The name "Radical Unschooling" can seem a bit terrefying. Another name for it is "Whole Life Unschooling". What this means is... just as you trust your child's ability to learn and seek, so do you trust them to make the correct choices for themselves in the entirety of their lives.This is not to say that unschooling is unparenting. It's really quite the opposite. It's extremely involved parenting. Mindful parenting. Paying attention to everything-you-do-and-say parenting. Unschooling parents view themselves as the facilitators, not teachers. I believe that no one can ever "teach" anyone anything. To me teaching means standing over someone literally pounding facts into their head, and it has about as much permanence and use.
Memorized facts are released out of the mind either immediately after a institutional-type test, or as soon as they are no longer used.
Things that are discovered have a much more lasting and illuminating effect. I think we would all agree that figuring something out for yourself has much greater impact than hearing someone tell us about it in words we don't understand.
Lots of people believe that children must be controlled or they will simply spin off the earth (or somehow destroy it). Radical Unschoolers believe that if children are not controlled they will better learn to control themselves.
A few months ago I quit giving my son limits on his TV watching. Previously, I was concerned about it, I thought he was watching too much, worried that he was not learning enough, afraid his brain was going to melt, holding him up to the dreaded standard of his peers, and fearing that maybe he was lacking. Oh, and of course fearing that the televisoin would simply spontaneously combust from overuse.
Guess what? It didn't happen. Know what did? He started playing in his room first thing in the morning instead. He goes outside. He runs with Annabell (our Giant Saint Bernard). He wants to learn the letters on the computer.
Does he watch television? Oh, yes, he does. His current favorite is The Magic School Bus. He has learned about echolocation. (Bats using sound vibration to determine where the mosquitos are that they are wanting to eat.)
He has learned that (cough cough) "Mommy, bacteria is making me sick." That white blood cells eat bacteria, and that they shoot antibodies at the bacteria, also.
He has learned that water is permanent, and has three stages. Water, vapor, and ice. He knows that a water drop turns into gas (evaporation) and that it floats into the air and then joins with other vapor, making a cloud, then turns heavy and into rain again.
He knows that hawks are at the top of the food chain, and that grass is at the bottom of that one. That photoplankton is at the bottom of another, and that sharks are at the top of that one.
My son is bright, quick, kind, and loving. And he watches television. And he eats healthy foods. Another area of RU thought. That if given the choice, true choice, without recriminations, children will, in fact, quite often choose healthy foods. Granted, when we first get home from the store with a new box of popsicles, they are sorely on his mind and he is hardly unable to think of anything else, and he might eat one and then immediately ask for another. But after a quick non-lecturing reminder that healthy bodies need healthy foods too, he will remember the sugar snap peas that he was also very excited about.
The other day he actually came in and said "Mommy, I need some healthy vegetables!" I will admit that I am still new enough at this that I am often more pleased with our lives/choices than I should be. Soon I will take it for what it is - ordinary life magic, but for now it's special life magic.
Another area of RU thought is cleaning. I find it's best not to treat our "household chores" as chores. In more ways than one! First of all, I would never fight with my sweet son as I did when it was time for him to clean his room. Standing over him, pointing to something, "Right there! Pick that up, and put it where it goes!" "Now!"
This after two hours of "Clean up your room." "Pick up your dinosaurs." "Stack your books, and I'll put them away." Pick up your LeapPad and put it away." "Pick that up." "Hurry, friends are coming, and you only have another half hour!" or "You had better hurry, or we will not make it to the library!" Ugh. Let me tell you that those were not happy, loving, accepting, joyful moments. (hours.)
Secondly, I have changed the way I view cleaning. I see it as more of a ritual cleansing of the yuckies. Open the windows (I cannot tell you how happy I am that spring is here), letting the old air out, a cleansing breeze wafting through the door and windows, imagining bad feelings, frustrations, yelling, any yuckies being washed away as I clean. I now view cleaning as a joyful act, I truly and greatly appreciate a clean house, I want it clean, so I can function as a kind person, and so I clean it. Sometimes I get help, sometimes I don't. But if I want it clean, then why shouldn't I be the one to clean it?
That is not to say that no one should be responsible for picking up anything. But mostly if I ask, "Hey, will you pick that up and take it to your room? I am really appreciating this clean house!" or some such thing it's amazing how helpful and kind every one is.
Rules are another biggie in RU thought. "You have to have rules!" most people believe. RU thought is that you don't. Rules are some arbitrary thing that are forced upon you without your consent. Rules are broken and bent.
Now "principles" are another thing entirely. Principles are something you live by because you believe in its intrinsic value. Because you believe it is the right thing to do.
A rule is "no hitting". Living by principle would be "Be kind to others."I try to help my children to understand natural consequences. It is something I want them to notice, how I believe we can all take responsibilities for our lives. I am a firm believer in natural law, and I try to show my children where their choices might lead them to an unhappy ending or to a circumstance that they may not like. "You might want to pick up your dinosaurs so the puppy doesn't eat them." sort of thing.
Our "rule" in our house is "Everyone has the right to feel safe, happy, and free." We try to make our decisions accordingly.
I have possibly given the impression that our home is an enchated cottage that never sees strife, conflict or yelling, -or filled with rotten, beastly children -but it isn't so. I am working (actively at moments, theoretically during others) on not yelling, and making my home as magical and beautiful as possible, but it is a challenge. There are a thousand things a day that topple my composure (the puppy peeing in the house, T screaming at Annabell to "Leave me alone!" M getting into something, muddy paw prints, diapers that need folding, fixing this or that, hungry babies, etc., but the point is that I am working on it, I am trying, I am giving it my best. Someday I shall have a completely (windows, walls, basement, gardens, toilets) clean house, I shall be master of my vocal chords, my responses will be cultured instead of reactionary, and I will have nothing to do for the afternoon except sit on my patio and contemplate the serenity that surrounds me. Thank goodness I do get those moments in flashes, it is what keeps me going. Aah bliss.
But for now they are only moments. They come often enough to keep me going, and are happy enough that I can see that I am on the right road for myself and my children.
"Those who have been required to memorize the world as it is will never create the world as it might be."Judith Groch