I often hear people remark contemptuously that unschooling can be too rigid. That there are too many rules. That they wouldn’t classify themselves as unschoolers because they don’t ‘tick all the boxes’.
The thing is, unschooling is the opposite of ticking boxes, right?
Standards? Requirements? We’re not about that life.
From the outside though, it’s easy to focus on all the things unschoolers do, instead of what they believe. Because really, they do things pretty differently to mainstream parents.
-Don’t have bedtimes
-Don’t police their children’s eating
-Don’t arbitrarily restrict screens
-Don’t use curriculums
-Don’t make decisions without their children’s input
-Protect their children’s autonomy
-Allow children to learn whatever they want, whenever they want
-Don’t divide life into subjects
-Don’t test their children
It can start to seem there is a lot of ‘rules’. The thing is though, you’re starting at the wrong end here.
These things that we have in common, they’re the end product, the observable things that can be seen from the outside. But we didn’t start there.
You see, when you truly respect children, when you are committed to protecting their rights and autonomy, you come to certain conclusions. You learn that children are capable and trustworthy. You see that they deserve consideration, cooperation, and autonomy. You understand that they are not inferior, but equal. When you truly realise these things, it is inevitable that you will come to certain conclusions…
You will no longer feel ok with imposing your will, preferences, and desires upon your children. You can’t rationalize overriding their autonomy in any way, including appearance, sleeping, or eating. You don’t expect they should make choices in order to please you. You are opposed to inflicting punishments on children and instead committed to treating them as equals and working things out together.
When people say that someone isn’t truly unschooling because they exert control in one of these areas, it has nothing to do with a set of rules or expectations one must meet to be an unschooler, it’s because it clearly indicates a person’s views of children and that they are still in the process of deschooling.
Unschooling is about respecting children as whole people. There are no rules on how to do that, but once you truly start seeing children as equals, don’t be surprised if you start acting like an unschooler too.