Wendy Priesnitz - writer, editor, changemaker
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The Future of Unschooling

Recently, I shared an article on Facebook about the future of education, which used Uber as an analogy for the disruptive nature of unschooling. My first reaction was that Uber was an unfortunate capitalistic comparison. However, I soon realized that was the point: The article also stated that unschooling has a new definition: "...unschooling has evolved to include a host of alternatives to school. It focuses on self-directed education, either at home or at a school or learning center..."

The author of the article is on the board of directors of an organization called the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. She is referring to a new definition of the word "unschooling," apparently created and being promoted by that organization. My concern is heightened by the fact that the president and one of the founders, Peter Gray, is a big supporter of the Sudbury Valley School, which is, ahem, a school that requires compulsory attendance and forbids parental involvement (I've written about that here). Under this new definition, the unschooling movement is also being commercialized, led by so-called "edupreneurs." (Have I said "Follow the money" lately?!) 

Although I love seeing the growth of awareness of the ability of children and young people to control their own learning, I am sad to watch the erosion of the non-commercialized, home-based, family- and community-centered aspect of unschooling. But, beyond that, I am worried that the inclusion of unschooling in this new vision of Self-Directed Education (upper case is their choice) will inadvertently undermine the positive homeschooling laws that so many have fought for, especially in the United States, where this organization is based. After all, if parents aren't really the best choice for helping kids learn, if kids really should have somewhere else to learn that looks like a school – and even the unschooling community itself seems to think that! – then why even bother with the messiness of allowing homeschooling?!

So if you love the idea of unschooling but not what it’s becoming, you might want to try to reclaim it. (Or use a different word!)

And yes, it’s weird to find myself defending a word I dislike. But I do hope you will give this issue some thought. Meanwhile, happy life learning!

Wendy Priesnitz

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Beyond School by Wendy Priesnitz    Natural Life's Green and Healthy Homes by Wendy Priesnitz    School Free by Wendy Priesnitz    Challenging Assumptions in Education by Wendy Priesnitz    Life Learning by Wendy Priesnitz