independent home learners?

dust.gifFour-eyed tattooed fairy godmother queer, mama to my lucky star (5) and little bird (2.5). Resident storyteller at www.thestoryforest.com. Enchanting audiostories for curious kids. Come play in the forest!
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#25 of 32 Old 09-06-2014, 12:04 AM
 
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But is there a potential conflict between "live life, have the kids around" and "let them follow their own passions"? One very large aspect of my particular life is wilderness expeditions. We go out for days, weeks, or months at a time, in all kinds of weather, across all kinds of terrain. The kids (3 and 5 now) are absolutely immersed in that life when we go, with both parents 24/7, able to engage with all sorts of amazing learning opportunities, and pretty much participate in everything we do. But they do have to come. And a lot is expected of them. They really do have to hike, and though of course the pace is set to accommodate them, there are times when we all have to hustle (weather, tide, food supply, encroaching darkness), like it or not. And places where things are unexpectedly challenging, and the kids have to rise to that too. And I see how much fun we all have out there, and how resilient they are, so I feel good about it generally--but I think our "assignments" are probably more difficult and more absolute than any kindergardener would get in school!

So, is that really unschooling? Or only the part of my life where we hang out at home and the kid wants to discuss the electromagnetic spectrum and build with legos?
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#26 of 32 Old 09-06-2014, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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That is such a brilliant point. I wonder about similar things as I'm about to take my kids on a six month cross country trip. My husband isn't going so it will be just the kids and I. They will have to be competent in ways that children their ages (in their culture) are not usually competent. Because life will just require it of them.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#27 of 32 Old 09-07-2014, 06:57 AM
 
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Well McKittre, I think that passions grow in a context and so does our life. SO if we are involved in each others' lives then even if right now we (adults) decide nearly all of the big picture, our lives will co-evolve.

After being used to life in India where the front door is opened when we wake up and closed when we go to bed at night, with neighbours coming in and out without notice and with her, as early as a toddler, being allowed to roam around the immediate surroundings, and interact with various people, it was very difficult for dd to get used to being in the US where I must accompany her everywhere, the door is locked all day and she needs help / permission even to open it, and no one just comes over. "Learning" to live like that was also an unnatural expectation that was imposed upon her by the fact that we lived in circumstances that other families in the US take for granted.

no longer  or  or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?
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#28 of 32 Old 09-07-2014, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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rumi--those are some great points. I had a hard conversation with my 6 year old this morning about why we don't get to play on other peoples front yards. They get mad at us. I talked about liability and why people are scared.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#29 of 32 Old 09-29-2014, 07:00 AM
 
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I am a newb to this forum, and I am not sure that I completely understand all the labels. However... my thought regarding the teaching/learning dynamic is that sometimes the natural point of curiosity and "learning" brings a person to a "teacher"... for me, the IMPOSITION of "teaching" is the issue, not the BEING AVAILABLE as a teacher. In my family, I see my ideal role (which I sometimes stray from due to stress/panic or whathaveyou) as being a guide/coach/support and/or colearner - and that role will shift based on what is the topic at hand. It is tempting to me to give into hubris and require my kids to prioritize what I tell them, I suppose, and maybe that is the issue with "teaching" that many people seem to have... the expectation that somehow it must always be accompanied by hubris, and inherently be imposed on the learner... but, in my reality, those are the pitfalls to avoid, not the "nature" of teaching.
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#30 of 32 Old 09-29-2014, 08:01 AM
 
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That's an important touchstone, LBD (and welcome to MDC, by the way!). I've tried to keep "no uninvited teaching" as one of my mantras. Not "no teaching." And not "teaching that is invited, but then moves in and sits around on the couch eating Doritos."

I try to wait for my teaching be invited, and then behave like a good guest in someone else's home.

Miranda
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