Our local "unschooling" list has erupted into fevered discussions over the term "unschooling" due to my offhand comment when someone posted a recommendation for a flashcard memorization website to the group, that such a thing really wasn't all that useful on an "unschooling" list. I mean, would you post a Monsanto pesticide recommendation on an organic gardening list? The flashcard mentality could hardly be more toxic to unschooling.
Some quotes from the website that was posted:
"The purpose of electronic flashcards is to enable students to master a large mass of course content."
"all courses of study, whether it be mathematics, social studies, science, or language arts, are reducible to tiny fact units "
"The system works very well for 98% of the content taught in schools, from preschool to graduate school."
I especially like that second quote about everything being reduced to tiny memorizable fact units. Yeah, that REALLY fits with an unschooling philosophy, doesn't it???
Of course, if you try to defend any definition of unschooling that remains relatively true to the nature of the philosophy, you're being "elitist" and "non-inclusive". Would it be equally uninclusive to say that eating meat "isn't vegetarian" or praying to the god Baal isn't a "Catholic practice"? Terms or labels only have meaning and usefulness when they have a definition. If I call myself an auto mechanic because I know how to knit sweaters, does that term hold any meaning whatsover? Why not just release all words in the English language to mean whatever they want to. That way if I said "I'm cooking pizza for dinner" my husband could equally take that to mean "I'm taking a train to Guatemala". Wouldn't communication cease to exist without definitions and meanings?
So for the record, unschooling, by definition, means "child-led learning". Not flashcards, not memorization, not grade levels, not curriculums, not a world divided into subjects and reduced to factoids. If that's not what you're doing, fine! More power to you! If you use an eclectic approach and you're totally happy with it and your kids are thriving: GREAT! But please, just don't call it unschooling.