I think most people know how much I love unschooling by now. I will happily wax on about how unschooling is the only type of truly *free* education, how unschooling has made my life better, and allowed me to become a truly authentic person, which I'm not sure I would have managed in school, etc. etc. etc.
But what about the downsides of unschooling (yes, you read that right)? That isn't talked about much by unschoolers, quite understandably. When you're trying to convince the rest of the world that unschooling is a good thing, you don't want to bring up the difficulties attached to it. Because there are some difficulties. Nowhere near insurmountable ones, but there nonetheless. Note that this isn't the typical "homeschooling methods pros and cons" list: a balancing of the supposedly *good* and supposedly *bad* elements, so that you can decide whether or not this style is "right for you". This is simply a few things that I've found especially hard to deal with, as an unschooler.
What I find to be sad is that every single *con* I can think of isn't really to do with unschooling per say: it's to do with how the world, and individual people, view unschooling!
So here are some of the things that I've found to be difficult to deal with, to do with unschooling. Some of these things hold true for homeschooling as well.
Firstly, the constant questioning. Constant. As a young child, it's "do you have a PED day (the teacher's education days in Quebec, where the kids get the day off since the teachers are in class!)?" "why aren't you in school?" "do you know how to read?" and similar annoying things. As you get older, the questions change. It's "are you planning on going to school now?" tinged with severe disapproval. It's ignorant comments like "I once met a homeschooler who had NO social skills!" while scrutinizing you to see if you're about to start exhibiting similar signs of lack-of-socialization. When I was young, and we still just said we were homeschoolers, I'd simply answer questions as neutrally as possible, just trying to end the conversation as soon as I could. As I got older and we started using the word unschooler, which was fairly recently, the reactions changed somewhat. Mostly, the word "unschooling" is met with puzzlement. After an explanation of what it is, it's often STILL met with puzzlement. "No, my mom didn't teach me, I taught myself!" repeated patiently, as people struggle to grasp such a foreign concept! If it is understood, it's often met with extreme skepticism and/or disapproval and/or outright horror. Sometimes people are supportive, sometimes they're honestly curious and not trying to be judgmental. But the point of all this is just to say that as an unschooler, you're constantly answering for the educational choices you've made.
Another thing I've found to be difficult is the lack of a support network nearby. At this point, many, many places have homeschool support groups, homeschool co-ops, and similar things. Unschooling, however, is still a small enough percentage that most places don't have that support for unschoolers. Now, unschooling is, after all, basically a type of homeschooling (it's so different from every other type of homeschooling, that I often find myself forgetting that fact, but it is true!), so sometimes the local homeschooling groups can be great for unschoolers as well. Sometimes, though, they're not. I know that in my pre-teenage years, we were involved with a lot of local homeschooling groups and activities. However, the people in these groups were mostly very Christian, and very school-at-home. I didn't make very many friends through the homeschooling community (a few, but not many) and often felt pretty out of place. The general mindset was just very different from my family's!
Doubts are also an issue. Pretty much everyone has them, no matter what type of education you have, but I think it may just be even harder for unschoolers, at times. When enough of the world doubts how "well" unschooling can work, it's quite easy to fall into the habit of doubting it yourself!
Not having a "graduation" or similar distinction that you're now in *adulthood* can also be difficult. Some homeschoolers organize graduations, and I'm sure this is great for some unschoolers as well. But it wouldn't mean anything to me. What am a graduating from?? I'm still learning, still growing, as I will be until the day I die. Having someone hand me an embossed piece of paper on a stage doesn't really mean much, for me! So as an unschooler, it's quite likely you'll have to find that something special for yourself. For some it will be moving out on their own; for others starting college; for some traveling. I'm really not sure if I've found that special something for me yet. I know that this blog has given me *something*. Previously, the only people who read what I wrote were family and friends: people who were pretty much obligated to *like* what I wrote! ;-) Getting validation for my writing, and just for *me*, from such a wide base of people has certainly meant a lot to me, and I'm sure has also contributed to my growth in confidence and self-assurance! Come to think of it, I'm not so sure that this whole point really is a "con" after all. It's probably better to find your own personal *graduation* than to have nothing more than a piece of paper saying you've "graduated"!
Unschooling often isn't n easy path. Doing ANYTHING that isn't "normal" or "expected" often isn't easy, and if you're an unschooler, who believes in unschooling, you have no one to blame but yourself. I think that may be one of the hardest things about unschooling, actually: the fact that you're really and truly the only one in control of your own life.
These are just a few thoughts: some things that have been bouncing around in my head for a while now. I love unschooling. I am SO grateful to have lived as free a life as I have, and I don't think any of these things are nearly big enough for someone to decide not to unschool. But at the same time, I think people often minimize just *how* difficult it can be, at times, to live in a society that is so very far away from the lifestyle that you lead as an unschooler!
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. :-)