What is a "true" unschooler?

Cyndi bravely asks:
A couple of weeks ago someone asked what unschooling is and unless I missed a post (which is entirely possible), noone admitted to true unschooling. Most said that sort of unschooled. I am just wondering if there is anyone out there who is unschooling?

Here are the responses:
I hesitate to claims of being a "true" unschooler, I like the term "radical" better, it appeals to my "hippie" mind set. *grin*
I began this list over 5 years ago and was not a complete unschooler at that time. I have learned a lot since then and have complete confidence in unschooling now. That is why this list is open to any and all who are interested in unschooling. It can be hard going this road in a Christian environment so I hoped this list would be a good support for us "odd balls" who love Jesus.
love to discuss unschooling and the ideas surrounding it.
Until this year, yes, we were full unschoolers. However, we often used textbooks and lesson plans when that is what the child wanted. I know there are unschoolers who would NEVER do that, but is that unschooling to shun the books and ignore the child's desire?
My teen children have chosen to enter homeschooling high school level classes (the type that meet once or twice a week) and that involves using the textbook, listening to lecture, turning in homework, etc. My suspicion is that they take these classes more for the opportunity to hang with other teens than for any educational benefit, but that's how it goes. That's their choice. One son wanted a math book when he was 11 because all his friends had math books. So we popped out a Saxon 65 and he had no trouble with it (no quizzes, drills or tests, though) and didn't really want a math book after that (until one of those homeschool classes came up a couple years later and he signed up for that). My youngest has always used math workbooks (MCP) because he just gets a total kick out of them. He self works his way through each level.
That's just it.... some don't "unschool" by "some one's standards" of unschooling because they can't do it per legal reasons - being threatened - or both. My kids enjoy a more "schooly" atmosphere though I don't use canned curricula - if I had it my way, some times, I would have to do as much as I do, though I do enjoy it some. My family has been attacked for homeschooling - by officials - by well-meaning (?) neighbors reporting us...or what-have-you. I know what it's like not feeling you're able to live and breathe as you'd like.
Just because I don't/can't or won't "unschool" by some esoteric rules and regulations of some unschooling self-appointed committee, doesn't mean I'm evil, I don't love my children, I don't love God, I'm not listening to His Voice, I'm not educated about children - or I'm clueless. The same goes for those those who are more school-at-home.
I hate it when Christians are attacked on obvious Non-Christian lists for their faith and I hate it when unschoolers become as self-righteous in their beliefs as they've complained school-at-home-ers have been.
Frankly, I'm just sick and tired of the entire unschoolers vs. non-unschoolers....and non-unschoolers vs unschoolers arguments. Why do we feel we must justify our beliefs in God - His call unto our families to live a certain way....and the way we are educating our children???? If we truly believe that we are doing according to the Voice of the Lord - then all others' voices be blocked. It's no one else's grounds for hounding if you KNOW what you're doing - and you have the Lord to back you up.
If God be for you - who can be against you?
I have fought long and hard for my family to be able to homeschool in peace.....with officials, social workers, my family, and myself. I have now come to the place where I shall not justify myself nor what the Lord has called me to do with my children to anyone anymore.
We are who we are. Take us or leave us. Period.
Renee K., NY
You will find varying degrees of unschooling on this list. What you won't find is anyone judging you for how far you want to take unschooling. We are all friends and although consider ourselves unschoolers, we are a diverse lot, each a facet of the diamond here.
This is a "safe" list. Even when a controversial topic arises and we all take different points of view (I'm thinking of our Harry Potter debate, ladies and gentlemen), you'll find respect and acceptance here, and all we ask in return is the same.
John Holt, when he coined the phrase "unschool", simply meant anything that was not school. He would not have stopped a child from using textbooks, workbooks, or even taking classes if that is how the child wished to learn and felt he learned best. I don't think he would have forced the child to do without the books any more than he would have forced the child to use them.
We even have a lady on here whose only child is her unschooled schnauzer! But who knows what the future holds for her. She hopes to someday have a baby to unschool too!
So pull up a chair. Somebody want to get Cyndi a glass of CCU pink stuff?
Oh, I myself don't completely radically unschool but instead follow the Moore Formula for homeschooling, and help my children explore their interests under gentle parental guidance. Right now the kids are learning about the middle ages, and having a blast!
Susan McGlohn
I have to say I cringed when you asked this question, then followed it with the stand up and be counted comment!
I've only come into unschooling because of the grace of the ladies here (Christians) and the grace of some others in New Zealand (where I live) who are Not Christians but have been patient with answering my questions. I started home schooling in England- and we did school at home- although not as rigidly as some.
Now my hubby gets a bit nervous at times because we are unstructured... most of the time.
I've so enjoyed being here and being allowed to gradually slip sideways into more unstructured ways.
I am tired of being thumped for being either a Christian or an "unschooler" (even though I don't seem to qualify as such here) so I am hoping you weren't meaning to tell us that we had to be "totally sold out, preaching the message, burn all curriculum, cruci..oops... beat up the teachers" type unschoolers.
I find I am inspired by John Holt's earlier writings- I can't say I agree with his later ones- I have not had the opportunity to read any of them. I find personally that any time I get too extreme that I am usually stepping outside the Lord's direction for me.
We get excited when we discover something together, here in our house; but sometimes (very occasionally) we sit up at the table and use workbooks- and not because the children want to, but because the adult says so, just like when I say they have to do the dishes, or have a shower- if left to them they would have nothing to eat off, and would have to live outside. I do encourage them when they do well at the "school" work, and have shared with them how at times i have had to learn to do things I don't enjoy, but have valued later on.
Jenny vdM
As with most, here at the Pitroff household, we educate day by day and week by week and year by year depending on what works best for each child - really only one true child left here at age 10 - the others are all so grown up! Only the youngest 3 have been closest to unschooled. The first 5 had public, private Christian, tutor, school at home, homeschool resource center, combinations of these, community college, 4 year colleges, seminary and self-education as they work their way through life.
Benjamin (10) is into lincoln log building this week, Spanish and science classes at resource center, working through a basic math workbook when he is in the mood, finding recipes and shopping for ingredients and cooking, caring for his dog, soccer, experiements, listening to me read Lord of the Rings to him, playing with friends, and other 10 year old stuff.
Jonathan (16 on the 24th) taking classes at the community college - voice, piano, digital music, English, and a math class at the resource center. Lead guitar and singer in his band, Sense of Loss - concerts about every other month - writes his own songs and music. Plays bass in our church worship team, plays guitar for 2 youth groups, Bible quiz team, friends, work - needs those $$ for a new amp!
Nathan (18) taking classes at the community college and is trying to figure out what God wants him to be doing career wise - will attend leadership conference next month specifically for that purpose. Has girlfriend (they just came out of denial and admitted they were more than "just" friends!) Enjoys playing trombone and music in general, reading, movies, coaching Bible quizzing, attends and participates at another church with choir, prayer meetings and young 20's group.
Up until this year I'd say I was a true unschooler. Due to certain circumstances I have put my three oldest in private school (where I work too). This is our first year in school after 8 years of homeschooling - the last three of which were unschooling. It wasn't until about 2 years ago that I discovered unschooling and fell in love with the concept. I realized it was exactly what my family needed - we fought so much doing workbooks, unit studies, computer based curriculums...you name it, we tried it. Finally, when I threw up my hands and told the kids - fine you do what you want! That's when true learning took place. I still firmly believe in the unschooling method and some days I cringe at what I'm putting my kids through by sending them to private school....but then we have an interesting weekend of unschooling that includes earthquakes, flash floods, lightening storms, power and water outages, slumming it at hotels, and sleeping on the floor discussing whether or not angels were in our bedroom when the earthquake hit....all in all life is interesting, and if we diverge for a while and do some "school" that's okay too!
For all of you who are concerned about "unschooling" math and using a curriculum for it.....I have a full confession to make. I totally unschooled math with my boys. About two years ago we ran a little snack shop at the preschool I worked at and my middle son was the full time cashier. He learned all his math skills counting out money and giving out change. Parents were amazed at how quickly he could compute their order in his head and tell them what they owed. He was only 11 at the time. In the meantime, my older son was teaching himself computer programming and web design, and in the process had to teach himself a fair amount of algebra and geometry. Since we had no formal curriculum around, he went online and found himself web tutorials that taught him what he needed to know. This year when I put both boys into private school (11th and 8th grade) they entered never having worked through a math workbook/textbook before. Adam (8th grade) was given Saxon's Algebra 1 - a full two years ahead of where I figured he was at. Kevin (11th) was given Saxons Advanced Mathematics. Both boys struggled the first month "catching up" on concepts but now at the end of the first quarter of school both are getting in the high 80's and 90's for scores. Adam's class has been split into two groups - the "fast" group and the "slow" group. Guess which one Adam is in? The "fast" group! I am so amazed as I really was concerened that he just had too many learning gaps to be able to keep up. However, his teacher says he listens well in class and seems to grasp the concepts quickly(now that he is over his initial shock of the whole school situation. LOL) So.....be encouraged...and don't feel pressured to bring out the curriculum!
Colleen Smith, Guam
I had to laugh when I read this!! I've been on this list for quite a long time, but don't post often. But I can't unsubscribe, either, so I guess I should just accept the fact that I've been assimilated and quit trying to pretend that I haven't ! :-) This list is just TOO good. So accepting and so wise. It gives me a place to see that unschooling is *normal* even though when I mention it in our homeschooling meetings I get looks (christian group), but it is getting better because there are now 3 of us unschoolers in the group. I even gave a short presentation (VERY short) on a day in an unschooling family's life. I was very nervous and don't feel I did it justice, but at least there are people now aware that there is another way besides buying a fully canned curriculum and following it step-by-step, creating a rigid school-at-home approach. Some of them were relieved to hear that I use a curriculum for math (guess it eased their minds that I wasn't totally out of my mind), but that's only because for me, I need the structure of learning math because, well, that's just me. But it's not done exactly how it's intended to be done and some days they may do 20 pages of math and many days none. Well, I've rambled.....guess I should add a short bio for those who haven't met me. Patti, married to dh Jim, for almost 13 years (in December). Mom to 10 yo boy 9 yo girl, 7 yo boy and 3yo boy(my little pushing-the-limits toddler right now!). My kids have never been in school and I am quite happy with that!!
I find that I am turning into a full fledged unschooler. I go through those "doubt" periods where I start handing out math sheets but for the most part I am becoming more relaxed. We have to school 180 days a year so I break it up into 15 days a month year round.....I don't schedule them I just mark them off on the calendar as we do "school" things that add up to a day. We watch a lot of shows on Discovery and such for history and science. I teach a Nature Study class through our 4H class which is a lot of our science as well. I did want to get some language and math in there but its such a struggle we maybe only get to it once a week. My older son, 9yo, just joined the unschooler kids email list and that is great for spelling and such.... I bought the Key To math books and my son really likes them, he just does them when he feels like it. It seems we get enough of each subject just through living life which is how I want it......its me who has to get over the "fear factor".


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