Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Thoughts On The Recent Unschooling Hub Bub

Well, Earthlings, it's been a rather hopping place out there in unschooling blog and social media land these last few weeks, but especially yesterday and today, when Good Morning America ran this alarmist, defensive and hugely biased segment. Anyone who actually unschools knows what it's like to get these sorts of questions, often, and we also know just how difficult it is to articulate and encapsulate one's entire life-way of being-the interdependence-the connection-the wholeness-the empirical-the respect-the value in everything-the constant learning--that is an unschooling family's life. As I watched this piece with my kids, both unschooled since birth, now 13 and nearly 11, we rankled at the sheer disrespect (the adultcentrism, the fear, the condescension!) shown this gracious family, in their own flipping home, no less! We were not the only ones and that is why today, GMA invited the family back for a follow-up.

Big sigh.

As I stated on Facebook, last night,

Look, I get it. I know it's really scary to not only trust yourself but your child too, in this adultcentrist, kyriarchical world we live in, but really, it works. The crap editing aside, the reason the family had such a tough time justifying their life to the world is because their WHOLE life... is about learning. Try it. Explain to yourself in the mirror, how it is you learn something new. Do it well. Pretend I'm ignorant and biased and have immense fear and doubt informing my opinions about your choices.

It seems many folks took issue with the seemingly unparenting aspect of the family interviewed. I think the problem was with the editing, as I said, and not with the family, at all. (I don't know them personally, but my blog-friend Zoa does.) Just looking around at their home and their family gave me clues that this was not a family espousing home learning by way of neglect. Far from it. I do think, however, again, it comes down to just how difficult it is to articulate an entire way of living into a few sentences, especially given a defensive and threatened audience. Remember, if one is coming at this from a point of view informed only by their experiences with school, one isn't likely to readily accept how drastically different things can be, when the world is shaped from a model of freedom, rather than coercion.

Naturally, unschooling blogs and social media has been on fire since, and people are writing excellent things, and more than that, have been for ages, becasue, fyi, GMA, unschooling is not a new movement as erroneously asserted.

Lee Stranahan, currently filming Unschooling: The Movie, gives a personal account of unschooling with his son, here.

My blog-friend and most excellent unschooling mom, Tiffany wrote her response here.

Recently Heather, writer of SwissArmyWife, had two posts in particular that I want to make out with, one on schools and captive thinking and one on trusting your children. Her response to the GMA hub bub is here.

Then there's a new-to-me blog that is a treasure trove of unschooling wisdom, Unschooling Rules, by Clark Aldrich.

And just because I really like this article on teens, I've included it, too.

So, I did it, I represented as an unschooler and I addressed the non-journalism over at GMA. Now I'll return to my life, connect with my children (who are working on writing fiction out in the sunshine on the picnic table, their choice) and I'll make some lunch that we'll sit down to eat together. Perhaps we'll return to our discussion about learning in freedom from last evening. I'll read my children's blogs, too (learning nothing?? HA!)and I'll continue trusting, even when the world doesn't.


  1. thanks for the link up. :-) Nice post!

  2. If only the nay sayers would read some of these links with an open mind. Thanks for sharing... I am loving reading what other unschoolers are saying about all this.

  3. If you teach your kids to love learning, isn't that the best thing a parent can give? Loved your post and respect your choices.

  4. Well written honey, and I wish I was there right now. I have no doubts about our decision to unschool and how well it has worked to support the love of learning that our children show us every day.

  5. I think if you want unschoolers to get the respect they deserve,then you need to begin to be more tolerant, aware, and respectful of the lives lead by many schoolers. All I ever read is disrespectful statements and a lack of tolerance about school. Just my two cents. This isn't Garrett- it's Sarah and I have no idea why it always comes up Garrett.

  6. Another great response to the astoundingly disingenuous "report" on unschooling. And I'm glad you link to other posts which comment on it--it's helpful as I try to gather posts to send to an interested friend.

  7. @Heather, but of course--thanks for writing and reading!

    @HRM-so true. Yes, love reading what other unschoolers have to say, too.

    @Liesha--many thanks for that.

    @Alex--thank you so much for taking this journey with me and for being there for all of us.

    @unschool--many thanks for reading and commenting, glad to have been of help.

  8. I guess our disconnect from the mass media is perfect, as this is the first i have heard of this! We will I am sure hear about it from family, but I wanted to add that people who get their opinions and information from such morning shows are so accustomed to the watered down content that they would not appreciate more depth or breadth on a non-conforming topic.....it is like i must speak another language when i try to explain why we, as a family, do not like testing and grading to parents exploring homeschooling options....had the experience 2 weeks ago....like i was literally speaking a foreign language....thanks for all the links off to read all about it!

  9. THUMBS UP from over here! (How sweet is your husband's comment?! : )

  10. Raises fist-"Power to the unschoolers"! Sometimes I do feel like part of a revolution-for us it's natural, but once the questions start and the stares, I suit up and get ready!

  11. Nicely done, Amy. Incidentally, I used the "Trashing Teens" article in a basic writing course at SMCC. Interestingly enough some of the students were resistant to the idea that they could be trusted to make intelligent decisions about their own lives and that adolescence needn't be a time of complete irresponsibility and artificially extended immaturity. It seemed quite obvious that their institutionalization had taught them learned dependence and willful ignorance - not exactly tenets of our homeschool curriculum.

  12. Oh, that was so well said. I have been meaning to write a blog post about it myself, but my brain is still spinning from the sheer outrageousness and stupidity and sensationalism of the segment. One good thing about it though, is that there has just been an explosion of unschooler responses to it; I've discovered so many new (to me) blogs and great thinkers.



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