Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Responding to why you keep your kids out of school.

"But why?" They ask you. "Why do you homeschool?" You haven't dared to tell them that, "actually, we unschool." It's difficult enough as it is to explain why one would keep a child out of school in a culture where 'everybody goes to school.'
Your family doesn't approve. You friends don't get it; "She's crazy." "she's brave! I couldn't do it."

I hear from newbies who are trying to figure out ways to respond to questions about 'home based education' that are often asked with suspicion and dubiousness at best. At worst, they get the very rude person who ends up winding them up and feeling defensive and incompetent.

But the fact is, we can't and shouldn't try to convince others about our choice. It is unrealistic to think this way; to believe that everybody must be on board so that you can unschool without criticism is an unattainable goal. It's beside the point. If you are waiting for that moment, you can expect a great deal of disappointment.

A simple, "It works for us," does the trick. You could also choose not to respond at all. No one says you have to answer a question just because its asked!
If a grand mother or aunt wants to really understand what you are doing, you can offer them books to read and links to follow.

As parents, we must be advocates for our children's learning and this means being strong within one's own self. If you feel insecure, better not be looking to convince others! Rather,it makes sense to work on unschooling yourself.


Chris said...

I couldn't agree more with this post.

I see many unschoolers become confrontational and very defensive trying to explain their lifestyle choice.

If someone truly wants to know about why you "homeschool", they'll find out the same way you did. They'll look it up, they'll research it, they'll answer their own questions. They'll come to it that way.

We are unschoolers in our house, but relatives and loved ones understand us as "homeschoolers". If we tried to explain unschooling to them, there'd be serious misinterpretations and confusion. Instead of bold-face lies, we choose not to talk about what we do with and have even had to send letters explaining that our children's education (their welfare as seen by others) is totally off limits as a topic.

Charli Armstrong said...

I agree...

But you know what burns the most: if ANY unschooler or homeschooler dare to ask a Public/Private/Parochial Schooler why they keep their children in school--even when their child shows signs of unhappiness--that home/unschooler would get such a verbal punishing and would be told to mind their own business and "You don't know what it best for my child." and "You shouldn't be so judgemental." and "MY child is going to be successful while YOUR child is going to end up pumping gas or flipping burgers (as if those are bad things) and whatever other statement might hurt the most.

Live and let live people. Live and let live.

Cheryl said...

I've recently realized the irony: Here I am trying to teach my kids that they don't need the approval of "authorities" in order to be able to follow their interests, and yet here I am still seeking approval from others! I'm not answering all questions anymore because it too often leads to debate about the rightness or wrongness of my choices. As Chris pointed out, anyone who is truly interested is free to learn about unschooling through the same avenues that I have.

I've linked to this post on my blog:

rfs said...

@Chris-I've been lucky in that my family and friends quickly left me alone-I follow my passions and interests and unschooling is one of them so they get tired of me talking about it all the!

@Charli-It's sad the division that school against unschool creates-but again it boils down to both parties being insecure about what they are doing.

@Cheryl-Thanks! What a great relief and sense of power you get when you realize that you are not obliged to bare your soul!

Anonymous said...

I get concerned that we unschoolers might appear sneaky if we are not transparent enough. People might get the impression that we are hiding something!

Anonymous said...

@Anon-Not sneaky but simply protecting oneself from hostile people who don't want to understand what an unschooling lifestyle entails.
As some of the commentators said, they can always learn about unschooling the way we've done if they really want more information. ANd it is certainly inappropriate to but kids on the spot about their lifestyle. You wouldn't grab a school kid and start quizzing them. You wouldn't do that to an adult. Unschooled kids need to be respected as well.
I taught my kids to quiz the rude person back-even if that person is an adult.

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