One of the biggest misunderstandings I’ve found that people have with unschooling, particularly in Christian unschooling, is the question of guidance. People seem to jump to the conclusion that Unschooling = Unparenting. Christians assume that if you’re unschooling it means you’re not guiding your children or “training them up in the way they should go.”
So, for the record, let me very clearly state – the parenting philosophy behind unschooling typically involves a LOT of guidance, y’all!
In my opinion, a large foundation of unschooling is based on parental guidance: being a guide for your child, sharing your experiences and interests, your opinions and your beliefs, while at the same time not forcing a bunch of unnecessary baggage and schedules and lessons on them.
Unschooling is not about watching children make terrible decisions and not saying anything because they’re “in charge” of their own life. It’s not about watching a two-year-old stand in an ant bed so that they can “life learn” the consequence of that decision. It’s not any other ridiculous example of “un”parenting that you can think of.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me share with you an example from our home that shows the balance between guidance and letting kids make their own choices.
Recently, Ten Year Old slept late. Really late. I decided to see how long she would sleep. When noon rolled around, I decided to can the experiment because I really needed to go to the grocery store. She quickly got up when I asked.
Now, Ten Year Old does stay up later than her younger brother counterparts. And I totally get why she’d want to. First of all, her dad and I both fight against night-owlism. And second, it’s the only time she gets alone – absolutely absent from noise and little brothers – to read, write, create, or simply think
I asked her why she slept so late that particular day and she told me that she woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. The poor girl gets paranoid sometimes in the dark about bugs, or imaginary tapping at her window. or who knows what. So every time she’d almost go back to sleep again, she’d jerk back awake. She didn’t finally fall back asleep until sunrise.
Well, that opened up plenty of conversation. I suggested that if she wakes up and the sun is just starting to rise, she could go ahead and get out of bed if she wanted, even if it’s before everyone else. She said, “Oh. I didn’t know that.”
I also talked to her honestly and respectfully about caring for her animals. Since she’s chosen to have pets, I reminded her that she’s not only responsible for herself, but for them. Just like I’m responsible for her and her brothers. And if I slept till noon too often, they’d probably be pretty lonely and hungry.
I did not tell her to go to bed earlier. I did not tell her to get up earlier.
I simply offered her my advice and observations.
Well, that night I noticed that she went to bed a little earlier than normal and the next morning I woke up to the sound of someone poking around the kitchen. It was Ten Year Old – up before me. Which I’m pretty sure has never happened in the history of ever. Even when she was a toddler.
At 6:45 that a.m. she was up, dressed, and packing her backpack. She was taking her dog for an early morning walk to the park. And packing him breakfast to take with them. Off she went with dog food, treats, and water – before I even had my first cup of coffee.
Why? I believe 100% that it was because of my respectful guidance. Because honestly, if I hadn’t had that conversation with her, she probably would have stayed up later and slept later again. But, because I try to remember that children are aliens and sometimes need advice about our planet since it’s new to them – I offered her some of my observations.
Because sometimes I think we forget that kids really don’t know things that seem very obvious to us. Like that she could get up really early, when the sky is just lightening up. She didn’t know!
So, once again, Unschooling is not Unparenting. It’s quite. the. opposite.
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