Thursday, January 7, 2010

It Isn't Perfect. It's Unschooling.

Over at I'm Unschooled.  Yes, I Can Write, Idzie has started a conversation about the downside of unschooling that deserves continued exploration.

I'm sure a lot of unschoolers wrestle with the drawbacks Idzie describes -- the continual need to explain yourself to those who don't understand, the lack of a local network of support in many communities, the self-doubt that arises from time to time, and the absence of ritual markers of achievement like a graduation ceremony to help unschoolers transition to adulthood.

These are recurring issues for many of us, and acknowledging them doesn't mean we're unhappy with the choice to be unschoolers, any more than seeing weeds in our garden means we're unhappy growing tomatoes.

It just means things aren't perfect

When people first embrace unschooling, they're often looking for assurances that it can "work."  But like any life-process, unschooling unfolds over time, and assurances that help us get past our initial fear of doing something outside of conventional practice don't necessarily serve us a few years down the line, when we're feeling defensive and isolated.

Recognizing that this stuff comes up for a lot of us allows us to see these points of friction as part of the process.  It reminds us (sometimes to our frustration) that, yes, we're different. And, no, that (probably) won't change.

The issues Idzie brings up are largely the consequence of our differentness bumping up against conventional culture.  And, as she rightfully acknowledges, ""Doing ANYTHING that isn't 'normal' or 'expected' often isn't easy."

But we do it, don't we?  We do it anyway.  

There may be supporters of unschooling who worry that a discussion of its drawbacks will leave new or struggling unschoolers disenchanted with the whole endeavor.  But frankly, I'm all about the dis-enchantment, if the enchantment has been the perception that unschooling is all unicorns and fairy dust --a way of life that will bring nothing but joy and delight to everyone who adopts it.

There is ease in unschooling, yes.  There is the ease of coming to know your wacky and wonderful self within an environment of love and support and trust and encouragement. There is ease in living free of the demands of outside institutions.  There is ease in learning what you learn in your own way, in your own time.

But just because there is ease doesn't mean it's easy.  And conversations about difficulties are as necessary as conversations about joys.  My thanks to Idzie for getting this one started.

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Update: dearest commentors, please bear with me while I turn on word verification for a few posts.  I have a very tenacious spammer I'm trying to rid myself of.  I dislike dealing with those crooked letters as much as you do, and will make them go away as soon as my spammer does.  Thanks for your understanding. 


  1. Oh, I love how you put that about the enchantment and disenchantment. Perfect.

  2. Thank you for writing such a very *true* post, and I'm so very happy that my post sparked such a great conversation! :-)


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