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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

I'm NOT an Unschooler...and here's why

I'm NOT an Unschooler...and here's why- My top reasons why I intentionally do not unschool


I was browsing Pinterest the other day and somehow stumbled upon a pin from my own blog. I chuckled to see that it had been pinned to a board entitled "unschooling." Someone had been curating ideas for unschooling and had included one of my posts in the bunch.

So, I giggled just a wee bit.

Not because unschooling is funny.
Or that the idea of an unschooler using one of my posts is somehow funny.


(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Neither one is humorous in the slightest.
What is funny to me, however, are all the homeschooling labels I've been branded with since starting this online neighborhood.

I've been called a school-at-homer, an unschooler, and everything in between.
The truth is, I'm not any of those. I'm eclectic. I don't prescribe to any one particular homeschooling mantra because I don't think any ONE way of homeschooling works for every child for every subject all of the time.

Period.

One look at my Instagram feed might give you the impression that I lean more heavily towards unschooling. But, that's only because a picture of a whittling project is so much more interesting than a picture of a page of math facts.

While I certainly wholeheartedly embrace delight-directed or passion-directed learning and while I've read through the "gospel" of unschooling, I'm NOT an unschooler and here's why...

I don't parent that way, so why would I school that way?

Our home is not a child-centered home. It is a God-centered one. While I certainly value and listen to my children's input on certain issues, I don't let their voices be the final vote. Ever. God's Word and His leading in our hearts is always the "buck" that stops here. A child-centered home, and more specifically, a child-centered education breeds entitlement and a self-centered child. I'd much rather grow missional-minded kids. Kids who think of others ahead of themselves as Philippians 2:4 says. So, no. My home and my homeschool is not child-centered. God steers our home, not my children.

I'm NOT and Unschooler...and here's why
Adding the background for a stop-motion WWII movie


I have a broad perspective of life. My kids don't.

At six, I used to mumble under my breath, "Why do I have to know these stupid addition facts anyway? I'll never use them!" 'Cuz I was six. That's what six-year-olds say. Now as a thirty-six-year old adult, I can appreciate all of that "stupid stuff" that I was exposed to way-back-when. 

I have lived longer and have experienced more than my children. I have the benefit of a broader perspective. I can see that although my kids might not be all that jazzed about memorizing math facts right now, the information will benefit them greatly later in life.

In the same way that I serve them asparagus at dinner even though none of them really like it, I serve them math facts and spelling words during school time. If I left all the choices up to them, they would most likely opt for McDonalds for every meal and video games for their education. Because they're kids! They don't always see the harm or the good of the long term. 

I'm NOT and Unschooler...and here's why
Six-year-old's daily bird drawing

I just don't think a child-centered education is Scriptural.

Scripture makes it very clear that "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." Kids in their immaturity and overall life-ignorance are foolish. Discernment and wisdom usually come with age and experience. That is why, by God-given delegation, parents are the trainers and the teachers. It is a great privilege, but it comes with great responsibility. Unschooling puts the child in the teacher seat and usurps the God-given order of the training model.

Learning landmarks with a geography Memory-Match game


I think unschooling is not a true reflection of the real world.

As a new mother, I was never really all that excited about changing poopy diapers. But ya' know what? I did it. All the time. Because, as a general rule, society frowns on the acrid smells that messy diapers leave behind. And clothes shopping? Hate it. With every fiber of my being. But I do it. Because public nudity is also a no-no. In the adult world, we have to do not-so-fun things all the time, because that's life.

Since my end goal of parenting is not to raise children to be children, but to be adults, I have to prepare my kids to accept HAVE TOs with grace. Unschooling, to me, seems unloving. In creating a world where my children are only encouraged to do the tasks they most want to do and to learn the things they most want to learn, I am crippling them. I am not preparing them for the harsh realities of reality. I am not introducing them to hard, un-fun stuff and helping them to navigate through it all. In the same way that I am not an "I just want my child to be happy" parent, I'm not an unschooling one. 


I'm NOT an Unschooler...and here's why
Making a viking Runestone 


I know the simple truths of brain development.

I'm not a doctor and I don't have a bunch of fancy letters behind my name proclaiming some sort of brilliance, but this I know for sure...my 36-year-old mind is not what it used to be. I'm forgetful. This old dog doesn't learn new tricks well. But my seven-year-old, on the other hand? He has a mind like a sponge and can memorize large quantities of information very quickly. Because that's just the simple truth of brain development. Young kids have the capacity to memorize all the live long day. Old people do not. The end.

The unofficial unschooling mantra is "a child will learn it when he needs it." But that way of thinking goes directly against the basic laws of biology. Let me explain. Years ago as a tween, I memorized a whole lot of Scripture. I didn't choose to. It was just something my Sunday School teachers wanted me to do. So I did it...because I was young and compliant. To be honest, I didn't think I needed to know any of those verses, but I memorized them easily because I had a young brain. Now as an adult, I can quickly recall verse upon verse when I need them most because those Words are cemented in my long term memory. But, ask me to memorize a new verse NOW with my old brain, and you might as well ask me to cure cancer. I just don't have it in me.

My kids might not WANT to memorize verses. But, by memorizing them NOW while their brains are ABLE to memorize information so easily, they are saving themselves a whole lot of brain fatigue later when the TRUTH might feel a little more relevant and meaningful but a whole lot more difficult to remember. 

I'm NOT an Unschooler...and here's why
Learning strategy while playing Survive

A final word

It is not my desire to be divisive or to marginalize anyone who chooses to unschool. I simply want to set the record straight of why I don't unschool.

You might say I'm a Charlotte Mason-Thomas Jerfferson-delight directed-unit study-project based learning-Montessori-strewing-classical-sneaky schooler. But, then again, that doesn't look too pretty on a label. So, maybe just skip the label altogether. 

I'm not a school-at-homer and I'm not an unschooler. But, I'm pretty comfortable landing somewhere in the middle. I take the best and leave the rest of these and other methods to put together a tailor-made education for each of my children.

I play to their passions with purpose.



For more ideas on homeschool choices, be sure to visit iHomeschool Network.

26 comments:

  1. Thank-you for this post! I'm just beginning to home school my little one. Un-schooling is a very intriguing idea that I've been pondering but THIS is a wonderfully thought through post that I agree whole heartily with. This post comes at such perfect timing for me right now. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. It sounds like delight-directed learning would be great for you. It takes all the enchantment of unschooling and gives it a little more direction.

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  2. This is a fabulous post that speaks my mind for me. :) Well said!!!!!

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  3. While I generally agree with your arguments (in the "list of reasons I believe this" way), I do think you underestimate the full scope of unschooling. It isn't too let kids have the final say in any decision beyond their scope, but to include them in the decision-making process. It's about leading them toward the natural joy of learning in every aspect of life, showing them that there can even be joy in doing those "have to's" by approaching from a why-this-will-benefit-me point of view.
    I'm not an unschooler, bc, like you, I don't think there is just one answer. But I do see the value of instilling a life long quest for meaning in what we do, instead of blindly following whomever is in front of us. Including children in the decision making process gives them the tools to live purposefully.

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    1. Christina, thanks for weighing in. I actually completely agree with you. But, I think your definition of unschooling is my definition of delight-directed learning. I think kids should definitely have an input into their education...it is, after all, their education. I speak to that more in greater lengths in this post...
      http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2014/03/delight-directed-curriculum-planning.html

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  4. Great topic to tackle! I love how you balance both sides of the argument, and I especially appreciate your comment on not raising kids to be kids, but to be adults, and to accept the have-tos with grace.

    Have you written a previous article on "accepting the have-tos with grace?" I am very interested in this topic as I am currently homeschooling a Kindergartener with another one coming up in a few years. My son is extremely excited about what we do in school and is exceeding my expectations (and is definitely exceeding public school standards). I just want to make sure I have a plan/ideas (specific steps or actions to take) for helping him to accept the have-tos with grace in the future should "school time" become something he bucks at.

    Thanks again for a great article!

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    1. I have not tackled that idea in a post yet, Desiree...perhaps because the verdict is still out on my parenting. So far, my ideas of parenting are really only theories that I'm testing out daily.

      But, maybe someday...

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  5. Jamie, you have a way with words and pulling together all the thoughts into one big idea that makes sense! We are not unschoolers by any means, not even delight-directed though I would like to implement one day a week where we focus some of our study on something we're really interested in. Even so, I had always considered unschooling to be something I "should" be working towards. Until now.

    I had never looked at unschooling from your perspective. While reading your post, my first thoughts were, what about making learning authentic? What about creating an environment where the child is motivated to learn because they want to? What about children taking part in choosing what they learn? I had many of the same thoughts as Christina F.

    But I kept coming back to your point about a God-centered household and education, rather than child-centered, and if that is the guiding principle, it cancels-out, if you will, the rest of the reasons for unschooling (or whatever approach you take). That's what hit me the most. And certainly the benefits of unschooling can be accomplished through other means/approaches while still adhering to the guiding principal of a God-centered household and education. (Obviously -- it works for you!)

    So thank you for another thoughtful perspective that really pushed my thinking!

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    1. I think your CAN have the cake and eat it too. Your homeschool can be God-centered and enchanting at the same time. It doesn't have to be either or. But, I think it doesn't necessarily come through unschooling.

      Thank you so much and for your encouraging words.

      Authentic learning! Definitely!

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  6. Thanks for putting into words exactly what we do, and why. :)

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  7. Though I'm not a fan of labels either, I'm probably what could be called eclectic and rather delight-directed, and I do see the validity of many of your points (chief among them that our homes are under God's authority, not our children's). However, we actually can (and should) give our children choice within boundaries (i.e., with an adolescent, one can show the child a handful of good options for American history and let him choose which one to use). And on your idea that we need to teach our kids to deal with "reality," I feel strongly that we should be careful about accepting that notion. The institutional schools have sought (by design, for 100+ years) to train people into conformity - just do what the boss says and shut up - and that has become our culture's (tragic) current reality. But that mentality is destroying our nation, so how about encouraging homeschooled kids to think outside - and, yes, to push against - the pathetic conformist culture rather than training them how to "suck it up" like everyone else? After all, Jesus Himself was fond of throwing tables around to upset the (wrong, sick) established order of things.

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    1. I agree, Tina. I am not in any way encouraging conformity. I am simply saying that I am 100% sure my kids will encounter a HAVE TO situation in adult life. Not every situation will be that way, but I can guarantee that some of them will be. I think it's my job as a parent to help them learn to do that with grace. ("Render Unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." Comes to mind. Jesus did not buck everything. He recognized earthly authority.)

      As I mentioned above in a previous comment, I encourage and value my children's input into their education. In fact, that's almost always my starting point. I just can't let it always be the ending point.

      Here's more on how I do that...
      http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2014/03/delight-directed-curriculum-planning.html

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  8. Perfectly said. I was intrigued by unschooling and ended up trying it for quite some time. While there were many benefits, the lack of order and structure were having an adverse effect on family relationships and other things we once took for granted. Our kids who once sat very well in church became wiggle worms and often protested going to Sunday school. So...we've turned back to eclectic homeschooling and things are much better, although nine months later, we are still dealing with some behavioral issues that arose because of our stint with unschooling.

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    1. Hmmm...very interesting. That's actually not an avenue that had crossed my mind, but I can TOTALLY see how that would be a natural outcome of an unschooling approach. Thanks for the insight!

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  9. Jamie, bravo, bravo for sharing this post! We also are an eclectic homeschooling family. What works for my oldest doesn't always work for my youngest!
    Keeping God the center of our homeschool is very important to me. Teaching my children about God, his word & preparing them for their adulthood years is what being a parent is all about.
    Keep on blogging, I love reading about your family & your homeschool adventures!

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    1. Thanks, Jenny. God-centered is the key to any approach. Glad you're here.

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  10. I couldn't have said it any better, Jamie. Thank you for being brave enough to share what so many of us are thinking and doing in our homes.

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  11. I am not an unschooler either, but I did really enjoy reading these two books on unschooling, Christian Unschooling by Teri J. Brown and Finding Joy: A Christian's Journey to an Unschooled Life by Julie Polanco. I enjoyed them so much I keep them on my shelf and have read them more than once.

    While I find unschooling very intriguing I think our family is more of "relaxed schoolers". We have a plan, we have curriculum, but we don't plow through. We take our time and savor our learning.

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  12. AWESOME post!!!!!
    I tried some un-schooling this year. It just isn't for me. Like you, I would say I am a little bit of everything, rolled into one.

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  13. I like that you framed this in why you're not an unschooling parent and not an attack on unschooling in general. This approach allows for open dialog and informed decisions.

    I'm just a home schooling parent, regardless of style or label. We have a directed approach for the core and if the kiddos finish early in the day, they have nearly free range to explore their interests: art, astronomy, video making, costume creation, Lego building, family history, etc. That's our balance for child interest and having them learn what they don't have the vision to know for later in life.

    Kudos for being brave enough to explain your philosophy but leaving room for others to make their own decision.

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  14. We definitely have unschooling days, but we (I) need more structure and guidance. My boys learn a lot on their own but even more when we have more structured learning. Unschooling intrigues me though. We have a lot of delight-directed "extras", or we'll rabbit trail if we are enjoying something.

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    1. It sounds like you have a lovely mix of "take the best and leave the rest!"

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  15. No worries. I removed the links to your blog that I had pinned to my unschool account.

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