Any jargon?

Not really "jargon," but some terms with which unschoolers are generally familiar are:

Deschooling: recovering from school to the point that natural learning starts to happen again, as it did before a child went to school. The term is used by homeschoolers in general, not just by unschoolers.

The Open Classroom: a school reform concept and practice from the 1960's and 70's, involving children learning individually or in groups as they chose, in short bursts or long sessions, inside a classroom with materials they could get to as they wanted to, or outside the classroom with the assistance of adult facilitators. It stressed choices, flexibility, individuality and comfort.

Strewing: literally, scattering something out, like rose petals or herbs or straw on a medieval floor. Figuratively, leaving interesting things out where they will be discovered.

Monkey platter: a variety tray of finger foods of different kinds.

"Unparenting": a derisive term used to insult unschoolers, as when one says, "Some people go beyond unschooling to unparenting."

Unschooling: the adjective "unschooled" meaning untrained or self taught or uneducated (depending on the context) is not a new word in English, but the verb "to unschool" is a John Holt term to refer to taking children out of school and letting them learn in natural ways in the world. He got it from a commercial for "7-Up–the UNcola."

THIS ONE IS BAD—don't use "RU"

I don't always get my way, but I have attempted to keep jargon out of unschooling discussions I'm in. When a new term is proposed, I rush to be the first to say "Use plain English, please." Some people are using "RU" and pronouncing it "ARE YOU" or "RUE" and some people are "Ruing," and I don't like it. It's a bad idea.

When other people ask me I say "We homeschool." (Soon, "We homeschooled," because Holly is nearly eighteen.) When other homeschoolers ask me, I say "We're unschoolers." When other unschoolers ask me, I might say "We're radical unschoolers."

John Holt

In the 1960s, John Holt's writings were popular among school reformers. In the 1970's, he started encouraging people to keep their children at home, with a book called "Teach Your Own." Many people were already homeschooling on the sly, or legally, and some of them were hippies and some weren't, but from my point of view in New Mexico, John Holt came and learned from some of the reformers in Colorado who created The Rocky Mountain School, and he met with the people who were running the Santa Fe Alternative School and spoke with a meeting of parents and students there.

Most of his work was done in Boston, where he had a newsletter that turned into a magazine and then a bookstore. The magazine was Growing Without Schooling. It survived for a few years after John Holt's death in 1985. The bookstore was John Holt's Books and Music, and the stock was bought out by FUN Books, which is also linked from my John Holt pages.

John Holt's writing is different, and inspiring. He involved himself in schools and saw problems and successes from a different perspective than anyone else I've ever read.

John Holt had no children so he himself wasn't an unschooler, but he inspired others to do things different from school, to avoid testing and rote learning. He encouraged people to respect children and to give them a great range of experiences and opportunities.

John Holt wrote about learning outside of schools, for about ten years. Since then many families have raised children to adulthood without any school or schooling at all. I wish he could know Roya, Roxana and Rosie Sorooshian. I wish he could spend some time with Kathryn Fetteroll. How cool would it be if he could pop in for the day at a big unschooling conference in San Diego and meet a couple of hundred 21st Century unschooled kids all in the same place?


Why "radical" unschooling?

When people waited two months for a copy of Growing Without Schooling, there wasn't much opportunity for discussion. When *Prodigy came along and everyday people could get to user groups and "BB"s, and then AOL came and created chat rooms, homeschoolers finally had a place to go and get information on the same day!

By then, John Holt wasn't the loudest voice among homeschoolers, but conservative fundamentalist Christians in hordes and droves were creating, selling and buying Christian curriculum packages and teaching to the test and making sure their kids were in local spelling bees and geography contests and such (in the U.S.; this wasn't a problem in the rest of the English-speaking world).

Unschoolers were shocking by those no-nonsense school-at-home standards, and the unschoolers didn't mind the chance to find a corner for a chat or a forum of their own. As more homeschoolers showed up online, it became easier, and later necessary, to sort ourselves out by philosophy and interest.

Those unschoolers who came to it from the La Leche League angle were accustomed to letting young children choose foods, and to co-sleeping. If attachment parenting is extended past weaning, it pretty much becomes unschooling.

Unschoolers who wanted to maintain their rules and discipline but to teach without a curriculum, didn't want the rest of us saying "unschooling involves more choices." So the term "radical unschooling" came to be used to refer to those who went all the way with it, seeing learning in all aspects life, and not separating academics from everyday life. I think of it as committed, clear, purposeful, whole-life unschooling.

"Radical" means from the roots—radiating from the source. The knowledge that learning is natural to humans can radiate forth from that point in every direction.


When to use which terms

Someone posted that she was not ever going to say again that they were homeschooling. I responded with two different things in the course of the exchange which are worth saving:

The original assertion:

I am no longer going to say that we "homeschool" when people ask about Evan in regards to our educational choices. If I say that we "homeschool," this might imply that we are seeking to recreate school in our home. This simply is untrue, for what we are truly doing is allowing him to live and learn throughout his childhood free from school and all the created hardships and shackles it brings.
My responses:
If homeschooling is your legal option to having kids in school, it's not bad to say you homeschool. It's what you're doing. It doesn't mean you're doing school at home. Not even all schools are "doing school" in the scheduled curriculum, rules and recitation way.
"I am no longer going to say that we 'homeschool'" seemed to be about saying it wasn't good for homeschoolers to say they were homeschooling. 🙂
Perhaps I misread it.

When someone asks where I live, the response will depend where they are and how well they know Albuquerque. If I'm in Europe, I'll say "New Mexico." If I'm in California I'll say "Albuquerque." But to someone in Albuquerque, either answer would be worthless. They want to hear the nearest intersection.

To some people, we were homeschooling (if their question was why the kids weren't in school) but to other unschoolers, it was radical unschooling. A good and true response in one context might be too much or too little in another.

in Europe (and sometimes in the U.S.) "New Mexico" isn't always sufficient, because someone might need to hear that it's part of the U.S. For some people, sometimes, "homeschooling" won't be sufficient because they don't think it's legal or good.

Gauge your audience! Causing trouble right up front in a conversation isn't a good plan. Consider the larger question and what they're wanting to know.

Another angle on saying where you live, with the same analgous intent, was in a talk I gave in California in 2012, and here's a transcript of that part (linking to the recording, and more notes):

Where I live
Where are we? California. Sacramento.

[I live] near Candelaria and Juan Tabo. Our back gate is behind Fastino's, but the front of the house is on Tahiti Court, near Tahiti and Lexington. Near Sandia Bowl.

New Mexico.

But "New Mexico" would be rude if someone in Albuquerque wanted to know where I lived (or if I called a taxi, or an ambulance).

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