A few months ago, after a ‘light-bulb’ moment I posted ‘Our unschooling journey’, however I’ve never been completely comfortable with the term. It’s a term that has crept across from the US, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however the US approach to Home Education is completely different to the UK, for starters in the US it’s called home-schooling, not home educating.
I’ve wondered why for a while, but it wasn’t until I spoke to a real-life friend, and took part in discussions on Facebook & twitter that I realised why. I don’t like it for the same reason that I don’t like the term ‘home-schooling’.
Schooling is not synonymous with education, despite the popular belief that they are one and the same. Being schooled doesn’t mean you are educated, and being educated isn’t dependent on being ‘schooled’.
In fact a recent article from across the pond has helped clarify things for me too. Okay Un-Schooling makes it kind of obvious what you’re talking about and it is most definitely more twitter-friendly, but for me it still just doesn’t make the cut when trying to describe what we do. I have used it interchangeably with the British term of autonomous education or autonomous learning but have found I prefer the latter two.
I have found that while they are very similar in many ways, because of the different nuances between US English & UK English and their education systems, they are also very different as some of the words used mean completely different things in each Country which can cause confusion. While some words have changed their meanings completely. To unschool initially meant to simply take your child out of school.
Another brief example of that is here: Unschooling: History and usage
In the UK, de-schooling means a brief period of settling into home education after taking your child out of school (generally 1 month for every year your child was at school, but it is very much dependent on the pace of the child).
In the US publication ‘Growing without schooling’, it means changing the laws to make schooling non-compulsory. In the US home-schooling regulations vary from State to State, and there seems to be much more in the way of regulations and assessments.
In the UK, section 7 of the 1996 Education Act gives parents the duty to educate our children. Meaning school is not compulsory unless you choose to delegate that duty and register your child in school, if you make the choice to take your child out of school then a de-registration letter to the school removes your child from the school roll with immediate effect and you are directly responsible for your child’s education as you are no longer choosing to delegate it to someone else.
Autonomous education/learning (okay, well autonomy anyway..) is founded in the roots of ancient Greek philosophy. It was originally the idea of self-mastery but now it is much more than that, it covers all areas of our life from education, to decision-making, to politics. Abraham Maslow found it to be an integral part for his Hierarchy of needs once the person’s basic needs were met, only by meeting the need for full autonomy, self-respect and realising your own self-worth can you meet the necessary needs to realise your full potential. That’s not to say it goes perfectly all the time!
I have found that while it is a mouthful to say, it is more widely understood. It’s also understood as a concept in its own right, not just in home education but in other educational settings (like University) too and there has been a lot of research done into autonomous learning in other educational settings. Which I find massively helpful when trying to explain what we do, as explaining things in person is not always my forte.
While the term unschooling has its merits and is right for the families who use it, I feel that Autonomous education covers SO much more, and is right for our family. It fully accepts that we have a duty to educate our children, not school them. It is also much more easily understood in the UK, and doesn’t get confused with de-schooling as easily.
Or maybe I’m just pedantic 😉