Friday, October 16, 2009

What is So Radical about Radical Unschooling?

This was the title of my latest conference talk at the 2009 Toronto Unschooling Conference. I really like the whole talk...worked on it a lot...and I will let you know when it's available for download on (thanks to wonderful conference coordinator and friend, Pam).

Until then, here is a very small excerpt:

Here’s what I think. First of all, it’s sad to me that honoring, respecting and celebrating our children’s lives is considered to be radical. I envision and I walk toward the vision of creating a world where this is common.

I think it’s radical that we Trust our children deeply. It’s radical that we notice that our children are born with an innate desire to learn and explore and expand and get what they need and what they desire…and it’s even more radical that we trust in that even when they are five years old and beyond. It’s radical that we not only give their innate desire to learn and explore a sacred space to happen, but we also join them in that space.

It’s radical that we, as parents and adults, actually LIKE and enjoy being with our children.

It’s radical that we don’t allow typical society to tell us what has or should have value in our lives. It’s radical that we don’t believe in separating math or history or any other school subject from the rest of the world and from life. It’s radical that we don’t believe that forcing arbitrary facts from those subjects on our children has any value.

It’s radical that we not only believe, but we know for sure because of having it proved to us time and time again, that the REAL learning is right IN Jimmy Fallon or video games or dolls or hockey or whatever our children are drawn to, because REAL learning happens at the time when there is a connection that holds real MEANING in our children’s lives…and these connections are happening all of the time, unbidden and unseen by most.

It’s radical that we do not live according to the dictates of typical society when it comes to things like our children’s eating and their sleeping and their clothing and their jobs around the house, but not because we merely extend unschooling beyond the academics into these areas or because we have been told to say “yes” to our children, but because we truly hear, believe, trust, validate and respect our children’s Voices.

And it is oh so radical that we allow their glorious and unique perspective and view of the world to enlighten our own lives and expand our own worlds.

And…one more: It’s radical that we don’t merely ascribe to all things alternative and all things radical…that we are not rebelling against society nor are we militant in the alternative merely because it is going against the norm of society. We are simply creating the space to listen to our own hearts and follow our own flow and live our own unique path, whether it touches the mainstream or the alternative or anywhere in between…it’s radical that it is uniquely our own.

These are some of my radicals.

Most of all, I, personally believe that the radical in radical unschooling is found within the parent. I believe the radical lies within the inner work that we are willing and wanting to do ~ even though it is sometimes difficult and painful work ~ to go deeper and to GET to that place of releasing control and trusting in our children and being a partner in their lives.


  1. Awesome! Kathrynn saw your pix w/ the balloon hat and and was so excited!!!!!!! I was excited to read your words. xooxoxoxo

  2. Well said!

  3. Ooh, I have loved many of your posts. I just came over from the unschooling carnival. I've wondered whether/how much I fit in exactly with unschooling, particularly this "radical" unschooling. But the more we go through life, the more I see that I really can trust, and the more I do that, the more my kids astound me. So we'll see.

    The best thing is, I feel very comfortable where we are now, and where we're going. And I nod my head through most of what you write.

    We have things like parent-proscribed bedtime but it feels very good and non-coercive. Just like I lay my baby down and nurse her to sleep when I can tell she's tired--it's just as smooth and expected by my kids. But they are little (6 and 3), and we are always open and listening and willing to change things up as needed. Thanks for your lovely posts!