Unparenting and Unschooling
by Beverley Paine, Sep 2019
I've actually said it myself, that unschooling isn't unparenting, and it has bothered me every time I have said it because it's usually in defence of unschooling, reacting to a comment made by someone that hasn't taken that leap of faith to let go of fear and insecurities and really truly trust that their child are natural learners, can and will learn what they need to learn, and not to judge the value of how that happens.
When I am in that defensive mode it is because I am not confident to set forth explanations that will be heard and understand - I am instead in a placating mode.
I feel unhappy that I've confirmed in the person's mind that some families 'unparent'. And that sits uncomfortably with me. Who am I to say or suggest that - and why would I want to? I want to support parents, and that means supporting parents that are struggling, or parents that are operating outside of my comfort zone. Where do I draw the line? Safety: safety of the children. If I am unable to help directly, I try to help indirectly.
We all make mistakes as parents, we all do things we later regret. We all wish we'd done more, done things differently, took those missed opportunities and avoided other stuff.
What looks like unparenting in an unschooling scenario to me might actually be working for that family. Children are amazingly resilient: if love and nurturing are present then growth and learning will follow.
As a somewhat helicopter parent (and now there is lawnmover parenting too - I'll put my hand up for that) I took my toddler to a doctor, in despair because she was a very fussy eater. He checked her over and then asked, "Does she smile and laugh lots?" I nodded. He said I had nothing to worry about. That made sense to me.
So when I meet families that are so outside my sense of normal that my inner critic reaches for those unparenting descriptors, I observe the children: are they smiling, happy, laughing, at ease, confident? If they aren't then I know the family needs help, not criticism.
Freya Dawson, author of Joyful Parenting wrote:
"The reality is that many folks who are unschooling their children also want to free themselves from the traditiona l role of a parent-authority-figure and adopt a more co-operative, peaceful and respectful approach. In my experience this complements a child-led and respectful approach to learning.
Finding an approach to parenting that suits your family isn't about just getting rid of the old-fashioned ways of doing things. Its about putting something else in place that is going to support new ways of communicating, solving problems and living together harmoniously."
Freya operates a Facebook group for parents exploring a connected, respected and trusting parenting approach:
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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