Unschooling in the Media

Ahhh, leave it to an unschooling debate to get me back into blogging. Good Morning America featured a story on unschooling yesterday and then a follow-up this morning. And as could be expected, the debate is on…on blogs, on facebook, in comments sections. Everyone debating whether unschooling “works” or if it is “unparenting” or a valid method of education. But I am not writing a defense of unschooling nor a critique of the story’s bias here…I have shared my thoughts on unschooling often in the past. And others are doing so now.

When I first started homeschooling, I used to get excited to see unschooling stories in the press. However now I have no desire to see them, because they never get it right. And I worry about the misperceptions that they put out there (unschoolers are neglecting their children and not preparing them for life) and how that affects the overall perception of homeschoolers in general.

It takes a paradigm shift to get homeschooling in the first place and then yet another one to get unschooling. Even in the homeschooling community there are often heated debates about unschooling and whether it “works”. If it is hard enough to get other homeschoolers to understand it, then I think that it really is too much to ask traditionally minded folks to make the double leap. Couple that with the fact that the media tends to only be able to cover stories at the surface level at best, and you wind up with articles that just don’t get it.

I have to admit that I have lost my desire to educate the world at large. I no longer feel the need to jump into the fray, to convince folks that what I am doing works. I am more than happy to talk about what works for us on email lists and on my blog, but I have no desire to try to explain something as nuanced and meaty as unschooling in a 5 minute tv segment (or even a half hour segment, as when unschoolers went on Dr Phil) or an article. It just can not do it justice.

I do understand why others want to do these interviews. I do. I just have seen the best made intentions get thwarted by reporters who sensationalize it or just don’t get it. It happens time and time again. In my opinion, unschooling is one of those things that is best understood through grassroots parent-to-parent discussions. If a person is open and curious, even if doubtful, then learning can better happen. I think that a lot can get lost in translation if you just throw it out there into the unprepared culture at large.

I am at the point where I just want to live my life, raising my kids in a way that works for us. If folks are genuinely interested, they can read my blog or I am more than happy to talk about our way of life and why it works for us (just ask anyone who knows me…I can talk your ear off!) But I will save my advocacy for where I think it can do the most good…parent to parent, person to person. Where a real discussion about real kids and real families (and all the messiness and uncertainty that entails) can happen.