There are some people out there who hate labels. They just read the title of this post and did a flashmob eye roll.
Honestly, I kind of like labels. Not in a, “Oh, you’re German? Nazi-cough-cough” kinda way. But in a, I could tell you I love Jesus and the early Church and the Nicene Creed and standing for long periods of time and especially of saying, “Kyrie Eleison”, ooooorrrrrrr I could just tell you I’m Orthodox. So. Much. Easier.
So, yeah, I’m an Unschooler. More than that, actually, I’m a Christian Unschooler. I’m an Orthodox Christian Pisces Year of the Ox Disneyland Lover Unschooler. Label it, baby. (For all those I just scandalized by mentioning the horoscope stuff, don’t worry. I’m actually a Taurus. Pisces’ be ca-raaaaazy.)
I wanted to write a post about the Christian-ness (yes, you may use that adverb, Will Shakespeare) of our unschooling because I belong to a handful of of homeschooling groups (unschooling as well as other methods) and every now and then an email will pop up in the non-unschooling groups that reads like this: “I’m at the end of my rope. I either have to beg or punish my kids to get them to finish their insert subject here. Sometimes I think I should just give unschooling a try, but isn’t incompatible with Christianity?” Of course, I respond quickly with “No! Unschooling is great! It’s beautiful! It’s a gift from God!” but my little love note is usually lost in the raging sea of unschooling is from hades replies.
And I think I know why.
Most unschooling resources out there are not Christian. They’re secular. Now, that being said, I have found some to be very inspiring and am indebted in many ways to their authors. But. But. But. I’ve been scared pantless by some too.
(I don’t know why I do these things)
One of the blogs I follow, that I love, recently published a post about how pornography is just great. Well, she didn’t exactly say it was great but it wasn’t a big deal. Sure, guys, check it out. Unschooling sex ed. High five. Just lock the door, k?
That really freaked me out. More than that. It made me sick. It made me question my decision to unschool. Which is ridiculous because that kind of thing would never happen in my house. But it made me feel like the kid standing next to the kid that just ripped one during Silent Reading Time. Like, I need to get as far away from where this person is as humanly possible.
You, an unschooler, let your sons watch porn? Where did I leave that copy of The Well Trained Mind?
(but i can’t read) You guys didn’t know I was a gorilla, did you? Surprise! Jazz Hands!
A huge part of the desire to write this blog is to tell people that you can unschool and also be a Christian. You can acknowledge that there is good and evil. That some things are edifying and some things are sinful and damaging. Because that’s kind of a hook of the non-Christian unschooling world, right? That everything is good. That there are no moral absolutes. No black and white. Just grey zones as far as the eye can see.
And now you know why I kicked you out of the Christian Unschoolers co-op, JT.
I’m going to tell you my inspiration. I read this thing from this book (the organized lady without 4 small children writes title and page of said book here______) that described the style of a very successful tutor. She was a retired school teacher who volunteered to help a few hopelessly behind students catch up, and was wildly successful and popular with the kids. This was her method: she brought them into her house. And let them do Whatever They Wanted.
Here’s the catch. She only had edifying things in her home.
Books of poetry
CD player with beautiful collection of music
Books of art
Mathematical books and games
You get the picture. Some people are reading this and are all, “Well, who are you to decide what’s edifying and what’s not? Let the children decide! Don’t limit them! What if they play video games all day but grow up to be a programmer? Or listen to hip hop and become a DJ? Or watch Spongebob and mature into a pretty tutu wearing whale?”
(If only Mom hadn’t held me back)
And I get that. I’m not endorsing a bubble boy situation where nothing from the outside world is let into the house (Return to the hell from whence you came, Power Ranger! ) What I am endorsing is freedom within limits.
Kids need freedom.
Kids need limits.
Unschooling can have both.
I put off my decision to unschool for a long time because I thought it meant no limits. It wasn’t until I met some solid Christian unschoolers that I saw I was wrong. The ironic thing is when kids have a healthy freedom, they don’t need that many limits. That’s been my observation, anyway. So many issues I had with my oldest disappeared when I gave her the freedom she craved. When I started learning alongside her instead of teaching her. The child who barely tolerated me reading to her a year ago is now bringing me books for her to read to me.
I started this homeschool journey a few years ago and have seen many, many families give it up along the way. I suppose this whole post is a reply to that desperate email. I would just say to that mom, and to anyone else in her shoes, give unschooling a try. It’s more than what you think.
*PC footnote here: This post is a shout out to the burnt out mom who would like to try unschooling but feels it’s a violation of her Christian faith, not a declaration that all methods save unschooling are doomed to fail. I don’t believe that.
*PC footnote numero dos: I don’t believe all Germans are nazi’s. I actually am a little German.
This is me.