You know what I find super discouraging? When unschoolers, whether radical or not, find it necessary to put energy into berating each other; into questioning a person’s “status” as an unschooler because of something they do or don’t do with their children. It reminds me a bit too much of certain political parties who are willing to excommunicate a member for deviating even a millimeter from the official party line. Whether a family applies the principles of unschooling to their entire life or simply to the realm of education (and to some degree it is impossible to separate the two), I would hope that – whatever ‘camp’ we happen to be in – we would refrain from bashing each other and would realize that unschooling is an individual, continual journey that will manifest differently for each and every family.
I have unschooling friends who restrict screen time for their kids, and others who put the brakes on sugar and would never dream of letting their kids eat at Mcdonalds. These are not military style parents, but loving, caring adults who have thought carefully about these decisions and who have discussed them with their kids. There is a huge difference between handing down arbitrary rules “because I said so” with no questions allowed, and making a decision based on a parent’s own concerns or experiences, discussing it with the kids so that there is no misunderstanding, and moving forward accordingly with the knowledge that nothing is set in stone.
Other friends of mine regulate nothing because it works for them and for their kids.
Neither way is inherently better. Sometimes a temporary restriction can be a path to even more freedom and understanding.
As a community we should never discourage others from asking questions, or from writing about their own concerns or questioning unschooling and its various incarnations. Nothing is perfect, not even unschooling, and questions are part of the journey. I would be suspicious of anyone who berates another family for questioning or having doubts. We should support those who question, give our own experience and advice if asked, and hope that they find the path that works best for them and their children even if it does not exactly mirror our own. Someday we too might have doubts, (I know I certainly have and sometimes still do) and it would be sad if we couldn’t voice those doubts to members of our own community.
The unschoolers I turn to most through their writing include Sandra Dodd, Wendy Priesnitz, Dayna Martin, Laurie A. Couture, Grace Llewellyn & Pam Sorooshian. Do they all agree on everything? No. Do I always agree with them? Again the answer is no, but I respect their opinions and they always serve to make me reexamine what we are doing so that I can be reassured or make adjustments or simply continue as we are.
That is the beauty of community. Lose the diversity and the ability to disagree and we lose something vital. Unschooling is too important to become just another intolerant group of purists who believe their way is the only way and who refuse to allow healthy debate among the ranks.
I think we’re better than that. I hope moving forward, the entire unschooling community will prove me right.