"Research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing."
--Wernher Von Braun
Hmm. Maybe it's time for a vote.
I've been told by a good friend whom I happened to help convert to unschooling that I'm no longer an unschooler.
And really, I should be okay with that. I completely related to Tammy's post on the subject. I haven't participated in unschooling lists in forever. That was partially because lists are difficult to keep up with, and I prefer blogs.
And it was partially because I got tired of the way radical unschoolers so often tried to school the non-unschoolers in the correct ways of unschooling -- Sheesh! Unfortunately, I myself was guilty of that -- especially early on, when I had only two children, and they were far from school age. It's easy not to worry when the expectations are still so low!
I get it, I do. (I think I do.) I certainly don't want to discourage anyone who's reading and new to unschooling from continuing on that path. I'm not about to sit my kids down and say, "Okay, I've decided you need to learn this and this, and we're going to sit here every day until that's done. Even if we're both crying."
I don't think it's that black and white. It's not an either-or. You're not either following the path of Unschooling Enlightenment or on the road to Homeschool Hell.
Radical unschoolers have bad days, too. And non-unschooling homeschoolers can also experience joy and freedom in their choices.
(How convoluted these labels have become.)
We all have to figure out what works for our families. We all have to come to terms with our fears. Whether it's being so afraid of our kids not learning what they need that we coerce them until we're all miserable, or being so afraid of making a parenting mistake that we're unable to lead when our children need leadership.
Don't all parents start out with one foot in a place of Worry and the other in a place of Hope? Aren't all homeschoolers making sacrifices and taking a risk by jumping off the schoolbus while it's barreling down our culture's road? (Whether you're on the bus or running next to it, the road is full of holes.)
I sincerely believe that the Lord led me to the philosophy of unschooling to keep me from falling into patterns of perfectionism and control, and burdening my children with unreasonable expectations. We needed to experience the freedom of natural learning.
"There are a myriad of ways to learn about something. Rather than handing these things over to our children as a fait accompli, we want them to discover them on their own.
You’ve heard about slow food; this is slow learning. If you bring your child 20 books from the library, then announce a trip to the museum on Friday, you may succeed in getting done sooner.
But if you let your child go to the library and talk to the librarian about how to find books, let your child decide which books look like they have the best information ... well, it’s going to take a lot longer. But they are learning all the while."
Unschooling gave us time. Time to explore without pressure of performance. Time to grow and mature at our own speed. We learned a lot on that path.
Oh, but it can be slow! And some of us are impatient and want to see proof. We don't want to take chances with our children's education. Trust is so difficult. I know it is only by God's grace that I made it as far as I did without worrying about the boys learning to read. But it happened. It worked.
The thing is, I have things to learn from other educational philosophies as well. I think wherever this homeschooling journey takes us, I will always be an unschooler at heart. I just can't guarantee it will look like it.
"...Education is a *life* as well as a discipline. Health, strength, and agility, bright eyes, and alert movements, come of a free life, out-of-doors, if it may be, and as for habits, there is no habit or power so useful to man or woman as that of personal initiative. The resourcefulness which will enable a family of children to invent their own games and occupations through the length of a summer's day is worth more in after life than a good deal of knowledge about cubes and hexagons, and this comes, not of continual intervention on the mother's part, but of much masterly inactivity."
That, to me, sounds like the heart of unschooling. There is certainly a difference between the philosophies, but I know I'm not alone in appreciating them both, and wanting to integrate methods somehow.
"Can you still be an unschooler if you make a plan? I think so, especially if those plans are based on the student's desires, made with their consent, and open to change. That's how we operate as human beings. We have hopes and dreams, and whether we realize it or not, we move that direction. If the path takes twists and turns, we adapt, and sometimes we trade plans in for new ones. But we are forever moving forward, and what we do now effects our future."
--Jena at Yarns of the Heart
And so, I've been making plans, buying materials, trying to find a daily rhythm that flexes with the changing needs of our family. I'm excited to share all of this with you!
But I don't want to confuse anyone about where I'm coming from, or whom I'm following. It's not John Holt, Sandra Dodd, or even dear Charlotte. I'm still trying to follow Christ, and completely dependent on His mercy and grace to show me where to lead my children next -- even as they learn to follow Him themselves.