The prefix “un” means: “not, contrary to, the opposite of” according to Dictionary.com.
The word “school”, from the freedictionary.com means: “An institution for the instruction of children or people under college age.” (Children OR people?) The word “schooling”, also from the freedictionary.com, means: “to educate in or as if in a school.”
Notice that nowhere in the definition of school or schooling is the word “parent” mentioned.
It stands to reason then, deducing from the definitions given above, that “unschooling” would mean “the opposite of educating in or as if in a school”.
If this is the case, why do so many people think that “unschooling” denotes some sort of parental abdication? Just today I had someone say to me (and they meant to be supportive) “I’ve been telling everyone about the non-parenting thing you do!”
Well, they got half of it right. “Un” and “Non” are synonyms that both mean “not”.
But why the jump from “schooling” to “parenting”?
Maybe it is because when people think of homeschooling families they see the parent in the role of teacher – but even so, why would not acting as a teacher mean not acting as a parent?
In my opinion this person unwittingly revealed what a lot of people believe, whether consciously or not. Schooling has come to be synonymous with parenting; “school” with “parent”. After all, in most families it is the school as parent and not the actual parent who holds ultimate authority. The school dictates when the child gets up, when he eats and goes to the bathroom and what he does with his free time. All family activities – such as travel – revolve around a schedule set by the school.
To many people, then, a lack of sitting in a school or at a table to learn lessons dictated by another on a set timetable MUST mean a lack of parenting. “Non-parenting”. Even when the thought is unconscious.
Here’s the real deal. No parents are more aware of and involved with their kids than unschooling parents. Not in a creepy helicopter parent, controlling kind of way, but in a partnership of love and trust. No school, however structured or unstructured it might be, is more attuned to the learning styles and aspirations of any kid than is the parent of an unschooler.
Unschooling is simply learning without school and in the course of daily life. Parents encourage, help (when asked), lead, support and suggest on an ongoing basis. They do not abdicate their role as parent by not schooling their child.
Quite the opposite, in fact.