1. I find myself thinking more lately about the language we use when we talk about unschooling, and the way in which we talk about people who are not unschooling. 

    Often in my reading of unschooling and alternative education posts online (and sometimes in print as well), I’ve found myself wincing in discomfort at some of the language being used.

    Drones. Zombies. Sheep. The masses.

    I remember, in my teens as well, finding myself feeling uncomfortable at a comment or joke a fellow homeschooler or unschooler would make at the expense of school kids. I remember very vividly thinking one time it’s not their fault. 

    When we reduce the level of conversation to slinging about words like “sheep,” we’re both being hurtful and obscuring the points we’re actually trying to make. When we use language like that, I think we’re doing a couple of different things that we don’t want to be doing.

    The only being we should be calling sheep are, you know, actual sheep.

    We’re oversimplify things to a ridiculous extent. It’s not just a matter of people either doing what they’re told or forging their own path. Someone’s ability to choose a path such as unschooling is largely dependent on exposure to the concept (or similar concepts); the resources to actually follow through with it; feeling that their choices won’t be unduly punished due to severe marginalization they already face; and the support needed to maintain such a connected and unconventional way of living.

    I hope that someday unschooling can be the way everyone has the opportunity to live, and I support all efforts to make unschooling and life learning (as well as any self-directed schooling projects) more widespread and more accessible. But we’re not there yet. In the meantime, blaming people for not being able to unschool, or feeling unable to do so, makes no sense and is pretty unfair. 

    Whether someone goes to school or went to school, has criticism of their schooling experience or thinks compulsory schooling is a good thing, it doesn’t lessen them as a person.



  3. "Never despise small beginnings, and don’t belittle your own accomplishments. Remember them and use them as inspiration as you go on to the next thing. When you venture outside your comfort zone, wherever the starting point may be, it’s kind of a big deal."
    — Chris Gillebeau


  5. I’ll be publishing a post on Tuesday, originally published in the July/August issue of Life Learning Magazine, called The Language That We Use Matters: Why Schooled People Aren’t Sheep

    Sneak peek quote: “I’m all for criticizing schools, and compulsory education, and standardized curriculums. I absolutely believe there’s something majorly wrong with those things, and I appreciate the many great critiques out there. I just think you can criticize those things without criticizing the individuals who, through no fault of their own, are forced to attend school whether they want to or not.

    I’m sure that the upper levels of institutional schooling (the bureaucracy, the government offices and corporate supplier of curriculum) would like to manage children like sheep, and turn them into drones (you know, good workers), but that does not mean that anyone, child or adult, is a sheep or a drone.

    There’s a big difference between those two things.”



  7. My question is, do we really want school’s version of socialization?

    I read my sister one of the comments that sparked this post, and she burst out in frustration “can’t people see that school is literally training you for the work force? People say things like ‘school isn’t really about academics, it’s about social aspects. I learned to work with people with poorer work ethics than me, to deal with people who are cruel to me… now that’s what I do in my life!’ wow, good job, you learned to settle for shit.”
    Ivan Illich said much the same thing, if with very different wording, when he observed that:
    School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition. And school directly or indirectly employs a major portion of the population. School either keeps people for life or makes sure that they will fit into some institution.

    My conclusion? Unschoolers generally do plenty of socializing—though with the positive ability to make choices about how much or little time spent alone or with others feels best to them—and many of the concerns others express about the socialization of children outside of school are completely unfounded. However, I also think it’s important to challenge the mindset that takes school as a given, as the norm and standard all other methods should be judged off of. Is the purpose of the socialization received in school really something we want for children and teens (ever heard of the hidden curriculum)? It’s commonly accepted that schools are failing even at their stated goals, so why should people outside of school be attempting to emulate them in any way? Doesn’t it make more sense to make choices based on the wants and needs of the parents, family, communities, and especially the learners themselves, not on how schools would go about doing things?

    I’d rather unschoolers didn’t “get socialized,” and instead just learned to interact with a range of people in the real world, to be kind and polite, yet also to stand up for themselves and others, to follow rules and guidelines that make sense and do good, and question those that seem useless or harmful.




  10. "Learn—not by being taught, that’s how we learned the lies and limitations. You learn now by being open, by watching everything around you, by feeling your feelings, by participating fully in life."
    — Womonseed, by Sunlight (via mug-slug)

    (via thestylishvelociraptor)