Before I discovered NVC (Nonviolent Communication), I read about and was hugely inspired by Radical Unschooling and Sandra Dodd’s and John Holt’s writings.
For years however I stayed away from certain online Unschooling support groups, finding the language used in these groups against parents lacking in the same compassion they ask parents to extend towards children.
I will reiterate that this has been my own experience. I only speak for myself. Not that I’ve ever tried to poke the proverbial hornet’s nest. I was just a silent observer in all of that. I read, I moved on.
Recent events in an online Unschooling group on Facebook took a turn for the worse as I recently saw a debacle where special needs were denied and parents accused of doing their children a disservice if they did in fact use diagnoses to understand their children’s difficulties. Be it a right or wrong approach, I felt it was counterproductive to treat others with such strident and unforgiving criticism, when we all are learning and evolving in our own ways and circumstances, just trying to get by and do the best job we are capable of at any moment. We all grow in our own ways and I just cannot see how the uncompassionate treatment of a person can inspire said person to give compassion to another (in this case, the children involved). It seems almost contradictory to me.
Anyway, I have now become far more enamoured with the NVC approach to parenting – when I learn and practice NVC, I learn to extend that compassion to myself and to others – including my children. No more having to look up to certain individuals (or “gurus”) to tell me shoulds or should nots.
I no longer call myself an Unschooler, a structured home educator, etc. I just call myself a parent. Yes I have done away with the labelling. I know unschoolers who advocate doing away with labelling but here I’ve done it myself naturally, not because I willingly listened to “gurus” telling me to do this, but as a personal result of learning and understanding NVC and using these principles in my own life. NVC did not tell me not to use labels. I eventually came to this conclusion myself (although I accept everyone who practices NVC will have their own take on it so I don’t speak for everyone). But it is so much more positive, empowering and compassionate to do all this naturally out of my own free will. Rather than be compelled to by peer pressure – and if a person is very strongly attached to a “guru”, then yes there is peer pressure to conform to what a “guru” and the followers say. I had no such pressure to do so. I simply did it because it made sense to me to do so. And I wouldn’t dream of going around saying everyone should do this or they’re not “doing it right”.
NVC is what I use nowadays to guide my parenting and my own personal affairs. I feel so much more liberated now than I ever was.
I think all those Unschooling groups I joined at the beginning of my home educating journey played their part, for without the inspiration they provided me, I may never have eventually come upon the concept of NVC. Alfie Kohn was also another inspiration that helped steer me along the way before I came upon NVC. I am grateful for these inspirations even if I am no fan of the online fights I’ve witnessed.
If anyone is a home educator or looking to become one, and the Unschooling philosophy attracts, and hanging around some of the online Unschooling support groups has been quite disappointing and deflating because of the constant infighting and language used, I will put my 2 cents here : Don’t lose hope. Consider reading up on NVC. Marshall Rosenberg wrote a very good book to introduce people to NVC, but there are lots of online resources to learn it too. Reading up on NVC will help you understand the premise of unschooling far far better without all the dogma of having “gurus” and “followers” dictate or humiliate you to do the “right” thing. Incorporating NVC knowledge into practice in your home life and home education could be a more effective and much kinder approach for yourself, your children and everyone around you.