I’ve answered my fair share of “what’s your least favourite thing about unschooling?” questions over the years (most recently in an interview I did for a new homeschooling magazine to be published through Apple Newsstand), and my answer has always been other people. People who aren’t unschoolers, don’t understand unschooling, and can make your life difficult because of it.
The anonymous critics mean very little, as do the random strangers you somehow end up discussing the subject with, no matter how much you may try and avoid it.
Yet what does mean something, and when it can start to feel kind of scary, is when someone has something you need, and you fear your educational background could cause them to make gettingwhat you need more difficult.
I’m talking about the potential employer asking you questions about your education, even though you have all the experience needed for the job you’re applying for. Or when something goes wrong in a big way, and you call the police, knowing that even though you’re the victims in whatever happened, that you’ll get grilled on the fact your children don’t go to school. Or you’re looking for a therapist, and fear as soon as they find out you didn’t go to school, they’ll start trying to blame whatever struggles you’re dealing with on your lack of “proper” education and strange upbringing.
It can cause a lot of worry, wondering if someone important, someone with the power to provide you with much-needed support (or money, or information) will start asking those questions, and then start treating you through the lens of their own pre-conceived biases and ignorance about unschooling (and home learning in a broader sense).
I’ve been wanted to make an actual print zine, something physical you can hold in your hands, for quite a while now. So after plenty of discarded ideas, failed starts, and lack of motivation on the zine front over the last couple of years, I finally have a stack of zines sitting beside me as I write this.What finally worked out was when I thought "hey, wouldn’t it be nice if I had an unschooling 101 in a physical form as well? Something that people could actually hand out to a friend, parent, neighbor, or other person who wonders what this whole unschooling thing is about?" Thus this zine was born.If you click this photo, it brings you to the store page on my website, where
you can buy your own copy!
I started with the 101 page on this blog, and anyone who’s read that will see that that was clearly my outline. But then I started editing, adding bits from other posts I’ve written, filling in with snippets of original content, making it all make sense and provide complete answers without the benefit of all the links to be found on the original blog page… And at the end what I have is something still similar to the digital version, yet different enough to be truly it’s own thing. The unschooling 101 page made solid and zine-like. I’m pretty pleased with it, to be honest.
Continuing in the spirit of it’s namesake blog page, it’s short. Three sheets of paper folded in half to create a twelve page booklet, with nine pages of text. I was ruthless with the writing of this zine, doing everything I could to keep it short. It’s easy to recommend unschooling books to people, but unless they’re especially interested or especially invested in you or your children, most people just aren’t likely to read a whole book. This though? This can be read in just a handful of minutes. It’s short, to the point, and easily digestible, complete with a few author and book recommendations at the end for those who want to dig deeper. I very much wanted this to be the thing even your French class teacher and nosy neighbor would actually be willing to take a few moments to read and think about!
I was so excited about this project I even made a video showing you the zine and talking briefly about it.
Sound like something you’d be interested in? Awesome! I’m so happy already with the amount of interest this has generated thanks to my mentioning of the project (quite a few mentions, really) on the Facebook page and other social media haunts. You can go buy it here on my store page. And if you want to share either this post or the store page on Facebook or Twitter, to help it reach a larger audience, I will be nothing but grateful.
I’m so happy to be offering my first ever non-digital writing for purchase, and I hope very much that you’ll enjoy reading it, and find it a helpful tool in sharing with others the very basics of what unschooling is all about.
While working on this zine, I decided having multiple pairs of eyes looking it over would be really helpful. So I asked, and what I received was some truly wonderful feedback! After each person read it, I changed multiple small things, and I felt like it just got better every time. For helping to shape this zine I want to say a big THANK YOU to Loreto, Sol, Amy, and my sister Emilie. For a whole lot of assistance with the printing and assembling of this zine, I want to thank my mother Debbie. Without her I probably would have just given up in frustration, and you wouldn’t all be reading this now!
To protect our children we must allow them to play in ways deemed “risky.”
Unschooling isn’t a course you sign up for online, it’s a philosophy that many different people have adopted in their own life, so each person’s choices will be different. Some unschoolers sign up under an umbrella school such as Clonlara and get a diploma through that, some write the GED or regional equivalent, some take the SAT’s, some get into college or university through writing a test administered by the college or through portfolio, and some unschoolers just don’t get a diploma at all. I haven’t.
You don’t need a diploma to get a job. Most jobs in my experience (and the experience of friends) care more about your experience (volunteer and paid work) relevant to the job you’re applying for than they do about a diploma. A diploma really says nothing. I’ve cooked for years, and have both volunteered as a cook and been paid for my skills. People care about whether I can cook or not, not about a diploma which doesn’t really answer that question…
Did I learn everything a high schooler learned? Short answer? No. Longer answer? Why is it a good thing to learn the exact same things as someone in high school? Who decides what the absolutely essential things someone must learn in high school are, and are they really qualified to do so? What groups does the information deemed most important favour (hint: I’ll go out on a limb and say white people, men, straight people, neurotypical people)? Did I learn everything a highschooler would learn WHERE? Here in Quebec where I live? In BC? Massachusetts? Arizona? Geographic location makes a pretty big difference in what is taught in high school, so the question itself doesn’t even make much sense. There isn’t one body of knowledge that every high schooler everywhere learns, and even within the same school what teachers you have, and whether you’re in “gifted” programs or not, all make a difference in what an individual high schooler will learn.
With unschooling we’re not trying to recreate school at home in any way. Each unschooler is going to learn different things in different ways at different times, influenced by their interests, their location, their family, their community, and their personal goals. To me one of the beauties of unschooling is just the flexibility and uniqueness of each person’s learning journey. As far as I’m concerned, a healthy community is best made up of a variety of people with different bodies of knowledge, skills, and passions. I am absolutely for equal access to knowledge, but I don’t think schools as they exist do a good job of that at all, and I will never believe that what they’ve deemed most important to learn is most important for even most students at any given school, never mind everyone.
I’m a little late getting this to you, but here is my annual 50 Best Unschooling/Self-Directed Learning Posts of 2013! Throughout the year while I’m on social media, browsing favorite blogs, or just searching for the latest unschooling news,