I was thinking about how to describe unschooling... Now there are plenty of descriptions you can use, all pretty accurate, but mainly I was thinking about how you differentiate unschooling from, say, eclectic or relaxed homeschooling. Many eclectic homeschoolers call themselves unschoolers, and I was trying to figure out why that bothers me, and why I think a distinction between eclectic homeschooling and unschooling should be made. Basically, it comes down to this: unschooling is letting go of control over your child's education. Eclectic homeschooling, however, is letting go of some control. Certain bits of control. It's saying I trust you to learn R and X subjects, but I DON'T trust you to learn Y and Z subjects. That seems to me to be sending mixed messages. Either you trust your children to know what's best for themselves, or you don't. This in between ground, though certainly better than school-at-home, still seems to me to be lacking that important trust and respect.
Taking it further, radical unschooling is letting go of control over your child's life. I want to make it very clear that when I say "letting go of control", either referring to a child's education or their entire life, I do not mean letting go of your child, in the sense of becoming an absent parent. Unschooling is becoming more involved in your childs life, not less! Many people seem to equate control with love, for some bizarre reason, and then think that if parents are not controling their children, they're just being "lazy" and not showing love for their children. However, without control, you can still help your children. Support them. Love them. Control, in my mind, makes it harder to help, support, and love your children, not easier. In adult romantic relationships, control is not a good sign. Control, of what you eat and wear and do, of who you see, is considered, rightly so, abuse in such situations. So why is it considered acceptable treatment for children?
Some people also think that unschooling can be dangerous. If you're letting your child "do whatever they want", they could cause harm to themselves or those around them. And this brings me to the point that unschooling, and radical unschooling specifically, is treating children with the same respect as you would a person of any other age. If my best friend tried to walk in front of a car, I would physically stop him. The same applies to a child. If a toddler is crawling along on the ground eating cigarette buts, it's not okay to let them! Unschooling means not making arbitrary rules. It doesn't mean letting someone do something that will likely cause harm to themselves or others.
I think some of these thoughts could certainly be worked out more, elaborated on, etc., and I'm certainly not the first to address these issues, but since I've found myself in the place of explaining unschooling to people lately, I've been thinking a lot about how to address various points... How to put things in a convincing way that makes sense to people. So I'm just working things out here... :-)