Unschooling Discussion List FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:Why the two week waiting period?
A: (Joyce's short answer 7/2006):
We suggest that people read the list for a couple of weeks to protect themselves from getting hurt. Too many people assume lists are for support and get upset by replies that examine their beliefs and practices.
A: (Pam's answer to one questioner, 3/2006):
I just wanted to mention to you that our "wait two weeks" policy is NOT because we're tired of answering questions; not at all.

It is because we have found, from hard unhappy experience, that it benefits people if they read for a couple of weeks, to get the feel of the list. Otherwise, they are often surprised and hurt by the critical responses they get when they innocently post what might seem to them to be very "normal" parenting/schooling ideas. It is hard to convey the difference between this list and other lists, but this list is truly not a "support" list. It is, instead, what might be called a "critical thinking" list—what we do involves a lot of tearing apart ideas and turning them inside out and looking at them from entirely new and unconventional perspectives. And nothing posted is immune to this kind of critiquing. Many of us had our thinking challenged this way and have made major life changes, for the better, because of it. But it can be upsetting and embarrassing to those who haven't read the list a while; they do not understand that the very purpose OF the list is to shake up our thinking, and it is most definitely not to make ourselves or anybody else feel better.

A good example would be your use of the term "teach" in your note to us. You've probably never given that word a huge amount of thought, since you know what you mean by it, but it is a potential hot button on the list—school terminology that many will argue has no place in unschooling. If you want to find out why people feel that way, hang around.

Two weeks is a short time to wait when what you have in store for you just might be truly wonderfully life changing. Two weeks of reading along, holding off on your own questions and learning as an observer, can be useful. In two weeks or so (we aren't nitpicky about the number of days, just want people to know what they're jumping into), you might even have entirely different questions after you've heard what some of the over 2,000 people on the list have to say.

Q:Why don't my posts go straight to the list?
A:You might just need to wait until the moderators wake up and read their mail. Late-night or holiday posts are the most likely to sit a while.
Sometimes moderated posts go through in moments, sometimes hours.

To get off moderation, your posts should be consistently useful. For people who only post once in a few weeks or months, it's sometimes less work for moderators to moderate the posts (let the good ones through and send the iffy ones back for revision) than to go through the several steps to take the member off moderated status.

Q:Why are the same topics discussed over and over?
A: [Response to someone who asked about socialization, but apologized if it was beating a dead horse:]
Every possible topic comes back again and again, and that's okay. Every day is the first day for some people, and it's all new again for them. But a really cool thing is that the quality and availability of information and ideas has gotten better over the years. When I first started unschooling I had to wait two months for an issue of Growing WIthout Schooling. It was three or four month-old writing, and it was never NEARLY long enough. I'd read every single bit.

I wasn't the only one.

Then there were newsgroups and e-mail, and that helped.

And then there were message boards and chat rooms, and eventually websites. I don't know what will be along for people to get information on socialization in another three or five years, but it will be even better than now. And still ten years from now there will be people just starting to think about homeschooling and the horse will still be new and scary. (—Sandra)

Here's something Joyce Fetteroll wrote for a different list, but it also applies to this one:

The list is about ideas, not about people.

Think of ideas like balls and the list like a ball court. If someone tosses an idea worth discussing into the court it's going to get batted about. At that point what's going on is no longer about the person who tossed the idea in. It's about the idea and how well and cleanly it's being tossed about. (Unless the tosser keeps jumping in and grabbing the idea ball saying "Mine!")


Here are more of Joyce's clarifactions on the list's intent (written after the list moved from yahoo to google, and the description had to be shortened).


My point is that some of us have kids who have been damaged from an uncaring system, and when we come here seeking support, it sometimes comes across like some of you more experienced moms expect a snap of fingers or something and everything should change instantly.


Maybe it will help to see the list as a place to discuss the practices unschoolers are trying to change rather than a list to support unschoolers, or support unschoolers where they are, or support what unschoolers don't want to change yet.

It's assumed that anything brought to the list is what people want to work on. If it's not an area you want to work on, don't bring it to the list.

There are *much* better lists for support. There aren't any better lists for discussion! :-)

Google only gives us 300 characters to describe the list so right now it says "A place to discuss the practices that allow unschooling to flourish." Talking about how someone has rules about not playing with knives won't help unschooling flourish. But talking about how we help children understand (or keep the knives away from them until they do understand) does help unschooling flourish. If you can't figure out how not to have a rule, that's okay. Do what's working to keep them safe and happy as you're working on other, more important issues about unschooling. But discussing why you can't/won't give up your knife rule won't help anyone unschool better.

Does that help make the workings of the list any clearer?

I agree with the statement that . . . having a good relaltionship is up to the odds.
It doesn't help to see the goal as perfection or in terms of guarantees. It does help to see the goal as being better.

It doesn't help us do better to discuss why we can't do something. But it does us help do better to discuss how to look at situations in a new way, how to change ourselves so we aren't getting in the way of our own goals, how to view our children so that we aren't seeing them as thwarting what we're trying to do for them (among many other things.)

As parents we can help, and lay a good foundation, but every kid has a unique personality, and some kids are just difficult.

It doesn't help to see children as difficult. We can acknowledge that some kids are going to need more of our time and energy. They didn't choose to have the brain chemistry and personalities that they do. They didn't choose to have parents that don't intuitively understand what they need.

We did choose to have them. It's our job to recognize what isn't working and keep finding ways to do better. The list is a good place to ask what others have done. :-) Tackle the most obvious issues first.

Maybe it will be helpful not to see a great relationship with kids as only looking one way. A great relationship in one home may mean kids bring everything to the parents and talk about it. A great relationship in another might mean kids who feel safe and supported as they figure things out on their own. Maybe a commonality would be a place kids feel safe and feel comfortable being who they are.

I'm not even sure that laying a foundation is a helpful image though I may have used that word at times. It conjures up images of disconnection with kids, of creating something beneath them as they live their own lives. I think more helpful images are being with our kids, helping them, being their partner, sharing our lives together.

I think if we are not careful, many new moms will come on here and end up feeling guilty, like they aren't doing enough.

It's good for new unschoolers to join several lists and drop the ones that aren't meeting their needs. The list is meant for people who are actively working on letting go of the practices that get in the way of unschooling (and those who want to read along as others actively work!)

One reason why one list can't, doesn't and shouldn't try to work for all people is that two people can be in the same situation, read the same words and one will come away thinking "They think I'm a bad parent," and another will come away thinking "Oh, I hadn't looked at the situation that way. I'll have to try that." The list works best for the second type of person.



For the record, two posts were removed from the list. They are preserved here: sandradodd.com/lists/excision (and it wasn't a big deal)

More information on the UnschoolingDiscussion list