Monday, October 5, 2009

Elevator Speech

After two recent homeschool gatherings, where I somehow couldn't manage to explain unschooling coherently, I realized I need an "elevator speech". This is a concept I first heard about in our former UU church (UUism is another thing that's hard to explain!). If I was riding in an elevator with someone, and they asked me what unschooling was, would I be able to describe it clearly and positively in 50 words or less, before the elevator doors open?

At our last park day, there were two moms brand new to homeschooling. As one of the only unschoolers there, I felt like it was my job to advocate for unschooling, and I failed miserably. I saw the look of confusion on one mom's face as I tried to explain it, and then came the question: "Wait a minute--so you don't make him do anything?? At all? What do you DO all day?" The other mom seemed to be listening intently, and nodding, and then said, "I've heard Calvert is really good." Aaarrgh!

To further muddy the waters, I've come to realize that there's a big difference between people who are just unschooling academics (an oxymoron if ever there was one), and whole-life unschoolers like us. I've been so steeped in the RU (Radical Unschooling, another term for whole-life unschooling) lifestyle the last few months, that I forget that most of the moms I'm talking with in real life have never even heard the term. They're just trying to wrap their minds around not using a curriculum, and here I am babbling on about unconditional parenting and no bedtimes, and god knows what else. Let's edge away slowly from the crazy lady, dear.....

So. My mission for today is to create my "elevator speech" so that when unsuspecting newbies ask me about unschooling, I don't scare them away. Does anybody have a good one I can use?


  1. I've been trying to come up with the same thing, lately! I'm an unschooled teen/YA, so my approach is necessarily different from how a parent would broach the subject, but I usually simply explain that I'm an unschooler, which means I'm a self-directed learner, so my mom never taught me, I learned myself by exploring the world around me! However, I don't think that's the best explanation, because usually the next thing out of their mouth is some question about curriculum, schedule, or how my mom taught me... :-S

  2. I am no expert, but child-led learner usually works well. I don't use unschooler with many people, as "homeschooler" seems to be challenging enough for most. I simply explain that I have incredibly curious kids who ask lots of questions, and I spend my day answering their questions and exploring intersting stuff. I hope that helps. I am sure you DO all kinds of things, just because it isn't written down and specifically planned doesn't make it "nothing". Good luck crazy lady :)!!!

  3. Hey, thanks for the comments, guys! I usually do lead with something about him being interest-led, or self-directed, but it's the follow-up questions that kill me. People don't seem to understand that he doesn't need to be coerced into doing stuff. I encourage, I support, I suggest, I facilitate, I help, I offer, I learn right alongside him, but I don't MAKE him do anything. And yet, learning happens, by leaps and bounds, every day. Hey, that's not a bad elevator speech....

  4. How about unschooling your child is like child lead parenting, what the child is interested in is what they learn. Parents will guide a child when danger is in the water, other than that the universe is the professor.

  5. I'm not sure. I'm busy edging away from that crazy lady. You're going to have to explain it to me. Is it a generational thing?

  6. Hey Denise,
    I usually just say something like, "We don't do "school at home" or use a curriculum. Our kids learn from many different resources like the computer, games, apprenticships, books, trips, magazines...the whole world."
    ~Love, Dayna

  7. Hello,

    I've been thinking about this same issue since I am the only unschooling parent in our town. My homeschool group is all Christian ladies except for me so I getting used to thinking in "Christian" talk. Something like this. "God made each child unique and with special gifts. I trust that God will lead me and my child to develop her gifts in the way that best serves the world."


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