Thursday, December 22, 2011

Defending unschooling

Our fabulous girls are 19 and 17 and we’ve been unschooling for quite a while now, not their entire lives, but quite a while. I’ve never really been one who wanted to discuss unschooling very much. I’m only on a couple of online groups and I rarely say much on those. I go to conferences and enjoy the experience immensely but I’ve never given a talk at one. I appreciate the fact that Ronnie interacts broadly and honestly with people about our lives and I’m willing to rest on her laurels. Thank you, my nonpareil wife!

There are also those long-time voices of unschooling, both online and IRL, who do such a thorough job of explaining, defining, and defending unschooling that they free me to just be an unschooler without having to spend my time discussing it. When someone wants to engage me in a prolonged discourse about educational philosophy, I just direct them to a couple of unschooling websites and go on about my merry way. I greatly appreciate the efforts of those who’ve BTDT for all those many years and made their efforts available to the proletariat (for free).

With our girls at peri-adulthood, I have my own internal, intuitive knowledge of their journey through learning in the wide, wide world. Part of that journey has been in parallel with and/or in congruence with other unschooling families of older teens and young adults and I see the same thing with those lovely people. These are exquisite human beings who make the world a better place just by virtue of their existence and who, I’m sure, will continue to do so throughout their lives. It has been a privilege to call them my friends.

So, when I see people asking those tired, old questions about homeschooling/unschooling, I just kinda shake my head and don’t understand why they just don’t get it. Of course, intellectually, I understand that I “get it” because I’ve lived it for all these years, day by day, week by week, year by year, adventure by adventure and they are speaking from their experience, which is completely different than mine, and from what they see or read about unschooling, which can be awfully misleading. Take, for example, what I saw recently on an unschooling site, which is the thing which prompted me to write this post.

The poster wrote this as his self-introduction:
i'm the father of 3 beautifol girls they are all home schooled [name] (7) and [name] (9) still sleep in cribs bottle feed and none of them are potty trained me and my wife never seen the need for it they are adorable runing around in their diapers [sic]

He then posted this:
hi my name is [deleted] and i'm a member please check out my page and coment on how i'm raising my children i'll let you know this our children are 7, 9, 14 years old and not potty trained me and my wife both decided never to potty train them they are more obediant thin other children there age if more parents kept their kids in diapers there would be less teen pregancy teen drug use exc [sic]

I read those posts and thought about a normal person reading it. Normal being someone who works hard at his job and pays to send his kids to a private school so they’ll get a good education, etc. Culturally indoctrinated, and I don’t necessarily mean that pejoratively. I further imagine Abby Normal reading that and thinking that it’s on an unschooling site and it is, therefore, something that all unschoolers believe in and do. Thinking about that, I feel less snarky about Abby asking the “same old” questions about unschooling. So, I’ll come out of my typical lurker mode to respond to Abby or anyone who wonders if that is how all unschoolers live.

Speaking only for my family and me, our girls did not and do not sleep in cribs; we coslept when they were younger and they got their own rooms when they wanted a private space. They were breast-fed, not bottle-fed. We did not actively pottytrain them but they were both out of diapers before their teen years… well before their teen years. Our girls are absolutely not obedient, or even “obediant,” and we’re very happy about that. As for sex and drugs (and I presume rock’n’roll), I like all three and I leave it to you to decide for yourself whether you do or not.

Make no mistake, leaving kids in diapers into their teens is not an official unschooling position. You can read about actual, practical, real-world unschooling here and here for starters. For a little sci-fi short story combined with my take on unschooling and other educational philosophies, go to my post from Christmas ’08 here.

I hope you had a wonderful 2011 and that 2012 will be even better!


  1. WTF? Where did you find that gem???\ By the way this is Alex P. ( not on my computer)

  2. I was so excited to see that your wife will be presenting at Life is Good this year, and that we might get to meet you all!!

    In our always-unschooling/montessori-loving-heathen-family A. potty learned on her own before 2yo due to her strong desire for 'grown-up' panties. She had a little wooden throne in front of the fireplace, it was grand :)

  3. Hi, Bean,

    I think you'll enjoy listening to Ronnie. Obviously, I'm prejudiced, but I think she's a wonderful speaker and she always digs deep into her own heart to share significant stuff. I hope y'all make it to LiG. We love it and it'd be fun to mee IRL.

  4. Holy Freakamole! that is out there, Frank. almost have to wonder if this guy is just faking the post... I mean... whoa!

  5. Hi, Behan! I see your updates on FB from time to time. It's nice to keep up with y'all.

    Yeah, I suspect that guy is just trolling but it was fun to write this little diatribe so I took advantage of the opportunity. Hope y'all are having a sunny and hot Christmas season on the underside of the world!

  6. you rock :) and I had to laugh reading the first parts because I consider YOU to be that person who can speak beautifully and convincingly about unschooling who I look to and send people to so that i don't have to ;)
    oh and I am not using punctuation because I am breastfeeding at the keyboard while my unschooling boy is creating a Lego project on the floor... crazy kids

  7. Reminds me of that tiresome question I'd get when Dylan was a nursing toddler: "What are you going to do when he's still nursing at eighteen?" I'm surprised your troll didn't add that clever gem. The longer I live the more I'm convinced some people have shit for brains.

  8. Cindy, you should be bottle feeding and I sincerely hope they;re both in diapers! (grin)

  9. Deb, I agree that shit for brains seems to be the default human condition. It's a sad thing.

  10. I assume the guy (troll or not) was bashed on the site. true?
    either way, thanks for making my future decisions regarding upbringing and education more difficult....geez!

  11. Derek, here's something for you to consider:

    This report is about Cal State campuses where the Cal State system admits only freshmen who graduated in the top one-third of their high-school class but 73 percent of this year's freshmen were not ready for college math and nearly 60 percent were not prepared for college English.

    Remember that these are the kids who were in the top one-third of their high school class.

    "It's a terrible indictment of the K-through-12 system," Postma said. "If a factory was building cars and the lug nuts kept falling off the tires, you would do something pretty dramatic about it. We keep adding the lug nuts back to the tires rather than trying to figure out what the problem is."

    Seems to me that it would be hard to do worse than that at home.