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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What I meant. I think.

I recently posted an entry exploring why I feel a little uneasy about defining myself as a radical unschooler. A reader comment seemed to indicate at least mildly ruffled feathers out there, which gave me pause. Now, I hate the idea of having to justify my opinions when they were stated in a personal forum--where it is all about me exploring my thought processes, rather than perhaps a public discussion board where it might be construed more as a commentary on other members. All the same, I apologize for any offense that may have been taken, as it was not intentional.

I've been thinking about it a lot since then and while I still stand by my original thesis (I don't think that I am quite as radical as many others who have self-classified in this way) and am unapologetic about having said so (so, it's not right for me--I never said it wasn't right for anyone else)...I do feel a need, both for me and for any potential readers, to clarify a few things. And, I hope, to articulate my position a little better.

I have a lot fewer rules than most parents. To mainstreamers, I often appear positively laissez-faire. But I do have some (firm) rules and (looser) expectations. They are all clearly explained to my children any time they are called in to play, and they are always up for discussion, but the fact that they exist at all is quite forbidden in the minds of some who embrace the "radical" label. This is what I was trying to express when I used terms such as "universal permissiveness", which I *know* is judgmental (what was I thinking, and yes I am sorry). This, I feel, would make many in the community judge me unfavorably.

Next, I have been witness to a number of discussions within RU groups about boundaries and limits which reinforce the notion that they are to be avoided at all costs, lest you infringe on the freedom of the child. A nice notion, but I believe that if someone acting without boundaries/guidelines infringes upon the comfort or safety or wellbeing of another, then that is unfair to the Other.

I wholeheartedly agree that we should not arbitrarily consider the desires and preferences of an adult to naturally trump those of a child. But neither do I feel that embracing the reverse is a better solution. We do live in social groups, and harmony is easier if everyone gives at some point. It's my goal to learn, along with my children, how all of us can treat each other respectfully. I have read of many situations where people are frustrated with a certain behavior/action but practically martyr themselves, putting the child's needs above their own to such a degree that the parent (or sibling, or family) suffers. Situations in which someone is clearly deeply unhappy and yet is unwilling to consider other options out of a sense of guilt at abandoning an unyielding idea to which they have committed themselves--even if that idea is not working for them!

Perhaps the people who I've seen going through this are the ones who do not have a good understanding of radical unschooling, and I've gotten an unfair impression by taking them to represent the larger community. Perhaps it's just something with which I am not comfortable. At any rate, it was never my intention to suggest that anyone who does choose to do so is "wrong"; simply that it is not part of what our family is currently doing. And since that's another major area in which I seem to differ from the rest of the group, I again feel like I can't accurately define myself as a member.

I'll say it again; I think I'll stick with "eclectic". So much safer. Unfortunately vague, but at least honest. And it leaves plenty of wiggle room for changing my mind on the details as we gain perspective.

At the end of the day, I still see myself more aligned with radical unschooling than any other educational or parenting method I've come across. I'm sorry if I came off as critical of it simply because I don't agree with 100% of what I'm learning about it. All the same, I do hope that anyone reading this sees it for what it is intended to be--my own search for a group in which I fit, and not a negative blanket judgment of groups in which I don't.

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