Our homeschool chat group is usually an eclectic mix of homeschoolers: many long-time homeschoolers (those tend to be the weekly members) and a sprinkling of visitors, often at the very beginning of their homeschooling journey. Often those new to homeschooling have questions about schedules and curriculum and how to cover it all. We “old-timers” try to reassure them that all will be well, that there is no way you can cover it all, especially not the very first year, and to just take things slowly. Everything will fall into place, given a bit of time and experience. Of course, that is not always easy to hear when you are just starting out, but they really are words of wisdom garnered over years of experience.
Many methods of homeschooling are represented at chat. Some of the regular members began their homeschooling journey very laid back and have continued to be so. Others began highly structured and gradually (or not so gradually) turned to a more relaxed homeschooling situation. At least one member has become more structured and spends more time planning her children’s learning day as she discovered this suited her children needs. Another member has used Sonlight as the underpinning of their learning for years, discovering that her daughter thrives with such a structure. Most of the regular chat members would consider themselves relaxed homeschoolers, although certainly not all. A few, myself being one of those, would quickly identify themselves as unschoolers.
I do not always use the term unschool when describing our homeschooling situation; it depends upon the group that I am with. If I am with non-homeschoolers, then I always say we homeschool, not we unschool. Homeschooling is a broad term that they will understand; unschooling is a specific method of homeschooling that they likely will not understand. At chat, though, I always identify myself as an unschooler. I figure there, at a homeschooling chat, it will help others understand where my advice or suggestions are coming from, give them a point of reference.
This past Friday we had one new member who seemed to object to my usage of the term “unschooler.” He (and yes, we have homeschool dads at chat, along with grown sons and daughters and those who do not yet have children but plan to homeschool them when/if they do have children), anyway, he kept bringing up the idea that the word unschooling denoted political inferences. In his words, “my observation is that folks that choose to USE the term unschool are generally from the left.” That led to an interesting discussion. We do not usually delve into politics at chat, or religion, for that matter. And actually this was not really a political discussion, but rather a discussion about stereotypes and people’s observation of them.
Perhaps it is because I have known so many unschoolers over the past twelve years that I did not necessarily agree with this particular visitor’s observations. I know from personal experience that unschoolers run the gamut from the left wing liberal to the right wing Conservative Christian (and where did those “left” and “right” terms come from anyway?). What I have observed is that unschoolers tend to be open to new ideas and willing to examine and test their own preconceived notions about a subject. But I had definitely not thought that those who call themselves unschoolers could automatically be identified as on the left end of the political spectrum.
I would love to hear what you think about this. Does the fact that I consider myself an “unschooler” automatically mean that I should vote for Hillary or Obama? Do you consider that to be the “norm” for unschoolers? And are we really a large enough population to have a stereotype? If we are, cool beans!