April 10, 2010

It's All Semantics

"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom (in our case, into their lives); give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."
-John Holt

So here is an inevitable question:  If we are looking at doing more planning for our school days, does that means we aren't unschooling anymore?  Though I don't get into the debate, there is a huge back and forth over definitions.

The way I see it, unschooling means that the learning is left to the child.  We aren't giving that up.  What is changing is that we are going to talk beforehand about what we want to study next.  So for example, Robotson told me that he would like to learn all about George Washington.  He wants to know what his childhood was like and how he got to be the first president. He actually knows a fair bit about his role in the revolution, but he wants a full biography.  He comes up with a dozen things he wants to learn more about every day.  All I want to do is write them down and plan them out; keep it more organized.

I was reading Joyfully Rejoicing the other day.  I agree with just about everything there, but I won't pretend that I have let go completely.  Changing behaviors is very difficult for human beings.  I keep working at it every day.  One thing I keep in mind, I got directly from that site.

Don't drop all your parenting rules at once. Just say "Yes!" more.

That's what I do.  I find ways to say yes.  The rest we work out in conflict resolution.  Just because we do things in a more structured way does not, in my opinion, mean that we are not allowed to use the word unschoolers.  But it's o.k. if some don't agree.  It's also o.k. if some think doing it this way is completely crazy (read: irresponsible).  I've said it before; I need to see those opposing views.  Surrounding myself with only people who agree with me is a terrible way to learn.  Although I don't like it when my decisions are questioned, I know it's really important to have to rethink my positions on a regular basis.  

5 comments:

  1. "But it's o.k. if some don't agree. It's also o.k. if some think doing it this way is completely crazy (read: irresponsible). I've said it before; I need to see those opposing views. Surrounding myself with only people who agree with me is a terrible way to learn. Although I don't like it when my decisions are questioned, I know it's really important to have to rethink my positions on a regular basis."

    Great attitude. Wish everyone were so open-minded and ready to question themselves.

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  2. You are definitely an unschooler from everything you have ever shared. Some people seem to think only those who "unparent" are unschoolers. Unschooling does not mean you are no longer the parent who can help guide. There are several in the radical camp who think only an unparenter is an unschooler. That is not what John Holt meant when he used the term unschooling, nor does John Taylor Gatto advocate that, both of whom are the gurus of most unschoolers, radical or otherwise.

    Don't worry about what label you use though...who cares?! First and foremost you are the parents of your children. You've chosen to homeschool them so you can "do right by them." Have faith knowing you are doing that regardless of what anyone calls it!

    charlene

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  3. Charlene- I know it doesn't really matter :) I read so many homeschooling blogs and it seems like weekly I see some who think unschooling is this totally evil thing, without ever walking a mile in another's shoes. Then I see unschoolers complain that anyone not doing it their way is just making it harder for anyone who wants to learn more by confusing them. In the end, the only reason we label is so we can tell other people what we are/do. I had two FB friends ask me for advice on homeschooling, one specifically about unschooling and the other just in general terms. I sent them nearly an identical email. I don't need the term because it's just the way we do things. I think of it the same way I think of "secular" parenting or atheism. It's just who we are and how we do things. I don't spend my days thinking about how I want to be a secular parent today. I just am.

    The main reason for my post was sort of as a vent to both sides and a reminder not to get too full of myself. It's easy to just ignore all the criticism, but being aware and thinking about it helps me make the best decisions as I move forward.

    Jim- Thank you. I can certainly see why so many people don't want to question, it's not a comfortable feeling. I couldn't in good conscious just pretend I knew all the answers though. So it comes down to what feels worse? Rethinking my position or ignoring it? For me, it's much worse to lie to myself. :)

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  4. When people comment that I'm not a "real unschooler" because we don't follow the RU dictates, I remind them that trust and respect are a two way street, and unschooling is a trust and respect-based way of learning.

    I trust that Padawan Learner has the brains and ability to learn what he wants. He trusts that I have his best interests in mind (even if I'm off-base on something) and that my 40 years of living and learning have probably gained me some worthwhile ideas of how to tackle something that he may not have thought of.

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  5. Obi-Mom - We are learning that trust. It's been probably the single hardest parenting lesson for me because I was raised to think kids needed to be controlled. Despite my intense desire to break away from that, I struggle every single day.

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