Ren Allen

The trouble at 101, that spawned this list, also spawned some
serious discussion among people not here, about why unschooling
lists seem to get contentious at times. Sandra posted this at
unschoolingdiscussion, and I thought it was SO good and SO relevant
that I brought it here for you all to read. I hope you don't mind.


I'm going to bounce this into another topic area.

Lately there has been discussion about why unschooling lists are
I'm not sure they're more contentious than other lists on earth,
but if they
are, why would that be?

Unschooling isn't just another way to homeschool. And people are
accustomed to going to a book or magazine or website and getting the
simple five or ten facts they wanted, and then going and doing their
project. When to divide bulbs and what fertilizer they need. How
to clean a fireplace or who to call and how often. What to
substitute for buttermilk in a recipe. Where to get
pool chemicals, if you live in the boonies and want to mail order.

So people look into homeschooling and they see that what happens is
a family
buys a curriculum. Oh! Here are some people who don't. Okay,
instead of the

curriculum, what do I use? And hurry, I don't have much time to
read online.
And could you e-mail it to me, because I might not find my way back
to this

I think there are other factors too, more subtle. Language works
with labels. Words are labels. People like to know who they are by
what they're called,
but they claim not to like it. "I don't like to be labelled" is a
form of "I'm an individualistic person too cool to be pegged, and I
like to intimidate
other people to try make them think I can control how they may refer
to me."
That's a lot of labelling right there.

Christians are Christians the moment they're baptised or confirmed
or the moment they're born again. No other approval. "You're in."
Jews are Jewish when they're born to a Jewish mom. They're in.

People who enroll in a school are students there. There are
students, and Waldorf students, and honor students, and pre-med
students (I love that one especially: "I'm pre-med") and law

But with unschooling it doesn't quite work that way.

Unschooling is more like riding a bike.

Owning a bike doesn't make you a bicyclist, nor even a bike rider.
Walking the bike around certainly shows you're not a rider.
Talking about riding it doesn't make you a bike rider.
Signing up for a course in bike riding (is there even such a
thing??) would
not make you a bike rider, nor would a certificate saying you had
completed a
course in bike riding change a damned thing if you couldn't get on
the bike and go.

So with unschooling, you can "not buy the curriculum." You can
not send your kids to school. But when will you be an unschooler?

Is a caterpillar a pre-butterfly?
You have to change inside. Nobody can tell the caterpillar he's
going to be a butterfly. He might easily be bird food, or road kill
from a passing

The way to be an unschooler is to change the way you see and think,
so that you can change the way you act and react..

Nobody can act like a bicyclist (maybe on an off-the-ground bike
with a bluescreen for a movie, but that's not riding a real bike for
real). You either are doing it or you're not.

People can't act like unschoolers and fool unschoolers into thinking
they're really riding it. They have to become unschoolers inside
themselves to the point that they're not always asking "Is this book
okay? Is this idea okay?
Is this game educational in any way, and how?"

It's okay to ask at first, but I think some people think they can
ask for twelve or thirteen years, instead of really becoming
unschoolers at the depth where it is part of their thinking and

And those who thinking asking forever is the same as being get angry
when those same people they were asking for help or approval
say "You're not thinking it yet. You're not keeping your balance
yet. Just go fast enough to feel how you need to balance. Ride it!"

If I asked "Which pedal should I start with?" after two years of
riding a bike, my friends and relatives might think I was really not
too bright at all.

"How far should I lean when I turn?" Exactly far enough. It works
by itself, when you do it. When you become an unschooler, you will
know kids are learning because you see their eyes, you hear their
breathing, you see their posture and you're there with them.

And so some people, when they read things like that, think "AH! So
nobody can tell me if I'm unschooling or not! Whatever I say is
unschooling is, because kids learn all the time."

Yeah. But if the other bicyclists see you back at the starting
point messing awkwardly with your handlebars and not really going
anywhere, what you say you are or can do just won't impress them.

Other people buy their unschooling. We're making our own out of our
lives and families and homes. We transform our lives into
unschooling lives, and it's just not the same as showing your
Calvert receipt and saying "We use Calvert; the box should arrive
next week."