Unschooling and Unchurching: Parallels

The gradual development of our philosophy on unschooling has paralleled our God journey to a place free from the obligations of religious institutions that we like to call “unchurching.” We didn’t deliberately set out to do this, but rather God has gently called us out of the comfort of the structures that held us, and He has brought us into a place of true freedom.

“A different approach to life yields a very different set of results.” — Sandra Dodd

I would have been the first to deny it, but when we started learning about unschooling, we were religious people. Deep within me, I thought people ought to go to church to find out more about God. And I sought to encourage them to go, to willingly subject themselves to the institutions that were holding us captive at the time (sorry, friends!).

But as I discovered that children don’t need to be deliberately taught in order to learn, and as I realised that life’s lessons are greater than the ubiquitous educational institutions — my mind began to shift.

I started wondering: Why was I was sending my daughters to Sunday school? It was held during the church meeting and oh-so-convenient as a form of babysitting. But in fobbing them off, I was passing them onto someone else to implant formative stories in their mind. I knew that I didn’t want my kids to be taught by others in schools, so why was I relegating the most important subject — God — to others?

I had a couple experiences with teaching Sunday school myself, and I realised that — however well-intentioned — the true spiritual content was .01% of the lesson. So if I was just handing over my kids to someone else’s responsibility, and it was not actually for positive spiritual growth but merely for babysitting, how could it be right?

This reasoning troubled me for a while. I also disagreed with some of the practices by other Sunday school supervisors. Videos were shown by those too lazy to interact with the children. The gross simplification of the Bible stories underestimated the children’s spiritual depth and kept them from really learning about God.

My reaction was to try to insist that our children not attend Sunday school. Instead, they stayed in the church meeting with us. They played quietly as we listened to the sermon. But this compromise didn’t settle the matter.

Soon I realised that I was subjecting myself to the very same practices I was trying to shield my children from! In sitting in the traditional church meeting, I was taking someone else’s stories and making them my own. Someone else was telling me about God instead of allowing me to find out for myself.

Sure, the words in church may sound like “look for yourself,” but the religious leaders’ practice within institutionalised religion trumpets “learn from me.” The rhetoric is “the Bible is God’s word,” but the practice is that one person tells you what the Bible says, rather than simply reading the words and letting the Holy Spirit speak to individuals.

Despite this disquiet with church and Sunday School, leaving the religious institution was never on our mind. In fact, the only way we could start living in freedom was to be kicked out. On one memorable Sunday, David quoted Bible verses — interrupting the sermon — and this was too much for the religious leaders.

From their perspective, David had disobeyed a religious leader’s command to be silent, and that was a gross sin. We were asked not to attend the Sunday meeting, and when David did go, he was forcibly removed from the building.

Distanced from the emotion of the time, I can now see that being kicked out of church and finding freedom in unchurching is akin to being expelled from school and finding freedom in learning naturally!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. — Hebrews 12:11

As we learn more about unschooling our children, deliberately offering them freedom to grow and learn, we find that Father is holding out freedom for us as we live the life of Christ — free from religious obligations that previously held us captive. How beautiful and glorious this journey is!

I don’t expect many — if any — of you to immediately comprehend our perspective and our story. But if you take one thing away from this article, know this: we are walking in the light, following Christ, and Father will complete this glorious work in us!

~ Lauren

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