Tuesday, 12 February 2013

It's not about you. It's about my children.

Picture a world for a moment, where unschooling is the norm...

Kids have always lived in the world, living and learning as they go, supported by their parents. There was no school, so it wasn't even called unschooling, just 'life'. Over the last few decades, a small number of parents invented a concept called 'school'. Each of these parents thought, for their own reasons, that school was a better for for their families. Some needed it as free childcare as they wanted to go out and earn more money. Some didn't have the desire to be finding lots of interesting things for their children to choose from, so thought it would be better to send them somewhere where a set selection of things were taught. Whatever their reasons, they were thought through and considered. Schooling parents often found there weren't very many like-minded parents local to them, so often chatted online to people who also used a school service. Sometimes they might write a Facebook status like, "My kid found a lesson he enjoyed today! Schooling FTW!". Often they'd click 'Like' on a photo of a child with a 'Best in Class' certificate, or a 'Curriculum works because it covers so much so broadly' meme. Pretty much nothing gets posted on Facebook about unschooling because almost everyone accepts that it's just the way things are.

Often, a conversation would arise such as this...

Mainstream (full term breastfeeding babywearing peaceful parenting unschooling) parent: I'm sorry but I'm going to have to block you from my feed, I'm finding your posts and likes really judgemental.


Minority (schooling) parent: Er, okay. How come?

Mainstream parent: Well you post stuff about how school is good, you clearly can't accept that other people have their own views.

Minority parent: Well, that wasn't what I was trying to do. I think school is brilliant but I get that most people don't. I'm just chatting and sharing with other people I can find who are on the same path as I am.

Mainstream parent: You're totally judging me for not sending my kids to school.

Minority parent: How did you come to that conclusion? School isn't for every family. Just cos I post about the things I've thought about concerning how school can be beneficial under the right circumstances, doesn't mean I think all the millions of kids living and learning in the real world should go to school. 

Mainstream parent: You should be more careful what you post then, cos it feels like the only thing you're concerned about is convincing people your way is right.

Minority parent: What, because I write things that are about a different thing from what you do with your kids?

Mainstream parent: Yeah. You don't see me posting stuff about how good *not* going to this new 'school' thing is do you?

Minority parent: Look, two years ago I was a mess, my kid was miserable, I needed to go to work but couldn't work out a way while he was at home. Then I happened to see someone post about something called school, where their kids went while they went out to work. The more I read the more it seemed to make sense for us, and it was exciting finding like-minded people and chatting about the ideas and principles behind it. In all that time, in all the conversations I had and memes that spoke to me, not once did I think about how *you* parent or consider how to 'convert' you. Believe it or not, my parenting is about my kids, not about you. And I'll continue to share stuff online about school so that if there's someone out there like me two years ago, they'll know they're not alone. So yeah, block me.

Now, back in the real world. Breastfeeding, baby wearing, peaceful parenting, radical unschooling... they are all minority approaches to parenting. I do not post about them in some attempt to make the millions of mainstream parents suddenly parent the same as I do. I post online about them because I think about them, I'm excited by them, and I'm happy when I can get closer to the principles that are important to me and give my children the childhood I envision. I post online about them to connect, discuss and investigate them with people who are working with similar principles to which I am. I post online about them in case there's someone reading like I was seven years ago, feeling like the norms didn't fit me but not knowing where to look for an alternative.

Just because I have judged an idea, or an approach, and found that it doesn't fit with my principles for raising my children, doesn't mean that I have judged *you* and found you lacking in some way.

It's not about you. It's about my children.




Edit to add:

It's just been pointed out to me that this blog post could be taken two ways, one, as a turn-the-tables situation to highlight how odd it is that a minority choice and it's surrounding discussions can be felt as judgement by someone making a mainstream choice despite the mainstream parent having almost everyone else in the world making and approving of the same mainstream choice. This is was what was intended.

Two, as a slightly mixed up account of how home educators can feel judged by schooling parents. Although there is an awful lot of overt judgement and incredulity towards HEors from many people, this wasn't what I was trying to address, so my apologies if this was confusing. My attitude in those situations is usually share info if appropriate, provide facts where there's fallacy, and don't feel judged cos it's bugger all to do with me what these people think (unless they're interfering political types, in which case all bets are off!) It would have been rather hypocritical of me to be saying "Don't judge me with all your talk of school!" while also saying "I'm not judging you with my talk of not school!", so sorry it wasn't a clearer blog post.

What I'm actually saying is, there are positive and negative aspects of lots of parenting choices, and often which is positive and which is negative is entirely dependent on your current situation, your individual kids, and your principles. I value discussion of all aspects of pretty much everything to clarify what I think are positive actions for me to take, and I don't feel judged by people stating opposing opinions or facts about the choices I make (see previous caveat re political types), so people shouldn't feel judged when I talk about the different things I consider when making choices, even if *they* feel that some of those things are a negative about a choice that *they* make.

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