Parents who don't believe in education?

This article, School's Out Forever: Parents Who Don't Believe in Education, starts out sounding somewhat pro-unschooling, contrary to the title, but then it goes into a lengthy caricature of radical unschooling with naked kids running around shouting about their genitals and punching each other while the parents smile fondly.

Unparenting. Obvious to me, because I feel I have an experienced grasp of radical unschooling, the article should have been titled "Parents Who Don't Believe in Parenting." It wasn't about radical unschooling, but what some of us call unparenting.

The author's limited exposure to radical unschooling came by way of a radical unschooling conference. She took time to make fun of some of the kids' names, which doesn't speak highly to her character, but she's a homeschooling mother who wanted to explore unschooling. Her daughter couldn't come along because she was taking an online class and had a midterm exam scheduled for that week : (

Social expectations. In my experience, radical unschooling families tend to take the time to talk to their kids about social expectations. I may not have strict rules against nudity, for example, but that doesn't mean I stand by smiling fondly while my kids unknowingly break social taboo. Likewise, I wouldn't stand by while my child grabs another child's toy "with covetous abandon" and ignore the kids while they slug it out.

When my grandma started taking my two-year-old first child for visits, she knew I didn't spank. She asked, "What do you do?" I said, "We talk to her," which is both simple and difficult. It requires meeting each situation with openness and creativity, rather than a rulebook.

My grandma checked out a book at the library on positive discipline and told me it made a lot of sense and she wished she'd known better when her kids were young. See Time In vs. Time Out.

So why did the author encounter so much unparenting at the conference? For one thing, some of the families may have been just as new to radical unschooling as the author. It was, after all, a conference. For another, we're not always our best during travel. Kids act out their stress and parents aren't on their comfortable home turf. Who knows how they may have handled some of those situations if they were in different company.

My point, though, is that radical unschooling doesn't mean unparenting. Radical unschooling is about respect for the needs of everyone, not just the kids and not just the parents.


  1. Radical unschooling is such a tricky concept to grasp sometimes. This might be, like you said, because quite a few people who purport to use this philosophy don't understand what it really means to give your children freedom. There's a fine balance between freedom and needing guidance. I think it's all about the respect that's given children when we help guide them. It's about not forcing our agenda on them. But it should be pretty obvious that if our kids want to run across the street when they're 2, than we shouldn't allow them that "freedom" either. We do (hopefully!) have wisdom they don't have yet, and it's our duty to share and model those behaviors we want them to emulate, too.

  2. That example of running into the street always comes up : (

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