Anna Brown joins me this week for a conversation with a twist: we’re not talking about the ins and outs of unschooling itself but about how it fits in the bigger picture. Hence the title of the episode, Unschooling in Context.
It’s a topic I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but I really needed to let a bunch of things percolate, like: the kinds of questions I get from people, how they relate to each other, the missing bits of information or connections behind the questions, the conversations I come across online about what unschooling is and how it fits in with other alternative education options etc. I needed time to for all that to bounce around in the back of my mind, making interesting connections, and eventually starting to come together into my version of the puzzle of defining unschooling.
Granted, after percolating for a few months, I needed to remind myself not to wait for “perfect!” My puzzle isn’t done. In fact, I’m sure I will continue to add to it for many years, as my understanding continues to grow. But, I think I got far enough along to participate in the conversation.
1. One of the most fundamental and helpful shift for all parents to make is the realization that our children’s education is our CHOICE. Whether we make that paradigm shift before we have our own children or after they’ve started public school, when we understand that it’s our choice, our whole outlook changes, doesn’t it?
2. Let’s dive into some terminology, because often it’s helpful to choose different words to describe what we do depending on whether we’re inside or outside alternative education circles. For example, in social conversations with say, a neighbour or at the grocery store, when the school question came up, I very rarely used the word, “unschooling.” Did you?
3. Lately, the term “self-directed education” has been growing in use, as part of The Alliance for Self-Directed Education’s work. I’ve had some questions around this recently, and I put together a little Venn diagram visual, which I used on the episode image. One circle represents homeschooling and the other circle represents self-directed education. Where they overlap is unschooling. Unschooling is a style of homeschooling, in that it is home or family-based, rather than school-based. And it’s also a style of self-directed education, in that the child is free to choose what they want to do and learn, rather than having to follow a curriculum. Does that make sense?
4. In the last few years, the term “radical unschooling” has become more prevalent in conversations. What’s the difference between unschooling and radical unschooling?
5. “Child-led learning” is another term that sometimes gets used interchangeably with unschooling, but that can also lead to misunderstandings about how unschooling works, can’t it?
6. Over the years, I’ve often heard democratic schools, like those based on the Sudbury model, referred to as “unschooling schools.” There is commonality in that they both fit in the self-directed education circle, but they aren’t synonymous. They are two distinct learning environments and I think it’s helpful to understand the differences. What differences do you see?
Links to things mentioned in the show:
You can find The Alliance for Self-Directed Education here