Unschooling gurus, human flaws

My family has been unschooling for a long time, forever I suppose, since it came fairly naturally, although we've clarified our principles over the years with ideas and discussions, books, stories, and observations of other families.

I'm truly grateful for the families who have shared their experiences, although I've never viewed anyone as a guru--not John Holt, not Sandra Dodd, not Dayna Martin--although I've gained a lot from their stories and countless other quieter blogs. I agree with The Intuitive Parent: No Guru Zone: "Don’t give your power away to them [gurus] and let their opinions rule your life or make you feel guilty in any way." Trust yourself.

I agree with this, too:
"Very few if any people are worthy of guru status. When we hold them up (even at their own behest) as something more, one of two things will happen: Either we set ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment or, what might be worse, we refuse to believe the lack of perfection in our guru and continue to model ourselves – unsuccessfully – after someone who doesn’t really exist." -- When trust is broken, UnschoolingNYC
I've never held these louder unschooling voices to a higher standard, so their human flaws aren't likely to negate the value I've gleaned from their stories and ideas. This is probably because of my imperfection. I feel that I'm a good mom. My kids say so a lot, bless their precious hearts! But I'm also "bipolar," so I don't always know how I'm going to feel when I wake up in the morning--maybe awesome!, maybe blah, maybe I don't want to get out of bed or see anyone other than my kids. I related to Blog of the Zombie Princess: Warty, warty, mom-warts.

I also have a history of severe childhood abuse, plus I grew up in a meth house, and was taken away from my mother for a time. These experiences have certainly influenced my personality. I'm cautious and guarded, and I'm pretty sure I come off as odd, especially when I'm in one of my reclusive moods. I've been looking for a mouse t shirt that I can wear when I feel that way. I also have a wolf and a raccoon t-shirt for different moods. It's a way of bolstering my strength when I feel anxious.

Despite my flaws, I've written books about unschooling to share my favorite ideas and what works for my family, not for notoriety, as should be evidenced by the press attention I've repeatedly turned down. It would suck to set up an interview and then feel like I don't want to talk to anyone that day. I'm really introverted and moody as hell, and I know that's not a "face of unschooling" that we want to show to the world.

In general, I don't have a problem with other families seeking notoriety. It doesn't threaten me, as I know it does so many others. I'm not thrilled with the idea of the masses judging unschooling by a few faces, but that's kind of how our culture works. And I know that those unschooling shows do reach some people in a positive way. I didn't think the WifeSwap episode was so bad.

It makes me really sad to see the mudslinging that has been going on within the unschooling community for a while now. I feel strongly that it's kinder to handle some disagreements in private rather than rallying a gang, but that's my opinion as an acutely sensitive person. I like the Sufi saying:

To clarify my position: I definitely agree that the unschooling community should know when someone isn't trustworthy or stable. I just don't like the degree to which people have ganged up and frolicked in the evil glee of kicking someone who is in a bad place, i.e., jokes being made about alcoholism, delusional behavior, and suicidal comments.

I'd gotten in the habit of passing along media requests so that other unschooling families could decide if they wanted to take the risk of exposing themselves that way. I mean, someone's going to take the opportunity, right? But folks started getting mad at me for sharing the requests, as if I was encouraging participation. Not my intention. I've decided not to pass along the requests anymore. If folks want attention, they can seek it out for themselves.


  1. I always like the Blog of the Zombie Princess and I'm not saying that just because she's my wife. (wink)

  2. I like it because she seems honest and real.

  3. I would only like to point out that of the names listed in your post, only one has claimed "leader" and "Pioneer" status. None of the others ever asked to be treated as such...they became respected voices because of their actions and very authentic, honest way of sharing. That's a big difference for me. I learn from a lot of people and yes, we never need hold anyone to "guru" status. If people need someone else to have all the answers to make life perfect...well, that is always going to lead to problems. If we are able to learn and ask questions of people we respect as those who are walking the walk and have experience to share, we'll be ok.

  4. Ren: I see your point. I didn't really mean to imply that everyone who becomes highly visible does so because they seek guru status.

  5. I agree with the sentiment and spiritually I feel backbiting is incredibly damaging, but when someone is taking people's money for a service - sharing the experience - negatives and positives is important for the community as *consumers*. I mean if you were paying a music teacher to teach your kids piano would you not publicize the fact they took your child to a bar to drink, or talked about spousal abuse with your 10 year old child? To protect other families from the same experience? From my perspective not talking abot it would be a huge betrayal of trust within the community.

  6. Mudmama: I definitely agree that the community should know. But I didn't like the feel of the way it was done with blow-by-blow posting and dissecting of emails, etc. Many of the posts and conversations, from people were only commenting on hearsay, it all had a witchhunt feel. There was too much glee in kicking a person who is already in a bad place.

  7. There is only fact being logged and saved. I would think that anyone with an ounce of integrity would care about plagiarism, lies, deceit with the intent to profit and other such issues. I certainly would like to be warned.

  8. It's not backbiting when one party lies and manipulates while collecting money and the other party points it out. Especially when it affects the wellbeing of children and families. And if Dayna is in "a bad place," why is she still taking money to help other people? Ask yourself what you would do if you were wrestling with alcoholism and your marriage was reeling from infidelity? Where would you put your energy?

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