Can I Be a Christian Unschooler?



Ah, labels.

They can be so helpful, and yet, somehow as people, we can make them so very un-helpful! And I think the following equation is true the more we walk along this homeschooling journey:

homeschooling + fervent mamas + labels = interesting!


My darling Builder-Man husband hates labels. He dislikes personality quizzes and anything that can possibly either: a) put people in a box they can't get out of or, b) exploit the label when there is no legitimate reason to have a label.

I think he is quite right (as he so often is!) and I certainly try to accommodate his views as I read and read and read all about homeschooling and educational philosophy. Yet, as he understands me, I often find labels quite helpful and freeing. 

(For example, finding out I was an ISTJ and that is who God made me to be was so encouraging and uplifting!)

So when I came across the word "unschooling" and started seeing it across the web and in books I was very curious. What does it mean? Are unschoolers always hippies? Or are they always parents who don't...parent? Does it mean no discipline or guidance at all? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

The more I looked into it, the more I saw that unschooling is as broad as homeschooling is in itself. Within unschooling communities, there are even more sub-groups, like radical unschoolers and worldschoolers. Feeling very drawn to the philosophy as it seemed to fit our current way of learning life, I tried to find a sub-group that fitted me: Christian Unschoolers.

Were there any Christian Unschoolers out there? And, the more I read the origins of the unschooling movement from humanist John Holt, the question had to be asked:

 Can Christianity and Unschooling even go together?



Unschooling Misconceptions and Definition


I really believe there are misconceptions about unschooling because of all the sub-groups. I think, like non-homeschooling people to homeschooling families, there is a sort of perception about unschooling that is generalised and accepted as the norm.

Just like homeschoolers always get the question, "But how will they be socialised?", I believe unschooling parents are often asked, "Do you do any parenting at all?" Such a question makes the assumption that the parents have stepped back and given their children so much freedom and autonomy in life that they basically do nothing and have little authority.  

The general assumption then is 

parental position + unschooling freedom = un-parenting


Before I go any further though, as a newbie, let me point to John Holt (the man who coined the term) and get from him his definition of unschooling:


"When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bare."


This, to me, so eloquently encapsulates the lifestyle of being an unschooling homeschooler. Unschooling is parents, from their position of wisdom and leadership, giving their children the freedom to grow, explore, develop, and take ownership of their learning and passions - to the extent they believe is right for their family.

So, for families wondering whether being a Christian and unschooling go together, I can heartily say: YES. They can, and do, fit together easily, beautifully, and generously. 

But let's explore this a little further. There are two freedoms that we have as Christians that I think go hand-and-hand with an unschooling lifestyle.

The Freedom To Train Organically

One of the objections some Christians have with unschooling stems from such verses like Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." Other verses, especially in Proverbs, seem to push a hard line of authority over children, emphasising parental responsibility to teach, train, and discipline.

Before anyone jumps on me, please let me make myself clear: parents are responsible, completely, for the upbringing of their children. A completely hands-off approach to raising children just isn't biblically compatible. If I am a Christian and follow the Bible's teachings, I must seek to train my child in God's ways.

That being said, I believe the collective wisdom of the Word on parenting as a whole, gives a discipleship way of raising children. If we see the way Jesus discipled his close friends and we take such verses as Deuteronomy 6:6-9, the relationship between a parent and child is to be a living relationship. The parent examples the way to live, imparting truth and God's ways through both organic living and deliberate "faithful instruction" (a characteristic of the Proverbs 31 woman, cf. 31:26).

This way of parenting and living is completely compatible with an unschooling lifestyle. Remember, unschooling doesn't equate un-parenting. It is a living, nurturing, and intentional way of living as a family. The unschooling part relates primarily to how the plugged-in parent opens doors, facilitates, and allows the child's own natural learning clock to unfold.



The Freedom To Know Who God Made Them



A Beautiful, Encouraging Book
One of my favourite resources for homeschooling so far has been a beautiful little book entitled Christian Unschooling: Growing Your Children in the Freedom of Christ. To me - as a Christian, first and foremost - that is the priceless beauty of living an unschooling way of life.

What is it that we fear in giving our children the freedom to learn? In part, it is our understanding of original sin. In another part, it is our conditioning from society about all the things we are "supposed to know" to be successful - that is, be a tax-paying contributor to society.

Schooling is not about education, that is, a "science of relations" that Charlotte Mason understood it. We are frightened of stepping out of the "only professionals know what to teach" and trusting God that He made children absolutely wired to learn. We are frightened to allow them the freedom to grow into the people God made them to be because we have been taught to believe that we are not trustworthy.

At our core, yes, we are in rebellion and we need help to choose what is right. Yet, we are still wired to seek out God in all that He has made - that is, true education - knowing God and knowing where I fit in His plan.

Unschooling allows parents to be completely on hand to guide them and cultivate their character, as well as open up avenues for their children to seek God's view of them and His plan for their lives.





I hope you can see that being a Christian and unschooling are not mutually exclusive at all. Though it is not an educational philosophy for all people, I do believe that Christians shouldn't be afraid to pursue that way of homeschooling if they believe that God is leading them to it. There are, in fact, many Christian unschoolers! And, though I would call myself more of a Charlotte Mason-er, I definitely have a heart 💗 for unschooling. But I want to encourage other mothers to embrace it if they see the Lord leading them in that direction.

Before I finish (what a long post!), can I share with you some resources that I have found so helpful and so encouraging?

Wonderful Resources For Christian Unschoolers


Christian Unschooling Blog (look for the FB group)
Our Holistic Homeschool IG
How We Ended Up (Almost) Unschoolers


Please pin so others can be encouraged!




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