The Real World

This is a continuation of a page called Unschool World, which exists to remind people that there is no "Unschool World."

From a discussion in 2014. The language of the first post doesn't match the group we were working in, but someone had written to me on the side asking for clarification of something she got in some other group.

I'm a bit new to unschooling and just found out about radical unschooling today. I have a few questions out of genuine curiosity but I don't want to get attacked or start anything so I figured I would message you instead.

Reading around on some forums and websites, I've seen it mentioned by some RU parents that they would (or in some cases, have) bought their young children alcohol or cigarettes. In some other cases I've heard of stories of houses and bedrooms getting horribly messy.

My first question is, how do you keep CPS from taking RU children? Would you comply for the time being then go back to RU? I know a lot of talk about parental fear is going on and CPS is a LARGE fear of mine. We fostered and adopted our middle daughter and I know first hand how crazy some CPS caseworkers can be.

It was 2014. The responses were good.
Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll:
I haven't participated in any discussions where members encourage parents to buy cigarettes or alcohol for their kids. It's a really bad idea to live as though laws don't apply to unschoolers.

But letting kids try when they're curious is better than saying no. No increases curiosity. And believing kids will accept no and not go behind their parents backs is naive.

I let my daughter have wine and beer while she was growing up when she asked. I was about to say I let her have small amounts, but she chose only to drink small amounts, often leaving some in the glass when I gave her too much. As a kid at Sunday dinners with my grandmother, my aunt would serve us kids full glasses of wine and mixed drinks. I rarely finished one. I did like trying them but the weird feeling wasn't appealing. I found my daughter did the same. And as an adult (22 now) she has a healthy attitude towards alcohol.

Alan Marshall
I find it disturbing that either someone has said or someone wrongly thinks it has been advised that radical unschooling involves bringing young children alcohol or cigarettes.

IMO, anyone who intentionally breaks the law, or intentionally risks CPS intervention, or tries to deceive those who could be empowered to terminate parental rights for the sake of being "RU" should be strongly advised to stop immediately.

OTOH, barring safety issues, I don't think a messy house would be a serious concern. Definitions of "horribly messy" could vary widely, but I think we should all clean our homes long before the government would get involved.

Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll
*** Would you comply for the time being then go back to RU? *** It's an odd question. It's making radical unschooling sound like a free-for-all and anything goes and living as though laws didn't exist.

It's more helpful to think of radical unschooling as a way of supporting kids as they grow into living peacefully in the world rather than making kids obey social rules. It's up to the parents to be the help the kids need to fit in until the kids can fit in themselves.

Nicole Kenyon:
Let me put it another way. Is it a good idea to not expose them to alcohol when they are curious but suddenly when they are 18 (depends which country) they know everything and are allowed everything? My parents used to give me a glass of wine mixed with soda water when we went to a restaurant (because I wanted to try wine). I remember that it made me feel grown up. I also used to drink the foam from my dad's beer. I rarely drink now and dislike beer, lol. In my opinion, there is a difference between offering a child wine and letting a child try it if she/he is curious.

Nicole Robb:
Unschooling doesn't mean throwing common sense out the window or going against the law. I also fostered and adopted one of my children. I understand not wanting Cps involved In your life. I don't know your child's story. I do know my child's biological parents history, so there will be lots of info and discussions about addiction. It is 50% genetics.

Sandra Dodd:
I'm sorry to be reminded there are discussions where bad advice is shared as though "RU" (I did ask that the author use "unschooling" spelled out if she joins this discussion) is a party built of wild, wilfull ignorance of law and culture, sense and logic.

Look at learning. Relationships. Peace.

Sandra Dodd:
-=- how do you keep CPS from taking RU children? -=-

There are no "RU children." There are children. The children I had were my children, the Dodd kids, my children, and my husband's.

The children anyone has are the children she has borne, adopted, is helping to parent. They do not become other creatures if the family decides to homeschool in an open-classroom, exploration, discovery sort of way. The laws don't change around them. They still live in a town/county/state/province—wherever they live. They do not become invisible or magical.

-=-We fostered and adopted our middle daughter and I know first hand how crazy some CPS caseworkers can be.-=-

Perhaps it's just where I live, but I hear more complaints about CPS NOT being sufficiently concerned with child welfare than I do about them being too vigilant. People need to be doing more and worse than homeschooling, to have problems with the government. In New Mexico, furnishing tobacco and alcohol to minors would get ANYONE in trouble—strangers, friends, parents alike.

Holly was working at a place that sold packaged liquor.
Holly's kind of a hard case. Even though she's just 22, some of the older employees there call her if there's someone who needs to be told no. She'll do it. She feels a responsibility to respect the responsibility of her certification. Some people aren't that way, but all my kids are. I didn't tell them to be; they learned it gradually by living with people who discussed what's right and good.

My daughter (who was unschooled her whole life) has a state alcohol server's certificate. It means she knows the laws and has been trained in selling and serving alcohol. Stores can have stricter policies than the state requires. She's working in a store now—a Walgreen's—where there is a liquor department, and they're in a neighborhood with lots of college students, homeless people, alcoholics who walk there daily and buy the same thing. They check the ID of everyone in the party, if alcohol or tobacco is being purchased. Even being WITH someone who's buying is a no-sale, if one person in the group is underage.

And there is a huge difference between a teen having a beer at a family barbecue when he's at home and staying home, or wine at a family dinner, and a parent buying him a case of beer to take to a party in the woods.

Sylvia Woodman:
==-==how do you keep CPS from taking RU children? ==-==

By taking care of them! By providing them with a stable, peaceful, safe and loving home with sufficient food and clothing and protection from the elements. Unschooling is a method of homeschooling, not a free for all. There should be resources for learning in your house. Things to read, things to write with, things to look at and explore, and think about. You should have evidence of things that your kids are doing, things they are learning. That could be photos, receipts or ticket stubs, blog entries...

Robert Gottlieb:
One thing I didn't see posted on this thread is that the laws regarding alcohol differ from state to state as far as what you can do in your own home. I believe most states allow minors to drink in their own home, however, the parents cannot serve their friends, so no parties. But if a kid wants to try mixed drinks, wine or beer with their parents at home it is most likely legal. But it always pays to check. I can't remember the website or I'd post it here. As far as cigarettes I don't believe it's legal in any state under a certain age. We're not smokers so I'm not even sure what age that is. As far as messes go, I'm assuming that CPS would only get involved if it were a health hazard to the children. But that's true of any house (not just unschoolers or homeschoolers).

Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll:
There's a page at Wikipedia that discusses the differences between states:
"While this act did not outlaw the consumption of alcoholic beverages by those under 21 years of age, seven states and Washington D.C. extended its provisions into an outright ban. These states are: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. The minimum drinking age is a state law. However, most states still permit "underage" consumption of alcohol in some circumstances. In some states, no restriction on private consumption is made, while in others, consumption is only allowed in specific locations, in the presence of consenting and supervising family members as in the states of California, Colorado, Maryland, Montana, New York, Texas, West Virginia,Washington,Wisconsin, and Wyoming."
So it would be up to each family to decide how to handle that. The police won't be coming to your door to arrest you if you give your kids some wine with dinner. But if the kids talk about it and neighbors don't like you or there are other issues and CPS gets involved, it could definitely become an issue.

Kate Rehkopf:
There are also very different regulations in countries other than the US. Here in New Zealand my children can drink alcohol at home if it is provided by their parents. They can also drink alcohol in someone else's home if it is provided by the parents / adults at that home—though this is frowned upon without the approval of each child's parents it is legally allowed.

Sandra Dodd:
Very important to remember! ;-)

-=-very different regulations in countries other than the US. Here in New Zealand my children can drink alcohol at home if it is provided by their parents. -=-

Although we did not do it, it would be legal in New Mexico for us to have bought our children guns. Or at least to let them use ours. But NOT marijuana.

It's one reason more general and philosophical questions are better for groups like this. The question isn't so much about alcohol (though we all waddled over that direction, as a group, and I helped—sorry) as it is about a parent wondering whether unschoolers who recommend violation of local laws are representative of all unschoolers, I think.

It it neither necessary, recommended nor helpful for any unschooler to believe or to recommend that laws should be disregarded. It's irresponsible and doesn't contribute to helping children thrive in the world, nor to live in peace and happiness.

Parents who say anything is stupid (laws, art, music) are working against their child's peace and learning, not with and for it.

Jenny Cyphers:
Over the years we have discussed laws and rights and responsibilities. Sometimes our conversations leaned towards "That's a terrible law!", or "How far can I push that law?". Each conversation is followed with reminders that there are people, whose entire job it is, to remind people to follow the law and sometimes they aren't nice about it and sometimes you can get in trouble in ways that impact the rest of your life.

The Child Protective Services aspect hasn't ever really frightened me. I know a few social workers. I know what social workers look for, what signs they look for and what triggers an investigation. I also know that most of the time they aim to help, it's their primary goal, even if horror stories abound. If you must deal with social workers because you are a foster parent, then jump the hoops that need jumping, do the things that they want to see. It's kinder to that child, whose life you hold in the balance. It's so important that unschooling or homeschooling, or any kind of alternative education should be a secondary thought.

There are families, in which life is chaos. Sometimes it happens because of chronic illness, or loss of employment, and those are solid and workable reasons that a family can be thrown into chaos. It's not ideal to unschooling, but it's also not ideal for any kind of schooling. Sometimes it's just life, and sometimes kids are better off in school. Unschooling requires a safe nest for kids, one in which the parents aren't fearful of social workers, one in which the parents are making and maintaining that nest. I do realize that sometimes life throws stuff at you, which simply makes it even more important to get all that going BEFORE that might happen. And really hope you don't ever need to deal with those issues!

NOTE IN 2018:

I tweaked word order and punctuation a few times above to make it clearer.

The original might still be here on Facebook on Facebook

"Unschool World" Clarity Parenting Peacefully