…This morning I read an interesting article about Radical Unschooling on the Mother Magazine website: Radical Unschooling; Why I don’t call myself a Radical Unschooler (anymore)…I have been an unschooler since the very, very, beginning and called myself one from the first day I heard the term. It describes my family perfectly. This year we attend a Tuesday co-op that is parent run and my kids LOVE going. It’s sort of like community college, they pick classes, get a schedule, and go from 9-3. I’m there too, I teach embroidery and drawing. Most of my own kids don’t take my classes, they prefer drama and cooking. We do eat bag lunches together in the gym. Well, my 14 year old lurks with her friends, my 11 and 7 year olds are gallivanting around with their friends, and me and little Ean eat together with OUR friends:o) I have been told that going to this co-op puts my unschooling credentials at risk. Sigh. I find it irritating that the definition of unschooling is to do absolutely NOTHING of something. I prefer definitions that are doing SOMETHING, but I digress.
When I later heard the term RADICAL unschooling (eldest daughter was about 4), I was sure that described us very well, we were and still are radical in the way we parent and live and we unschool. We don’t school at home. We don’t force our kids to take classes and except for a very very few times in which I panicked because my eldest didn’t know something and I tried to cajole her into learning it with pressure and coercion, because she is after all my practice child, except for those few times (that I regret and wish I could take back) I know that my kids are driven to learn what they need to learn to be here in this world. So, I used the term Radical Unschooler for a while, until it was pointed out to me that my sit-down-family-meals, my screen-time-limits, and my early-bed-times-that-are-really-early-because-nighttime-is-time-to-go-to-bed-I’m sure-of-it, were verboten, oops. I read, I joined forums, I tried to let go of the things that were standing in my way of being a radical unschooler and in the end I stayed unradical.
In our family, we don’t have rules so much as a family culture, the tv doesn’t come on until mom is making dinner. We sit down to a meal and everyone should try a bite of everything that’s made (though of course the meal creator takes everyone’s individual tastes into account). You can eat a lot of what you want that’s in the house, because I don’t stock a LOT of junk, and please, don’t eat too much near a meal. After our family meal we all help clean up and then mom or dad reads the current book on tap (right now it’s Harry Potter book 7) to everyone and then they all go to bed. If you’re a big kid you can stay up as late as you want reading, if you’re under ten we do lights out about eight-ish. Mommy and daddy get alone time, usually with a baby sleep-nursing in her lap, but basically alone. Sure we have family movie night, we have nights when the kids go to friends’ houses, we have variations from the norm, we’re loose and easy peasy, we take things in stride, we change over the years, but this is our culture and it’s how we go about our day. I’m telling you all of this because I think it’s fun to know what goes on in other houses and also to explain how my family differs from the label, radical unschooler.
I’d love to find a label that describes how we go about our day that is a positive reflection of the things we do do, (hee hee, I said do do!) Instead of a label that defines us by what we don’t do. But until I find it, I’m still an unschooler. We don’t DO school, after all….