My basic life flag would be something like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting in a field of flowers on a peaceful field of blue. Attack me or mine and that one comes down in favor of the No quarter! blood-red "Jolie Rouge," older and more deeply portentous than the pale derivative English version, the black-with-skull-and-crossbones "Jolly Roger."
Confusion is running rampant on the net. (So what else is new?) Lemme state my position as clearly as I can and then I'm done talking about this. I (we) unschool. I don't care what you do. I expect you to return the favor. I have no interest in proselytizing unschooling. Honestly, I'm almost at an intellectual ad-crumenam-for-unschooling position on that. If you haven't come to Holt, unschooling, et cie on your own, don't look to me to distill the collected thought and effort behind that philosophy into a few paragraphs on a blog post for you and then labor to convince you to buy my goods like a streetcorner whore or storefront preacher. (Was that redundant? Nah, I don't think so. The whore actually gives you something for your money. That's a significant difference.)
But there is something I want from you. I want you to know what you're talking about before you comment. I know that goes against the grain of human nature and certainly against common net practices but I have higher standards.
In the context of trying to reduce an entire philosophy down to a blog post, I offer this excerpt from a longer post I did a while back differentiating unschooling from other educational philosophies. It ain't much and it ain't exhaustive, but it's more information than a lot of people seem to possess before they pontificate.
If you remember nothing else from this polemic, remember this: Choice matters. Distilled to its sui generis, unschooling is unique by virtue of the fact that it is purely autodidactic or learner-controlled. Every other pedagogic process is didactic, authoritarian, homilectic, autocratic, and any other synonym you can think of for teacher-controlled. Every one of them. Yes, some more than others but, at the core, every other system is rooted in control of the student by an authority figure.
It may be the teacher. Socrates is famous for his elenctic method which I consider a prime example of education in its most Latinate meaning – to lead or draw out from. The teacher leads the student to the conclusion the teacher wants the student to accept by drawing the student out with a series of structured (leading) questions. It seems like the student is engaged in a meaningful intellectual exercise but it is, in fact, carefully choreographed and completely controlled by the teacher.
It may be the curriculum. Look at the nearest public school for this one. All teachers must teach to the curriculum, no exceptions, alternatives, or workarounds. And in recent years the curriculum has been strongly driven by standardized tests and the need to score well on them. This is even more pathetic than the basic idea of curriculum design where a bunch of soi disant experts get together to arbitrarily decide on what goes into the curriculum and what doesn't. Man! I am so reminded of the Council of Nicea, huh? Orthodoxy, orthodoxy, is our cry. O-r-tho-dox-y. Are we in it? Well, I guess! Orthodoxy, orthodoxy, yes, yes, yes!
It may be the structure or process. Steiner-Waldorf anyone? Not nearly as arbitrary as the public school system, geared to a realistic approach focused on actual child development stages unlike the public school system, and more focused on integrating the whole person into the learning system than the public school's concentration on memorization-type, abstract intellectual work. It is, nonetheless, structured, arbitrary, and ultimately controlled by authority figures. Plus, it's rooted in Steiner's anthroposophy, which is just kinda silly.
"But what about Montessori?" you ask. The Montessori method proposes that the focus is on the child, that the child learns with little interruption from the teacher (director), that children have rights, and that children should not be subjected to measurements like grading and testing. Well, that sounds pretty autodidactic and unschoolish, doesn't it? Except that all of those "autodidactic freedoms" occur within a rigidly controlled environment.
Children must learn according to the Montessori curriculum, using Montessori pedagogical materials in the way specified by the method and curriculum. Learning a Montessori activity only takes place after a teacher demonstrates it and activities using a Montessori device are restricted to the process demonstrated by the teacher according to the curriculum. Experimentation is discouraged. Play is strongly discouraged. Student use of Montessori devices and activities may resemble play but it is intended to be useful work; Maria Montessori insisted that her materials be used only for their designed purpose. Cleanliness and maintenance of the classroom by the students is required.
Certainly this method is less rigid and more child-centered than the basic public school concept of classrooms of students working through an inflexible curriculum in lock-step but it is only child-centered and child-controlled within the larger context of absolute despotic control by the Montessori teacher and curriculum.
I could go on and on for method after method. In every case, it's one thing or another and that thing is always ultimately that the control of the student rests in the hands of an authority figure who is not the student. Unschooling puts control into the hands most capable of exerting that control in the absolute best possible manner – the student's.
If ya wanna read the entire post it's here but the vast majority of it has nothing to do with specific information about unschooling. It's a lengthy science-fictionish ramble. You've been warned.
I am always willing to discuss educational philosophy, openly and honestly, intellectually and sensibly, but never illogically, e.g. I know some-horrible-parents whose kids are totally fucked up and ignorant monsters because they "unschool." If that's your position, keep your tongue behind your teeth and keep your verbal diarrhea off my blog. I will not respond and I'll probably just delete your comment(s). Educational theory is a fascinating subject area and one which is significant to all of us. I enjoy discussing it, especially in a lively give-and-take. Conversely, I will not abide ignorant attacks; I will respond forcefully.