Saturday, December 06, 2008

Unschooling and being a Christian

I original wrote this in February 2006, but it was brought to mind by a conversation on another blog, and I realized that it wasn't on this blog. So I'm posting it here.

Just before my unplanned hiatus I received an email from a homeschool mom who wanted to know how I could square being an unschooler with being a Christian. This isn't the first time I've heard someone question whether the two are compatible, but it is the first time I've tried to come up with an answer.

So what does it mean to be a Christian parent? The simplest way for me to answer is to turn to the Table of Duties in my copy of Luther's Small Catechism. There I find these words:

Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6, 4.

I fulfill my vocation as a Christian mother in many ways, including but not limited to having our children baptised, regularly attending services, and doing catechesis together. Part of our vocation as parents--whether or not we are Christians--is to see to the education of our children. We have chosen to homeschool, and, in the course of our homeschool journey, to unschool.

I think that some people equate unschooling with having no discipline. They assume that unschooled children are allowed to do as they please in all areas of life. There very likely are unschooling families where this is true. However, I have a number of unschoolers among my acquaintances who--like us--require quite a bit from our kids and are unquestionably in charge.

Our unschooling does color the way we live our lives. My children have a great deal of autonomy in choosing what they will read and how they will spend their time. We don't have set times for "English" or "social studies." They don't do assignments and worksheets. They spend lots of time doing exactly what they want to do and learning all the while.

But there are things that they have to do. They have to bathe and brush teeth daily. They have to do their share of the work around the house without me nagging. This includes dishes, laundry, bedrooms, their bathroom, and cat care.

They have to attend church services. (As yet, no one has complained about this.) If they make commitments--to a team, choir, job, etc.--they have to fulfill them.

If I ever see that unschooling is not working for one of my kids, we will do something else. Because I *am* ultimately in charge. Unschooling was my decision not theirs. But after over ten years, it is still working.

So, yes, the short answer is I do think it is compatible with being a Christian.

1 comment:

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I think the objection that I had always heard, and probably the first thing that came into my mind when I first heard of unschooling was that it doesn't take into account the sinful nature of human beings to stray into laziness and worse.

Now, the first few times I was exposed to unschooling, they were more through my liberal, organic type of friends who did not really acknowledge sin in the first place.

After seeing homeschooling in action in my own house, I realize that my children are miserable when I let them fall into disorder, and despite their sinfulness, they are motivated to learn and naturally curious.

Whether we are structured, which we are at times, and whether we are not, they are learning. It has long been clear to me how compatible unschooling and Christianity are, when you are raising your children in the admonition of the Lord.