Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Tactical Retreat

I've been unschooling for a while now. Longer than most people out there, only because my kids are older. I started before the internet, before facebook.

In the beginning, most unschoolers didn't have a lot of support, I think. I found some like-minded people in La Leche League, but even that group of people included some who were unschooling out of a feeling that they were somehow "supposed to," rather than because it was what they truly believed, or how they really wanted to live.

Most of those people didn't unschool for long.

Then the internet happened.
Homeschoolers, in general, including unschoolers, started to find each other online. Discussion groups started. Chat rooms on AOL.

With the chat rooms came arguments.
Disagreements about what unschooling is, how people should do it, what "worked."

As the access to such forums increased, the level of discourse decreased. Much more time was spent explaining, arguing, and getting rid of trolls, than was spent helping each other. This was not only the case on AOL, but on e-mail lists as they became popular, and now, on facebook.

As the internet became more popular, I started out very active on a variety of online forums.
I stopped writing about unschooling online several years ago, when there was more stress involved than there was real communication.

Not very long ago, I realized that there must be unschooling pages and groups on facebook, and indeed, there are.
I started posting about unschooling again.

To my great surprise, there were people who recognized my name from things I had written years before.

I've spent part of the last while posting on several unschooling forums, in an attempt to help clarify for people what unschooling is, how it works, THAT it works. My kids are adults now. In the unschooling world (I'm not going to say "community" or "movement" because I don't think either thing really exists), adults who were (and are) unschoolers their whole lives are a fabulous resource. I thought my family might be able to help others who are just starting out.

I think we probably have, to some extent.
Some of the forums have had good conversations.
I've become acquainted with some really cool people, all over the place.


That is not all that has happened.

Lately, I've noticed that those forums seem to have more people in them who are not unschooling, than who are. That would be fine, if those were people asking questions, hoping to learn more about unschooling. Instead, they are ANSWERING questions. Giving advice. Advice full of curricula, worksheets, online schools, etc. Any attempt to redirect the conversation, or to point out that unschooling generally isn't about those things, is met with accusations of "jumping on people." There is no way for the readers to know whose advice is legit, who has years of unschooling experience, and who is, quite frankly, talking out their ass.

But that isn't what bothers me most.

What bothers me is that many of the people on those pages don't really want to unschool.
They want to "BE unschoolers."
They want the label.
They want someone else to figure it out for them, and give them all the answers- the techniques, the materials, the jargon.
They want validation for their choices, whether they are unschooling choices or not.
They want to give advice, explain things, and defend their choices, even if they aren't helpful at all to someone who is honestly trying to make changes in their lives.

It makes it tedious to read, and unpleasant to deal with.
Between the stress of being accused of mistreating people, and the necessity of repeating the same things over and over and over, whether anyone is listening or not, along with some things in my life demanding more time than is available, I've decided it's time for me to step back again.

I won't be reading or responding much, if at all, on facebook anymore. At least not for a while.
I'll write things here, on my blog.
If people want to read it, great.
If they find it interesting or useful, great.

I'm not saying that facebook forums might not be interesting or helpful for anyone, but they currently are not so for me.
I think I have a lot more to offer by simply writing about my experiences here.

I have a backlog of things I've been wanting to write about, with little time to do the writing.
I'm hoping to use the time I had been spending there, writing here.


  1. This is the problem I've seen in online communities for 20 years now. The people who are experts and really know what they are talking about end up fading away because it's all too much work and too unpleasant. The hyper-active, excited people who have been into something for about a year answer most of the questions -- which is great! But they won't have the depth of experience to offer the sort of answer a veteran would.

  2. I stumbled upon your blog from facebook. I have read a few of your posts and find them very refreshing. I have homeschooled our first 4 children using curriculum from lots of various sources. We now have one daughter left to homeschool. She is nine. For the past couple years I have been leaning more and more toward unschooling, and we are LOVING it! Thank you for your encouragement.

  3. Thank you for commenting, katie and Robin. I hope I'm able to write things here that are of value to people.