Third Culture School – When Christians Unschool in a Homeschooling World

Have you ever heard the term Third Culture Kids?  It’s a term used pretty often to describe Missionary’s kids.  They’re from one culture, but they grow up in another. So they don’t fully fit in either.

That’s how I feel as a Christian unschooler.

Most of the unschoolers that I’m aware of, especially radical unschoolers, are not Christian. They are free lovin’, blowin’ in the wind hippies.

And most of the homeschoolers I know are staunchly Christian.  No free lovin’ or wind blowin’ involved.

Please tell me someone besides myself sees the irony here.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know a single Christian homeschooling family with malicious intentions. Not at all. Of course not! I mean, everyone means well, right? I don’t know a single parent whose motivation isn’t somewhere in the vicinity of what is best for their child. Or what they think is best for their child.

They want to help their children succeed, be successful and respected, and use all that talent and energy one day to do good and work for the Lord.  But they’re often times doing that with Latin curricula, and daily math lessons, and lots of memorization.

But I can’t help but wonder, deep down – what does that have to do with anything?  I mean, really.

What good does minute amounts of rote math do for anybody? And Latin? Can you say “dead language”? And don’t even get me started on scores of rote memorization.

(Don’t burn me at the stake here, I know that some people really love Latin.  And if your child has a natural interest in it, go for it!)

Here’s what I think happens: Parents feel pressured (I feel pressured) to equip children for adult life. For education, and careers, and family. And the only way we know how to do that, is the way we’ve been taught. Which is a pretty traditional model of “education.” It involves curricula and time tables. Maybe book reports, or testing, or narration. It involves certain information being introduced at certain ages and nothing done terribly out of “order.”

Because someone studied it and told us that this is the best way – nay, the only way. And it looks good on paper.

Well. So does socialism.

Which brings me to my main point. Freedom.

I think children were meant to be so. much. more. free.

To run.
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And climb.
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And play.
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And be silly.
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And get dirty.
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And rest.
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And build.
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And explore.
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And draw.
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And sometimes (or a lot of the time?) to do nothing at all. To sit in a tree or stare at the clouds or read books all day.

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A lot of people get upset with me when I say that, and try to explain that their children do indeed get a chance to do all of those things. And I am sure that is true. But, for the purpose of this subject, my point is that I think most children need even more freedom in these things than they’re currently allowed.

And as Christians, we’re supposed to have a much better hold on freedom than most people. We’re supposed to be free from the pull of this world. The monetary and cultural definitions of success and worth. Of conveyor belt careerism.

And yet here we are, manufacturing our children strictly within a box that will produce what we claim we are not.  Because everyone else is doing it, and it’s the box we grew up in so it’s comfortable and predictable and all we really know. Everything outside of that box is scary.

Christians: please don’t let fear box you or your kids in when it comes to learning.

There’s a certain practice or belief in Christianity called “walking in the Spirit” or being “led by the Spirit.”

Which I understand to quite literally mean being led by God. And we insist that we have to be sensitive to the spirit. To listen to its “still small voice.” To be malleable to its proddings and willing to follow where it leads, even if it’s out of our comfort zone.

But then we read of an educational philosophy that encapsulates that and we think it’s hippy gibberish.

And that is the precise point where all of this irony makes my teeth ache.

To me, being a Christian and unschooling click so perfectly together, they should be synonymous. Instead of sounding like a mouthful of oxymoron.

The two belief systems mirror each other beautifully. It’s about acknowledging and trusting the fact that we are designed (by God!) to learn. It’s innate. We’re curious, and passionate, and optimistic by nature.

Until we get “schooled.” And then … most of that gets lost. It just does. By parents, and teachers, and boards of education with the best intentions in the world.

So, I would beg Christian parents to really dig into this silly idea of letting go of the time tables and curriculums. And to let the very spirit of God help lead their children to develop the unique talents and interests He’s born into them to begin with. Without (honestly) wasting a bunch of time on stuff that’s not necessary, that they’ll massively forget, and that God didn’t equip them for specifically anyway.

To not automatically assume this educational philosophy is irresponsible, illogical, or unrealistic.

Because those are the very words people outside of Christianity use to describe our beliefs.

Yes, unschooling takes intense trust. And faith.

But so does following Jesus.

 ~ Jessica from bohemianbowmans.com

*I have great respect for anyone who chooses to homeschool, in any format.  I am not trying to insult or ridicule anyone, but instead ask others to consider that perhaps Unschooling isn’t as blasphemous as many Christians assume.  Comments attacking in nature won’t be approved.

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