That’s right. You read correctly. As of today, I will never again say that we unschool our kids. From now on we are life learners. If I slip up, send me a message to remind me. Why am I doing away with the term unschooling? Because it has the word ‘school’ in it, and that, as it turns out, is problematic.
Recently I have become aware of the fact that even people who are homeschoolers have preconceived notions of what ‘unschooling’ is. These notions run one of two ways: Either unschooling is where your kids, on their own, magically decide that the only way to learn about history, science, math, or any other subject is to use a curriculum, (in other words, school) or you eschew anything that is in a form resembling a class or that requires you to show up at a specific time or do any prescribed work outside of the class. (the opposite of ‘school’)
Neither of these definitions is correct, but once you say ‘unschooling’, no amount of explanation seems to make a dent. Apparently the word is all anyone hears, and then they come to their own conclusions as to what that word means.
So I’m here to tell you that we are NOT unschoolers. We are not unschooling our kids, thereby retaining some connection to school, good, bad or otherwise. From here on out we are and only will be life learners. Life learners are free to choose to attend a class if they want or not if they don’t. They can be in book clubs or study martial arts. They can also stay at home building new and better paper airplanes, or shooting endless Japanese eraser videos which they then edit and load onto YouTube. They can find ways to raise money for stuff they want, or to raise money for charities. They can travel and meet new people and not worry about lessons or final exams.
Does this sound a lot like my descriptions of the “U” word? It should, because it is. But then why do people, apparently, think that my kids would never be interested in taking part in organized classes or activities that require a certain amount of discipline or homework, even? I don’t know. I’m baffled. See, there is no RULE that you must follow if you choose to life learn. My kids take the classes they want to take and don’t take the ones they don’t. They both love their art class and have taken it for years, never wavering in their interest. Maya adores her dance class and her new Spanish class and is happy to do the work assigned to her by the teachers. Why? Because she chose them! Is that so difficult to understand? I would never force my kids to take a class in which they had no interest. I would also not keep them out of a class they really wanted to be in. I am not anti-‘classes’, I am anti-coercion. A point on which I think most unschoo- life learners would agree.
And here’s the other thing. Life learning will be different for every family. There is no one ‘right’ way to do it, agreed upon by experts and required in order to qualify as life learners. If there were, it would be just like compulsory schooling. Life learners are the Unitarians of education. There is no dogma, there is only truth, and truth is not confined to one book or set of beliefs. It can be found in many places. Just as learning is not something confined solely to schools. Learning happens everywhere. (Ever heard the joke, “What do you get when you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah’s Witness? Someone who knocks on your door for no apparent reason.” )
Some families are naturally a bit more structured, based on their personalities or what works for them. Others less so, for the same reason. It’s all good. My life doesn’t look exactly like anyone else’s, so why should my learning?