Sunday, January 31, 2010

Unschooling = Unlimiting

Continuing with the recent conversations about the definition of unschooling, and about what terms people use for this educational style of learning through living, I wanted to post something I found here

[To the frequently voiced complaint that the word "unschooling" seems negative, this was written years ago and has not been bested:]
"Lots of people make this point, but I never see the negation as negative in a value-judgment sense when I use the word--to me unschooling is as positive as unchaining, unbinding, unleashing, unfolding, unfurling, unlimiting...

"All mean freedom and growth and vast possibilities to me."

-Suzanne Carter

And that, my friends, is a good part of the reason why I happily say unschooling.  To me, "school" is a negative word.  By unschooling myself, I'm setting myself free from the rigid constraints of schooling in all it's forms!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Unschooling Gatherings

It seems for many, quite possibly most, people, going into a new situation/group can be rather intimidating.  Perhaps especially for something like an unschooling conference, where you really care about being part of that community, learning more about that lifestyle, and meeting others who are following a similar path.  I've heard from a few people that they were worried they'd feel out of place, and from a few people who *did* feel out of place at their first conference!  I was worried about this, too.  And I've felt out of place as well.  But not anymore!

My first ever exposure to other unschoolers was Not Back to School Camp in September of 2008.  I was pretty nervous going there all alone, and when I arrived at the camp, there were what seemed like hundreds of people rushing around and yelling and hugging and being exuberant.  I just wanted to find a little hole to curl up in!  I got a cold nearly instantly, I felt pretty miserable and shy, and kept mostly to myself, so the week was kind of rocky.  It was only on the last day I realized that I had actually managed to make a couple friends, despite how much I'd hid in a corner!
Five months later, in February 2009, I went, along with my mother and sister, to the Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering.  It was the first conference we went to!  Aside from a handful of people I'd met (but not hung out with much) at camp, we knew no one, and I found it pretty nerve-wracking.  There also weren't many people near my age, and although I'll just as happily befriend younger folk individually, I feel pretty out-of-place in groups of younger teens, so I kind of bounced between different people, older and younger, for much of the time.  I enjoyed a lot of talks, and *did* make friends with a few awesome people, though!

The Northeast Unschooling Conference in August 2009, was the last gathering were I felt out of place at all.  I really still felt like a newbie at first, and was really shy, but I quickly started to have a good time, got to know people whom I'd previously met better, and made new friends (that sounds strangely young and cute...  "I made new friends, mommy!" ;-)), and ended up having a really wonderful time!  By the end of the conference, I didn't feel like an outsider anymore.


Not Back To School Camp followed shortly after, in September 2009, and it was awesome!  When I arrived, to all the same yelling and hugging and exuberance as the year before, I was surprised to find I wasn't intimidated at all.  I cheerfully greeted people, new and old, chattered happily, and just felt really relaxed.  I kept waiting for the OhMyGawdI'mInAGigGroupIWannaHide thing to hit, but it never did!  I knew at least half the people there, at least by sight, and I got to know a ton of really awesome people that week.

For this years Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering, it's been great feeling like we're really a part of the unschooling community!  A couple of people offered to share a suite with us (it didn't end up working in either case, sadly), and people have asked us if we're going to be there, because they want to see us.  We've asked if various people are going to be there, because we want to see them!  I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, and meeting many new ones.

Really, the point of all this is just to say that, to start with, going to unschooling events can be a scary proposition.  It's easy to feel like an outsider, easy to be shy, and easy to think everyone there has known each other forever (which often isn't true!).  But it really doesn't take long to no longer feel like the new guy/gal!  You'll undoubtably meet great people, and it really is a wonderful community to be a part of.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Curfews: Is there a better way?

Most of the teens under 18 who I know (not including unschoolers), have a "curfew", a time by which they *must* be home or face groundings, loss of computer time, or similar punishments.  It's something I've spent a bit of time thinking about. 

During the school year, though I don't really agree, I do understand why parents impose a curfew.  Kids do need to be up early the next morning to go to school.  Now, this often doesn't affect how late teens go to bed anyway, since they just stay up late at home, but I do see *why* the parents want them in earlier.  But in Summer?  Now that, I understand less.  The only reason, when getting up early for school isn't an issue, that I can possibly see making sense for imposing a curfew in the Summer, is worries about the safety of their kid.  But there are such better ways of handling it than a curfew, and groundings in some of a teens only free time in the entire year, when they miss that curfew!  Here's how my family handles things:

We like to know where a family member is when they aren't here.  We like to know how late someone will be back.  When Emi heads out, for instance (I'll use my sister as an example, since she's the one who's out late most often!), one of us will ask "when do you plan on being home?".  She'll give an answer, and our policy is that whatever time is given, you should be home by, or call by, that time.  That is the easiest possible way.  Whoever is at home doesn't worry, and whoever is out isn't resentful because they "have" to be home by an externally imposed time.  And in case you were wondering, we're all pretty good about calling to let HQ know where we are and how we're doing.  I also ask my mother and father that question when they go out at night, and I expect to get a call if they're going to be late!  This isn't just something for the younger people in our house.

If a ride is needed, obviously the driver has a big say in how late the person can be out!  Mum is a night owl, and she really doesn't mind doing late night driving most of the time (I think the latest Emi and I have called to be picked up at was two in the morning...  Maybe a bit later.  She'd known and OK'd the fact we'd be home very late, and cheerfully arrived to bring us home!), but when she does decide she's too tired, or really doesn't feel like it, neither Emi or I are upset or put out.  It's also a bonus that at this point, an increasingly large number of friends can drive, and some even have regular access to a car! ;-)

So much anger and resentment, so much fighting in so many families, over something that really shouldn't be a big issue at all.  Every time I hear of a kid getting grounded for days for missing their curfew by 15 minutes, I just shake my head.  There's enough things to expend your anger and energy on in this world.  Pick the things that are actually important!


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Term "Homeschooling" Sucks

I don't like the term homeschooling.  I really don't.  And it's always kind of bothered me that that's the default term used here in North America.  What we, and many others, have done bears VERY little resemblance to "schooling" of any sort!  So I figured I'd do a brief list of all the terms I've heard of, both for home education in general and more specifically for unschooling, that in my opinion are WAY better than "homeschooling".

Home based education, home education, independent learning, home learning, self-directed learning, life learning, organic learning, natural learning, autodidactism, worldschooling, child-led learning, student-led learning, delight driven learning.

And I'm SURE I'm missing some (probably many!) other terms.

Now, I've recently gotten into a few discussions about terminology, and about whether or not it was good or bad to have a "unifying" label for the self-directed learning style that's commonly known as unschooling.  And I do think that unschooling is a great unifying word for this philosophy of learning, and since it's becoming better known, being the term most commonly used in articles and on TV shows, I think it's become VERY useful, especially in recent times.  I also think it's great to pick whatever term *you* feel is best for you.  I just think it's nice to have a back-up word that's increasingly well known!

Oh, and feel free to let me know what terms I missed...  I'm always happy to hear new ones!


P.S. Can you tell I'm feeling better by the fact I'm actually posting?  I just hope I continue to feel better! *Knocks on wood* But, I am still sick, so if anything sounds off in this post, I'm blaming the cold I currently still have. :-P

P.P.S. I know I've been accused of nitpicking, and arguing about semantics when I talk about words I use, words I like and dislike, and all that.  But the fact remains, I find this subject both interesting and *personally* important, so I can't help but nitpick and complain about terms on occasion!

P.P.P.S. (Last one, I promise!) I added a "Share" button at the bottom of each post.  Opinions are welcome: is it useful or annoying?

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Being "Childish"

Have you ever heard someone be accused of being "childish", or been accused of that yourself?  You probably have, because that's an extremely common insult.  It's used when you have political opinions that other people disagree with (anarchy, for instance, is incredibly childish!), it's used when you dare to defy authority and stand up for yourself (don't be childish!  Just do it!), it's used when someone expresses their emotions openly (it's childish of you to be angry/hurt/upset!). 

This is so insulting to so many people, on so many levels!

When people use that word, when they say "childish", what they mean is that anything a child comes up with, any thought, opinion, emotion, is absolutely worthless and discard-able.  To be a child is to have nothing of worth to show for yourself.  It's an expression of ageism at it's very worst!

So when someone tells me that I'm being childish, they're not only insulting children everywhere, they're also telling me that my opinions are worthless.  That they're short-sighted, uninformed, unimportant, and simply not worth paying any attention to.

I think that's one of the things that makes me the absolute angriest when someone says it to me.  And I've heard it WAY more often than I'd like!

I've heard that the most marginalized members of society are the young and the old, and I don't have much trouble believing that.  Ageism and disrespect are so very common, that I find it seriously discouraging sometimes.


Friday, January 15, 2010

DIY Life Zine now has it's own website!

It's been several weeks since the zine came out, and I've loved getting such great feedback on it! :-) But it's occured to me that the info for it on this blog is very scattered and rather hard to find.  So, I gave it it's own website!  Go check it out here.  Please do.  I'd love to hear your opinions on the site, information you think I should add, and stuff like that.  This also gave me an excuse to play around with Wordpress, something I've been wanting to do for a while!  I've considered moving this blog over to Wordpress, since there are a lot of features missing from Blogger that Wordpress has, but so far I've decided not to.  Either way, I enjoyed setting up the site for DIY Life Zine!  The link to that site can now be found permanently on this blog in the list at the top of the sidebar.