Unschooling as a life philosophy
Could you give an example of these depths [of understanding unschooling]?
(I am perhaps wrongly working under the assumption that you have something concrete to which you're referring when you say "depths" and that you're not talking about some mystical experience; my apologies if I'm operating from a wrong premise).
No, sorry, no examples. There aren't any shortcuts!
The difference between being knowing something and deeply understanding is the difference between memorizing 7+8=15 and developing a relationship with numbers by using them for real purposes so you can see how they can be manipulated and transform.
It's the difference between knowing you need to keep the pedals moving on a bike and your body automatically doing it because it feels right.
It's like the Buddhist concept of Enlightenment. Reading books won't get you there. You need to just work toward it until you get it. There isn't a short cut to the sound of one hand clapping.
It's the difference between a new married couple and an old married couple with a great marriage. There are just depths to a relationship you get by living and growing and understanding that can't come from being told.
No one can see the concept you're building of the relationship between your children and the world and how that gets inside of them. We can only guess at it from the questions you ask, the way you put what you believe into words. From that people can give you feedback on parts that fit or don't fit their own understanding. You'll hold that feedback up against your current understanding and your understanding will change: strengthen or shift. But there isn't a short cut to that.
Maybe your concept of teaching doesn't include the idea of an active teacher and a passive "teachee". But if you read for the purpose of trying to understand why others do have that concept and why making that shift from teaching to learning then your understanding will change.
I, and some others on this group, have chosen to utilize our power of choice and help our children learn about choices our way [by limiting access to what we feel is harmful]. Good for us! I hope it works out for us and the children.
I think most people divide up the choices they have in life between good and bad, works and doesn't work. They don't give much thought to defining a personal philosophy. It's mostly gut instinct. They navigate by what makes sense, what works and what feels right.
But philosophy is the yardstick we use to judge what is good and what is bad. It's what we use to limit our choices. Limiting sounds like a bad word especially among unschoolers but it can be a good thing if it helps us get somewhere better.
If my philosophy is that killing people is bad, then, if my neighbor repeatedly wakes me up at 5AM because he won't get his muffler fixed, then I will limit my choice of solutions to those that don't involve killing him.
That seems dumb because killing is "obviously" wrong so murder seems like it isn't ever a viable option. But it only seems dumb because it's a philosophy that's common to nearly everyone in our society. Limiting our options to just the set of options that doesn't include killing seems like a given. And yet it is a philosophy.
If my philosophy is that all foods are healthy in moderation, then I'll choose moderately from all the foods available to me.
If my philosophy is that eating meat is bad for bodies or the environment, then I will limit my choices to foods that are not meat.
If my philosophy is that eating beef is sacrilegious, then I will limit my choices to foods that are not beef.
There are upsides of one philosophy over another. There are downsides of one philosophy over another. Whichever philosophy someone chooses to adopt, they'll be willing to put up with the downsides in order to gain the upsides.
We can have philosophies about school, how we treat each other, how children learn, recycling, consumerism and on and on and on.
Some people may have an eclectic gathering of philosophies so they have no problem driving their gas guzzling Humvee to the recycling center ;-) Some people have more unified philosophies so they will apply "Do no harm," to not killing people and not killing animals and consuming only what they need and trying always to be gentle in their dealings with others.
The more focused someone's philosophy, then the more a person deliberately chooses to make life more difficult for themselves in order to gain something even greater.
And that is true of the unschooling philosophy, too. Adopting the unschooling philosophy does limit our choices and does often eliminate (seemingly) easy solutions. For instance, if we have fears about math, we won't allow ourselves the comforting and easy (though maybe not easy to apply!) choice of buying a math curriculum. For someone who doesn't embrace the philosophy of unschooling, it seems like we're ridiculously making life more difficult for ourselves by limiting our choices to "anything other than curriculum". It would seem supremely ridiculous to see all the worry and words and reading and research that may go into avoiding a math curriculum. ("Just buy the damn curriculum and eliminate all the problems for goodness sake!")
To those who embrace unschooling, the problems and limitations of letting our kids learn from living life are well worth putting up with in order to get something greater.
To those who embrace schooling, that, too generates problems, but to schooling parents the problems are also well worth putting up with to get something greater. (Or at least so they believe is greater! ;-)
To those who don't want to extend the unschooling philosophy into parenting, it seems ridiculous and perhaps dangerous to deliberately avoid the easier solutions offered by conventional parenting. It seem ridiculous and dangerous to examine our own fears when it's much easier and safer and comforting to choose the "safe rather than sorry" path.
But part of the package of adopting a philosophy is deliberately limiting yourself in order to get something better. Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, vegetarians, homeschoolers and so on will all deny themselves certain choices in order to get something better.
What's interesting is that often the choices they're giving up are the easy ones: killing someone, sending kids to school, obedience. But by shutting off the easy choices in actuality a whole world of choices opens up that are even better to the philosophy holder.
Limiting TV or setting bedtimes or using math curriculums are all things that people who call themselves unschoolers might choose to do. But none of those fall under the philosophy of unschooling. Discussing how to limit our children's lives doesn't help anyone understand unschooling or get to unschooling. It hinders it. But it's absolutely well worth discussing how we can help our children be safe and healthy and happy in an unlimited world.
Last updated: April 2009