Let's talk: What happened to good old-fashioned parenting?

two children running in field

Radical unschooling operates on the assumption that children live their best lives when given total autonomy. With this parenting technique, there’s no formal education and children are free to make decisions about their bedtimes, diets and technology use.

Dayna Martin’s book on radical unschooling was published in 2009, and it sparked a new movement.

“Parenting is supposed to be joyful, and it can be when we learn to connect with, rather than control, our children,” Martin’s book reads.

One Australian couple spoke about the experience with Kidspot, revealing what the lifestyle is like for them.

“It’s about learning to be in tune with their bodies. This is lost when we arbitrarily impose restrictions,” Ally says.

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“We never put a net on our trampoline and the kids have the freedom to explore, including climbing trees, walking to the local shops and climbing on waterfalls.”  

She admits the police have been phoned by people who are concerned by the children’s tendencies to explore unsupervised.  

The family of seven shares a bed, and if any of the children don’t want to sleep then one of the parents will stay up with them – within reason.

One of Ally’s boys became almost nocturnal at one point, choosing to stay up all night playing online games and sleep through the day.

“He was working on online games and in that time, he learnt to read,” Ally says.

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According to Unschoolers.org,  “the bedrock of radical unschooling is trust: a belief that our children possess an inner wisdom or intuitiveness” that is not usually acknowledged by society.

We all learn from our mistakes with time: run too fast and you’ll fall, touch something hot and you’ll be burnt, stay up late and you’ll be tired the next day. But are young children capable of learning these lessons and successfully implementing them with little guidance or structure?

At some stage, the children of radical unschoolers will grow up and either attend school or enter the workforce; at this point, they’ll have to find a way to fit into a rigid societal structure that all their learning may not have prepared them for.

What do you think of the radical unschooling movement? Is it a great new way of parenting or a disaster waiting to happen?