Can a Christian Be an Unschooler?

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Today I’m continuing on with the second question posed to me in the comments of this post.[Please note-I have removed the comment at the request of the author. She was not intending to appear judgmental. She was just curious.] Here’s the question:

2) The method seems to put the child instead of the parent in the leadership position -which doesn’t mesh with my understanding of Christianity

This is not the first time I’ve heard the inference that unschooling is disobedient to God’s word. Again, as I answer this, this is how we do this in my family.

My children have boundaries. They also have responsibilities that I fully expect them to accomplish everyday. We have ten kids still in the house, so obviously, there are rules they are expected to follow. Believe me, my children know who the authority figures are in the house- and it’s not them!

I give them freedom in learning, not a free for all. My children are encouraged to pursue their own interests to their hearts’ content. I am there to guide them, offer suggestions, and ensure that they are treating each other with respect. I do not put them in a room and say, “Okay, kids- have at it! I’ll be back in an hour or four!” I jest when I say this, but I get the notion that some people truly think this is what unschooling is all about. If anything, unschooling requires even more parental involvement because we have to have our eyes and ears open all the time and pick up on the tiniest clues that tell us what our children are interested in, so that we can find resources and activities that our kids may like.

Another comment I’ve seen in many a blog post is (I’m paraphrasing) that “God’s word teaches us to train up our children, and unschoolers don’t do that because they are not giving their children formal lessons.”

Okay, let’s stop right there. The verse they’re referring to is this:

Proverbs 22:6-
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

What is this verse speaking of? Certainly not how to teach math, grammar, or geography. It’s speaking of training up your children so that they are obedient to God. So that they do His will. That’s it. And, unless the four versions of the Bible I have are wrong, there’s no addendum that says:

And be sure to use Abeka or an another quality curriculum when you do this, so that it’s done properly.

Please don’t think I’m anti-curriculum. I have tons of it. I’m just making a point that there are many ways to teach your children about the Lord or any “school subject” that do not involve textbooks. There’s nothing wrong with using them for that purpose; there’s a lot of really good literature out there, but it’s not the only way. Another great passage that gives credence to this is:

Deuteronomy 6:6-7
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

This is what unschoolers do! We don’t view learning as being done at certain times- it is happening all the time! And specifically speaking of teaching our children about God, this happens throughout the day, and, as I’m sure it is with traditional homeschoolers, as well, it is a natural thing.

Read the Bible to your children. Talk to them about sin, redemption, and grace. And do it in whatever way you choose because, no matter how you do it, God knows your heart. And He knows mine.

What are your thoughts?

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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

31 thoughts on “Can a Christian Be an Unschooler?”

  1. I think you should stop defending yourself and your ways. A Christian who steps on another Mother’s blog and hands out judgment has issues that have nothing to do with you.

    One can disagree with the methods of unschooling, but to question another person’s spiritual integrity is the reason I have to really dig deep before I follow a “Christian” blog, since sadly so many love to use their faith as a way to judge and insult. It’s a typical human response to feelings of inferiority and I get that. But when you use Christ as a means to demean another human, you’ve stepped outside all the ways of being that Christ asks of us.

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    1. Thank you, Deidre. I think the reason I answer these questions is to educate people, so that someday there won’t be so many misconceptions about unschooling. I just need to clear the air. I always appreciate your support.

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  2. My Husband read your reply and said “She probably has 10 kids pulling on her leg right now and thought your comment was about her post. You need to make your point clearer”

    So here it is, sorry to be long winded.

    “Putting children in a role of leadership doesn’t mesh with my understanding of Christianity”, if she doesn’t put HER children in a role of leadership, then SHE has nothing to worry about. Why is she on YOUR blog telling you about HER understandings?

    To me this is a Christian telling another Christian you are not as Christian as I am. In one of those “that’s not my God’ or “that’s not my understanding” passive aggressive ways around judging. She was implying your choice to unschool prevents you from being a good Christian parent. And yes I’m judging her for being judgey. I get the irony, but I admire you and the way you allow us to see what a Christ loving family looks like with out shining a light on your faith. So when I read that comment, it needled me. Leave my Shelly alone!

    Judging another human’s choices as Christian or not, isn’t up to any person on this planet. And I have met so few Christians who feel this way and every time they step up to judge a fellow Christian they allow the rest of the world to do the same. I don’t think you need to wallpaper a blog with Bible quotes to be recognized as a Christian and neither do you, but a lot of other people do. I choose not to quote the Bible and allow my love of humans to shine through. Which one of us does a better job of portraying Christianity? No one can answer that but God.

    I think your motives for this post are commendable. Unschooling does come with a lot of misconceptions. But anyone who has spent anytime reading about you or your family would not call you anything but a Christian family no matter your education choices. And that’s my point!

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    1. I didn’t specify. I meant reading Deidre’s comment. Although the post above was absolutely amazing. I do not care for in-your-face “Christians”.😀

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  3. I appreciate the heart behind supporting the blogger here, but let’s not jump to conclusions, either! Just because someone questions something doesn’t necessarily mean she’s passing judgment. She might just be wondering how to correctly fit something into her worldview. You don’t know what you don’t know!

    I wondered the same thing until I read the book Christian Unschooling – and then I realized that not everyone uses the word “unschooling” the same way. How we define it seems to be a HUGE factor (at least in mind) as far as whether it’s biblical or not. I do know some “unschoolers” who truly do just kind of take the attitude that as long as their kids aren’t harming anyone they can do whatever they want whenever they want. IMO, that is grossly unbiblical.

    BUT as I understand it, many “unschoolers” (and probably most Christians who consider themselves “unschoolers”) are more of the mind that they provide certain boundaries so that within those boundaries the children have freedom to explore. (Please correct me if I’m misrepresenting. I don’t consider my family to unschool, although we are very “relaxed” in our homeschooling.)

    In fact, what I got from that book and the particular families it described, was what I would describe as shaping the child’s environment in such a way that he would WANT to learn the things you want him to learn. Which I think is exactly what God does with us!

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    1. Same here. And when I ask them where they learned whatever it is, they usually say, “I don’t know.” And my youngest says, “I’ve always known.” Heh. It is interesting how MUCH they learn on their own. I do a bit of mixed schooling in my home and it seems they remember EVERYTHING ELSE but what I teach them. So…I just try make a lot available and let them “choose”😉

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      1. haha That’s so true about them remembering all the OTHER stuff but not what you worked at teaching them!

        It’s been a while since I read that book, but I seem to remember it being pretty good. It was definitely eye-opening for me.🙂

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  4. So glad that you wrote this post. I’m a member of several unschooling groups (even radical ones) on Facebook, and I get so annoyed with how far some of them take things – it seems so many people are getting just so tripped up following what they think is “the rule” for unschooling, they miss the true concept entirely. For example, “my child is fascinated with guns, so I’m just going to let them have a free-for-all with the things and play with them on their own.” (crazy, extreme example, of course) No, no, no. Your child is fascinated with guns? Then help them explore that interest. SAFELY and APPROPRIATELY. Sigh, I am quickly realizing that I could easily take over things with my comment, so I’ll just trail off here, but I am definitely enjoying your posts!

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