CSA Survivor Says 'Unschooling is the Opposite of Child Abuse'

I'm not saying that unschooling is for everyone. What I am saying is that unschooling is not child abuse, and I would know.

I'm a 34-year-old unschooling mom with three daughters. I love my life now, but inside me the buried remains of an abused child come to the surface each time I read a sad news story about a child mistreated (whether heinous or mundane).

You don't need me to retell the horror stories--like mine--that leave no doubt about abuse, but what about the the everyday callous and unjust treatment of children?

I remember reading about a young man put out on the street in a sandwich board sign as a punishment for disobedience. Public humiliation. People in droves were patting his parents on the back. I felt so sad for the boy. I don't even remember what he did, but it wasn't anything uncommon for a teen.

When I hear unschooling described as child abuse, it hits a nerve.

The misery, hopelessness, and powerless I felt as a child directly influenced my love of unschooling.

The unschooling approach to homeschooling--or more accurately, living in partnership with children--honors each individual child's authenticity and autonomy. Unschooling parents don't force or coerce, threaten or humiliate their children in the name of discipline or education.

I loved the idea of unschooling from the moment I discovered it in John Holt's books. My first daughter was a baby at the time and I was trying somewhat desperately to find the most loving, respectful way to support her, raise her, and meet her educational needs as she stepped out into the world.

The school atmosphere was impersonal at best, cruel at worst.

I wanted my little girl to feel loved, understood, respected, trusted, and deeply cared about. I wanted her to feel confident and courageous. I didn't feel that way in school. The school atmosphere was impersonal at best, cruel at worst. And I'm not just talking about the other kids. The teachers were mean.

I was a withdrawn, shy, sad little girl. My teachers often interpreted my demeanor as suspect. My first grade teacher took me in the bathroom and searched through my clothing when another child's bracelets went missing. That continued for days until I finally told my mom.

The elementary school counselor told me I was "sick," and I knew he meant sick in the head, but I didn't know why. I just knew that people didn't like me. They thought I was strange.

Looking back, I see that I was clearly demonstrating to the world that I was abused. But no one wanted to see.

Teachers are trained to recognize the signs of child abuse. I've heard this argument against homeschooling, as if homeschoolers never leave home. I was a "mandatory reporter" myself when I worked in day care. I made several reports, but nothing came of the shallow investigations.

I have encountered so many abused children through my work and none of them were homeschooled. Homeschoolers are a minority of families. Why should they be singled out for suspicion?

People feel uncomfortable with that level of commitment.

Parents like myself who choose to take responsibility for their children's whole upbringing--including education--demonstrate a high level of commitment and concern for their children. But that's an unconventional choice.

It's like breastfeeding. Many people feel uncomfortable with that level of commitment. They fear that you might be judging them simply by choosing differently.

I believe that schooling is inherently abusive. By definition, it's about making kids do things whether they want to or not. It's about coercion, manipulation, bribes, threats, and punishments. Public humiliation. Forced competition.

Unschooling is the opposite of abuse. Unschooling is not-schooling. It's about love and respect for the individual whole child. It's what every child deserves.

Why I unschool my children
My Unschooling Journey
Alone in an insane culture

1 comment:

  1. Amazing when people can break through the cycle of abuse and choose another way. I agree. I could not do school at home because I did not want to be like the task master at school and the only way I could get them to do the "work" was through bribes, punishment, rewards, manipulation. Lasted about a week and we have never looked back! Will have to check out some of your books!


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