Home Schools, Home-Based Education, Unschooling

Some more discussion around the terms associated with home-based education

This has been posted at the blog site: ‘Go School Yourself” http://goschoolyourself.com/2014/07/18/de-schooling-success-no-summer-break-for-us/comment-page-1/#comment-72  I have reproduced it here to encourage as much discussion around the topic as possible.  I am really interested in what others have to say about the matter.

Thank you so much for your feedback. This looks like the beginnings of a long discussion, and I hope it will expand to include a lot of people who can make detailed comments from their positions in the spectrum. My full PhD dissertation is posted at: https://www.academia.edu/7970729/Deschooling_Unschooling_Australian_Biblical_Christian_Education

I am proposing that we set up a blog site that is specifically dedicated to this topic, and that the developing definitions ultimately be written up into a series of peer-reviewed journal articles which can be released into the marketplace for ongoing feedback and refinement.

It seems to me that a lot of criticism is aimed at home-based educators through straw-man arguments, and that is possible because when the term ‘homeschool’ is being used, it means everything and in so doing, means absolutely nothing (to paraphrase John Lennon). But if, as a movement, we can define the terms, with shades of application that cover the full gamut of manifestations of home-based education, then we can knock down the straw-men with a word.

So, back to your reply. I feel stronger that the term “home-based education” is a good umbrella term. It is home-based, because it is not “home-bound”.

In my research I came across families that were home-bound. Everything that was done in the name of home schooling, replicated the school in the home. The only problem was that the children were separated from anyone outside the home. The focus was academics, without any influence from others in the community. It seemed logical to me that these kinds of manifestations should be called, home schoolers. The term has two words that easily evoke imagery that enables the visualisation of the situation: most of what happens in the home looks very much like what happens at school. In 2013 the New South Wales state government, in Australia, released a set of regulations governing home schooling, and the NSW state government has made it illegal for any kind of home education to take place that is not registered, and to register, the home education must look exactly like what takes place at school. http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/parents/pdf_doc/home-edu-info-pack-13.pdf In fact, what is required of home schooling parents is over and above what is achieved by professional teachers in school classrooms. That, from my perspective, is home schooling. It is on the extreme of my proposed model, it exists, and is mandated by state and territory governments in Australia. I talk about it in some detail in my PhD dissertation. From that definition, there are many who call themselves home schoolers (homeschoolers), but who, in actual fact, do not run their home-based education exactly like school (but it must be conceded that some do – I have evidence of that fact).

So, what term can we use that distinguishes home schoolers from other home-based educators? I found the term unschoolers, and I think that term is useful. Unschoolers consciously do stuff that does not look like school.

Now, on the other extreme, there seems to be those families that are so unlike school, that they make the child’s decision-making processes the sole guide to what takes place in life. The child chooses when to go to bed, the child chooses what to eat, the child has free and unfettered access to the internet, the child, in effect, brings him/herself up without any kind of supervision, interruption, guidance, input from the parents; a complete hands-off approach. My research has found such families – they exist – and it is a radical extreme of the home-based education community. And sadly, these are often called homeschoolers, and the outcome of their hands-off parenting gives ammunition for policy makers to label homeschooling as child neglect. I have evidence. This group looks nothing like school, so in that sense they are unschoolers. However, I have identified them as the ‘radical unschoolers’. Now, many who, at the moment, call themselves radical unschoolers would be offended by the characterization that I have made. So, my argument is, those who would be offended by my definition of radical unschoolers, are in fact not radical unschoolers, but unschoolers with a particular emphasis.

Unschooling, therefore, is home-based education that does not look like school, but it does not precluded a whole range of strategies and manifestations of education being employed where appropriate: these manifestations and strategies I have called emphases in my dissertation. In this sub-category called emphases I have included: natural learning; discipleship; child-led learning; child-focused learning, academics-focused learning; life learning/education in life/education for life; apprenticeship; eclectic learning; kitchen table/dining room table education; practical learning; activities-based learning; democratic education; anarchistic education; etc. This means that the pool of unschoolers is a very large pool that includes: unschoolers with a discipleship emphasis; unschoolers with a natural learning emphasis; unschoolers with a gentle-parenting emphasis; unschoolers with a range of emphases at different times and for different children and for different circumstances and opportunities. I have tried to talk about these emphases in my dissertation, and am fully conscious of the fact that a whole PhD dissertation could be developed around just this single point: the words used to describe home-based education.

I am not claiming to be the authority on this matter. I am simply wanting to provoke a discussion, and get as many people involved in the discussion as possible, and then synthesise the discussion into some useful articles that can then be used by the home-based educating community to defend themselves from being all lumped in with the people on the edges of the movement who attract the wrong kind of attention. Don’t get me wrong, I would defend their right to bring up their own children in the way that they think fit. It is not for me to interfere with a parent’s parenting. However, when we talk about these things we need much more precise language to draw from.

Am really looking forward to ongoing discussions around this issue.

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