Friday, November 30, 2007

Being judged for being an Unschooler

(Above is a picture of a fabulous book, Homeschooling With Gentleness; A Catholic Discovers Unschooling by Suzie Andres. I encourage all those skeptical of unschooling to at least read it through before making any more rash judgements. Click the pic and it should take you to Amazon.)

A couple of days ago I was installing the Mass readings widget on my blog. You can get it by going to While I was there I noticed I could put a widget in that would let people search CatholicBlogs. Not knowing how one gets added to CatholicBlogs, I searched myself...hey,Catholic is the first word in my title. Well, what should come up but a woman's blog (who shall remain nameless coz I don't want her to get any mean comments) who wrote, "I know unschooling is wrong." Admittedly, she went on to to list a bunch other things that she, as a Catholic homeschooler, thought were wrong. Then, she went on to say that she still shouldn't judge someone's devotedness to Catholicism based on what she thinks is wrong because, unless it is morally wrong, it's just her opinion.

What is everybody's problem with unschooling? Geesh! It drives me crazy. Where in the bible does it say, "Thou shalt make thy children sit at a desk and practiceth language arts, math, science, and history"...huh? Argh! (yes, I made a pirate ticks me off that much!) I know people who are very school-at-home homeschoolers. Secretly, I am slightly envious. But the envy is a misdirected kind. I am utterly stunned they can get their kids to actually do the work they put in front of them without balking. Heck, if I were a homeschooled kid today I wouldn't want to do, much less be truly interested in, half of what I was 'supposed' to do.

Why do so many people (religions and not religious) get education confused with discipleship and parenting. I am not, as I have said before, and unparent. There are unschoolers out there who's learning philosophy extends to how they parent. I am not into it. God has told me that I do need to train my kids. Not in a psychotic "Pearl" way (remember those authors? shudder), but in a "we're the parents and you're the kids" kind of way. I am not ashamed to say that I was here first, and yes, that does naturally extend to me more life-experience-wisdom if you will. Do I think that I can't learn from my kids? No! They teach me stuff all the time. I just don't believe they are my equals as some of the more secular unschoolers do. On the flip side, however, dh and I don't rule this house with an "iron-fist-50's-style-Nun-smacking-you-with-a-ruler" authoritarian style either.

We have expectations for our kids' behavior and "we" mostly have to model it, coz let's face it, the whole "Do as I say and not as I do" parenting style just ain't gonna cut it in the long run. Yet, when we have to take a more hands-on on approach and basically lay down the law, we always try to do it in a way that is loving and non-condescending. Now, I personally, fail woefully at this because I have the temper of a petulant 5 year old at times. So, I end up having to apologize to my kids sometimes. But that is good for me and them. Then they see that I am not perfect just because I am the mom, and they see that I know I need to ask forgiveness because I really need forgiveness. We all do.

The problem I have with the more structured and authoritarian style homeschoolers is that just because it's the parents job to set the rules and guide their children's behavior doesn't mean they have to do the same with the way their kids learn. If the most important commandments Jesus gave to us (which sum up the 10) were from Matthew 22 vs36-39....

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
This is the great and foremost commandment.

...then how on earth does one extrapolate from that that unschooling is morally wrong or that schooling-at-home is morally right? Because if someone calls unschooling wrong that is tantamount to calling it a sin. How on earth could it be that my kids learning what they want to learn when they are ready to learn it possibly be a sin? A sin would be me not talking to them about their Catholic faith and why it is important and true, not helping them to see what it means to be Catholic, and even worse not taking them to Mass and nor allowing them to avail themselves of the Sacraments.

As a member of the fabulous apostolate FAMILIA, of which I am in my 4th and final year, we have studied the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II. He wrote so wonderfully and eloquently about the family being the domestic church and how real love is a sincere gift of the self and about the inherent dignity of each human person. Well, if my and dh's family is our domestic church, if we love our kids, and want them to grow up strong in the Faith, we have to respect our kids for who God made them and how He made them. They are as much a part of the Body of Christ as dh and I are...but we are not all meant to be 'eyes' and as such shouldn't all be trained or taught to be' just eyes'. God wants me to see my children (and really everyone) as the unique individuals they are. God is not a cookie-cutter God, so why should I expect myself or my kids to be stamped from the same mold as everyone else?

As a Catholic, all I have to do is look to the different charisms of the different Orders through history: Carmelites, Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans, Benedictines, Legionaries etc... All so different, but never the less, completely devoted to Christ and His Church.

I am giving a sincere gift of myself by staying home and letting my kids learn the way they learn best. Yet, as we all know sometimes days are good, sometimes bad, but the way we handle it...if we turn toward or away from God...that's is what my kids will learn without me saying a word. And the only thing God wants me to teach them is "To love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind." And I am doing that. Plus, don't forget what St. Francis of Assisi said:

"Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words."


Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Really like this post and can very much relate to it.

Always drives me crazy when folks bash unschooling but haven't done it....

Anonymous said...

Bravo!!!!!!! Very well said.


Faith said...

Great post, Rachel!

I think it comes down to two things:

1)I think the unparenting unschooler types give the whole unschooling approach a bad name.

2) Some folks just have to see everything in terms of 'wrong' and 'right.' Not that there isn't a moral wrong and right, but just that it is too complicated for them to realized there is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. Nope, they have to have the right way to skin a cat! They are just kind of rigid thinkers that way.

Marie said...

I think for the most part people reject unschooling based on not really knowing what it is or how it works, or the philosophical foundations behind it. There are also just different temperments that make something seem very, very risky to some people, and they translate the fear they feel into "wrongness".

Those are my theories, at least.

Catholic Wife and Mother said...

Great post. I tried to consolidate my thoughts into the combox, but I was getting way too wordy. So, I'm off to blog about it. Thanks for the inspiration!