What is Radical unschooling? Is it Biblical/Christian?

As for “Is it Christian” the answer is no. It is not Christian,it is neutral, but it is definitely an extension of the example of Christ and how He presented information and in how He treated people of all ages. So, the clearer question is, “Does unschooling fit well with Scripture and the example of Christ?” YES! We were created to learn, and God placed us as part of the whole of his Creation. We can use the whole world/universe and all that is within nature, technology, and humanity to learn all things. We should be constantly in a state of questioning and seeking and in doing so, we will be able to cover all topics. We should use the example of Christ and treat our children and our spouses with loving kindness, respect and of equal worth and consideration in all things.

Pam C.

What is radical unschooling?

The short answer is relationship first, everything else is gravy.

Long answer: Radical unschooling most often is used to mean an intentional full life unschooling- instead of just education; including character, emotional, social development. Parents gently guide in the direction that they see God leading their child instead of dictating all aspects of a child’s life. Radical unschooling is NOT unparenting and Christian parents can and do do it.


Is it Biblical?

Yes. But it does take a paradigm shift if you come from a legalistic or strict background.

I am not going to get into all the Bible verses that support or negate, as scripture can and has been twisted in every direction.

Rather I will point out that Christ gently lead, only seldom did he raise his voice or voice his frustration at his followers, He was not weak, He was gentle, kind, loving, He hurt for His people and for His followers even as He lead them. He knew they didn’t understand everything He said, He knew they didn’t always get it but rather than berate them, yell at them, get angry, He continued to love and guide them, showing them gently the right way to go.

That has been my own experience with God as well. He guides and loves and shows and allows natural consequences. He doesn’t have a huge list of arbitrary rules to show me how to obey but rather asks that I obey out of love, and guides me gently to where I can. Even when I fight against Him all the way like I did with unschooling and radical unschooling.

He gently lead our family first to unschooling, allowing me to fail over and over and damage my relationship with my oldest. Then once we were there He lead us into gentle parenting (which, combined with unschooling is essentially what radical unschooling is.) He helped me rebuild the relationship with my daughter, healing what was broken. He healed the relationship between my children as well, and gave us the blessing of a gentle home.

It isn’t always quiet, how can it be with 3 teens and 2 adults romping around laughing and playing and being silly together, but it is gentle. We still have teenagers, hormones still mean crankiness and still all have rough days but forgiveness comes easily, hearts aren’t damaged, love and joy fill our home where once it was anger and resentment. There is understanding and discussion instead of screaming and fights, there is fun and laughter the majority of the time instead of just occasionally between times of angry parents and crying kids.

Heather Y.

For us, the transition has definitely been one that has led us to model our parenting on Christ. So I believe it has aligned with our biblical beliefs smoothly. We are still works in progress, but our efforts have been blessed.

My easiest summary would be to say that radically unschooling is empowering your children to not only own their education but own their schedules, relationships, bodies, living environments, etc so that they know why we live the way we live and can make right choices based on solid reasoning and biblical wisdom rather than just do what they are told is required. They are still guided and protected, and are expected to respect others and in our family they are taught to seek God’s direction and will for them.

Traci P.

We are Christians and if we are solid in our own walk with the Lord, all we do should be in alignment with that relationship. Too often, we look to the religiousity of things that many label as “Christian” but really that makes things murky for understanding. Things are not Christian, people are, so your original question hopefully will open people up to looking at the misnomer of it. When we are open to question the little things like that, we can then open ourselves up for the bigger, harder things that might be more uncomfortable to change, but will benefit our kids, our relationship with our spouse’s and our own journey through life.

Pam C.

Even after years of unschooling, I still don’t attempt to try to define it. And I *never* call myself a radical unschooler, but I think we have grown into that anyway. Once you start trusting your child and yourself, and letting the Holy Spirit lead the way, it’s kind of hard NOT to…

Elizabeth H.

I personally love and embrace the title of radical unschooler, even with all the misconceptions that abound.

I’m borrowing a bit from something I previously wrote for my blog here: I think that the biggest difference between unschooling and radical unschooling is that generally speaking, the basic term ‘unschooling’ refers only to academics. Most unschoolers will embrace a philosophy of individual life-learning, not following any specific curriculum, letting learning arise from the experiences and interest of the learner, etc, but it doesn’t take into account different types of parenting. For example, many people will use the term ‘unschooling’ to define their style of homeschooling… but will still otherwise exert a lot of controlling, punitive rules, regulations, and externally imposed structure on their children. With ‘radical’ unschooling, there is a complete paradigm shift away from a traditional, authoritative, “I’m the parent and I said so” type of parenting to one of mutual respect and partnership. Radical unschoolers extend the trust, freedom, and respect that they give their children when it comes to learning to ALL areas of their life. It is allowing them to honor their own autonomy over their bodies, their sleep, their food, etc.

One thing I want to reiterate more than anything else is that radical unschooling is a very *hands-on* style of parenting. I think the biggest misconception people have is that radical unschooling is neglectful, that it’s leaving kids to their own devices. It is actually very much the opposite! It is valuing respectful, loving RELATIONSHIPS over all else. Radical unschoolers guide, listen, model, help, facilitate, and partner with their children. They do NOT control, coerce, punish, or shame.

Do I think radical unschooling is biblical? Goodness, yes. As my understanding of radical unschooling grew, my faith in turn deepened. I think at its heart, radical unschooling is simply extending the same love, grace, and freedom that God gives us onto our children.

Jennifer M.

Grace. That is the word I was missing. Lots and lots of grace, on all sides. Grace from parents to children, grace from children to parents. That combined with love and respect makes an amazing combination and brings much joy.

Heather Y.

I see radical unschooling as 3 biblical principles:

1.) Live by an example to our children 2.) Be PRESENT with our children on a daily basis3.) disciple / discipline our children (which is not the same as punishment)

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. “

I’d like to answer what radical unschooling is NOT. It is not unparenting or permissive parenting. It is not punitive or controlling. It is not “perfection”.

Christian radical unschooling is first and foremost parents who recognize that they are not perfect, but that they desire to cultivate a relationship of mutual respect with their children. They work with their children as human beings and as a family to meet everyone’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as much as possible. It is about balance, discipleship, relationship, love, gentleness, and grace. All of the things that Jesus spoke much about.

It is also about extending the principles of freedom and grace in learning into the entirety of our lives with our children. We not only give them the freedom to choose what to learn, but the freedom to choose in other areas of their lives. This typically includes a more open and cooperative approach to bedtime, meals, chores, etc.

Vanessa P.

I want to add that there is a misconception that we encourage kids to only do what they want, creating irresponsible behaviors. I’ve observed the opposite to be true because we while we encourage them to pursue things, jobs, relationships, and roles that they want, we also show them that to do so may require hard work, commitment, patience, and endurance of unpleasant times in order to support and achieve these things.

They are fully aware that other groups, communities, families, businesses, etc have rules that may be arbitrary. If they choose to be included by them they should follow their rules. They are responsible and aware that just because we have respected their input here, it is not necessarily how it is done elsewhere. They will have to choose to commit and sit under other more authoritarian environments and I have no doubt that if they choose to they’ll be able to behave/work/relate according to those rules.

Traci P.

While we don’t call ourselves anything particular–labels are always distorted by the loudest voices and most often don’t truly reflect what we are–for the purposes of this group, we are definitely radical unschoolers. What does that mean for us? It means our connection, our relationship with these kiddos and each other means far more than *anything* else in this world.It means we live life as if school doesn’t exist. We learn what we want to, when we want to learn it or when God or life gives it to us to learn from. It means we live life with our kids, together much of the time–we don’t leave them behind unless it is their choice, life is for living together. We parent much more gently than we were raised, with a far different approach to ‘rules’ (we don’t even use the word in relation to our home) and in a much more respectful way than is mainstream. At this point in our lives, our kiddos are 21 and almost-19, mainstream parenting says we’re done homeschooling…radical unschooling says we’re happily sharing life with two young adults who seem to enjoy our company as well as that of their friends. Amid their own lives of jobs and friends, they talk with us, they seek us out…and that is what it’s all about.

Dana B.

Absolutely Traci  P., I agree. If we go somewhere or take part in a group, my kids absolutely understand that if we want to be a part of that, we need to respect and follow the rules of the group/place. There are a few exceptions where I would allow my kids to challenge a rule they felt was not right or fair, but I think that we would have to have a discussion on that.

The reason I say that is, I am very much a “use my manners, follow the rules” kind of person, UNLESS I feel the rule is unjust. One example is when I was in school. I had a teacher that never taught any of the material that was on the tests and generally did not do her job, or even tell us what to study for (which would be something we weren’t even told to read yet). This hurt my grades, and was not any fault of my own. This was a big deal to me, because I was an A student and worked hard. It was against the rules obviously to get up in the middle of class or a test and call out the teacher, but I did it. I got sent to the principal’s office, where I voiced my opinions there. My mother was called to the school and I sat with her and the principle and explained what was going on in class, and that I was a “bad student” because I stood up for my right to have a good education!

Anyways, that is an instance when I would stand behind my child breaking rules

Vanessa P.

I don’t see how I can add much really. I agree with so much of what’s been stated. We do what works best for us and, as Christians, it happens to be radical unschooling. When I think about our lives, it seems to be a trend that we tend to be on the radical end of everything.

I both embrace the labels and think they’re stupid, lol. Not sure I totally understand why everything *must* be labeled. I think we all just do what works for us at any given point. I am proud to be a radical Christian unschooler, among many other things though.

Patrice L.

For us it means living alongside our children in a relationship of mutual respect and grace, guiding one another toward being the person God is calling each of us to be. We don’t do “rules” but we do principles and guidelines. Our two main guidelines are “Love God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” I find that it’s hard to beat Jesus when it comes to condensing the spirit of the law.

Is radical unschooling Biblical? I find it to emulate the relationship Christ had with his disciples. I don’t know how much more Biblical you can get.

I also want to debunk the “unparenting” myth. I was unparented. I know what unparenting looks like, what it feels like, how it affects a growing human being. I do not unparent my children. I am more involved in my kids’ lives than I can even describe. I’m there beside them, guiding them, leading them, acting as friend, advisor, facilitator, counselor, you name it.

Mariellen M.

As a follow-up to the rule breaking, I think you can add that they will (at least at our house) feel the liberty to walk away from said organization or commitment should they feel it’s not biblical or not leading to where they are aiming to go. Hopefully because of the level of respect and responsibility that’s modeled in the tough situation they will have seen the “quitting” of a job and how it’s done responsibly while still supporting a family. They will have been included in the decision-making process. They will have seen us walk away from a church situation that was unhealthy and seen us make that break responsibly, with prayer and consideration of others. Because they aren’t treated as if everything is beyond their level of comprehension they’ll have that experience to fall back on.

Traci P.

That exactly, Traci. That has been our own experience as well. We discuss things with the kids, they know why we left the church we did, they know what our money situation is like, and so on. The respect they receive means they have the tools to handle hard things in life but also to know when and how to stick it out. There is no arbitrary you have to stick this out, instead they see real decisions being made and are part of them. They learn work ethic because they are part of it, they see it, it isn’t something that is being “instilled” it is a natural part of their lives.

Heather  Y.

Perhaps the conversation I just had with two of my daughter’s was “unschooly”. My youngest daughter (6- 7 in June) isn’t reading yet. She can read a few words but nothing much- definitely not what would be required if she attended school, but we aren’t fretting over it. She is a *very* intelligent little girl so we have no doubt that when she *is* ready to read- she said she’s not quite ready- she will take off as if she’s been reading all her life. Breaking things down into school subjects though, she is on math *hard* ((shrugs)) I’m happy that she’s happy learning freely as it pleases her.

Patrice L.