My husband, my son, and my mom are truly unschooling enthusiasts, and they love to talk about it with pretty much anybody. Thomas has even been known to start singing its praises to the cashier at the local grocery store! Being an introvert, I find I’m a little more reticent when it comes to sharing all the details of unschooling – particularly with random store clerks. And definitely when I’m not certain how much someone really wants to hear. So before I dive in, I try to get a sense of how much interest there is, and what motivation lies behind it.
For some people, conventional homeschooling is enough of a stretch. A new, even more radical layer is way too much to take in. When I’m talking to someone of that ilk, I try to keep it simple. Interest-led homeschooling is probably enough for them to chew on.
For others who seem genuinely curious, I might go a bit deeper, explaining the highlights of the unschooling philosophy. And of course, when I meet someone who’s truly intrigued, I could happily chat on for hours.
Then there are the people who are only interested in hearing enough to pronounce condemnation. The ones who are thoroughly horrified by what they’ve heard or guessed about unschooling, and are more interested in proving me wrong than in a genuine exchange of information.
Have you ever run into someone like that? Please – don’t tell me I’m the only one!
I’ve learned to have my ducks in a row before going down that road. And lately, I’ve decided that all some of them really want is to hear something that sounds “legitimate” enough to pass for education. Maybe it’s reassuring to them. Or maybe it just deflects the onslaught. Either way, every once in a while, I trot out my fanciest terms for the many controversial aspects of this unschooling life and let the chips fall where they may.
Want to hear some of them? Here they are…
Our reading program? Minimally Invasive Literacy Acquisition (MILA for short)
Math Curriculum? We use contextual mathematics, with an emphasis on real-world application
When people wonder aloud just how long I’m going to put up with my three year old nursing, I happily inform them that we’re practicing the time-honored tradition of mutually acceptable weaning.
When they exclaim over our sleeping arrangements, I let them know that extended familial cosleeping is scientifically sound and practiced world-wide, although slow to catch on here in the States. Then I casually mention Dr. Peter Gray’s theory of evolutionary mismatch.
If someone wants to know how my kids gain social skills, I’m proud to say that they’re engaged in an ongoing study on conflict resolution and healthy communication. What else would you call the numerous hours I spend with them working out issues with their siblings and their friends? (I’m really intentional about this, so it’s a LOT of hours!)
When people ask me if it’s true that my kids can eat all the junk food they want, I explain that we are working toward informed nutritional self-assessment with an experiential component.
When they want to know if my kids really have no bedtime, my reply is that we’re helping them to develop self-regulatory sleep patterns, and bedtimes would impede their progress.
And when asked why we don’t limit screen time, I respond that we employ natural equilibrium rhythms which has, thus far, resulted in well-rounded kids with highly varied daily activities.
How about you? I’d love to hear how you handle some of your toughest critics! Share away!