We have been radically unschooling since 2002. The year my oldest made me a mama, I found myself on a very deep and meaningful path. Not one I had intended that is for sure. When he emerged into the world, my entire universe had shifted on its access and all I had cognitively thought was “right” was very deeply *not* resonating with my mama soul and intuition. I knew from then on, every fiber of how I was personally raised would be forever challenged, shaken, and rebirthed on a daily basis. New ‘norms” were about to be formed and that only began with co-sleeping, (extended) breastfeeding and answering my child at his every whim…. (peaceful, respectful, and attentive parenting).
As the journey rolled on and education was in question, I was yet again posed another new challenge to to face. My mama moral compass pointing me to what felt ‘right’ while also testing the waters in what we identified as mainstream. Just three mornings of preschool for him quickly answered the questions I seem to already know the answers to. But our experience was now validating mama’s intuition. As the J-kids each were born and our journey unraveled at each turn, it was abundantly clear… there was no going back. There was no changing, reversing, nor u-turning involved. What we were experiencing and cultivating, was very obviously magical. Radical unschooling, in my mind, is my very conscious choice to flourish a family foundation with love, respect, and nurturing of all people and relationships in the family as our number one priority.
I often get asked by people how we “make it work,” and I am always left pondering that question each time it is posed. The reflection that exudes from my mind is “whatever does that mean? We live with a common, mutual respect for all beings. How does that not work…. naturally!?” For us, radical unschooling goes far beyond education. It encapsulates family foundation.
I know so many, when speaking about homeschooling, question “how”…. How is it done? Homeschooling in many peoples’ minds has a procedure mindset involved. How to accomplish each task to essentially graduate to the next level. Curriculums tend to set your thought process around the advancement of arbitrary knowledge. You have to accomplish a certain set of information to then advance to the next set of information. When people speak of homeschooling, it tends to focus largely on the acquirement of knowledge and skill sets. The similar standards that school systems hold education and “achievement” to.
Most unschoolers, on the other hand, will challenge that process by saying, do you really ‘have’ to learn everything in a linear fashion? Do you have to/need to learn everything arbitrarily because that it was school systems deem necessary? Unschoolers come to the ideals of homeschooling with the notion that all humans are born intrinsically curious, learning, unsatiable creatures. We learn to eat, walk, talk….. all on our own. We want to advance. We want to excel. We want to read, we want to write. We have wants and desires that simply….. do not need to be controlled nor curtailed to someone else’s arbitrary need to control the process of learning. Unschoolers, who truly come into the process of learning with these notions, recognize that their child is an unique being who has the intrinsic desire to learn. There is no need for me (parent) to ‘control’ this child because they will learn by living. They will acquire the knowledge and skill set they need, at the time they need it, because they are intrinsically capable of learning… because they have the drive and need to acquire it. When they can apply the knowledge they need, they able to better retain it. When they can put knowledge to work, it values them and becomes a part of who they are. Learning is certainly not linear in an unschooler’s life. My “job” as the unschooling parent, friend, confidante, homeschooling ‘teacher’ (if-you-will), is simply to foster that love and desire for learning… to assist in navigating the world, by nurturing resource acquisition and living by exemplifying real world skills.
Ironically… so many people assume that unschoolers would never touch a curriculum or utilize certain opportunities in life to enhance their child’s acquisition of knowledge. It is never to say that unschoolers do not use curriculum! Ugh… that inquisition makes me chuckle. If my child will learn better from a curriculum and they want to learn that way, and they are fueled by grit and passion to learn a specific subject from a curriculum, I sure as hell would be that parent that buys them that curriculum! It is also not to say that we do not adhere to nor believe in classroom learning, as hundreds of us have found classroom learning to be the most perfect opportunity for our child to absorb a specific knowledge base that *they* themselves have chosen to advance at! And that, my friends, where radical unschooling surpasses that of the educational component we all fret about. Homeschooling, unschooling, not matter the terminology, always focuses on “how” we educate the children. However you view it, no matter your journey, the focus tends to be about education. As the radical unschoolers march forward and begin to truly embrace the ideals of “these children are humans too. We are not hear to control them. We are here to nurture….” Radical unschooling, as I have mentioned before emerges far beyond the realm of education and applies to all of life. It provides the children the opportunity to discover just how they learn and acquire knowledge the best for their very own self, as well as make real life decisions on how they will live their own lives.
Children are capable of learning what food is good for them and what food is not good for them. They are capable of choosing bedtimes, and picking out clothes. Bathing and grooming as they need, and exploring all facets of life to truly be able to discover themselves and who they truly are…. and…. who they want to become as they mature to adulthood.
I am certain more than a few people reading this article can relate to the type of parenting whereby a child is told when to wake up, when to clean up, when to brush their teeth, when to go to school, when to do their chores, what games to play, how to play, when to play, what clothes to wear when they play, go to church (or respect ‘x’ religion, despite personal beliefs), and to play this sport, be on this team, work this job, graduate with this grade-point average, go to this college, major in these studies……. Etc. etc. etc. I know more than a few of you are nodding your heads. You may be thinking back to those days when you magically turned 18 years old and suddenly you knew how to do absolutely nothing for yourself because no one was telling you what to do when any longer. Now the choices, decisions and actions go wild trying to figure out how to live life. Debt is racking up, struggling with toxic relationships, incapable of keeping up grades because partying seems far more fun. The retrospect on all of these topics could go on and on, and you certainly catch my drift. Whether you yourself have experienced this, seen others experience it, and/or have observed it happening in the world around you, you understand the repercussions and outcome of this type of parenting.
Radical unschooling allows a child to be able to figure out what works best for them in the world from birth onward. Allowing children to make choices in and for their own lives is an empowerment most of world feel they are supposed to “control” from birth. It is a strong-hold for many that children need to be ‘reared’…. Told how to do, what to do, when they do it.
To our household life and learning is all one cohesive partnership. The flow is to follow passions which nurture the soul. And what works for some simply will not be for the others. We are each unique beings, sharing a dwelling, and intermingling our life’s journeys together. Therefore, all aspects of the each of us deserves mutual love and respect. To separate life and learning simply does not make much sense to our paths, as it would be like fractioning your soul to be only part of yourself at any given moment of your life. Learning is not designated to a certain time of day, and learning is not mandated to that which does not resonate with you. Knowledge and skills are acquired at the time in which they are most valuable to us to absorb, implement, and become permanent fixtures in our lives. The objective simply, is to love and value learning at all times, and that learning happens with every experience had throughout your day.
As I recognize myself as someone who could go on and on about our 19 years of proof and experiences because I feel just so passionately about radical unschooling, I also recognize that people are all on different paths and get there when and if they ever feel ready. The only last thing I feel compelled to share about this lifestyle choice is that it really just all boils down to just one thing.
Coming to a place of trust. Trust in ourselves that we are doing right by our family and child(ren). Trusting ourselves daily as we continue to deschool ourselves in an evolutionary process. Trust in our child(ren) as they are intrinsically, naturally learning beings – realistically incapable of being satiated. Trust. It is with the lack of trust that we begin to second guess ourselves. We begin to doubt. We begin to retract and try to regain ‘control.’ Such a vague concept (control) that makes us somehow feel better and more secure about things, but in reality, it is the mirage. Trust is the only true key to success in the radically unschooling path.
With that I leave you with this, as this to ponder….