Where’s the Encouragement and Support?

“Encouragement and support to unschool” are the two most-repeated reasons people give for joining the Christian Unschooling Facebook group. The group has a brief application form to let moderators know which requests are intentional, versus which are random “you might also like” clicking or spam.

But when people join and ask questions from a school-oriented viewpoint (a normal part of the learning curve), they’re often surprised to receive questions in return.

But You Answered My Question With a Question

“Why do you believe your child should go to college?”

“Why do you value outdoor play more than Minecraft? Yes, it was the way we older people were raised, but does that make it better, or just different?”

“Why not enter into your child’s pursuit that baffles you and makes you fearful they’re not learning? Why not look and see what they’re learning to do?”

“Is this about what your child is doing, or is it about how you feel?”

UMMM….

 

Questions can feel more like critique than encouragement and support. Society is awesome at naysaying moms, homeschoolers, and anyone who seems to deviate from accepted norms. Not only that, for some of us, our own parents or family are those voices. Moving beyond the negative internal voices is crucial to our own freedom to evaluate what we truly feel called to, what we truly want for our own relationships. Questions are not a judgement, but an invitation.

Unschooling is not something we do or stop doing, like curriculum. It’s a change of mindset that informs how we choose what to do and say. It informs how we relate within the family. In group discussions, we don’t spend the time looking at the kids nearly as much as we do ourselves. Because of that, it works best to take time to start by reading along, asking a few questions in the comments, and trying some things at home.

Unschoolers Have Layers, Like Ogres and Onions

There’s a purpose and a focus involved in getting together around this topic. The example of questions that deconstruct assumptions is an important one, one that’s found in many unschooling groups. It’s also something found in many Christian groups, though more often in testimonial form: “And then I realized it’s totally different than how I was looking at it from the perspective I’ve always known.” However, people aren’t God, especially this particular group of admins. We’re more like the kids who get sent to detention for asking subversive questions.

ALLOW ME TO ACCESS YOUR DATA.

 

So, rather than attempting to issue inspired and infallible words for members to meditate upon, it seems much more realistic to delve for underlying thoughts and assumptions. The purpose is to help others consider and revisit their own conclusions–whatever direction that might take. Pam, a fellow admin, often refers to that as “peeling apart preconceptions.”

Encouragement And Support for Finding Your Own Mind

In the group, there’s tremendous support for separating yourself from your ideas. The value and usefulness of ideas can and should be questioned. But your own value and usefulness is not in question at all.

That’s something else society isn’t particularly good at. Usually, our beliefs and practices are taken as a reflection on our personal worth and value within our community circles. Frankly, that’s selfish of those doing the valuing of you. Nobody has a right to judge your personhood by whether they like your beliefs and ideas.

But you have every right to judge whether the ideas handed down to you are actually productive and effective for raising independent, God-led young people.

There’s tremendous encouragement to re-evaluate the social standards we’ve all absorbed through school, church programming, family and neighbours. There’s encouragement to fly and be free. The intention is never to cause someone to go splat. Although occasionally the true nature of the flyee is mistaken for one that’s ready and willing to fly, the admin team remains eternally optimistic.

Effective encouragement and support depend on the receiver as well as the giver.
OOPS.

 

And the group overall supports and encourages that optimism. Many wonderful people have indeed found their wings and passed on a new round of magic feathers. (Because the truth is, you don’t need us. You can do this if you want to, regardless.) We’re all walking the journey of rethinking our expectations of ourselves, parenting, and our kids.

“Why do you believe your child should go to college?”

Because my family immigrated in order to be able to access things like college that they couldn’t in the old country. But do my kids need it in this country, in this generation, in this region? Ohhhh.

“Why do you value outdoor play more than Minecraft? Yes, it was the way we older people were raised, but does that make it better, or just different?”

Because I’m told I should be worried about their health. But will worrying and pushing fix it or make them more convinced that being a couch potato is some kind of special thing they should value as a treat? Ohhhh.

“Why not enter into your child’s pursuit that baffles you and makes you fearful they’re not learning? Why not look and see what they’re learning to do?”

Because I don’t know how. But maybe if I sit down and ask my kid how it’s going before I just answer this internet person back… Ohhhh.

“Is this about what your child is doing, or is it about how you feel?”

It’s easier to say it’s the kids, because I’ve never had permission for it to be about how I feel. Ohhhh.

OHHH.

 

Unschooling conversations work better when people know first that they want to pursue a change of perspective. That’s why we ask people to wait, read, and try before diving in willy-nilly. Nobody should feel like an egg getting tossed around, or like a thing at all. There’s time and space to know yourself, your ideas, and where to draw the line between the two. And to decide whether this is the right path for you.

-Cat

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