Labels Me No Likey

Once again (for like the fifth time, at least), I have arrived in virtually the same place I have arrived at each and every time I have delved into the big, wide, not-so-welcoming world of “unschooling”:

I hate labels.

I seriously do. Just a few observations, in bullet-form since they are somewhat topical in nature.

  • I am almost an Unschooler because I don’t believe learning needs “school”, and because I love, support, and promote curiosity-driven learning.
  • I am not exactly an Unschooler because I am not an unparent. I believe in guidelines and rules for children, just as we adults have guidelines and rules in our daily lives. To ignore the responsibility of guiding our children is to do them a terrible disservice and set them up for a lifetime of pain and hardship.
  • I am *almost* everything an AP (Attachment Parent) espouses–except that I believe in punitive discipline because I believe (and do my best to follow) Scripture.
  • I don’t exactly fit the description of most of the Unschoolers I’ve encountered because I am a believer in Christ, not a follower of Eastern religions.
  • I don’t get an AP badge because I spanked (but never “hit”) my children when they were young (from toddlerhood, not babies). I don’t care what anybody says, I’ve encountered both spanking and hitting as a child myself, and I can assert first-hand that there is a monumental difference. The funny thing is, only our first child (headstrong typical firstborn) got more than a few spankings in his childhood. The others were pretty well behaved save for the occasional departure (or dain bramage, as Bill Cosby put it).
  • When it comes to parenting, I am Old school in some ways but don’t believe in the “children are to be seen and not heard” philosophy.
  • In parenting, as in every other area of life, my philosophy is that it’s all about relationship. My children are among my very best friends. Even cooler is that I am among theirs.

So. I am not exactly AP, not exactly an Unschooler, not exactly Old School. I’m just a woman who loves her family with all her heart; does her best to be a devoted wife to her husband; mothers her children with firmness, tons of love, and a lot of laughter; and endeavors to enjoy learning along with them all every minute of every day.

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Observations of Success and Failure

A friend of mine posted a comment on my Facebook about how she has seen both success and failure in all the different educational methods. She made some really good points. I will say that I have seen much more success than the failure many might expect from home-schoolers and unschoolers. In the past 20+ years I have met maybe 3 families out of the probably thousands total who were raising their kids to be (at least in the minds of some) scared of their shadow, or at the very least ill-prepared for life in “the real world”.

In contrast, I would have to say that in my experience the majority of kids I’ve known who were in government schools were dull, lifeless, bored, unfulfilled, even destructive, or were at best unenthusiastic about the whole concept of “learning”. Then again, in my recent experience with private school, I have found an overwhelming majority of the students there who would fit that same description, and it broke my heart. My involvement there reinforced that for US, home is the best possible base for living and learning.

I try really hard to keep things focused on what we believe is best for us as a family and not paint with a broad brush, but it has been my personal experience that I just haven’t met too many families in government schools who were delighted with their experience. I’m always glad to hear from people who are having a good educational experience, whatever their chosen method.

Brave Forays Into the World of Unschooling

I’ve been reading a lot about unschooling lately. I’ve read about it many times over the past 20 years of home-schooling, but I’ve never been able to quite get my bearings and envision it being a good fit for our family. I think I figured out one big reason why yesterday.

I joined a large unschooling e-group and did what I normally do in any new e-group: send a chatty hello email telling a bit about me, sprinkling humor here and there, and just generally being friendly. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do. I was definitely not prepared for the lesson I received in proper unschooling e-group etiquette in no uncertain terms. I was not supposed to introduce myself at all, but wait back and read emails for a few weeks until I properly understood the ropes and knew HOW to talk in the group. Wow. For a group so focused on a learning lifestyle based on kindness and compassion toward “learners”, I certainly wasn’t feeling the love.

And then it hit me. This has happened before. I’ve tried learning about the unschooling realm a few times in the past, and each time I’ve tried, I’ve been cut off at the knees by veteran unschoolers who don’t have the time or patience to deal with someone new to the idea. It makes me wonder how anyone is ever supposed to truly learn anything about this philosophy. And the thing is, I really LIKE the general principles behind it–but I’ve never pushed farther into it, and now I know why. I don’t want to “grow up” to be like that!

Last night, on a vague memory, I went back to my Yahoogroups that I have created and found a group I started (probably the last time I was bullied by a well-meaning but overly aggressive unschooling group) called Life Is Learning. I must have gotten really discouraged, because I did nothing with it after its creation and it has just sat there–for five years! Anyway, I got to thinking that maybe I could re-energize it and make it a place that would be welcoming to others (like me) who are just starting to peek into the world of un-schooling, de-schooling, lifestyle-of-learning, etc. and offer them a friendly and welcoming place.

One thing I’ve noticed about the unschooling groups I’ve encountered is that I haven’t seen many (any?) that are overtly welcoming to Christians–or at least to the expression of their faith. Most have been very clear about not having any room for religious discussion or having it play a role in group conversation. Well, I am a follower of Christ, and I don’t check that at the door for anyone or anything. So Life Is Learning will be a loving and welcoming place where non-Christians are welcome, but CHRIST will be the guiding foundation of the group, like He is the guide for my life.

I’m having a really hard time finding a way to vent the feelings of discouragement over the cold shoulder I’ve been given by so many unschoolers over the years, without being mean to anyone or casting a negative pall over unschooling as a philosophy or lifestyle. As I said, I love the basic principles, and can already see them working in our family after only a week.

I will say that one shining light has emerged since last night when I sat here at my computer ready to cry or scream or give up on unschooling altogether. Dayna Martin. I watched some of her YouTube videos yesterday and I have to say that is what kept me hanging in there. I friended her on Facebook and messaged her as soon as she accepted. She didn’t even get upset at the opener of my message “Are all unschoolers so unwelcoming?” but instead told me I am not alone in feeling brushed off by many unschooling veterans. I have to say that was quite a relief to hear. I had begun to feel like I’d stepped onto an unfriendly planet where the inhabitants wanted me OFF without delay.

So thank you, Dayna Martin, for your gentleness that kept me reading and researching and listening. I am hopeful again, and I’m looking forward to the joys this will mean for our family as we move forward learning together as a lifestyle rather than having education separated and compartmentalized from real life.

I’m feeling much better today.

Processing

I’ve been dealing with/processing/grappling with some anger lately. The odd thing is that it’s coming from different angles. Different topics. I’m praying through it, but at times it’s really hard. What’s really challenging is being angry at people you can’t tell how angry you are–or even that you are angry at all. That’s when it’s really tough…when you just have to keep it all inside and smile on the outside like nothing is bothering you.

Being on the edge of perimenopause isn’t helping, either. I’m grateful that I don’t have the heavier symptoms of menopause yet; this anger/emotional upheaval thing is hard enough.

I just remembered I have an article due in a few days. Need to get busy on it so I’m not late. My editor is an angel and never complains, which makes me want all the more to be on time.

I know I have a blog already set up somewhere just for wording our family learning adventures, but for the life of me I can’t find it. As soon as I post this, I plan to write down all the login information and send it to my personal Yahoogroup so I won’t lose it. Hopefully that will actually happen. I’ve never considered myself ADD, but there are moments when I wonder at the way I flit from one thing to another like a drunken butterfly. So off I go, right now, to post and then…what was I going to do again?