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June 19, 2007

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Jennifer

I wish I had enough faith to unschool, but I really need to workbooks and flashcards to keep peace in my head. I have to have the list to cross off - but I see, truly I do! - the advantages of unschooling, because isn't it how we all learn?

Meredith

Happy lowtide!!

Tia

I feel about Sandra the way you feel about tidal homeschooling: the "how" she does things can be as important as the "what" is done. I myself adore your term "tidal homeschooling" and use it to describe what we do at our home. I am caught between two excellent philosophies as well and find that "tidal" sums it up best. Having had assumptions made towards me repeatedly by Sandra...having seen how she preaches one thing but can not practice the same respect among other adults, has soured me somewhat though. I can no longer sing her praises, nor refer anyone to her sites. She's been a bully and disrespectful in the face of a humbled apology from someone wanting to listen and dialog, not once, not twice, but three times over twice that many years. It is sad for the very reasons you listed here: she does challenge thinking, gets questions going...I found it all very valuable until I experienced where the threshold of consistency ended: she's the boss, the authority, the one runnin' the show. Not so mindful. It does however, free one to discard an ill fitting label, knowing I would no longer like to associate with it anyway.

Tidal it is.

Jennifer

I can so relate. I always tell people we 'Tailor school'. That way I can cheat and work my way through the conversation..hehe I don't have to worry about people thinking I should be one way or the other...lol
Their learning is 'tailored' to their individual needs. They learn history cuz they want too and they learn typing cuz I want them too. But I go months one way or the other depending on life and mood and whatever...LOL

Sandra Dodd

Oooh... I'm praised in the blog and then dissed in the comments.

The Always Learning list is for fully committed unschoolers. It's not a good place for people to come and write about how unschooling probably won't work if this or that. There are a badillion other places on the web where people will talk about how unschooing can and should be compromised, or why unschooling won't always work. I've spent years maintaining one list where it's assumed to work, and even more years having it work at my house (and corresponding and visiting other families where full-on unschooling does work). So if I seem uncompromising about that belief, I am. If I seem protective of the integrity of my list, I am. The Always Learning list has an unschooling focus because because I've worked to keep that focus.

That's ony a small part of what's available, though. When there are great posts there or on a few other related lists (some I'm not even on), people will send them to me to sort into one of the topic pages there, and it keeps growing with the best of best responses to questions by lots of people, and with their typical unschooling days.

Thanks, Melissa, for the book review and I'm glad you're having fun with it.

Tia

To Sandra:

It makes sense to go to an unschooling list for an unschooling focus; I think, having learned quite the hard way (not a mindful, respectful way at all), that it's a "ymmv" (your mileage may vary).

In order for experiences to be valid, they need not only be positive or "focused". They are what they are, which is not, what you represent imo (iow...you misrepresent my experience and refuse to validate my own perspective). That, far from being an ongoing argument, has become rather revelatory for me: why do I call what I do, what I do? Who do I associate with by using that label? How consistent are the messages? What am I communicating to my children if I parent one way but mingle with adults who treat one another in a contrasting manner? Children do, after all, "do as I do, not as I say", which is the crux of home education, parenting, and life in my house. The bottom line is "how consistent are we as people? How authentically are we living?

Added in to this revelation is the serious damage you've done through this situation to your own credibility. I can not trust any representations you make about unschooling, the method, your success, or that of those you know. This, I realize, may be a highly personalized aspect of the revelation...it's part of my own drive for consistency, honesty, and integrity.

To Melissa: I value your writing and your blogs because you are open, gracious, and honest...no one is perfect and I love your approachability and willingness to share what it's like to both value seemingly contrasting schools of thought AND run a home with challenges. Some would likely say that these accomodations (or value choices) mean you are not "fully committed". I, however, think it shows you are REAL. Not controlling. Not a perfectionist. I say, "BRAVA" for tides that allow flex to live. Full-on focus all the time leads to cracks.

Melissa Wiley

Just wanted to say I am in the middle of a long response to these comments--writing as fast as I can during baby naps. Will post it ASAP, but if it takes me all day, please don't think I'm ignoring the discussion here.

Melissa Wiley

I have lots to say here and I'm afraid this response could get lengthy, so please bear with me.

Tia wrote:

I feel about Sandra the way you feel about tidal homeschooling: the "how" she does things can be as important as the "what" is done. I myself adore your term "tidal homeschooling" and use it to describe what we do at our home. I am caught between two excellent philosophies as well and find that "tidal" sums it up best.
Having had assumptions made towards me repeatedly by Sandra...having seen how she preaches one thing but can not practice the same respect among other adults, has soured me somewhat though. I can no longer sing her praises, nor refer anyone to her sites. She's been a bully and disrespectful in the face of a humbled apology from someone wanting to listen and dialog, not once, not twice, but three times over twice that many years.

I welcome lively discussion on this blog and would be happy to dive into some of the topics you have raised, but in order for a conversation to be fruitful, it must also be charitable. Tia, it sounds like you and I have a lot in common when it comes to educational philosophy, and I would love to engage in further dialogue with you. (In fact, I have created a Tidal Homeschooling yahoogroup for just such discussion.)

But I'm really sad to see someone calling someone else a bully here, and making strong ad hominem remarks. I can't speak to your personal experiences on Sandra's lists, and I know that she has a blunt way of answering questions on e-lists that sometimes makes people uncomfortable or even angry. But I do not believe she is a bully, a person who takes pleasure in being mean to other people. I think that she has been answering questions about unschooling for many years and has made her position on common unschooling issues very clear, many times, so that in responding to questions now she doesn't mince words.

Even if someone's email encounters with Sandra (or anyone else on her lists) have been frustrating, I don't think that diminishes the immense value of her work. Her website is a phenomenal resource.

Sandra wrote:

Oooh... I'm praised in the blog and then dissed in the comments.


The Always Learning list is for fully committed unschoolers. It's not a good place for people to come and write about how unschooling probably won't work if this or that. There are a badillion other places on the web where people will talk about how unschooing can and should be compromised, or why unschooling won't always work. I've spent years maintaining one list where it's assumed to work, and even more years having it work at my house (and corresponding and visiting other families where full-on unschooling does work). So if I seem uncompromising about that belief, I am. If I seem protective of the integrity of my list, I am. The Always Learning list has an unschooling focus because because I've worked to keep that focus.

Sandra, I'm really glad you're reading this, because I would feel very weird having this conversation about you behind your back.

I think it's extremely helpful to know that the Always Learning list is meant to be a space for radical unschooling believers, as opposed to the interested-and-questioning tone of other lists. I wasn't clear on that myself, at first. I can appreciate the need for a place to talk about RU with people who are already on board, where some of the basic issues don't have to be hammered out over and over. I have lurked there myself on and off over the years, but I held back from participating in the discussion because I myself am not a radical unschooler, and to question points where my understanding does not intersect with that perspective would feel like going to a vegetarian banquet and saying, "This is yummy and all, but where's the beef?"


Instead, I have simply enjoyed reading and learning from the posts. I really enjoy Sandra's writing, and Pam Sarooshian's, and Joyce Fetteroll's. Their perspectives challenge me, make me question assumptions, examine the choices I am making. And I completely relate to their desire to put happy, connected, peaceful relationships with their children at a priority (THE priority).

Tia, you mentioned that Sandra doesn't seem to treat people on lists with the respect she talks about giving children. I want to say that I don't think Sandra's manner on lists is disrespectful, simply very very blunt and frank. I have listened to recordings of her conference talks, and I highly recommend that both as a rich resource for good ideas AND as a way to hear the humor and warmth in her voice.

Online communication can be so difficult. I have blundered more than once in e-list conversations, thinking something was coming off lighthearted and warm, and having it fall flat or sound snippy.

Also, as I have become more active myself these past few years, through the blog and a discussion forum I used to help moderate, I have found the time commitment really expands and threatens to cut into precious, first-priority family time. One of the main reasons I started my blog (Bonny Glen) 2 1/2 years ago was to have a repository for all the answers I was writing people in private emails: a way to say, "Good question! I tackled that in this post here!" rather than writing out a new answer every time.

What I didn't expect was how many MORE questions the blog would generate!! LOL. And I don't want anyone reading this to think I'm discouraging questions--I LOVE THEM. I simply beg your patience as I make my way through the list! :)

Tia wrote:

To Sandra:

It makes sense to go to an unschooling list for an unschooling focus; I think, having learned quite the hard way (not a mindful, respectful way at all), that it's a "ymmv" (your mileage may vary).

In order for experiences to be valid, they need not only be positive or "focused". They are what they are, which is not, what you represent imo (iow...you misrepresent my experience and refuse to validate my own perspective). That, far from being an ongoing argument, has become rather revelatory for me: why do I call what I do, what I do? Who do I associate with by using that label? How consistent are the messages? What am I communicating to my children if I parent one way but mingle with adults who treat one another in a contrasting manner? Children do, after all, "do as I do, not as I say", which is the crux of home education, parenting, and life in my house. The bottom line is "how consistent are we as people? How authentically are we living?


Tia, I saw the most recent conversation you referenced above (it was about housecleaning & unschooling, right?) and I think I understand why it was frustrating for you. You made a comment about how some *other* (IRL) moms you know have some misconceptions about unschooling (the old "unparenting" fallacy) and you used the term "supposed unschooling lifestyle" in reference to these moms' incorrect understanding; but on the list the phrase was seen as a sarcastic slur against unschoolers, and even though you clarified, a tone had been set that colored the whole dialogue. This is exactly what can be frustrating about online communication.

But it doesn't necessarily follow that people who misunderstand a point (or disagree with it, as seemed to be the case in other parts of the conversation) are being bullies when they frankly state their opinion. Bully is a strong term implying a deliberate cruelty on the part of the "bully." Bluntness can sting, but that's different than being deliberately cruel.

I understood Sandra's e-list style much better after reading this: http://sandradodd.com/unschool/gettingit#rush


Tia wrote:

To Melissa: I value your writing and your blogs because you are open, gracious, and honest...no one is perfect and I love your approachability and willingness to share what it's like to both value seemingly contrasting schools of thought AND run a home with challenges. Some would likely say that these accomodations (or value choices) mean you are not "fully committed". I, however, think it shows you are REAL. Not controlling. Not a perfectionist. I say, "BRAVA" for tides that allow flex to live. Full-on focus all the time leads to cracks.

Tia, I really appreciate these kind words. I am certainly not perfect and I try show my warts and all on this blog! I am constantly pondering and working with questions, and I wonder sometimes if that makes me seem inconsistent, like people must be wondering if I'm ever going to pick a lane! I am comfortable, though, with who I am (my favorite John Paul II quote was, "Families, be who you are!"), and who I am is someone who likes to mull over a wide range of ideas and see what WORKS. For me, for us, for my kids, my husband, in our unique and ever-changing situation.

I sometimes do feel an urge to "belong" to one school of thought or another, to find that label that fits me perfectly. As I said in my original Tidal Learning post, I couldn't find the label, so I made one up. It's useful mainly as a way of answering people's questions when I meet a new homeschooler.

I have written elsewhere about how some part of me seems to stick out of every niche I enjoy visiting (and that is probably true for most people). I'm a pro-life Democrat, for Pete's sake! Sort of! Ha!--I don't even fit THAT label across the board.

But still there is that desire to find the perfect label. There are times I read Charlotte Mason and think: She makes so much sense! I want to be a whole-hog CMer! And other times when I read Sandra Dodd and think YES, I grok that, I'm an unschooler! But the reality is, I have places where my understanding doesn't completely line up with either CM *or* radical unschooling. And that's fine. I can still learn from both schools (unschools?) of thought, and identify with aspects of each.

One area I'm keenly interested in is the balance between a rich unschooling environment (the kind of environment & relationships Sandra describes so vividly in her book) and the logistical challenges of raising a big family, especially with my special-needs son. When you've got big kids and babies in the same house, all with their own (sometimes conflicting) needs, you're probably going to have to make compromises somewhere. Tia, that's the issue you seemed to be exploring in your post on Always Learning--how your need for a clean, uncluttered space seems to you a valid need that benefits the whole family, and how you feel able to maintain that without shortchanging your children of your time or attention. It seems like a good question to explore, but is perhaps a bit out of context on that particular list. And I saw that the reactions of experienced radical unschoolers there were coming out of a sense of concern that your vision of it being possible to maintain a tidy home while unschooling might make newbies feel like failures if they can't pull that off.

Probably some of the friction comes in the different definitions people have of unschooling. I try to consistently use "radical unschooling" when describing the lifestyle Sandra speaks of, which incorporates an approach to parenting that believes kids grow up happier and nicer if there aren't constant conflicts with parents over chores, TV, and so forth; and that the way to avoid that kind of tension is to relax control in those and other areas.

While I find much to learn from in that vision of parenting, I cannot say it totally lines up with mine. I'm completely on board with "say yes as often as possible"--but I also see myself as the leader of this crew and am comfortable with the notion of parents being in authority over their children. I don't see authority as a bad thing or necessarily meaning there will be friction and discontented children.

But I digress. I was saying that as I understand it, "radical unschooling" has a specific meaning, and some discussions are not going to be relevant in a radical unschooling context.

Just plain "unschooling" is a tricky term, because to some it means radical unschooling, and to others it means "kids growing up without doing school either in a schoolhouse or at home"--without necessarily applying to *parenting* style. You'll find, then, families who consider themselves unschoolers but where the parents have an authoritative (not the same as *authoritarian*, and I credit Jeanne Faulconer for writing a post years ago that first made that distinction clear to me) parenting style. That probably best describes how Scott and I are raising our kids. So while I have great respect for people like Sandra who have, by all accounts, raised some fabulous, considerate, compassionate, respectful, nice kids according to the parenting principles that accompany radical unschooling, I'm coming from another perspective, one informed by my Catholicism (the only label that truly fits me across the board), my experience, my husband's viewpoints, and the temperaments and needs of our specific children.

So yes, I think you can be both an authoritative parent and an unschooler, and there are unschooling discussion lists where it might be interesting to have that discussion, but I would expect the experienced & happy radical unschoolers to speak up with strong arguments from their perspective. And if they all disagreed with my opinion, I'd have to say, well, I went to the vegetarian banquet looking for hamburger recipes!

Still, I love to hear the RU perspective, with its emphasis on JOY. Joyful parent/child relationships, joyful person/learning relationships, peace and delight and harmony in the home and with the world. It's a refreshing vision--invigorating, I think is the word I used in my Low Tide post. Sandra's work truly refreshes and empowers me, and I would hate to discourage anyone from encountering it, even if I'm not a radical unschooler myself.

One insight I had about myself during this current re-immersion in Sandra's website & list is that I was able to put my finger on why our foray into pure CM method this past winter/spring fell flat after six weeks, so that I found myself--for the first time in our homeschooling experience--with a roomful of discontented kids. (Discontented with our learning experiences, I mean. They have certainly all been discontented before, like whenever I cook dinner.)

The realization that came to me via my rethinking Sandra's philosophy is that what was different about our High Tide time this winter was that always before, while we may have been taking an excursion aboard the S.S. Charlotte Mason, I was captain of the ship, adjusting our course as needed, and pulling into port for refreshment or exploration as my young sailors required. This time around, I turned the ship's wheel over to Cap'n Mason herself--and much as I love her captain's logs, she doesn't know my crew the way I do. After six weeks, they were ready to mutiny.

So I am back where I belong: comfortable in my own shoes. I'm a Tidal Homeschooler, and it works for us, makes for fun times with my happy, pleasant children. But it was the Radical Unschoolers who taught me this lesson, and I will continue to enjoy learning from their perspective--just as I learn from the pure Charlotte Mason folks and the Real Learners and the classical-ed people and the Waldorf folks. I really, really like to learn. So do my kids, so I'm content to "be who we are."

Sandra, Tia, I'm sorry things got tense here. I'm glad you're both here, and I'm glad you're out there sharing your perspectives on life and learning for all of us to benefit from. Sandra, I am especially grateful for the enormous amount of time you have poured into creating your website, which I continue to believe is one of the most valuable educational resources on the internet.

As a final note, it occurred to me there might be others out there interested in exploring this concept of Tidal Homeschooling, so I have created a group for that purpose. I encourage you all to join me there! http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tidalhomeschooling/

Tia

Wow Melissa! Thanks for that great reply, which I'm sure took some time and consideration to put together. I really appreciate you doing that. I am sorry however...there is no way any other person beside Sandra or I can know the extent our conversation because that thread has been edited and moderated and private exchanges ignored. Taken at face value, the way it sits in their archives now, it is a very different conversation than what really occurred. Other than that personal interaction between Sandra Dodd and I, can no longer reconcile my own experience with her personally and what it represented on her (yes, excellent) website. And while I, as a veteran homeschooler and habitual independent thinker had long thought myself free of labels, the entire experience has had a ripple effect in how I think of how we do things in our home. Controlling another's behavior (or presentation of it, unless one owns the list) is simply not possible, so I have no idea if Sandra would ever change. I know in our history there have been many emails from other women who have felt "chewed" by her so my experience is not isolate. It's one thing to say, "we discuss ideas, not people" but if numerous people leave feeling abused something is probably awry. And I don't want to associate with that, which has led to this recent examination of a label.

If I am calling her a bully (I am) and making remarks that seem accusatory (they are), it's in an attempt to keep in the light what's been hidden in the dark. I think it's highly sensitive to be doing this on another's blog and I am very sorry for any discomfort this may be causing you (or other readers). But personal, one-on-one attempts at reconciliation failed. The same attempts in the company of others (pam, for one) also failed. Sandra simply refuses to hear or even respond. And so, while I can have no bearing on what anyone else in the homeschooling or otherwise world does, I can answer for myself. I myself will not sit back quietly while this kind of treatment goes on. A list is like an invitation to come visit. Sandra once explained it like an invitation to come to her living room. Without getting to know the guest or ask any questions, she assumed and reduced and insulted. (Not talking about just the most recent incident, nor only myself). It's a harmful lack of hospitality and that I, speaking for myself, call bullying. Those are not just "ideas" getting hacked...they are people, they are my children, they are my home, they are the same for others.

I'm sorry...I'm getting into more than I intended to here. I think you are wise to enjoy the book and the website and to refrain from participation on the list. I think that perspective is what allows you to seek out this balance between a philosophy and those logistical challenges. Read on down the Always Learning list that same week and there is an inference that big families should not be "had"; that more than a certain number will damage the older children and deny them what they really need. I suppose it would be interesting on some level to debate if large families ever really CAN be unschooling families except for that tricky little complication that these are LIVES we would be talking about. Do Wonderboy and Rilla detract from Jane, Beanie, and Rose to the point that you will never achieve that balance? Some would think so....

and if that's the case, it's time for me to leave that particular label alone.

Meredith

Gracious, methinks it's a Tsunami!

Sandra Dodd

-=-.there is no way any other person beside Sandra or I can know the extent our conversation because that thread has been edited and moderated and private exchanges ignored.-=-

I edited nothing. I ignored nothing.

Guests who go into other people's homes (or lists or blogs) and start insulting other guests will probably be asked to leave. Hostesses have responsibilities to trusted guests who were already there. Homeowners (and listowners, and blogowners) have more rights than drive-by commenters have.

The implication that comments were edited by the listowner is untrue. All e-mails were saved. It would be possible for ANYone to know what passed, but I have better things to do than defend myself against lies. Kirby will be 21 next month. He was unschooled throughout. Other people's belief, disbelief, approval or disapproval can't change his life, or Marty's, or Holly's. Sharing the details of their lives has helped other families' lives. I won't stop doing that just because a few people who don't want to unschool wish I would stop.

Melissa, you are kind and generous. I'm sorry someone brought strife and meanness to your blog.

Tia

Not meant in a spirit of meanness or strife *at all* and this will be my last comment on this subject on someone else's site. Anyone wishing to discuss this with may contact me at tia AT sixredheads.com:

* I was never asked to leave Always Learning by the list owner. I never meant to insult anyone there and apologized repeatedly to no response. I think it was assumed I would be one more hurt and offended woman on her list that would fade quietly into the background.

* My posts were certainly edited and I was scolded. Moreover, after things were clearly going downhill in that discussion on the list (I was feeling misunderstood and saddened others felt hurt by my words), I shifted to private communication in an effort to clear things up. This was very unsuccessful. But there are several emails in that strain of the conversation that are invisible to anyone reading on the list.

I am primarily disturbed by Sandra's attitude that "it doesn't matter". She has offended several people who have tried different levels of clearing communication for the benefit of good dialog. But this underscores my repeated experience with her that some people just don't matter. It is an attitude that is completely discordant with mindfulness and the human respect unschooling is supposed to be in support of. If her credibility and consistency does not matter to her, what good is anything she has to say?

As I said, I'm moving on from this discussion on this website. I can be reached at the email address above. My sincere apologies to Melissa for the direction this discussion has gone into.

Melissa Wiley

Tia, I appreciate you taking your concerns about Sandra to your own site, because this is definitely not a good place to come and call someone a bully. If someone feels the need to issue warnings about resources I recommend here, I certainly welcome opposing points of view--but in my mind there is a big difference between criticizing the resource and criticizing the person.

Tia

Thanks Melissa. I honor the spirit of your blog here and apologize again for any discomfort this discussion may have caused your or your readers. While it may be an issue that needs to be in the "light", there are many other places that can take place. peace to all. Tia

Melissa Wiley

Thanks so much, Tia. And I just want to go on the record as reiterating that while I am aware that many people have had frustrating experiences on unschooling lists, and that perhaps a factor of that is Sandra's bluntness and her uncompromising adherence to a specific vision of unschooling, I believe her to be a person of integrity. Not mean-spirited, not a bully.

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