I think I finally understand radical unschooling. Radical unschooling expands the concept of child-led learning to all areas of life. Children are trusted to make their own decisions about everything, not just what they learn. Up until now, I don’t think I fully grasped what it was really all about. The other day, I had an epiphany while discussing with my husband what we should do about our older two children not wanting to help out with housework. The question I kept coming back to was “how can we teach our kids to want to help?” Because we don’t want housework to be about control. We don’t want it to be something they are forced to do. We want them to see that the house is messy and decide they should clean. We want them to see us doing dishes and offer to help. Our toddlers regularly grab the broom and try to sweep, or get a baby wipe and clean something. They want to be involved in doing dishes, cooking dinner, wiping the table, picking up their toys. I remember our older kids doing the same things at this young age. So what happened?
Then it hit me…how do babies learn? They learn to talk by listening to others talk. They learn to walk by watching others walk. They learn to put on shoes by watching others put on shoes. They learn to use a fork by watching others use a fork. They learn through observation and mimicry. They try to do the things they see others doing because they want to be fully grown. Their whole job is to get to a place of completed development. Shared household responsibilities are a social expectation. We wouldn’t want to share a home with fellow adults who were unwilling to contribute to the cleanliness of the house and the wellbeing of those that lived there. We are social creatures, we want to be part of a group, so we innately want to please the members of our group.
When my husband and I started forcing our kids to do chores, we changed the social contract. Instead of teaching them that families help each other because they care for and want to please one another, we began teaching them that they are to do as we say, because. It stopped being a social issue and started being a control issue. And they’ve been rebelling against that control from the first time we forced them. Because one human forcing another to do anything against their will is just plain wrong. Love is not forceful.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails….
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
In addition to all those qualities, love trusts. Distrust resides in fear. Love is not fearful. I’m ready to release my fear. I’m ready to trust my children. In doing so, just like when we began unschooling, there will be a period of deschooling. I’m ready to accept this. It may takes months, or even possibly years for them to heal from the control we attempted to force upon them. There will probably be at least a short time of complete and utter rebellion. But I can see past that now. I can see that, eventually, they’ll begin to realize that we trust them fully, and they’ll begin to trust themselves. It will be a process. There will be times I’ll doubt myself and my resolve, but we will make it through!
This is what it means to be “radical” unschoolers. Can we just start calling it “pure love”?