Is it Unchristian to Unschool?

Bible 015There is a myth that abounds: all christians who homeschool their children play “schools” at home. They either sit around the kitchen table while Mum plays the role of teacher and her children are the pupils, or she supervises them while they sit at their desks, compliantly completing all set work with a smile on their face.

Is it possible there could be another way?

Is it “unchristian” to allow our children more freedom than that? To allow their natural love of learning to flourish in an environment that supports their interests in practical ways, and invites them to explore the wonder of the world around them? Or must a christian parent, in an attempt to “train” their children, force compliance with set tasks determined by the parent?

Is it possible for christian home educating parents to allow their children the privilege of an unschooling life? To allow them to live and learn in freedom alongside a loving parent or two, without the expectations or constraints of schoolish ways and schoolish thinking?

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In Mythbusters lingo, I would say that I think it’s not only possible, it’s plausible! And there are in fact hundreds, if not thousands, of unschooling christians around the world. It can take some effort for christian unschooling parents to swim against the tide, and they often feel like they live in no man’s land, being too conservative for many unschoolers, and too weird and liberal for many christian homeschoolers. But the reality is, unschooling can be a perfect fit for a christian family where love and grace are given freely.

If you’re willing to consider debunking the myth that all christian homeschoolers are conservative in their beliefs and methods, check out my guest blog post over at Christian Unschooling.

My Unshackling

I was very much “the good girl” growing up. Heck, I even slept through on my first night home from the hospital, according to my mum, who just about had a heart attack when she awoke to realise I was still asleep! It didn’t last, of course. I never said I was PERFECT!! But I certainly did play the role of the “good girl” during my childhood.

I remember my brothers and foster-sister getting up to all sorts of mischief, but I usually refrained. I even remember one time when they ALL (4 of them) ran away from home, while I stood there by myself and watched. I don’t think they got very far, but whatever it was that they were upset about, they were certainly putting legs on it. It was possibly me they were cranky at! I used to occasionally do something “bad”, but one of my brothers would usually cop the blame for it. And I would remain silent. (Sorry, Dad, it was me who broke the teledex phone thing at your work!)

At school I achieved good grades, and was voted school captain, class captain and house captain (my school tie was so heavy with badges I’m surprised it didn’t detach from my uniform and fall to the ground!!) I was a “Sixer” (group leader) at Brownies and “Miss Sherwood Hills” one year at school (and no, it wasn’t a beauty pageant lol!!) I became accustomed to getting lots of attention for my achievements and “successes” (and that dependence on attention became a bit addictive – but that is a tale for another time).

Yet in the midst of it all, there were seeds of alternative thought buried deep within me, gradually creeping their way up to the light of day….

In my final year of high school I applied to go to university (like all my peers) to study teaching, but by this time I had very itchy feet, just begging to be scratched, so I deferred my university place and worked for a year to earn money for travel. Then in my second year out of school (the year I was “supposed” to be at university or travelling overseas) I volunteered full-time with my local church, co-ordinating a large group of kids as we travelled around to different rural areas in our State, using drama and music to tell our story. They were fun times (for us, at least; I think the standard of performance probably left a lot to be desired)! Then in my third year out of school, my dream to travel overseas was fulfilled. Upon my return to Australia, I decided to (again) apply to go to university, this time to study Social Work. I got as far as Orientation Day and signing up for classes this time, before facing the fact that committing to three years at uni was not something I wanted to do. I simply wanted to work for awhile and then go back overseas for a longer trip, doing volunteer/mission work, perhaps in an orphanage or with street kids, or something like that. So again I rejected what people expected me to do.

Whenever I would see my old school buddies, I was faced with the fact that they had ALL done the expected thing and gone to university. I was definitely the odd one out. But I was following my heart, and I was happy! I still haven’t been to uni. I probably will go one day, although I certainly don’t think a university degree makes anyone a better person, or is an essential prerequisit to finding fulfilling, meaningful (and often even well-paying) work. In the meantime, I’m a happy autodidact, learning abundantly every day from the smorgasbord on offer in our modern world! And I get to learn whatever I’m interested in, rather than just the subjects I’d “have” to do to get a piece of paper.

Having grown up in a christian family, I had always gone to Sunday School and to Church, and that was really my spiritual extended family, my community. I loved it! But in recent years I’ve stopped “going to church” (long story). My faith is still as important to me as ever, but it’s not dependent on going to sunday services. Church, to me, is the people of faith (some would use the word christians) that I get to rub shoulders with regularly, and even some that I only know in cyber land! I certainly don’t have to go to a building to meet them, or connect spiritually, and yet for those who do attend Sunday services, if that is helping them to grow spiritually, then that’s great for them. For me, it’s been an interesting journey to see myself outside of that box of the “good christian girl” and to realise that I can be close to God anywhere & everywhere, and that I am responsible for my faith, rather than someone standing behind a pulpit.

The other thing I’ve done is to not send my kids to school. The older two did go for awhile, but the younger two have never been and I think their lives are richer for it. To the younger two, learning is as natural, and as much a part of life, as breathing. I can tell you this: on the day I stood up before my school peers as “School Captain” I could NOT have predicted that my own kids would not follow in those footsteps!

It continues to be such a fascinating journey of discovery, realising that we don’t need to be told by someone else what or how to think. Life is for the living. And the learning happens naturally along the way. It has at times been challenging to let go of what others might think of my more radical choices, and to focus instead of the joy of living freely. For me, this blog is a way of giving voice to some of my thoughts, and to hopefully help others re-think some of their uninvestigated thoughts and choices, and to ask the questions they have perhaps been too afraid to ask.

Join me as I journey towards a place of freedom from expectations & unexamined thoughts, from a sense of “have to” & “should”… and discover a place where I am free to be… me! And guess what else? You get to be “you”, too!

It’s about re-thinking everything, never assuming things are exactly as they seem, having the courage to face old thoughts in a new way, realising that the old, smelly shoe is not that comfy after all. It’s about having the courage to undo the laces, remove the shoes, & walk (or run!) barefoot in the grass! It’s about having the courage to remove the shackles and live in freedom! Living unbridled, unfettered, FREE! It’s a great way to be.