It’s all about Respect

Trying to distill unschooling or free schooling into one coherent thought can be challenging. We can go on and on about the benefits of child-led education – how it allows them to learn to learn, how children are natural learners and we just need to nurture that. We could talk about the huge problems with coercive education – the fact that it robs children of the joy of learning, that it creates anxiety and stress in a time of life that should be carefree.

But, deeper than the education part of unschooling, there is something more. This way of life, this philosophy about children, it’s all about respect. Even if it didn’t lead to a better education. Even if it didn’t create adults who follow their passions and embrace their individuality. A learner-centered philosophy is, at heart, a respectful philosophy. Children are people. They are worthy of respect. The fact that any adult thinks that they know what a child will need to learn for their life is ludicrous. And then, the fact that they force that child to learn it against their will is downright disrespectful.

When we respect our children as being whole people, capable of real opinions, emotions, desires and passions, we free them. They not only learn to value themselves, and therefore to become more confident, but they learn to value others. Many adults strive to teach kids to respect them by force.  You may be able to force a child to do what you want, but that doesn’t mean they respect you.  In fact, it usually leads to the opposite. And the child, while outwardly doing the thing you are making them do, is inwardly resentful and hateful toward you.

The only true way to teach respect, is to be respectful. You don’t have to be an unschooler to do this, but it’s hard to be an unschooler and not do it.

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9 Comments on "It’s all about Respect"

  1. Penny
    27/03/2012 at 12:49 pm Permalink

    I’m a new home educator/trying-to-be-unschooler. I have, in the last 3 weeks, learned about unschooling and love this view of respecting children. I am working on it! I was going to post on just this subject tonight (on and may do tomorrow. I came across Carlo Ricci’s ‘The Willed Curriculum, Unschooling, and Self-Direction: What Do Love, Trust, Respect, Care, and Compassion Have To Do With Learning’ on Kindle and love it. I think you would too. Good luck with the school! Very exciting!

  2. Cassi
    27/03/2012 at 9:54 pm Permalink

    Penny– So glad you’re heading toward unschooling. I really think it’s a continual journey, as all of life should be. We are all working out this parenting thing, and the most I can hope for from other parents is to be mindful and to question their assumptions. I question myself all the time! Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ll put them on my “To Read” list (which is quite long at this point).

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Zoemaster
    01/04/2012 at 5:05 am Permalink

    I am not a homeschoolers nor an unschooler, but I am curious. And in questioning your philosophy I am in no way trying to be disrespectful. Here are a few things I’m wondering about…
    1) How do children know what they don’t know? Unschoolers say that children pick their own curriculum, but if they have never been exposed to physics for example, how do they know whether or not they would like to study it?
    2) If in fact, the child does decide that s/he would like to study physics, I’d venture to guess that the majority of unschooling parents don’t know enough about physics to do it justice. I know I certainly wouldn’t. What then?
    3) Are public schools that damaging, horrific and why?
    4) Can’t children go to a public school and isn’t it the parents’ job to nurture curiosity and exploration above and beyond school?
    5) What if your child just wants to watch tv?
    6) Many of the blogs/ articles I’ve read about unschooling demonize public schools. Why is that? Can’t one choice be good for one child and another choice be good for a different child?
    7) Just as all public school teachers may not be at the top of their game, I’m sure there are some unschooling parents who aren’t at the top of their game. That being said, child one who goes to public school may have one bad year, but child two who is unschooled faces the possibility of 13 bad years.
    Is there any accountability for unschoolers?
    I thank you for taking the time to read my questions and look forward to a response.

  4. Cassi
    01/04/2012 at 7:54 pm Permalink


    Thank you for your questions. I’m always happy to do my best at responding to concerns and criticisms. We unschoolers do have a tendency to make our philosophy sound like nirvana. But, though I believe that it is the best possible form of education, it is not always perfect and certainly not easy. It’s also not a panacea, nor is it feasible for some families.

    I would like to answer your questions thoroughly, so you’ve inspired me to do a blog post series. I’ll answer your questions over the course of a few posts. I cannot claim to be an expert or to represent the whole of unschooling-dom, but I will do my best to tell you my thoughts and my personal answers to your questions.


  5. Zoemaster
    02/04/2012 at 3:17 pm Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to”how do you know what you don’t know?”. I look forward to further reading and ruminations!

  6. apaulinaria
    28/04/2012 at 1:22 am Permalink

    I love everything that I’m reading here. My kids are young. Three and one and a half. And I have wanted to homeschool since they were born or maybe even earlier. Before even having kids. This article about respect really resonates with me. And it makes me think to regular day to day situations with the kids. Like brushing teeth. Sometimes they don’t want to but they have to. How do you deal with still respecting the child but knowing they have to do it? We end up forcing them but at the same time explaining why and making it into a teaching opportunity. Still sometimes the girls dot want to brush their teeth. Or get in the car. Or put on their seatbelts. Oh man. What a learning curve it is to be a parent! The greatest teachers I have ever had are my children.

  7. Cassi
    28/04/2012 at 12:19 pm Permalink

    So glad you found the blog! I wrote an extensive reply to you here.


  8. Nadine LeBean
    24/05/2012 at 2:03 pm Permalink

    I love this! I especially love what you wrote about children learning that they are valued and that they in return value others. I see so many kids getting lost in the shuffle of school and such. The deeper reasons (like you propose) can not be argued with. Respect and love are always great answers. Thank you.


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