When it comes to “things you give up for unschooling,” I think near the top of the list you’ll find control. More specifically, controlling others. Many of us grew up being told that, “when you’re an adult you can do things your way, but now you do them mine.” And now that you’re finally the parent, that control can be hard to relinquish! That can certainly be perceived by some as a challenge/cost/con of choosing unschooling.
So much of conventional parenting and schooling is about controlling the actions and behaviour of our children in the name of teaching them the “right” way: the right facts to know; the right way to think; the right way to behave etc. The classic tools of control that are routinely used by parents and teachers include curriculum and grading, rewards and punishment, and judgment and shame.
As we learn more about how unschooling works, it becomes clear that learning blossoms when the child (or person, it’s age-independent) is actively engaged in the activity. And that engagement flows most easily when the child is pursuing something they are genuinely interested in. So for learning through unschooling to blossom, children need to be able to follow their interests and passions. That means that while support is necessary and great, direction/control is likely to get in the way.
So, instead of using control to mold our children’s knowledge, skills, and behaviours to shape them into the model adult we envision, with unschooling, we focus on helping our children develop their awareness, of both themselves and the circumstances of each situation, while they’re exploring things they find interesting in the world. We don’t perpetuate the roles of powerless child and powerful adult: we are all people, albeit with varying levels of life experience. Our children’s needs and wishes are as important as our own.
Now, deciding not to use control as a parenting tool doesn’t mean just drop it and let them do whatever they want. Those are two opposites of a wide spectrum. The journey to unschooling for parents is all about exploring different relationship tools for living and learning together.
The conventional messages that “parents know best” and that control is a successful teaching tool are pervasive. And if you’re not willing to question them, unschooling probably won’t be a good fit.
But if the idea of relaxing the presumption that you know what’s best for another person (child, spouse, friend etc) and releasing the urge to “fix” them, unschooling might be for you and your family!
Want to learn more about parenting tools that support unschooling?
Communication Instead of Discipline — Open, honest, and clear communication better supports our goal of helping our children explore the person they want to be than does control and discipline.
How Do Unschooling Children Learn to Act in Society? — Answering a reader’s question.
The Childhood We Wish We Had — Sometimes there’s a pretty stark difference between the childhood we lived and the childhood we envision for our own children with unschooling.