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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Friday, April 03, 2009

Summer more-schooling

Check out this bizarre idea....SUMMER Unschooling! Really? Doing projects with your kids during summer break is going to be called summer unschooling? Crazy. She's deleting any comments trying to point out what unschooling really is as I left a comment earlier and it's still showing "0" comments. Hmmmmmmm......

First of all, it's really weird to swipe a word that means "no school" and use it in that way. But then to encourage parents to think up projects for their kids to do in summertime, rather than let them actually be FREE for a few months from all the manipulations of "education", well it's the anti-thesis of unschooling in every way.

Use a different term. PLEASE. How confusing for people who really want to learn about getting away from the school system and trusting their child's natural learning process.

***Addendum: My comments are not being deleted, there is some other reason they are not going through. Must be a technical glitch.


Blogger brianna said...

Wow, how weird! I just heard someone on a local board say that they are 'Unschooling, but using FUNbooks as a guide to make sure they are satisfied with what the kids are learning'. WHAT???!
I guess we could see it as a good sign that unschooling is becoming so popular that people are completely misinterpreting it! :)

2:50 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I looked through her blog... is she for real? I have been on the other side and I have still have those bouncy moments, it ain't all that it looks like. When I see a blog like that or read the curriculum guides that promise to make learning such a joyful experience I wonder how long can I or anyone hang on to that promise with hope that it will click one day? I wonder how it can be so rosy. It makes me think I have done something wrong that my efforts never looked like THAT or that I just got real with myself and realized that I couldn't live in such a preordained fashion. I don't know, I am still figuring it out for me. I do know the further I get from being the one who decides what our summer is going to look like, the better our life is lived.

10:48 PM  
Blogger vintagechica said...

First of all, I have not deleted a single comment. Both of the comments received are posted in full glory for all to read. I welcome the opportunity to discuss (and learn more about) unschooling. For me...a mom who wants desperately to unschool her children...I am hoping that by getting our feet wet this summer, my husband will see how amazing it can be for a child to lead their educational journey. If you had read more into our story you would have seen this. I opened up the idea to anyone who wanted to come along. There will be no curriculum, no thinking up projects or here is how you do it...just start listening to your child and get behind them as they follow their own minds.

Again...I welcome the conversation. But please do not post falsities.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

Hey, Ren, I just posted a comment over at that blog. They're not even moderated anymore, so give it a try now.

Yes, please, don't confuse the word. I already have enough trouble explaining to my mom-in-law that, no we can't just do all the things we do AFTER school.....

12:44 AM  
Blogger vintagechica said...

To be fair, would you please consider leaving my comment to you visible. I am leaving those that are uncomfortable with my project visible.

Thank you and I welcome a continued dialogue about unschooling.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Ren said...


Using the term "unschooling" for summertime enrichment is going to get you a lot of heat. Most of us have completely re-learned how to think about learning.:) It's such a different thing to believe that your child will learn everything and anything they know for their life journey without all the trappings of school, than it is to do fun summertime things together.

We are living summer year round. We are working HARD to make shifts in our thinking so that we don't get in the way of our beautiful children. We work and play and learn together all the time. Many of us often make difficult financial (and other) choices in order to make this lifestyle work.

Can you understand why it is so offensive to many of us to have someone come along and call their break time "Unschooling". Because it isn't. Sorry....no matter how much you want it, encouraging parents to think up fun summer activities is not the same at all.

When you encourage parents to come up with fun activities for summertime, it is not the same as getting behind your child and trusting them. If it was just about encouraging their passions, then sure, document all the fun but how can you predict ANY of that or where it will lead?

My comment showed up after I posted it, then disappeared as did another one I saw, then didn't see. So if they weren't being deleted then I apologize for assuming. It seemed strange though.

If you want to learn about unschooling, or get loads of great ideas for how to make it work in an otherwise challenging situation, there are a lot of great unschoolers who can help with that. Calling summer projects or ideas "unschooling" is offensive to many of us. I hope you can understand why that would be.

It's like someone who eats meat saying "let's share beef recipes at my vegetarian blog"

8:41 PM  
Blogger vintagechica said...

Ren, thank you for posting the comments. I appreciate your honesty a great deal.

First of all, I humbly apologize that I have offended you.

Secondly I have 22 mamas who currently unschool sign up for this summer project as resources for the rest of us and as a way to share ideas and thoughts with other mothers interested in their children's education...whatever path we have chosen to take.

So, Im not getting the feeling that all unschoolers are as offended as you are. Most of them are taking this as a positive opportunity to share our different views.

With that in mind, I would love to interview you and ask how you define unschooling, the pros and cons, the wonderful things that you have seen through your children learning under an unschooling mindset...really, whatever you would like to share as long as it is positive and open.

Just let me know if you (and/or Jessica) are interested.



10:54 AM  
Blogger Sandra Dodd said...

There's a disclaimer at the post now, Ren.

I disagree with this analogy:
"It's like someone who eats meat saying "let's share beef recipes at my vegetarian blog"

I think it's like meat eaters saying "We're going to be vegetarian for a week!"

Some meat eaters might be happy to switch if they tried it for a while without a full-on commitment, at first. And no, one summer won't make anyone an unschooler, but it could be feet in the water.

The thing about summers for school kids is that they have EARNED those days off, and if they feel summer is taken from them, they won't be happy and willing participants in the project.

One of the worst things schools do is take away freedom and choice. If unschoolers bring kids home against their will, the same resentment can occur. If a homeschooling family sets up an unschooling project in the hole that should be the kids' time off, those kids might come to be more pressured and resentful about school AND family AND unschooling.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ren! how are you? it's been a while. i miss the group in JC. i'm helping to start my own group here in georgia.

i just decided to check in on you and i find this! i can see where you'd be offended, but i can also see eren's side. i don't think she meant any offense and she seems open for discussion.

i think, since she invited you, it's be awesome if you could write a guest post on her blog and discuss the joy in unschooling as you see it. that would be fabulous!

just my $.02. :)

9:30 AM  
Blogger ~K~ said...

Oh well. Maybe Ren *was* personally offended. I didn't think so. Who cares about focusing on the feelings involved anyway.

Except for the kids. I'm don't think concern about a word getting hijacked is all it's cracked up to be. But hijacking a summer... that's whole nother thing. The kids might not like that much.

I think if a mom is going to have a li'l unschooling experiment over the summer (or whenever) it would be better to actually have vacation rather than assigning projects or coming up with what might amount to field trips by a kid's perspective.

That's the first thing to do when deschooling and getting into unschooling... go on vacation or perhaps even consider doing as someone else said, have a staycation (where one could choose to hang out in your own town and nearby regions rather than traveling far away).

11:25 PM  
Blogger Ren said...

No, not personally offended. Just offended by the entire notion, that's all. Ok, maybe "offended" is the wrong word but I feel very strongly that trying to call summer break "unschooling" anything is silly.

Moving on...
I would be happy to continue the dialogue about unschooling with you Eren. And every comment that has been made here has been posted. I moderate all comments mainly to avoid the "enlarge your penis" spam that comes through if you don't moderate.

I don't claim to speak for unschoolers, hell, I don't claim to speak for anyone other than myself. This blog is my space to spout my opinions, my ideas and my experiences and I would never be so bold as to claim representation of anyone but myself. So if other unschoolers are not bothered by your use of the term, good for them.

I am bothered by it. Nobody owns the term "unschooling", but nobody owns the term "vegetarian" or "jew" or "diabetic" or any other word. They still have meaning and they can still be muddied by unclear communication. yk?

So anyhoo, where and when would you like to continue the dialogue about unschooling? I've written and spoken quite a bit on the topic and most of my shtuff is online for anyone to peruse at will. Best wishes to you....

11:33 PM  
Blogger Ren said...

Not only did my comments at the first post not show up, my next two comments about her last post did not show up (though I saw them when I posted them initially).

The reason I even posted this as a blogpost, was because my comments wouldn't go through. Seems pretty hard to have an ongoing "dialogue" when my comments are disappearing. Whatever.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ren...Im not sure why your comments are not showing up either. I have checked and double checked and don't know why. But here is what I am offering. Would you rather me repost some of the info. I can find on your blog? Or would you want to do a little interview via email? I am interviewing 5 other unschooling mamas on how they define unschooling and how they make it work within their families.

Its your call, but please know that I am NOT in anyway deleting your comments. I have allowed everyone else's comments to be seen and yours are not any different.

What I do object to is the very nasty emails with curse words flying I am getting from two different unschooling women with anonymous urls and a IP addresses that trace back to Idaho and New York. That's not so cool, so please know that I am trying to stay open and learn all I can here, but this has totally turned into something more than I had ever intended.

7:16 PM  
Blogger rachel whetzel said...

I think you may have entirely misunderstood the orignal intent of Erin. When she first mentioned all this, she was speaking to her readers about allowing her children's interests this summer to guide their summer activities. ie: interest in tigers=trips to the zoo, and so on. She NEVER mentioned implementing "lessons" for her kids. She simply spoke of allowing her children's interests this summer to control their activities. She has opened her blog to share with others who might like to take that same step in exploring what if any place homeschool might have in their homes, with a particular interest in taking a textbooks off approach to learning. It's my opinion, that by passing judgement on her as many here have, a lot of opportunity for conversation has been lost. It's also my opinion that the very extensive research that has been mentioned here, is exactly what Erin intends to do.It's what she is encouraging her readers to do. EXPLORE Unschooling and it's possibilities. If there are others reading here, who are still unsure of what unschooling can be, or how/if they want to implement it in their lives reading here today, I would think that they might be scared to even TRY their hand at unschooling. Scared because of the opinions of strangers who would appear to pass judgment so harshly on those who are learning. Not everyone is had the time to come to the place of knowledge so many here seem to have reached.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Ren said...

Well, first of all, I thank you Eren for letting me know what is going on so I don't think the comments are getting deleted. I also thank you for being open to dialogue.

Secondly, I actually think more people will learn about unschooling precisely BECAUSE some of us have disagreed with the usage in this instance and been dialoguing about it.

I can't explain anyone emailing you privately and being rude Eren.I don't understand the need, nor do I encourage that kind of behavior. I like keeping things public if it's discussion about an idea or philosophy, or a debate about it. Like I said, it's not a personal thing for me, it's a my disagreement with the way a term was used. That's all.

So if anyone is reading here and deciding to email Eren personally, I would hope it's being done with the intent of respectful dialogue and not to harangue anyone. But instead of emailing her, just post comments and/or blog about your opinions!

I am open to an email interview and/or you pulling some of my personal writings from the web (as long as credit is given...which I'm sure that's what you intended anyway).

Again, I didn't read this as being some overly schoolish experiment. I object to the idea of calling summer projects "unschooling" and I think there may be some setting people up for disappointment if they think the instant their kids get a summer break they will act like unschoolers. They don't. They act like kids getting a break from school so the whole thing is set up for disappointment from the beginning.

Instead of planning projects, how about act like you're on vacation? Go to movies you all like, play games, don't focus on interests just focus on having fun. Then, if you decide by fall that all that vacation fun led to some cool learning maybe you'll keep on vacationing.:) Then you might realize one day that you're actually unschooling.

Anyway, you can email me personally if you want to run interviews with a variety of folks....you may already have some lined up but I can suggest some names besides myself if you want a few more. My email though, is starsuncloud@comcast.net

Best wishes....

9:23 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

I've read through all the comments, and I thought I'd add something from the other side of the fence. As a mom who loves the idea of unschooling, but is terrified of it at the same time, it never occurred to me that I could just try a "short time experiment" to get my feet wet and feel comfortable. Yes, I know that sounds like a "duh" moment, but there it is.

I understand your point that it isn't your definition of unschooling; perhaps it is more 'unschooling light'. But for those who have no practical experience it's a sort of fun and exciting option to explore that world more in the company of other like minded people trying the same thing. I do see the value in it.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Ren said...

I'm curious about what the parents think will happen differently in the summer, by thinking that you're "trying unschooling"? It's not something you can try because you won't get the same results all the unschooling folks talk about.

A child who has a summer break vs. a child who is free of school acts very differently. So I'm really interested in knowing how a summer spent "trying unschooling" is any different from your average summer break.

If it means you'll spend more time really connecting and doing fun things you all love...great. That hopefully happens all the time though. Being a good parent isn't unschooling, though unschooling certainly works best with GREAT parents/adults present.

How is summer break different for all of you? Why wouldn't you always do things your children love and are interested in? How is it "unschooling" anything if the kids go back to school as usual in the fall?

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Visty said...

I suppose you aren't aware that the original, pioneering, "real" unschoolers hated that term, because of the negative feeling of the word itself. Instead of having a description bestowed upon them that evoked the freedom they were giving their kids, they were saddled with an "un" word, a word that only meant "not doing what everyone else is doing". I think it's ironic and quite hilarious to see you defending the term so staunchly.
What Erin is doing is a more genuine act of unschooling than what "unschoolers" do. She is helping them think about learning in a way that they can not when they are in school. She is "un-schooling" their schooled minds. How do you unschool a child who has never been to school? You can't. You can't "un"do anything that hasn't been done in the first place.
Since you are all worried about her supposed misuse of the term, why not analyze the term for what it is: completely inaccurate, negative, and elitist.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Ren said...

First of all, you can "UN" anything that is common to do in society. I thought that was obvious. Secondly, I think it's interesting that you claim to know what ALL "pioneering, REAL unschoolers" think of the term.

I happen to know some of them, and they are fine with it though we do discuss how insufficient a word it is at times. Such is language. I doubt you could get consensus about the topic with such a diverse and strong-minded group of people such as unschoolers.

I have the first 30 issues of Growing Without Schooling and plenty of people seemed to have no problem with the word, though I doubt anyone would think it sufficient to describe what we DO as a lifestyle. That doesn't make the term useless just because it can't encompass a whole philosophy.

Taking a break from school is still simply that, a break. It's not living life without school which is what the term was supposed to be about....even as the "REAL" unschoolers who originally used it would tell people.

Familes that believe in natural learning without school have been around since compulsory school started. They just didn't have the support and terminology we have now. Are they the "real" unschoolers. Who cares anyway? The point I was making was not about elitism, it was about communicating clearly and an idea that didn't make sense to me.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Sandra Dodd said...

-=-I think there may be some setting people up for disappointment if they think the instant their kids get a summer break they will act like unschoolers. They don't. They act like kids getting a break from school so the whole thing is set up for disappointment from the beginning.-=-

Ren is totally right on that. Deschooling isn't going to happen in two months, and without deschooling, natural learning will not blossom.

As to the claim that "pioneering" unschoolers hated the term... here's where the term came from. It was kind of a goof, but it stuck. http://sandradodd.com/unschool/thetermOf the shortcomings of the term as a descriptor, Suzanne Carter wrote this on the AOL unschooling forum years back:

"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

10:04 PM  
Blogger Ren said...

"Un" is definitely not an automatic negative, for sure!
It's interesting to me that someone whose children are in school is telling everyone what "real" unschoolers think.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Gudrun Johnston said...

When I initially signed up for Eren's summer project I was happy to find a place where some other parents wanted to share their experiences of child-led learning. I currently call myself an eclectic homeschooler but do have a desire to approach my kid's learning through more "unschooling" eyes.

I view this as an opportunity to dig deeper into what that means for me and my family but at the same time have others to share it with.

I think that Eren has been very clear from the get go that she is not some authority on the subject and that she welcomes any input unschoolers have. As far as I know she has never indicated that projects be planned either.

I'm sorry to see her being attacked for using a term that she employed with good intentions. This is an opportunity for her to test the waters a little for her sons.

I think there is some middle ground here for parents who aren't radical uschoolers to still think of themselves as "unschooling".

12:18 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

I'm one of the pioneers of unschooling, and I have no problem with the use of the word "unschooling." When my now twenty-nine year old unschooled daughter and I were thinking up a title for my book, we wanted to encompass her life with more than "just" the word unschooling. But we also knew that we needed to let it say that she didn't go to school. So we chose, "The Unprocessed Child: Living without School."

Some critics of my book say that it's not about unschooling - it doesn't tell them what to do to achieve unschooling in their homes. But I can't/won't do that. Unschooling looks different in every home. My book is about what we did, not about what I think everyone else should do.

One thing I can say for sure, is that achieving unschooling ideals during a summer school break would be pretty damned difficult, if not impossible.

No matter how much freedom you give them during the summertime, they KNOW they are going back to school in the fall. Freedom sucks (for me) when I know I'm going to lose it again very soon. School will be in the backs of their minds the whole summer.

Valerie Fitzenreiter
UNbounded Publications
The Unprocessed Child: Living without School
(notice the UNs?

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you have to be so mean, Ren? Her blog looks awesome, and I look forward to having the time to read it further.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Ren said...

Mean? REally? It's mean to call people names, it's not mean to DISSENT for christ's sake.

Tow the line, don't speak up, go with the flow and don't ruffle any feathers...that's what we were all taught in public school.

This blog is my place to share my opinions and ideas and experiences. Nobody is making you read here. Nobody is stopping you from supporting Eren (nor would I want that) or reading her blog. Carry on!!!

How is it MEAN to state one's opinion and discuss the topic in depth?? How interesting that you choose to see it that way.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Ren said...

You know my other issue with "trying unschooling" in the summer? I'm wondering how the parents are supporting the interests and getting behind their children the rest of the year. Why summer? If a parent wants to be connected to their childrens passions they can do that all year. It's not a summer break thing, it's a lifestyle.

Whether your children go to school or not, I would hope parents are finding ways to focus on what their children love to do (be it video games or ANYthing they love) and get behind their kids ALL year. Not just in the summer.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Angela Wolff said...

**I'm curious about what the parents think will happen differently in the summer, by thinking that you're "trying unschooling"?**

I can only answer this question for myself, Ren, but here goes.

I found Vintage Chica through an article in Mothering and immediately signed up for her "Summer Unschool." I, who had never considered homeschooling, was just coming to the conclusion that traditional school -- public or private -- was probably not the right place for my first grader. And "doing school at home" would only spread the frustrations we're having with homework throughout the day. Unschooling would be, for us, the only possible alternative.

It's not so much that I want to "try unschooling" or that I'm expecting to "see results" at the end of the Summer. Maybe it seems silly to someone for whom the idea comes so naturally, but for me, the idea of embarking on this journey with others makes it sooooo much less frightening.

I have three kids -- 1 1/2, 4, and almost 7 -- and last Summer it was a good day if we all survived. Not that we didn't have our fun, but it wasn't the kind of mindful following my kids' interest to which I aspire in my heart. There was a lot of "Mom, can I paint/play playdough/go to the library?" answered with a "Maybe later honey, first I need to "clean/nurse the baby/go to the store ..."

I'm taking these last months of the school year to learn as much as I can about unschooling. And to get my own head and physical surroundings as ready as possible to really BE with my children and follow their lead. Signing up for "Summer Unschool" was the jump off point for my joining a few yahoo groups (and mostly lurking), and reading everything unschooly I can get my hands on. Including your site, Sandra Dodd's, JoyfulRejoicing, John Holt Books, etc.

This Summer will be different than last Summer because I will be approaching it differently. It's not a "test" for unschooling so much. It's a starting point on a journey.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Sandra Dodd said...

Ren is not being mean. She's pointing out a flaw in a plan that could cause frustration and confusion. It would be mean to say "good idea!" about a bad idea.

When kids go to school they have earned the summer off, not the summer playing more-fun school.

IF, though, as in Angela's description, it really does result in a more peaceful, happier summer, then good. The original descriptions seemed like groups, doing organized things, with books.

I could write more, but I'll spare you all. I do want to share what I think most moms call "nice," though and "supportive":


10:30 PM  
Anonymous Jessica Regele said...

The hardest part about reading some of the comments going back and forth is the negativity. s. Our family has spent time in public school, then became homeschoolers and now I think I'd consider ourselves "unschoolers". Had I met with such negativity when I first started calling ourselves unschoolers (when I was still buying curriculum and planning when we would finish our math lessons) I would have never evolved into where we are today. Yes, it does take time to let go of the old schooling ideas-the lessons, the curriculum, the need to seem like I am teaching something official sounding, fearing what will my kids say when they are asked about what they are learning-but the continuum of letting go is part of "unschooling". It's too bad that in the challenging world of parenting, it often seems that we get pitted against each other for using even simple terminology without meaning to offend. I think our job as unschoolers is to be supportive of anyone trying to get their feet wet. Trying out unschooling for the summer allows people the chance to ask themselves if the idea seems like something one feels even comfortable entertaining.

The feedback about it being process is true and we are all on our journey through this process no matter what you call it. I whole heartedly support any parent trying to make the decision to homeschool or unschool. It's a challenging and at times isolating decision and I think it is important that one remembers the beginning of our own process. No one should be ostracized because of the terminology he or she might use to describe their own educational journey . Cheers to you Eren-VintageChica!

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Visty said...

"It's interesting to me that someone whose children are in school is telling everyone what "real" unschoolers think."

My kids are in school presently, yes. In the past we homeschooled, and we have also "unschooled". Because they were in school and I took them out, we also "deschooled" for a while. Maybe I even backschooled a few times when I wasn't paying enough attention. I know I do some serious underschooling these days, maintaining my constant campaign against the kids being schoolwashed. Debriefing occurs daily, between the hours of 3 and 5. It's a thankless job.

I'm not telling everyone anything. I was pointing out irony with a little of my own, but that's always difficult for people to perceive over the Interwebs. I apologize for not listing my credentials ahead of time, so as to prove my opinion was relevant enough for the semantics conversation. Oopsy daisy.

It's funny; being on both sides of the fence I have encountered a lot of hostility. Some I get from teachers because I have homeschooled. Some I get from homeschoolers because we went back to school. Parents at school don't know what to think of me. They aren't sure if I am hating every minute of being there (I am) or if my kids can barely hold a pencil and I need the state to intervene.

It all reminds me of the day I was at a friend's house who had joined Alcoholics Anonymous and was having a scrapbooking party. Everyone there was a member except me. I overheard a conversation where I was referred to as a Normie. I thought to myself, have I really come this far? To be outcast by a room full of drunks? If that's not success, well then, what is?

5:47 PM  

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