In 2011, someone asked what it might look like if a family's primary goal was not learning itself. Meredith wrote of—
"...parents who idealize "freedom" as the primary goal. A focus on "freedom" can lead parents to neglect to give kids enough information and feedback."
In December, 2011, a mother whose daughter had been court-ordered to go to school created a facebook page called "The death of an unschooler." I went expecting to hear about someone dying, as Hannah Jenner did of leukemia, or as Sam Wilkinson did of falling through ice into a lake.
No. It was the story of a divorce, and of a judge ordering that the child should go to school, because the father wasn't in favor of unschooling. I objected to the name of the page, there, and the mother responded with these statements, and others.
"Unschooling is freedom."The definition of unschooling is not "freedom." No parent has so much power and freedom that she can assure her own child she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to do. No parent has the power to choose to do nothing she doesn't want to do and guarantee her own freedom from incarceration.
"I have always told her she does not have to do anything she does not want to do."
I think good unschooling needs parents who aren't in jail, and children who aren't removed by the government or ordered into school. And while none of those things are guaranteed, there are many easy steps to take to avoid jail and court orders.
So for purposes of this page and radical unschooling as our family lived it, and as I am familiar with it in very many other families, unschooling involves learning and choices, LOTS of choices, but is not absolute freedom.
I think since the beginning of human existence there has never been anyone with total freedom. Living in a group comes with restraints and restrictions. It's just the way it is. Cave men, Bible days, feudal society, pioneers settling the Wild West... all end up answering to other people about what they're doing, how, where and why. And when. "We're trying to sleep; get QUIET!"
While there is a great deal of rhetoric, slogan, poetry and art about freedom, the author of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" owned slaves.
SO. Unschooling. There are many arbitrary rules, expectations, school-related goals and milestones and competitions and rankings that unschoolers can ignore. A family can choose to be free of those.
There are many cultural expectations and traditions—what foods are for breakfast, but never for lunch; what time is too late for a ten year old to be awake; what music is for children and what is for adults—that parents can opt to disregard within their own home and immediate family. They cannot, though, by making those choices, cause anyone OUTside their home to think it's a great idea, nor to impose their new freedoms on friends or more distant relatives. If I let my children stay up late in my home, that doesn't even begin to give them the right to stay up as late as they want in any home on earth.
I think that's where unschoolers get confused. They think they're replacing a set of rules with another set of rules. And partly it might be English. The idea that you can "give someone freedom" can seem whole and absolute to someone else. If my child looks in a happily full fridge and asks "What can I eat?" and I say "You can have anything you want," the context suggests that I mean he can have anything he can find in the house, and perhaps something I could prepare upon request. It doesn't mean I will take him to any restaurant on earth right then and buy him anything. It doesn't mean he can go to the grocery store that's a few hundred yards out the back gate and eat off their shelves.
The foregoing explanation sounds goofy. It seems I'm explaining something that was so absurd that no one could possibly misunderstand it.
Living in the world peacefully and respectfully are good places to begin to focus when new to unschooing. The best advice I was given was to look at my son. Not at ideals. Not at freedom. Not at school or no school. Not at labels. Not at big ideas. Look at my son. Be with him. Get to know him deeply. And, then to read a bit about unschooling. Give something new a try. See how it goes in the context of our real day to day life.
I still do that. I'm still learning.
My kids grew up being able to do a lot more things than other kids they knew because their parents allowed for it to be so. We didn't have to, we chose to do that because we saw the benefit in doing that. If we had decided to change our minds, our kids would have had very little choice in that. If we had decided at any point to put them in school, they wouldn't have had a choice. That's a big responsibility and undertaking, to extend those big choices to our kids. There was a certain amount of freedom in making those choices. It allowed for things to happen that otherwise wouldn't have happened, but no where along the way did any of us have freedom to do whatever we wanted to do, not me, not my husband, and not my kids.
It seems to me that given HAPPY freedom (not begrudging, conditional, judgement-laden freedom), kids make very cool choices.In later years, I used "options" or "choices," when I saw how the term "freedom" was sending people off track so often.
original, second post and a continuation of that topic,
"What's fair and responsible?" here
-=-Another question is about giving freedom in things that may cause permanent damage - like eating only sweets for a month and damage teeth without possibility to restore. Or play computer games for several months non-stop and damage eye sight without possibility to recover.-=-"Giving freedom" is your problem. The idea that you will move from control to freedom is a fallacy. "Choices" is the magic word here.
Things can be granted. People can be liberated. People can be freed. When people live in a fairly friendly environment, they have some of the freedom that comes down from someone else who is guarding that someOTHER-one else doesn't come and take everyone's freedom away. Replace "freedom" with "cave near the stream," and that's been going on for... a long time. People pop out of some mom somewhere, TaDaa! And their "rights" and "freedom" start, one way or another. It's not God-given and it's not "natural."
My children are about as free as they're going to get, honestly. Always have been. Yet there are all these real-life limitations and considerations. They're free to ignore them. And the state of New Mexico (county of Bernalillo and City of Albuquerque) are not only free, but OBLIGATED, to protect other residents from any over-reaching acts of wild "freedom."
Sandra answered: I think it needs qualifiers. Free from school. Free from pressures. Liberated from the treadmill. Free of the assembly line. Free to play, free to dream, free to sleep late. There can be a LOT of freedom, but it comes from the parents, not from God and not from the universe. And parents can get in trouble for giving kids too much freedom. (...) Because the parents don't have unlimited freedom.
"If you are choosing to be a mother, move beyond playing at it, and *be* it." —Pam Laricchia
Some natural limitations to "freedom"