I see the unschooling community as a sort of loose confederation, wherein each family is its’ own state, operating however suits their own family dynamic best within the realm of unschooling. Or, if you prefer, we are all variations on a theme. There is no one ‘right’ way to be unschoolers, although I would venture to say anything that includes coercive learning or a lack of freedom could safely be called ‘wrong’ when it comes to unschooling/life learning.
I’ve been doing a little research to see who are the people in the unschooling community that are the best known – who are our household names? I called them ‘leaders’ in an email, but that may be the wrong term. When I ask who the leaders of the unschooling community are, it almost sounds like a misnomer. A leader is someone who rallies their group around a single cause or purpose, but along with that often comes a fixed set of beliefs on how to achieve that purpose. I would say most unschoolers’ purpose is to allow their kids to learn in freedom and without coercion, but the paths they take to achieve it are individual to each family. There is no fixed set of beliefs that must be strictly followed in order to earn the title of ‘unschooler’. Such a thing is in fact anathema to unschooling, because once there is standardization (as in a standard set of beliefs), the opportunity for innovation & individuality suffers. If you look at it that way, unschooling should definitely not have a leader.
An advocate is a different matter. When I asked who are the leaders in the unschooling community, what I was really asking was who are the leading advocates? Who are the people that we all immediately think of in connection with presenting unschooling to the world?
Which brings up the next question. Do we want to present unschooling to the world?
Yes, we do. I saw a great quote this evening from Wendy Priesnitz, publisher of Natural Life and Life Learning Magazines. She said,
”Home-based education is not an experiment. It’s how people learned to function in the world for centuries. And there is no reason to think people today can’t do the same thing. School is the experiment, not the lack of it, and the experiment is in trouble.”
Yes, school is the experiment, but most people have forgotten that fact. We can and should remind them. We should go beyond our community and the people who already agree with us and get the word out to people who may not know about unschooling, who have never heard of John Holt or John Gatto and who don’t fit any of the unschooling ‘stereotypes’. Anyone, of any social strata or religion can unschool their children. Working parents, single parents, gay, straight or bi; people with a high school education or those who hold PhD’s. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Undecided; black, white, brown or green. Do you live in a family of some sort? Do you have children and want them to have freedom in their learning? You qualify.
According to Peter Gray, we are evolutionarily incompatible with schooling in its’ current form. Despite over 100 years of attempts to convince us of the contrary, we ARE unschoolers in our very DNA. Resistance, therefore, is futile. Or at least destructive to freedom, creativity and innovation.
I believe unschooling is on the verge of a huge explosion in numbers and influence. Some focused advocacy may be all we need to get it started.