Christian Unschooling

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.

cat(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?

thinking-gorilla(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.

quote-the-gray-area-the-place-between-black-and-white-that-s-the-place-where-life-happens-justin-timberlake-54-73-77

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.

Chess boards

Books of poetry

Literature

Atlases

CD player with beautiful collection of music

Books of art

Mathematical books and games

Clay

Paints

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?”

Pearl

(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.  german_garden_gnome

This is me.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Christian Unschooling

  1. Casey,

    Yes, labels are useful. I like how they help us to find each other. But of course, we find some unschoolers who are very different from us despite having a similar educational philosophy. Some just do not share our beliefs and some even mock them. I came across some words online about ‘obnoxious religious unschoolers’!

    I also read the pornography post and I was very put off by it. Actually, my thoughts on unschooling do differ a lot from this author. But I suppose she makes me think!

    I don’t think unschooling children will necessarily choose to do/read/watch things that we think are wrong even if they have total freedom. When we have a good relationship with our children, we talk and discuss and they see what’s important to us and why and they do learn right from wrong without us forcing our opinions on them. When kids arre young it’s very easy to surround them with only good things. Not so easy when they get older, even if we provide only a wholesome environment. We’d have to follow them around constantly to ensure they didn’t come in contact with anything bad. But if they have had the opportunity to develop their inner sense of what’s right and wrong they’ll be safe. Maybe it’s all got to do with relationships and trusting each other, both ways, parents and children.

    Is unschooling compatible with Christianity? The longer we unschool the more I think unschooling is the way God wants us to live. It’s not about having the freedom to do whatever we want. Instead it’s about using our freedom in the right way. It’s also about love: loving unconditionallly, respecting others, treating each person with the dignity they deserve because they are children of God, forgiveness and trust… So many thoguhts and stirrings of my heart over this topic, I’m sorry, Casey, I’m taking over your combox again! I’ve a habit of doing this. Your words have that reaction. You always have so many good things to say and I can’t help wanting to join in.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post. God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sue, thank you so much for commenting. Feel free to fill up my combox anytime! Imagine my vexation when, the one time I link up to that particular blog, the post is about pornography! I can’t imagine what those who clicked on it must have thought of me! Goodness me, lol. I too disagree with most of her views on unschooling, as she does not seem to be too involved in her son’s activities. She has written a number of posts on the importance of mothers staying home with their children, though, and these I have enjoyed very much.
      I suppose you are right, that it will not always be so easy to ensure my children are surrounded by wholesome things. They are small now so I guess I have not given a lot of thought to their teen years. Last weekend our family was in Las Vegas visiting some family and someone mentioned in front of my 7 year old that there was a pool at a nearby hotel where the women swam topless. My 7 year old laughed loudly and snorted, “The men must hate that pool!” Lol! I suppose that level of innocence won’t last forever! Your girls all seem so sweet and interesting. I pray the same for my own girls!
      I agree so much with you that unschooling seems to be God’s desire for our life. There are many reasons why I have chosen to unschool but a big one has been the conviction I have felt when I have coerced my children to do something. God has been so gentle to me, given me so much freedom! Shouldn’t I be trying to model His parenting style above all others? Sometimes I can’t comprehend how gentle He is with us, and how I might be a mirror of that to my own children. St. Porphyrios spoke much about this. Have you read anything by him? He is a recently canonized Orthodox saint and wrote many things about the importance of gentle parenting. Actually, I dedicated this blog to him!
      Thank you again for stopping by! I am always honored by your input!
      God bless!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree. Boundaries are not bad, they just need to be set in wisdom and adjusted as needed. I also think that unschooling as an approach is a more gracious way to live,reflecting how God is with us. Plus labels are only helpful to create a mutually understood language, but as soon as they become confining and restrictive they are usually unhelpful. Our best bet is to describe ourselves as beloved children of God and leave it at that. Thanks for posting.

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    1. “Adjusted as needed,” you are completely right. A boundary set in stone may become irrelevant depending on the child’s age and maturity, as well as harmful! I read somewhere, on a blog that I think has since been taken down, that Christian unschooling is like a shepherd taking his sheep to an open pasture. They can roam and frolic whenever they like but, if they wander too far or into a dangerous area, the shepherd is there to gently bring them back into the fold. I think this is a beautiful analogy!
      Thank you for commenting!

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      1. Yeh, the garden of Eden was complete freedom with one boundary command which had attached consequences. Just as ‘gentle parenting’ isn’t the same as permissiveness, so unschooling means to be very involved and respectful, not detached and refusing to protect your children from flagrantly harmful things. It involves discussion on how to protect yourself with your kids, so that they are armed to make good decisions, not just allowing them to stumble upon anything harmful without warning them off potential dangers.
        God let’s is make our choices, right or wrong, but sets out very clearly the action/consequences so we could make the informed choice.

        Liked by 1 person

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