Truth Be Told: Radical Unschooling vs. Permissive Parenting

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(image created by Anne Wood)

Over the years, Radical Unschooling has been mistaken for “permissive parenting,” and many judgments have been made about it based on this misbelief. The truth is, Radical Unschooling is an extension of Attachment Parenting philosophy and is a very hands-on, involved approach based on connection, rather than control. The philosophy is about being a child’s partner and focusing on their true needs and helping them get what they want in life through partnership and love, rather than the traditional focus on training a child through behavior modification to meet the parents needs for compliance and obedience. Radical Unschooling honors the child’s needs just as much as the parents, and a side effect of this is children grow up learning that everyone’s needs matter equally, not just those in power. After all, children learn what they live!

Most people do not know of any other options, other than control. The only other “logical” thing they know is what our collective culture knows, is that it is being hands-off, or permissive if we are not punishing or controlling the behavior of our children. They view anything other than traditional parenting as neglectful, or lazy, because they have never learned another way. The “experts and authorities” in our culture have done a very good job at selling people the need to be controlled, themselves.

Those raised in an authoritarian paradigm were told that it was all “necessary,” and done for our “own good” and that it was done “out of love.” It was confusing to be trained to meet the adults needs around us. Our behavior was all that mattered and having negative intent assumed from us chipped away at our self-esteem. Being told that power and force was necessary and without it we were not loved or cared for, is one of our cultures biggest lies and one that has been spoon-fed to us for generations. It has become a collective belief.

Our culture indirectly tells us that being nice and respecting children is neglectful and lazy. People do not realize how brainwashed they have been to believe this message! They also do not see that this lie has been passed down for so long, because of the mental anguish it would cause us all if we didn’t buy into this idea. People aren’t ready to see that the disrespect and mistreatment wasn’t necessary for their “own good.” People do not want to face the truth, because it won’t allow them to go on controlling, punishing and training their children any longer and it will force them to finally validate the inner knowing of injustice that was prevalent in their own upbringing and do something different and dare I say, better.

Radical Unschooling is not easy, nor is is lazy. It takes time and effort to find ways to meet the needs of everyone in the family and respect everyone equally! It takes listening, problem solving and critical thinking. It takes patience, understanding and discussion. Some people in our culture don’t want things to change and evolve, because they still want to force others to meet their needs, rather than taking the responsibility to meet their own. They will be very resistant to honoring the basic human rights of children. They desperately want to hold on to an authoritarian paradigm because without it, they need to step up and take full responsibility for their own needs being met. Many will still choose the easy road, of forcing children to obey them, but it is not without dire consequences to their relationship and connection.

Ignorance is comfortable and easy. Facing the truth causes great pain to our culture, but it is here and staring us all in the face. Children’s rights are next on the human rights agenda and it is happening, right before your eyes.

So many of us are saying, Radical Unschooling is not neglectful “permissive parenting!” It is not lazy, abusive or hand-off. This lie can not be passed down any longer, because an uprising is happening and children and teens are seeing the option for kindness and respect themselves through the eyes of others being raised with more respect and human rights. You can’t repress a conscious, aware generation. The lie can’t survive in a culture that isn’t buying into it anymore.

In the above diagram, you can see where Unschooling falls in the “Compass of Parenting.”
I hope this helps you see that there is a lot our culture has yet to learn and those of us walking a path of loving and respecting our children as humans beings and not property. It is truly raising the bar on so many levels, and many people aren’t ready for it yet, but awareness can’t be stopped. We are here to share the truth and open the door for understanding a more respectful, peaceful way to treat children that is modelling and creating more peace, love and connection with the world.

Are you ready?!
~Peace & Love, Dayna




  1. Bobbi Dyar says

    “You can’t repress a conscious, aware generation.”…I love this!

  2. Loved this entire post, Dayna! Thanks for writing it!

    We are in an era of awakening. You’re right. It can’t be stopped!

  3. Jock Doubleday says

    A much needed article, as public schools implode.

    A lot of parents also have the fear that homeschooling/unschooling will require them to be teachers with expert knowledge that they don’t have and will never have. Nothing could be further from the truth. All learning is student-directed. All learning comes from the student. That’s why an algebra teacher can “teach” algebra to a class of 30 and only 15 learn it. If learning was about teaching, all students would learn what they were taught.

    In fact, children use anything and everything as teachers, usually books. Sometimes, children might want to use parents as teachers, and then the parents have the opportunity to engage in the same learning “field” in a race for the answer or on a journey toward an explanation that is at least satisfactory and possibly best. But it won’t be “the expert” telling the student the truth but a partner in learning engaging the mystery of the subject in question. It’s an exciting journey and nothing to be afraid of.

  4. The one thing I’ve found that helped me relate to the people I’ve helped raise is to simply stop calling them children. I used their first names and expected them to use mine. I may not have chosen my name, but it’s the easiest way to get my attention. We should also go nameless until a time when we can choose our own names or no name at all. Freedom is a hard thing to give. Anything involved with giving more individual freedom is a lot of work, but well worth the effort.

  5. Well written Dayna <3 you are so right lazy & Radical Unschooling dont mix 😉

  6. I love this article! I feel that attachment parenting is the closest model we have today of Biblical parenting. I know that not everyone here is Christian, but I do think this is exactly how parents raised their children in the days of Jesus. I have several homeschool and unschool friends , both Christian and Secular, that are raising their young people this way and it is just wonderful to see. I am an older momma (52-proud of every day of it~lol) and tried to be as close and involved with my older children as I could be. They all attended public school and it was often rough going as I was also working at a furniture store at the time and their dad (we are a combined family-mine, yours, ours) was working a full time job at a steel manufacturing plant. Needless to say, we were not always there for the kids like we wanted to be. We did have lots of times where their friends were here, evenings, weekends, so forth. We were always that one house where everyone gathered for movies, pizzas and games. Homework was always a HUGE headache~oh my! We got through it all, though. Our youngest child is the only one being educated at home and we LOVE this experience. He is learning at a much more natural pace and really enjoys researching things out on his own. No fights over the dreaded homework~lol. I could go on all day about the difference we see in his attitude toward education and knowledge. I am just getting ready to go start our supper so I am kind of writing this in a bit of a rush~hope I am making some sense. Anyway, keep up the good work, Dayna! I love reading your articles. 🙂

  7. Dayna, this is so interesting to me. I do not have children (yet?), but I was very much brought up under authoritarian parenting (which I in no way regret as my parents did the best with the tools they had) but it does give me a very different perspective on children and how they need to be respected. It gives me some insight as to how my Dad’s own parenting styles seem to have changed a lot since I was a child (he now raises my nephew). He definitely isn’t the disciplinarian he was with me.. and I always thought that was strange… but it almost seems more in line with your approach to truly respecting each child’s different needs. So my question for you is, do your children receive any type of discipline at all? Or if not, how do you help them to learn when their actions or attitudes could cause a negative outcome in a different situation or as an adult? I really respect your view of parenting and I’d love to know more because when I find myself in parental situations I nearly immediately resort to “authoritarian” (because I said so!) way of thinking… I’m just wondering how I would learn to chance this thought process into more of a respectful way of parenting (whether it’s my nephew, my future kids, neighbors kids, etc…)…. Thank you for your thoughts and not minding my rambling!

  8. It is easier to spank a child than to get down on their level and gently teach them the proper way. I have always thought that attachment parenting is “get off your butt” parenting. Mine are 12 and 15 and they are so much more independent and self starters than their peers in my neighborhood.

  9. Dayna, Thank you so much for putting this out! Mostly, thank you soooo much for speaking out for the rest of us!!! What you have talked about and posted, is the natural way of our lives. I am a stay at home parent for 3 bouncy boys. we tried public school…what a train wreck!!! I left there on so many occasions, crying, because of witnessing harsh treatment by adults to sweet little children. Watching the eyes of those children, when being crushed… I had no choice but to leave, bawling my head off! I finally left the school all together, in June. Life is 10x better, to say the least. We fell right into a natural way of always learning…happily. And Now, I am the person parents have been coming to as soon as their child is having a hard time at school. Especially, those of busy-boys! What I see, ‘Authoritarian” ways are crushing kids. No wonder there is so much violence in this world.

    • Christyne says

      After mulling this since he was in kindergarten, I literally just sent in my letter of intent to educate my son at home this very morning…he went to the post office with me, and dropped that letter in. We both felt so empowered, so happy. He has probably been at home more often than not in these last 2+yrs, so unhappy to go most every day. I have finally seen the light, and listened to this boy. I had known it in my own heart from the beginning, but had to undo my own brainwashing, etc. But thank god I have. I know this is the start of something wonderful!!! Thank you to every wonderful person on here and elsewhere who are trailblazers and free thinkers!!

  10. Kath Marie says

    This rings so true. I have spent the last 20 yrs healing from my first 20 yrs at the hands of abusive parents, (mentally and physically). When I had my first child 12 yrs ago, I knew I would be a different parent. Funny thing is, I never read much on parenting but I naturally drifted to your style of raising kids all on my own. I don’t have rules, they are equal to us and let them learn at their own rate, let them make mistakes b/c it is ok. I have the most sweetest, well behaved kids ever. So when I saw you on Wife Swap, I was like OMG, someone who believes and does what I do. Keep up the good work and keep spreading the message.

  11. I do agree with much of what you wrote, but could you please address at some point how this philosophy addresses the rude child? I’ve seen unschooled children who were rude and not corrected in any way because “He will learn on his own what behaviors win him friends and which ones do not”. I think it is a bit cruel to send a child out into the world without addressing kind ways to act toward others, how to be appropriate in social situations, and how their attitude affects others’ views of them. These children may not always have mommy and daddy’s circle of friends around them to love them unconditionally. It will be a tough lesson for these children to learn that their employers, fellow co-workers, and other adults out in The Real World ™ will not act favorably to a bad attitude.

  12. Whenever I get angry or feel frustrated, I always ask myself, ‘are my needs being met?’ and ‘our my children’s needs being met?’

    This process is a challenging one, and requires full surrender to the former conditioning, of which I was accustomed too as a child.

    Thank you Dayna, you are an inspiration to humanity.

  13. The reason unschoolers are known as being too permissive is not because of the things you say here. Being respectful to each other is a lovely way to live. But often this respect does not extend into the lives of people who believe differently than you or that counters the unschooling parent’s desire for freedom. So we go to restaurants and our unschooling friend’s girl always climbs the tree every time and always the employees come out and asks — now tells — her to stop. The mother gets mad because her child’s freedom is impinged on. But she did not think of the people who were sitting at the table below the tree her kid was climbing, she did not respect the rules of the restaurant, and did not teach her kids that though, of course tree climbing is an amazing and important piece of childhood — climb the trees at home, at the park, but not in spaces where you have been repeatedly asked not to. The restaurant could be sued, the climbing could ruin another person’s meal. To teach that not all trees are for climbing is not disrespectful of a child; it seems more disrespectful to allow your child to do something that upsets and angers everybody around her who is not her nuclear family, and to have them give her looks, and treat her like she’s done something wrong when, according to what her parents model, she is being totally normal. Then she feels like the whole world does not respect her freedom, but it began as her not respecting other peoples’ spaces. I love many of the ideas of this movement, but there IS often a confusion between entitlement and freedom; respect of the nuclear family and respect of the community.

  14. I love you Dayna. Thank you for encouraging bravery, love and equality.
    The revolution has begun….

  15. Thank you for writing this. My husband and I have been talking about homeschool/unschooling our future children and this weekend had a pretty intense conversation where I figured out my biggest worry about unschooling was that it was a form of permissive parenting. As someone who fully believes in the attachment parenting model (and is how I’ve always dealt with friends kids to great results) this was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. Thank you for pointing out that unschooling is an extension of attachment and not permissive. I think I will feel far more comfortable with and really be able to dig into the idea of unschooling.

  16. Martha Maxim says

    Thanks Dayna for your calm and respectful way you teach the public about peaceful parenting and unschooling. My son was the one that told us about this and initially we were really concerned. We fought about it thinking that he was going to be screwed in the long run. Initially we couldn’t find enough information on what it was, how kids did as adults that were unschooled and if he would get a high school diploma and be able to go to college. Those are probably the most important concerns for most parents. Could you focus more on those practical aspects?

    I found out I could sign up with the state as a private school and colleges would recognize it. Now he is unschooled and I am very impressed with him. He is voluntarily improving his weak areas because they are getting in the way of doing what he wants to do. His writing is impressive and he is learning with passion. He is learning real life skills.

  17. I love Dayna’s philosopy…I have one of my children in a Sudbury school…the school, the kids and the staff are amazing!!!!!

  18. The line at the very end is the whole reason for the season! I don’t want them to have to spend a chunk of their lives healing …. Which is what I had to do… And relearning and rethinking everything is taking soooo long, I’m filled with fear. Darn it!!! Are we pioneers? Is this journey going to set them up for a life worth living. A life they can look back on and a life which will propel them forward? Ohhhh how I pray!! Mainly, I pray they will know who they are when they leave my house. Trying to find my own identity after school was brutal! I don’t believe in kids climbing trees when they’ve been told not to – as stated above. Respect is #1, freedom is earned, worth ethic is enforced. It’s just passion for pursuit of knowledge has me both excited and scared. Having been thru the system, it’s hard for me to figure out things– and reinventing the wheel isn’t my forte!! But so far, I’m loving every minute. Even the hardest days are totally worth it!! Xo

  19. Michelle says


    There are rude children/adults everywhere. Rudeness isn’t caused by unschooling. I’ve meet plenty it schooled kids who have very authoritarian parents that are rude. You would have to tell us hire they were being rude fit me to answer that question.

  20. Michelle says

    Excuse the typos. I’m using my phone and it keeps auto correcting.

  21. to understand and fulfill everybody’s needs than to follow a standard that someone else feeds to you… Good that you put it so clear. Thank you!

  22. My comment above is missing this part:
    It takes some effort…

  23. Great article Dayna!

  24. I am reading though your posts in order, a couple years after you wrote them, and just gaining all the amazing benefit of your clarity and experience for my own life today. Thank you sincerely.

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