I raised one daughter who had an uneasy relationship with school. She is 20 now, and, unlike parents whose children are still school age, we are seeing the consequences of alternating conventional and unconventional education.
My daughter started school in a Montessori preschool. For her first few years, I was an at-home mom. This was sufficiently unusual in our neighborhood that I had to enroll my daughter in preschool in order for her to have playmates.
The Montessori experience emphasized her predispositions to self-reliance and self-directed learning, as well as her comfort in groups of any age.
She returned to the Montessori system after a brief episode of home-schooling, which involved use of community programs at the library, the Y, and the Children's Museum.
She had another episode of alternative education when she was 14. She and I spent 3 months traveling "student-style" in Eastern and Western Europe, including a college-level course in foreign language, at which she excelled. She also learned to use train schedules, city maps, foreign alphabets, and willingness to launch herself into new environments tempered by concern for her personal safety.
When she was in a conventional middle school and an academically challenging high school, we started getting negative reports: Your daughter is exceptionally capable, but she doesn't do homework. I don't want to flunk her, but if she doesn't conform to the homework requirements, I have to."
We wound up sending a very bright girl to summer school twice to make up courses she flunked. She aced the courses in summer school - she says because she could focus on one subject at a time, instead of having to drop what interested her in order to complete assignments in other subjects.
After high school, we permitted our daughter to postpone college and enroll in a program of only what interested her. One year of this was not enough; so she continued in specialized programs that permit her to gather credits towards a B.A. by distance learning.
At age 20 and with no bachelor's degree, our daughter is supporting herself living abroad, working as a tutor in her specialized college and as a freelance editor of books in her area of interest, and possibly assisting with the translation of a very important text. Moreover, she is chronically happy.
At one point in her grade-school career, we spent a day at one of Portland's best public schools to determine if this might be preferable to the Montessori program which, after all, requires paying tuition. I am sorry to say that I was ready to leave after only a couple of hours. The teacher was experienced, the kids were engaged, the facilities were comfortable. But I watched as worksheets were handed out, and the kids who understood the lesson finished the worksheets quickly and got fidgety and disruptive, and the kids who did not understand the lesson struggled with insuffucient time to complete the worksheets, and in an atmosphere that was at least stressful and possibly humiliating.
Every child is different. In one family, siblings may require different types of schooling. You have to recognize how each child learns best. You also have to separate yourself from conventional notions of achievement and consider what each child needs to be happy - Even a very bright kid may be happier and more successful repairing cars than studying physics at Princeton.
Thank you for sharing this. I wish this would have been an option for me growing up. I had the same issue, very bright but didn't do homework. I would like to do the same for my daughter. Her mother and I have been discussing unschooling and homeschooling for sometime. She is 4 now, do you have any advice on how we should proceed or where we can get more information?
I didn't like homework either as I immediately "got" the subject matter in class. Later on, too much later on, I learned that the purpose of homework is to develop the brain neuron connections which need some repeated usage to be made permanent. So I'd recommend teaching your daughter about that. It's like practicing a sport to develop muscle memory so that when you actually play a game you don't have to think about what to do you just automatically act and react. Homework is just practice for the brain.
I took a course at LCC in 1990 about how to learn in college and learned what I ought to have learned 35 years earlier. Learning 101 or something. Learning the methods of learning was one of the most important things I ever learned. I'd recommend calling up your local community college and ask them about that kind of thing.
Oh wait, I have the book here.
"How to Study in College" by Walter Pauk, Houghton Mifflin, Fourth Edition, 1989.
I suggest that you read it and consider what it has to offer for your daughter. I think I'll read it again.
Here is a great resource--the FAQ page of a national unschooling email list. There are lists of books and magazines and other things, plus instructions on joining the list, where you will find many experienced unschooling parents.
There are even three single unschooling moms on the list that I know of (now that is dedication!)
You can join our local yahoo group, we have over 150 families on it who discuss unschooling and meet regularly for fun and learning.
"Even a very bright kid may be happier and more successful repairing cars than studying physics at Princeton."
I believe that the Car Talk guys have PhDs in Math and Physics from MIT. And were professors at MIT. And of course they now have their own car repair shop and show. Thus apparently proving your point.
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I would definitely suggest you read the books about Unschooling by John Holt. His books are widely recognized by many Unschoolers and they're what made my mom decide to Unschool me. (She told me, "After I read the books and I just knew that I couldn't send you off to school!") You can also visit an Unschooling forum: http://www.unschooling.info/forum/ You can read many posts there and also ask any questions that you have.
We unschool by being open to all options that support our boys in being themselves and TRUSTING that they will learn. Most schooling is based on not trusting children to learn or 'behave' or grow.
We are just now getting involved in the unschooling community and it's the most refreshing place I've ever found.
Our 3 children grew up this way. We followed their interests closely, and saw to it that they had the means to implement their plans and projects. For one child, this meant a Japanese tutor. For another it was art classes. For another it was plane fare to the US to take the GED and SAT and then apply to universities. Of course, there was more involved, but that's how we did things...find out what's needed by the child to learn more about something that interests him/her, and then work with him/her to get it.
Those 3 children are now adults. They're all healthy, happy, and busy doing what they're passionate about. One is director of a department at a company he grew with in several countries, through several mergers. Another is a free-lance tech-support provider, working mostly for communications companies in the US. The third is 18 and planning to attend a culinary institute next year, after spending a few months traveling with her best friend (also unschooled) in Europe. For the second time. The friend will be off to university to study electrical engineering. Both girls are independent, fully bilingual, outgoing people. They're working to help pay for the trip...one waitressing, the other interpreting for foreign visitors to Costa Rica, where we live for much of the year.
We have grandchildren as well, and they're also learning at home. Someone on one of my lists recently suggested that, rather than being schooled, our children are "homed". It has a nice sound to it.
We just moved up here from SoCal, where my 2 boys of 7 and 9 went to a charter Waldorf school. They're going to Portland Waldorf School in the fall, as we strongly believe Waldorf education is really the best education style. If all schools taught Waldorf method, there would be no need to unschool.
No matter. So, this spring and summer we did unschool the boys-they played outside, in the creek, visited OMSI, rode bikes, played ball, listened to a lot of stories, started learning to fish, helped with the baby and yardwork, picked blackberries, swam, drew, wrote (the older one), started to learn to read (the younger one-Waldorf kids don't start reading until 1st or 2nd grade). They also sat around and watched TV and played computer games-blecch.
I'm not so sure unschooling works for the earlier grades-there really is material that has to be learned, and specific milestones that need to be reached-demyelination is happening, and if the neural pathways don't get myelin on them, they get pruned.
I think you have to find the right situation for your child-what they're happy with, what challenges them, what makes them grow. Waldorf stresses all aspects of a person-head, heart and hands-and the teachers consider each child when making up lessons.
I believe that children absolutely do best with unschooling when it is started from birth. The material that you mention that has to be learned is very easy to learn from everyday life. A child who comes out of school usually has a lot of baggage to deal with and has often lost her love of learning.
A child unschooled from birth has a love of learning that continues for life. I have seen this countless times with unschooled children we know and with my own who are now 15 and 13. I also think that while Waldorf schooling a major step away from traditional schooling it bears no resemblance to unschooling.
One difference between the school mentality and the unschool mentality is about philosophy of life, what life is for. For instance, one of the criticisms from the K12 link posted above is, "If they are not made to do arbitrary and tedious schoolwork, children might not learn how to do difficult, uninteresting, and unpleasant work." To the unschooler, intentionally making life unpleasant with the express goal of supposedly learning to tolerate unpleasantness is an absurdity and *anti*-life. It also just simply doesn't work for anyone who is not content to be nothing more than a lemming or cog in a wheel. I endured 12 years of forced "education", and I never got used to being made to do pointless, arbitrary busywork. That's a long time to keep doing something that has no value. When I was finally free to pursue my life as I saw fit, I found myself feeling resentful about the lost years, which fueled rebellion. I also found that I'd lost the abilities to self-regulate and self-determine from having my every move dictated by "authorities", and they took a long time to recover. Why not support these natural abilities from the very beginning? That's what unschooling is about.
Another difference between school and unschool is the philosophy of education itself. How do people best learn? Is it by being subjected to an enforced standardized what, when, and how, regardless of a person's individual circumstances? Or is learning most useful and effective when it's relevant to the individual, when it takes into account their developmental readiness and interest, and when it's done by choice? Unschoolers believe in education. They just consider it rational to avoid the control and coercion that interferes with optimal mental and emotional development.
very good points and very well said!
You could use a title for your unschooling revelation---how about, "School for Anarchists"
Yesterday in the life of my 11yo daughter and 16yo son who are both unschoolers:
My daughter spent the morning curled up with a new novel while my son worked on composing music on his keyboard. My daughter came across a place in the novel she had never heard of, so she went to the computer to google it and ended up spending about an hour reading about a town in Alaska; a kind of dessert made in southern Italy; and an artist from the 1700's, before getting back to her book. My son was looking for a certain kind of music on his computer and ended up researching composers and watching a classical music concert from Greece. In the afternoon, they met up with some other unschooling friends at the park and the older kids had an amazing fantasy game going that kept them running all through the woods for hours, while the younger ones played games in the park. At home, the kids made part of our dinner from a cookbook they got at a garage sale. At night we watched a program on the ancient Olympic games.
This was a typical day for us. Other days include the library, museums, hiking, exploring different parts of town, lots of theater and music and researching all different subjects. They also take classes and lessons on subjects that interest them. My son has taken many drama classes, photography and history. He also loves to study different languages and ancient religions. My daughter loves to read and she reads for hours every day. She also plays tennis and takes French and writes stories and poetry and songs.
Because they are allowed to follow their interests, they are able to develop into who they really are instead of trying to become someone else.
"And at a time when public schools are criticized more and more, what might unschooling offer that our public schools can't?"
The primary things I find profoundly different with our always unschooled daughter who is now 14, is that she is bright and articulate. She doesn't discriminate against others based on age, gender, race, or religion, she enjoys reading, knowledge and learning new things, and she truly knows herself.
These are not things I find in her schooled friends. Unschooling offers our children time and freedom to become individuals who truly know themselves and what they want from life. They don't have to wait until they are 17 or 18 to do that.
When and if our kids go to college, it will be like everything else they have done thus far, they will take what they want from it and do it until they feel done and move onward to bigger and better things with confidence and more self awareness.
Public school can't even begin to offer that sort of thing in the cookie cutter wheel that keeps churning out mediocrity. Public school focuses too much on specifics and hoop jumping and very very little on what and who a person actually is and is good at. That is what we have coming out of school systems, people who know how to do what they are told, jump through hoops and don't really know what they are good at or who they are. (I'm speaking in generalities here, I do know that there are exceptions.)
We're having an unschooler teen night, see http://www.myspace.com/minors177
for more info- maybe your daughter will want to come. it's this Saturday night 7pm-1am, most of the kids will be in the 13-16 age range. :)
My son is 2 yrs old and I've decided recently that we will be unschooling. I could not and would not do traditional homeschooling because it follows the compulsory education model. After reading "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto I realized the negative effect compulsory schooling has on kid's mindsets.
A baby seeks out information about the world constantly and vigorously. I believe that school squashes that natural curiosity in most kids by telling them what, when and how to learn. School also takes way too much time away from kids lives.
Unschooling will allow my son to keep his vigor for exploring our world and provide for him the time to do so. I believe unschooling will create an environment for him to continue to love learning both in childhood and adulthood.
All good points. My favorite book to recommend to those with young children is John Holt's Learning All the Time. If you read that while watching your baby or toddler learn you will see that your child's incredible enthusiasm for learning can only continue if you let it.
As a parent, grandparent, educator and member of society as a whole, I find "unschooling" to be a disturbing tweak on the practice of homeschooling. I can fully appreciate the desire to give our children the very best education possible while protecting them from negative influences. However, few parents are equipped to teach their own children. In an age where higher education is becoming a necessity it is important that children are prepared to enter into a higher Ed system. To do that they need not only a basic understanding of the required content areas, but also the interpersonal skills, flexibility from dealing with different personalities and systems of power and an ability to know how to jump through the hoops. These are essential skills for surviving in the workplace and are not easily attained when given the power to direct their own paths in education. In general I find that too many parents are giving up on parenting and allowing their children to make decisions that they are too immature to make. This is just another example of abdicating the role of parent to the child, to the detriment of all.
I would caution you that unschooling is not unparenting. Unschooling parents are actively involved in their kids educations--finding resources, strewing their paths with interesting activities and materials, listening to their children as they explore and talk about their interests, the list goes on and on. It is a common misconception that homeschooling parents need to teach their children everything the children need to know. In fact, the children are living in the real world and learning all the time from parents, siblings, friends (of all ages), mentors, teachers, coaches, books, videos, media, etc.
I have been struck over and over with the maturity and confidence of homeschooled (including unschooled) teens. How often they are living the life they want to live, volunteering, working, starting their own businesses, interacting with people from many walks of life and not just 400 other kids their age. I don't think it is such a terrible thing to bristle at having to jump through stupid hoops and take a stand and refuse to do it from time to time.
I know there are many wonderful, resourceful teens who go to school also, but going to school is no guarantee that you'll develop good interpersonal skills and flexibility in dealing with different personalities.
Also, it is hard to imagine that taking on the commitment to homeschool your kids is abdicating the role of the parent, regardless of educational philosophy you adhere to. I'm sure some unschooling parents do probably abdicate this role, as do some parents of children who attend school. But if anything, homeschooling/unschooling means you are taking a much more active role in your children's education than the typical parent. Just because you are not telling them what to learn at a particular time doesn't mean that you are not providing guidance, having discussions, giving input, helping them find resources, and providing appropriate limits and teaching necessary life skills.
I am equally disturbed by the idea of Home Schooling and Unschooling but can appreciate why this may be a desireable option for some parents. I have been a professional who works closely with children and families for several decades in three different states. It continues to amaze me the vast majority of parents continue to view their children as their property to do whatever they believe without being challenged by anyone for anything. Not all parents are loving, caring, or act in the best interest of their children. This includes parents who home school and unschool. In the public school system children have the opportunity to develop relationships with other adults, observed by other adults, monitored by other adults. Its an inadequate "safety net" by a safety net nevertheless.
I do not believe or advocate interference in the relationship between a child and their parents. What I do believe and advocate is that the community has an interest in the welfare of all of its children. The fact that so many home schooling and unschooling parents will not even register with their local school district is a significant disturbance to me.
The Home Schooling and Unschooling parents have a right to return their children to the public school system at any time for any reason. If a child has been inadequately educated the responsibility for correcting any mistakes then rests with the public school system with no accountability or consequences to the parents. In fact, this issue will not even become a topic of conservation between the parents and public school. Where is the accountability ? Because ultimately it is the society which must accept the burden and responsiblity if the parents were wrong for whatever reason.
You make some very good points.
And the flip side of that -- the state considering children to be its property, so that it can dictate what they can and cannot do with their own lives -- is no better. I consider my role as a parent to protect my child's right to a self-determined authentic life. *Mandatory* schooling, by definition, is in conflict with that, regardless of whether the parents or the state enforces it. And please. It's not as if abuse doesn't occur in schools. Not all school authorities are loving, caring, or act in the best interest of the children in their care, either. And if state-enforced observation was really the answer to abuse by parents, why start at the age of 6? Children are abused at earlier ages as well, even as infants. Should we then have all children in state-run care from birth?
Re: declining to register, for most parents it has simply to do with the fact that they don't accept the state's standards as objectively correct. Children develop and learn at different rates, so standardized testing is irrelevant (and potentially harmful,) which is one of the reasons they don't have their kids in school in the first place. If a child is best served, developmentally and emotionally, by learning how to read at age 9, how is the state insisting that s/he read at age 7 going to help matters? According to our educational system's experts themselves, there is an epidemic of illiteracy in our country. And yet the state continues to push children to read before they are developmentally ready.
Last, ultimately society must also accept the burden if the schools are wrong. It's a grand experiment, and a relatively new one in human history. Reason tells me that education occurs in spite of mandatory standardized schooling, not because of it. I unschool because I want better for my children.
"And the flip side of that -- the state considering children to be its property, so that it can dictate what they can and cannot do with their own lives -- is no better."
That is a common calumny, a logical fallacy called a "strawman argument", spread by Conservatives. In fact the "state" also known as "we the people" reject the idea that children are property of the state, parents or anyone else and we consider that children have human rights that need to be protected from abuse whether that abuse comes from parents, strangers or Cheap-Labor Conservatives.
There exists a Convention on the Rights of the Child, if you're interested in learning more.
"The Home Schooling and Unschooling parents have a right to return their children to the public school system at any time for any reason."
Yes, that is the beauty of paying taxes isn't it? The right to use public services if I need them.
First off, parents are the first teachers in the lives of our children. We've "taught" them to talk, walk and interact with society. College admission records show homeschooling and unschooling families have "taught" our children well enough to satisfy college standards. I'd have to say our kids have successfully learned "interpersonal skills, flexibility from dealing with different personalities and an ability to know how to jump through hoops"
As an educator you must have come across at least one article on how well our kids are doing out in society. Our kids are certainly no worse than public school educated children in terms of "making it" in our society.
I believe in the 2004 Harpers magazine, a survey was quoted as saying "Chance that an American adult believes that 'politics and government are too complicated to understand': 1 in 3
Chance that an American who was home-schooled feels this way: 1 in 25"
Sorry ladyz51 nothing shows homeschooling is detrimental at all to society and we pay for a service we have no interst in participating in. Hmmmm, I'd say society is gaining.
I am a homeschooler with unschooling leanings, though may not be considered an unschooler by purists since we do some traditional academic school work at my prompting, but the vast majority of our learning is based on my kids interests. My original interest in homeschooling arose because I noticed that despite my many years of schooling (I have a Ph.D.), I had a shocking lack of ownership over what I learned, even in graduate school! I expected my teachers and professors to tell me what I should learn, and I put in the effort needed to get the grade I was shooting for. I didn't want my kids to spend 20+ years learning (and forgetting) things because someone tells them that they should. The mountains of information I regurgitated for various tests were mostly gone within weeks (or days) of taking the tests. But things I learned because I was interested in them stuck with me. This is the foundation of unschooling.
Also, as I looked back on my early years of schooling, I noticed that the only things I really learned before high school were how to read and write (which took a couple of months), basic computation (which could also easily have been picked up through living in the world and needing it), and some algebra and geometry, which I enjoyed thoroughly. What happened in all those years of language arts and social studies and science? Was it really necessary for me to spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week from age 5 to 13 to learn to read and get some basic math skills?
So with my own kids, I've found that when they don't have to spend their days doing projects that they are simply not interested in, the world opens wide with possibilities. My history-loving daughter can spend her days reading Greek Myths and historical fiction and watching video clips from the history channel and writing plays and playing geography games. My science-loving son can spend his days watching and learning how the physical world works, mixing substances together and seeing what happens, observing insects, and watching science videos. For fun, my daughter is reading a math book about fractions. For fun, my son is listening to a survey of ancient history written for kids on CD. And these things stick with them, because they are interested in them.
I mention the academic topics because they sound schooly and my kids happen to enjoy them. But I also know unschooled kids (including mine) who spend days and days doing little else but playing legos or soccer or computer games or bionicals or pretend. I guess what is different about unschoolers is that they find these activities to also be worthy endeavors. These things feed the soul and mind just as much as traditional academic topics. And, I have heard story after story among my homeschooling friends about how a child's obsession with some apparently useless (i.e., non-academic) activity blossoms into so much more. Kids "wasting" hours and hours playing games on the computer end up making a good living in a job they love developing computer games. Kids doing nothing but fencing, then winding up traveling to France for competitions, learning French, getting interested in French history, then European history. One thing leads to another. When you are free to pursue the things you love, you find that more and more of the world becomes interesting.
I will say that I've heard some unschooled teens say that they felt they had to do a fair amount of catch-up when they got to college. For this reason I've kept some basic academics going in my house, which makes me not a pure unschooler, but I bet some would say that a little catch-up when you first get to college is a small price to pay for the resourcefulness, confidence, and life skills these kids acquired as unschoolers. And they may be right. I don't believe unschooling is the only way to achieve this qualities, but I do believe it helps.
Highlights of an unschooling day in our life: Today my son (7) watched video clips of Wired Science and my daughter (11) read a novel that is a spoof on a Greek Myth while I went in to work for a bit in the morning. After I got home, my son made French Toast and we had a late breakfast. My daughter played the piano, then made a scale model of her room and all her furniture to help her figure out how she wanted to rearrange it. Meanwhile, my son asked me to read _The World in One Day_, which shows all sorts of things that happen in one day, like how many bathtubs worth of blood your heart pumps in a day, and how much the fastest-growing plant grows in a day. Then we rearranged my daughter's room, went to swimming lessons, ate dinner, watched a documentary about the Beatles, and read aloud from a novel set in 1187 Jerusalem, _Pagan's Crusade_ (a very irreverent take on the Crusades, so far).
I am a public high school English and journalism teacher. I first learned about unschooling in September 2003 when I read an article in The Oregonian about "Not Back to School Camp," a summer camp for unschoolers.
The NBSC was run by Grace Llewellyn, an unschooling proponent and author of the book "The Teenage Liberation Handbook."
The article, which was headlined something like "Free Range Education" described a camp for unschoolers that focused on encouraging students to follow their passions in life without tossing aside all "academic" learning. I read it to my high school classes and asked them what they thought. Responses were mixed. Some thought unschooling would fuel the next wave of homelessness. Others were excited about the freedom, choices and potential of designing one's own education around something you are passionate about.
As a high school teacher, I loved the unschooling idea because I have always felt that traditional high school falls far short of creating a complete, realistic, and energizing learning environment. Since I read that article and Grace Llewellyn's book I have attempted to implement unschooling principles in my teaching and in life. I have looked for ways to assist high school students in pursuing things they truly care about. I have adapted the English and journalism curriculum in my classes to give students more choices, freedom, and flexibility.
At home, one of my two sons, coincidentally, benefited from this evolution in my experience. My son's passion is for ballet dancing, but traditional school was beginning to get in the way of what he truly wanted to do?dance. So when he was about to enter high school my wife, my son, and I all decided that home schooling was the way to go. We did research, bought books, borrowed high school texts and his journey began. Because my wife and I both work (She is part-time and I'm full time) we knew our son would have to take charge of much of his own learning. In effect, he soon was doing a form of unschooling. His emphasis was on dance, but he still studied science, math, English and social studies in other ways, and mostly on his own. Over two years he did take two science classes at the high school, but everything else was done independently.
Our son could do things other public school kids only dream of. He could sleep in and stay up late. He could focus on one subject for as long as he wanted. He could focus on his favorite subjects and spend less time on those he enjoyed less. For our son, unschooling worked great. After two years, he decided to take his GED, which he easily passed, and now at age 16 he will be taking college level classes while continuing to dance while looking toward a professional career.
Now when my public high school students tell me there is nothing for them in school, I tell them life and learning is what they make of it. They don't always believe me, but I know from experience there are alternatives to the status quo of traditional school.
Yay for you! For being open minded, exploring issues inside of your profession, and for choosing the best thing for your kiddo and your family. I love The Teenage Liberation Handbook... I read it myself and then tried to get my son to read it, but he wasn't interested. He is going to NBTSC this summer, though, and I think I am excited as him that he has the opportunity.
It's true, too, that teenagers are biologically equipped (as demonstrated by lots of studies) to experience changes in their sleep patterns that make 7am math classes not so fun for a variety of reasons. I really appreciate that my teenager can use the time of day that his mind is most awake to focus on his interests.
So glad that you are bringing your learnings in to the public school, too. One of my goals for the upcoming year is to share what we've learned through unschooling with a community at other public school events that encourage youth participation and involvement in their learning.
We have been unschooling just since December 2007. I didn?t set out to unschool or even homeschool, but it?s currently the best fit for my student, age 12. From preschool through age 11 she went to a small private school with mixed age classes and no grading. When that ran out of her age group, we tried the public school online, which was a terrible fit. So we thought we would homeschool. However, there has been a long and unexpected recovery period from the online public school experience, so unschooling was the way left open.
In the homeschool community there is a saying that homeschooling is as diverse as the number of families doing it. That seems *doubly true* for unschoolers, if you can imagine doubling an infinite number of possibilities.
Philosophically, I subscribe to the idea that the purpose of education is not to achieve a set of (changing & arbitrary) academic goals, but to become a competent, self-actualized, caring person. Learning happens all the time and in many ways, we internalize it when we are interested in it or it serves our goals. Life and learning can be joyful and interesting most or at least lots of the time.
Seat time, memorization, test scores, age/ability averages, and job skills are inadequate and false measurements of a successful education experience in this philosophy. And perhaps in any. Extrinsic motivations (positive and negative) common to schooling tend to discourage the development of good internal values. The compliance needed for teachers to manage large groups of children whom they don?t really know can easily squash independent thinking and the healthy propensity to question why.
Personally, basic skills, already well advanced at age 12, (needs further algebra & geometry to fill her own wishes and self-expectations) put this student ahead of her age range. Her vocabulary, interests and general knowledge exceed that of some adults I know. But she is really 12. Of course she has gaps. So do you and I. In content areas, one never stops gathering.
Unschooling gives her more opportunity for broader exposures, flexibility in how and at what (variable) speed to learn, freedom from unneeded repetition and endless proving of knowledge, less opportunity for age appropriate self-consciousness to negatively influence learning (dumbing down to fit in), more freedom to pursue areas of interests (unschooly sounding ones, which I agree have far greater value than generally understood), and greater exercise in practicing being a life-long self-directed learner.
For the down side, she says she?s not with other kids enough, though she then turns down a large number of the opportunities she does have, with reasons in the range of too loud, too goofy, not interesting enough.
When people ask me how?s it going, my honest answer is ?Great! Ask me again when she?s 22!?
Don't make the mistake of confusing "schooling" with "education." It's painfully obvious that the process of moving a child lockstep through government-mandated schooling is no guarantee that the child will emerge at the end of it literate, capable, or even "socialized."
Education can indeed occur in a school, but it is hit-or-miss. The odds that a homeschooled child will arrive at adulthood with his or her senses intact, mind active and capable, and citizenship shining are probably greater than the chances for a publicly schooled child.
Unschooling is not a failure to educate. It is a process of educating by example, educating according to interest, talent, and passion, and educating in the timetable that works for the learner.
Homeschooling parents - whether they are using a prefabricated curriculum or inventing their own - are extremely dedicated to their children's education. To say that "a parent can't educate the way a teacher can" is ridiculous. A teacher may have a degree in education; does she also have a degree in history, mathematics, philosophy, geography, social sciences, chemistry, literature, and all the other things she teaches? Many homeschooling parents are or have been lawyers, bankers, executives, or more. Certainly their expertise counts for something...
An excellent study by the Fraser Institute ([url]http://www.fraserinstitute.org/commerce.web/publication_details.aspx?pubID=4932[/url]) demonstrates that homeschoolers not only tend to perform better academically and succeed better in college, but also have a greater sphere of social connections, get along better with others, and are more active in their communities.
I can go to the store and buy a loaf of bread in a plastic wrapper, or I can make a loaf of bread at home, according to my own recipe. You can send your child to a diploma factory, or you can educate your child at home on your own terms. My child likes it better when someone is teaching HER, not the group of 40 kids that she happens to belong to.
Most homeschoolers "unschool" to some degree -- it just means not following the path carved for you, but blazing your own trail. Hundreds of leaders and notables have been "unschooled": Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott, John James Audobon, John Philip Sousa, Leonardo daVinci... just to name a few.
Homeschooling IS a viable option.
What does unschooling offer that our schools can't? The chance to develope a life-long love for learning!
I have 5 children, and though I wasn't as liaise faire as some, I consider myself an unschooler for the most part. I will attempt to answer your questions, but first, I want to tell you that my oldest two had no problem getting into college. Once there, they excelled. The first graduated summa cum laude, and went on to get his masters degree. The second also recently got his masters in, of all things, education, and was awarded the school's highest honor for academic achievement. I chuckled at the thought of an unschooler receiving the School of Education's Graduate Dean's Award for Academic Acheivement." How ironic.
I made sure the children knew how to read and do basic math. We started reading when they showed readiness. Some were 6, one was 9, most were in between. The two that were "late readers" are now my best readers, devouring whatever they can from the library. Other than basic math facts from playing Legos, we generally began math at age 10.
Although there was no formal education before age 10, this does not mean they were not learning. Setting your own schedule means rich learning opportunities in nature (science, geography), in the kitchen (chemistry, math), in the grocery store (economics, nutrition), and huge amounts of time for reading aloud to the kids. Learning took place in the REAL world, rather than a fake, adult-contrived environment.
Our typical day looked like this: wake up early, have breakfast together. Then morning chores. We settled into "unschool" around 9 am. When they were young, this consisted of reading aloud to them, gardening, learning to sound out words if they were ready, and some basic math. The rest of learning was based on their interests. One loved mechanical things, Legos, music, and math/science. The next loved cowboys, Indians, pirates, and guns. So that's what we learned about. With most of the day available to pursue their interests, there was ample time for field trips, the library, or just laying on the floor pouring through the encyclopedia. Over the years we have all, including me, become avid history buffs. We learned history by reading great biographies.
Lunch was at 1:00 pm, and they were free to play, accompany me to town, and do afternoon/evening chores. Seeing the way children's lives are scheduled today, I am thankful that my children had so much "down time," to explore the woods, build forts, or develop a new skill like changing the oil in a car.
We made sure the boys had many work and service opportunities, and even founded a teen service club called "SOS", (Service Over Self).
When my older boys turned 16, they both chose to participate in high school sports, and they took some classes at the local community college, while continuing to unschool high school. Being able to get any "formal" type learning done by noon or earlier meant time for jobs, practicing music (a pianist and violinist), or reading. Not only was getting into college no problem, we find that colleges are seeking homeschoolers.
Today the oldest has a masters in piano performance, teaches piano, is a minister of music at a local church, has a successful internet business (methodbooks.com), and is starting a second one in web design with his brother.
The second son got his undergrad degree in history, his masters in education, and now teaches history at Sisters High School, and owns an internet-based web design business.
The third son is a sophomore history major at Walla Walla University.
Sadly, due to many unavoidable changes, I have had to return to work, and my two youngest sons have had to attend school from about age 10. Both private and public school have fallen way short of our unschooling experience. There is so much wasted time, and so much time spent on things of little interest or use to the kids. Much time is wasted on managing 30 students rather than meaningful learning. The "socialization" that happens is largely negative, and the other kids seem more interested in what TV show, video game, or movie is popular instead of what great book they've read or what great figure or event of history they are learning about.
We chose to not have TV, rarely watched movies, and yes, I have raised five sons without a Nintendo, X-box, PlayStation or computer games. They survived!! And thrived.
How can public schools learn from unschooling? By returning to the pattern of schooling when our country enjoyed nearly a 100% literacy rate: Don't start children in formal learning until they are 8-10 years old. Have school for 3-4 months a year. Then, get them involved in practical work at home and service to their community and their fellow man.
My mom unschooled us in everything but name: we were part of a cooperative where we attended student-directed learning in a central location three days a week and then spent the rest of the week at home.
The idea of unschooling is what education IS at its best. However, my unschooling took place in a larger milieu of eternal curiosity, discussion, investigation, and reading. My mother was and is a certified teacher, so she was informed by childhood development and education classes.
As long as people realize the huge implications of their undertaking if they choose to unschool (or traditionally homeschool for that matter), and are ready and willing to oversee the education of their child, then great! Just as in a traditional public school, a child's education is only as good as his/her teacher (I, by the way, have grown into a perfectly well adapted adult, and am now a public school teacher).
For the last three years, my son has been at the Village Free School in SE Portland. There is a whole separate lit base about free/democratic schools, but this school uses the same general methods of unschoolers- the kids get together and decide how they will spend their days. There are activities offered throughout the day- the kids have planned them, or the adults in the community have planned them, and everyone can either choose to participate or not. My son is an only child, so it feels great to me that there are lots of opportunities for peer learning and developing relationships with other kids there. (But he has also developed amazing relationships with adults there.) We were at a PPS prior to him attending VFS and his desire to learn skyrocketed once we got him out of the public school. He has gone from being sullen about school to loving his unschooling community. After I read the Teenage Liberation Handbook, I talked to him/even encouraged him a bit to drop out of school all together (not even go to VFS) but he made a good argument for wanting to stay there, and he made the choice. He is the leader of his learning and education. He's almost 15 now, and is kind, smart, social- a really great kid. He'll be going to Not Back To School Camp this summer, and also went to a business leadership camp. He's gotten to speak at a large convention for unschoolers/democratic schools, and has had other opportunities that would have never come his way in a PPS. Early in September, we're going out of the country and he'll miss some "school days" and nobody will send us a notice of truancy or expect him to "make up" work or expect that he's not learning because he's not at school. I am a believer.
I think a place like VFS (www.villagefreeschool.org) is a good model for lots of families who believe in unschooling, as it creates a safe community launching pad in to the world. I love and admire what hardcore unschoolers do at home (and in the community!), too. :) Viva la independence.
Our sons sometimes go on binges. They'll dig into a topic and work on it until they decide they have had enough.
Sometimes they do this because they are just interested, sometimes because a contest is coming up. Each has won awards for things they decided to study and apply.
At public school, the day was (is) chopped up into periods. Kids have to quit what they are doing whether they are done or not. In preparation for that, assignments are themselves chopped up into tiny doses. When my kids grab a book and a web browser, they can dig as deep and wide as they wish.
Usually, what they study is not covered by regular schools for kids of their AGE, so they have learned to socialize with people regardless of age, including adults. I love to see them arrange to consult with adult experts. Some of the intellectual relationships seem quite nice for all involved.
Occasionally, we parents nudge the kids to study some subject which does show up on college entrance exams (e.g. English grammar). We can help, if they wish. It's up to them to convince us that they have learned at least as much as their age cohort. It's usually easy to focus on the subject for a while and "meet those standards" without much angst. One technique that usually works is to pick up an old text book and study it. For our kids, this seems more palatable when it is not being doled out in tiny lessons and 45 minute periods. I have noticed that they are learning how to scope-out a subject and learn what they need to expediently. It's one thing to do an assignment, but it's quite another to develop your own way to organize the info. We give them hints when needed, such as "take notes", "make a list of vocabulary", etc., but they are getting better and doing it independently. YES!
Conclusion: they are learning a lot more academically by doing it themselves, and they socialize with various people.
For us, an average day includes a leisurely wakeup and breakfast for my teens who really do need more of that morning sleep. Morning activities might include reading (books, magazines, newspaper), time on the computer (likely more reading, research on all sorts of topics of interest, perhaps a game like Runescape, or writing), listening to NPR or a book on CD, walking or hiking, bike riding, cooking, wildlife watching, long conversations, a game, creating art or craft. We are often out after lunch meeting friends for swimming, Kid's Club, Camp Fire, park day, field trips to all sorts of places, Spanish class or errands.
We take the opportunity to travel as much as possible. My daughter has had time to volunteer at the Humane Society, the library and the local nature museum. She has spent the last three Novembers writing 50,000 words of fiction for National Novel Writing Month. Life learning requires a huge commitment from parents to attend to interests and offer new ones.
My daughter has a great sense of herself, one of the most important consequences of unschooling. She hasn't fallen into the patterns of most schooled teens. She is very mature for her age, but also fun-loving. She isn't moved by peer pressure and still loves to spend time with her family. She is very popular in the neighborhood as a babysitter and house sitter. She has sold her arts and crafts both at homeschooling conferences and online.
Last year I was diagnosed with cancer. It was devastating news, but I felt so good knowing that my children have had all this time together as a family. My kids were fully involved in my treatment and recovery and I feel that was a very important life lesson. Now, we take each day as it comes and know even more how precious each one is together. I wouldn't change a thing about our unschooling. There are so many trivialities at school and so much time wasted. We are living life every day, getting out and seeing the world and it's people. You couldn't ask for a better way to grow up.
Spending even a little time in a classroom shows very quickly that you can lead a child to learning, but you can't make them learn. Unschooling, or, more accurately, child-initiated learning, leverages the child's interest and enthusiasm for exploration and learning.
Our family tried many approaches to learning during our homeschool adventure. I found that child-initiated learning, especially in the elementary years, was far more effective than parent-directed learning. My children immediately and entirely owned the knowledge and understanding that they acquired through their own exploration and discovery.
At the appropriate times (with their participation and consent) we incorporated some structured learning to master skills that they did not develop on their own (reading for my son, math for my daughter). Because they participated in the decision of learning approaches and timing, they took responsibility for their learning, whether it came from their own investigations or from instruction.
My son has had the additional benefit of interest-led classes for homeschoolers at Village Home Education Resource Center. Village Home provides a learning environment for homeschoolers that is closer to the real world than to any school that I attended. The children choose what classes interest them; there are no grades or tests. They do the work because they are interested in learning, not out of coercion (do the work or you'll FAIL!) or competition (what grade did YOU get?).
Did it work? My 20yo daughter is spending 4 months as a field technician (the youngest of the group) doing field research on wolf predation as part of her undergraduate work, and is already looking forward to graduate school. The project leader has complemented her maturity, willingness to take on any task that is asked of her, and her ability to work well with the rest of the team.
My 16yo son is confident, independent, and a voracious reader (in spite of a learning disability), who is in his 10th year of volunteering at the library. He is looking forward to combining community college classes with Village Home classes and independent study.
When I think of how insecure and full of self-doubt I was at their age, I KNOW that their unschooled education has served them far better than my schooled education served me.
The problem with unschooling is that, it truly isn't schooling!!! The fact that they aren't socially mixed with other children in a stable environment is a problem, and the fact that they can do whatever they want is REALLY a problem!!! When it comes to the children taking state tests (or do they get out of that too?) how will the meet/exceed the benchmarks? Children in regular schooling programs who study and are in class everyday trying to learn still have trouble with the benchmarks! So if a child in unschooling just doesn't have an interest in math (for example) how will he/she achieve the level of understanding he/she needs to meet the testing standard! And how will that level of math understanding help that child in day to day life later on??? Sounds like unschooling is not placing children to a level of understanding to help them later on, so of course not, good God no; would I place my child in unschooling.
Our kids socially mix with a stable environment by getting together with other unschooled friends at least 3 days a week. Testing is also not a problem and all the kids I've known who have taken the state tests have met or exceeded benchmarks. Do you know any unschoolers? How can you make these statements if you don't?
"So if a child in unschooling just doesn't have an interest in math (for example) how will he/she achieve the level of understanding he/she needs to meet the testing standard! And how will that level of math understanding help that child in day to day life later on???"
It depends on who's standard you are talking about. The idea behind unschooling is that kids will learn what they need to learn to get along in life. It requires a large amount of trust in a child's ability to learn. Math is everywhere, all around us. It's fun and interesting. Why wouldn't a child want to know more?
My older child is learning mathematics skills with money, and conceptual skills through video games, sewing, and art. My younger daughter figures out interesting mathematical skills while playing with numbers in her head. Her mind is swirling with numbers all the time.
In day to day life, I use math computation to do my bills, buy groceries, sew, draw, and figure out what I need. I went to school. My children's ability to do these skills with ease and confidence is amazing to me, while I second guess myself and recount and struggle through. I did college level math and did well. My kids have never had a formal lesson ever.
What is taught in school math has very little to do with real math, it's more about memorization of math computation. I would much rather my kids not be taught that sort of thing, the real math concepts and questions are so much better to think about and spend your time on, and that is all around us every day if you just choose to see it.
Well, first off, how could you say that unschoolers are not socialized? I've been an unschooler my whole life, I'm 14 now. When I was younger my social life came from the home-school group I attended, my three day per week swim team, my friends from church and the friends from around the neighbourhood that I spent time with every day. When I got older it came from my youth group, all of the local plays that I was involved in, my bowling team, and all of the friends that I had. I'm more social them most of my public schooled friends, plus the fact that growing up I learned to easily interact with people from all age groups, not just people my age.
Another thing is that just because i may not be particularly interested in something does not mean I've never learned it. I hate math with a passion, yet as much as i hate it I cant deny that it is something that life demands every day. I'm good at basic math, fractions, algebra, and geometry. Don't get me wrong, it took a long time for me to get all of that, but the point is that I did it because I needed it, not because I loved it.
I was reading by the time I was four and I love learning. My parents are my friends, they help me when I'm interested in something and they put huge effort into encouraging me with my passions. Today I take lessons every week in Pilate's, algebra, world history, earth science, and the culinary arts. I volunteer at a therapeutic riding center and I spend time with my friends often. I love unschooling and fully intend on providing my children with the same environment that I grew up with.
Sounds like a great idea to me...in fact I'm unworking right now.
I totally agree. At this very moment I am unlistening to the radio AND unblogging at the same time.
Seriously, simply put, unchooling works. It requires trust. Trust in your own intelligence....and trust in the intelligence of your children. Unfortunately, compulsory schooling was/is a sad experiment that has failed too many. Can we not admit it and move forward to something better?
Yow! Best laugh of the day!
Er, uh, best un-laugh!
I'll un-giggle about that the rest of the day.
I teach at a small private school, and each year I have homeschool and unschooling applicants for my class. I must preface my comments that the parents/children who I meet are seeking an alternative to their home program, typically for social reasons. As an educator, I recognize that students develop at different paces and have different gifts which they bring to the class, and with that in mind, what I have seen repeatedly is that unschooling children are academically "years behind" the students in my class. I have had fourth, fifth and sixth graders who can not deceifer the difference between addition and subtraction, most I have seen have challenges with writing- ranging from forming letters to writing something beyond a grocery list, or reading material beyond Frog and Toad.
When I ask the parents to give me a sense of why certain skills are so far behind, the answer has always been the same: My child doesn't really like..." (math, reading, writing, etc..). Though I believe that these are more extreme "cases," I think children need guidance. Children are not like the sandpiper that hatches its shell and within a few hours stumbles from nest and peck for insects running on the shore. We have the longest childhood of any species on the planet, and I believe that children need academic guidance.
As a public high school teacher, and mother of an 18 month old, I find this discussion fascinating. At first glance, my reaction was very negative, after reading several of these posts, my curiosity has been piqued.
Most of the children described here are very intellectually curious--and seek out history and science on their own. But will the average kid choose to do so? Is this really an appropriate option for ALL kids?
Isn't there some benefit for kids to learn about the history of our country? Not many high schoolers I encounter in my classes (I teach French) would choose to read "The Grapes of Wrath" or "The Scarlet Letter," or to learn about the Civil War or World War II, isn't there SOME benefit to learning some basic curriculum as a member of American society?
I am a 28 year old college graduate and product of [i]unschooling[/i], before my family had ever heard of the term.
I began first grade with the other children my age. I had friends, I did the class work, but I didn't understand why the other kids were struggling to learn to read. I was far ahead of my peers, as it turns out, but the school system I was in did not allow kids to do any advancing learning. I was shunned by the teacher, bored, and finally my mother pulled my out of class and began to homeschool me.
The only problem was that it was illegal the state we were in at that time.
We work from work books and a christian based curriculum that was very good, but eventually it became difficult to get me to complete the work. I was bored and would not do what I didn't have an interest in.
My mom encouraged me by pushing me in the areas I was interested in. When my math education passed my mother's knowledge, I was tutored and then encouraged to find more on my own. I learned to research through necessity, and developed a interest in early english literature. The only rules at the end of my unschooling were that I had to do some work each day. I loved math and developed a collection of old teacher editions math books, which I studied out of alone.
I entered community college the spring I turned 18. I placed into pre-calculus, short of calculus by just a few points. I excelled at english and math, and graduated with a B.S. in mathematics and minor in History.
Unschooling didn't hurt me. I did fine in a formal college setting.
But it wasn't perfect. I probably would have done better if I had more experience with exams, but I would criticize my junior college for not preparing me for university more than homeschooling, or unschooling, not preparing me for college and life. I have been much happier since finishing college, spending my free time teaching myself html coding, researching various history subjects, and learning rocketry, or whatever the mood leads me to study.
I now have a young child that I intend to start in public school when he reaches that age. But that isn't the only place he will learn. We have a large library and a dsl link to the internet, and he will be encouraged to learn whatever he wants. Sure, I'll teach him to play the games that the school system require, the standarized tests. But to me, my son will be a success if he is able to be passionate about whatever he's interested in.
As a child in the 80s/90s, I was unschooled all the way through high school. The concept of "unschooling" is not new. I consider myself one of the early home schooled pioneers. As a public school teacher -- and someone currently pursuing a doctorate -- I have had a chance to see education from all sides. I see the good and bad that can come from home school, public school, and private school.
My own education, and that of some friends, was a model of "unschooling" that was properly done. Parents stressed the importance of education, getting into college, finding a career. I had to complete math and language arts texts every year, but other than that I could pursue what interested me -- which for me was just about everything. A typical school year lasted the entire calendar year -- we did not stop for summer break, and everything in life was seen as a learning opportunity. I started college classes at 14, was socialized with friends and peers who had similar experiences, and I loved my education.
Unschooling works well if you have students who are intrinsically motivated. Sadly, that is a small percentage of the population. Unschooling worked well for me, but I cannot encourage it for everyone. I have seen too many students who are not intrinsically motivated left to their own devices. Students who do not have a clear direction on their own need additional guidance by educated adults.
In response to several common concerns, I'd like to offer the following speaking as a 30 year old product of unschooling (although we didn't know to call it that at the time.) Unschooling simply taps into the innate curiosity in nearly every child. Children are intellectual sponges for everything around them, that's not a small percentage of the population, it's nearly all of us. What's the quickest way to suck the pleasure out of something? Make it a requirement.
And to the critiques regarding testing benchmarks: Among other things, unschooling is partly predicated upon the a rejection of this concept. My standard benchmark could be your low achievement, and what we see now (ask nearly anyone who works in a classroom) is ever-increasing emphasis on teaching the content of the tests themselves, and not providing what most of us would think of as an education. Let's not lose sight of the fact that education is not the filling of a vessel, it's the lighting of a fire.
All too often parents (and radio hosts) come to the homeschooling adventure with "conventional" or "structured" schooling attitudes. Questions like "Do you correct..." "Do you test..." (to me) mean that the person misses the point on the core of homeschooling: Schooling is about learning. Home schooling is about learning.... at home - in an environment best defined by the word "home."
Is there any data of unschool student success in the job market when and if they are required to do tasks that they do not choose?
Unschoolers have an entirely different mindset than the rest of the world. We are always choosing to do what we are doing. Assuming that the task is necessary (otherwise, why would you be doing it?), then even doing a more unpleasant task is chosen with joy. I personally know many grown unschoolers who are working within their passions (why wouldn't they?). I also know grown unschoolers who work odd job to save up enough money to travel, then, when their funds run out, they get another temp. job. All with complete joy! Many grown unschoolers make their own "job", rather than getting in on the rat race.
It is a life of choice - we as a family live this way completely. This doesn't mean that our laundry doesn't get done, or money doesn't come in - we actually do quite well! But everything we, as the parents do, we choose to do with joy.
As I said in the beginning, it is just a totally different mindset in how to live your life.
I know it's very hard to think about an unknown concept and what it means to choose, as we think so little about how it works in our day to day life. But an unschooler who gets a job IS choosing that job and all that comes with it. An unschooler who learns math is CHOOSING the concepts that may be difficult. Choice is not equal to ease. But, to answer your question more directly, you might look at the sudbury valley home page. This is a freeschool, but generally draws off the same concepts of child led learning. They have done cohort studies, been around 50 years, and find that many of their graduates go in to creative careers but have also planned their ways in to Ivy League colleges.
I'm so excited to hear your discussion on unschooling today. I didn't know anyone was doing it now. I unschooled my children (who are now in their early forties) during the early seventies. My inspiration was the author John Holt, who, as a former teacher, became disillusioned with schools but felt passionately about allowing children to learn at their own pace. I am happy to hear that his spirit lives on in these young families.
At best, This is overprotective coddling. It is teaching these children that the world revolves around them and their personal timetables. Simply, This is not how the world works.
This is overbearing, selfish, and it will only stunt these children as they enter the workforce.
Part of me agrees with this posting. I know my own experience with parents who refuse to allow their child to fail, or who do all they can to overturn a school punishment (even if illegal drugs are involved) or the stories of parents calling college professors and bosses to complain their darling child has too much homework or doesn't deserve the grade or is being asked to work too hard (60 minutes program from last year) is an alarming thought for the future competetiveness of our workforce.
"overprotective coddling"? It's collaboration. My three kids are now adults. All 3 were "unschooled". All 3 have successfully entered the workforce.
Unschoolers have the opportunity to find their passions and develop the self-motivation and self-discipline to pursue these passions. The homeschoolers (and particularly unschoolers) that I've had the pleasure of working with are the best employees you could imagine -- responsible, diligent, self-directed. Unschoolers are more likely to be innovators and self-employed. They are less well-suited to working at McDonalds or being military grunts.
School is not the only place where a child can have the opportunitity to overcome challenges. I've known unschooled children who have become champion athletes, spellers and science fair winners. None of these arenas "coddles" a child or permits them to think for a second that the world revolves around them.
Nickel Arcade misunderstands the entire concept. Not uncommon.
Pardon me? How can you assume that operating on an assumption that my children WILL be passionate about learning is coddling? You are allowing your misunderstanding of an educational philosophy to taint your imagination of what the rest of our lifestyle looks like. Is a one-size-fits-all expectation applied on their distinct learning styles and timetables? No. Does this mean that they don't have boundaries? Absolutely NOT!
Unschooled children volunteer, have rules, take out the garbage, make dinner, write letters to grandma on a regular basis; it's not a no direction ever about anything situation.
I have worked as a teacher in both mental health and youth incarceration facilities. The danger that I see of "unschooling" lies in the number of students that I have seen entering into both settings that have undergone the experience. Sure there are parents who strongly believe that their method is a good one and probably many are producing acceptable educational results, but I have seen too many incidents of parents using it to shield abuse, or to raise their kids in a kooky religious environment where they will not be "contaminated" by exposure to the secular world. I believe the best education combines an educationally enriching home environment with participation in public (or private) schools.
You bring out some interesting points about the dark side of this. Very interesting points.
I would bet the majority of the students you teach in these facilities have gone to public school. Neglecting children, abusing children, or kooky religious shielding has nothing to do with unschooling. True unschooling is about respectful, connected parenting and is VERY involved and aware and loving. Unschooled children are cherished and trusted and are very independent and well-adjusted. They are exposed to the real world every day - they have relationships with all kinds and ages of people.
Reading your piece made me think 'what a terrific study this would be for an enterprising sociologist' ---have any studies been done in this area that you know of?
I appreciate home schooling resources within the community - Village Home, library classes, YMCA, etc. - that support our decision to determine what is best for our children. They allow those more geared towards structure and Unschoolers to connect, interact and learn about life in safe and supportive ways.
I am really curious about how a child will "decide" on their own to learn something unless they have been exposed to it. Curiosity is great to have at any age and I have travelled to over 40 cities in over 12 countries and can see it in every person in one way or another. However, the unschooling system seems to me like a very educational summer vacation from a school year. Why not use the 3 months you have from a school program to teach your children the unschooling way? Why limit your child's chances of pursuing the possibility of college or any other higher educational institution by deciding to let them teach themselves?
If a child is crazy about botany, and can't get enough of plants, the parent would broaden his/her experience and open new doors by saying, let's read about George Washington Carver, oh, you can't believe that he had such a rough life because he was black? well let's do some more research in that area. And on and on. It is taking a kernel of interest, broadening it, pushing a little, and providing the skills and materials for meaningful, efficient research.
Unschooled children are exposed to FAR MORE than the average schooled child. They have all day every day to be learning (365 days a year) and they have parents and friends and community members available to teach them, expose them to interesting things, and to help them find resources and opportunities for learning. They don't have to waste time waiting in line and sitting at a desk for 6 hours a day, they are LIVING instead.
About the 'schoolers:
I've worked with....like had to supervise an adult raised this way...worthless! Poorly socialized weirdos that know everything under the sun. I admire the idea, and at one time even felt that it could be a great option to what I went through being in urban Catholic school for years and then urban public high school. I faced violence, sex, racism, sexism and vicious social politics, and then I graduated and found out...about violence, sex, racism, sexism and the vicious politics of the real world.
I face the real world and respect the idea of being part of a people. If you live in a town like Eugene where you run into these 'schoolies' you know 'homeschoolies' right away. Not from the cape and wizard hat alone but the....it's just weirdness. They obviously don't get social mores, subtle vocal and physical cues and they usually show signs of having their worst habits molly coddled. I am from San Francisco, born and raised, I've met weirdos and then I met 'homeschoolies'. They can't WORK, atleast the ones I met they have no hustle and can't keep their minds focused on the task at hand. Their script usually was not quite legible, their spelling skills were sub par for their age....this applies to all the Montessori kids I've met and a local private small high school run by the Quakers with a similar set up.
Don't count on this being any different than when Bible thumpers "school" their kids. This can work in tiny socially homogenous areas like the Willamette Valley, not in the real world...sorry, I don't believe in fairy tales. If they can't do the job...good luck in the Peace Corps...take some time to 'find' yourself in a third world tourist dictatorship...like Thailand or Mexico...come back and tell your people how wonderful living in dirt and under a boot is!
This is also a remarkably "White" phenom...don't believe anecdotes, just trust a minority on this. U.C. Berkeley doesn't know what to do with all the overqualified Chinese females who make it in freshman year, almost all of which come straight from public school. In Catholic school and public school I met, befriended, dated, knew and was familiar with:Indonesian nobility, Nigerians, Tongans, Samoans, Philipinos, El Salvadorians, Mexicans, other mixed kids like me, Toi Sonese, Guan Dongese, Taiwanese, Russians, Estonians, Czechs, Uzbeks.....shall I go on? I'm not buying this as a better method, just another way of creating a failed employee.
I'm finding this discussion very interesting. I can't help wondering, though, about the privilege that must come along with unschooling. I understand that many children don't thrive in structured school settings and it is important for there to be alternatives. But how can it be an option for children who come from low-income homes where the parent(s) must work during the day to make ends meet? Is unschooling another way to perpetuate inequalities between the "haves" and the "have-nots"?
What is portrayed as "unschooling" is simply normal, good parenting which should take place anyway along with a good public education.
This is a key critique that has some merit (see the writings of Jonathan Kozol and Lisa Delpit). One of the things our school community actively works to accomplish is to create access to this kind of dynamic environment available to people of all backgrounds and economic levels - while being unafraid of conversations about privilege and power.
One such question: Can you really tell an African American family whose grandfather died to secure their right to read and access power - that they'll simply "learn to read when they are ready?" No. Hard skill matter - but so does developing personal power, the ability to move through conflict, and the right to say "no!".
We seek to foster a learning/living space where adults are unafraid to offer and share skills that allow people of all ages to access the world as it is - while practicing new ways of being and thinking so we can actively create a world that is more just, more kind, and more loving than the one we currently experience.
I am unschooling 2 children, ages 5 & 8, and it works brilliantly for us. I don't think unschooling is for everyone - you have to be prepared to have a really deep mentoring relationship with your kids. Real unschooling is the opposite of child neglect. It involves a lot of time, trust and understanding. You have to be prepared to be spontaneous, to surround your kids with a rich learning environment, and to really understand them and how they learn.
Unschooled kids do learn the basics. The basics are considered the basics because they are useful knowledge. We learn math because we need it, and unschooled kids encounter situations where they need it and develop their skills accordingly. If there is a subject that never manages to come up in the next 15 years, how important or useful can it possibly be? If something does get overlooked, it's not like the child won't be able to pick it up when they do need it. Learning doesn't stop at age 18.
Unschooling is not coddling - it is a lot more challenging to chart your own course and design your own education than it is to take an education that is spoon-fed to you by someone else.
As I listen to today's discussion, unschooling sounds a lot like what my kids experience in the summer months and on the weekends. My theory is that every parent homeschools/ unschools their child to an extent. Involved parenting is often guiding your children from experience to experience and providing learning opportunities.
My concerns are the social aspects of schooling. In our society we often have to live, work and get along with others in a multitude of environments. Public education is a great training ground for this experience. My children attend an alternative public school (Metropolitan Learning Center) and we are very pleased with this choice.
Couple of questions:
1. Do your children socialize during the summer months? I certainly did growing up!
2. Do you think spending 35+ hours per week with one's exact age peers (e.g. 500 eighth graders) is good preparation for the "real" world?
1. Actually, my intellectually gifted teen spends almost no time socializing in the summer. My 10-year-old spends a little time with same class, often same culture peers.
2. MLC is a K-12 school. The children are often involved with activities with younger and older students. My 5th grader has two buddies at lower levels and has done several projects with high school students. Yes, I do think public schools are a good training ground for the real world. I wish all public schools were k-12. I am happy with our choice.
Summer vacation may be unschooling if the kids are involved in planning the trip, make choices along the way that give them opportunities to apply new knowledge in the future. But maybe not, if kids are being dragged along to some planned trip that they are not interested in. Because part of the belief of unschoolers is that natural interest drives learning, and people learn things faster when they are interested. (I know this is true for me when I sit in meetings and trainings for work... this is a human thing, not a kid thing.)
MLC started out much more like an unschooling community, and has had to straighten up over the years because of their status as a charter. See if you can find out anything about their more radical past. ;)
As for others who have mentioned barriers to college... well, my son is 14 and started taking college classes last year because he was interested in learning about certain topics that were available at the college. He goes to Mt Hood Community College part time as a supplement to unschooling/freeschooling. He tested in to college level english classes, and not quite college level in math (well, he's 14, that doesn't concern me! when he chooses to move on to the econ class he wants to take that has a math prereq, he'll learn the math. Because he has a need.) He has loved and learned history for years, far beyond what the average schooled kid does. And his attitude about school has changed completely since unschooling... he's gone from showing up to school waiting for someone to teach him something (which, I think, is the traditional method), to starting each day deciding what he is going to get out of his learning. He may miss certain public school things along the way... but we have become so tied to those things as a society. Who has decided (and why have we blindly agreed) that learning the textbook history of the mayflower is more important than learning about the politics of John Adams (which I mention because my son just finished watching an 8-hour series on the latter, excited along the way). What do all of you remember from public school? I graduated public school and still had to start math three levels behind college level when I went to junior college. I do remember a few projects from public school that excited me and have stuck with me all these years later. How would my life be different if I had entered all my learning with this sense of joy for the topic, or need because it was relevant to something else I wanted?
I agree, unschooling is probably not good training for working at McDonalds. Fortunately, there are all kinds of public school kids being pumped out of Portland Public Schools (and others all over the country) to fill those roles. (Read The Underground History of Public Education, which is available free online, about the original need for public education. The goal was producing citizens smart enough to do manual labor, not smart enough to question authority. I think, for too many kids, this is still the case.) I don't really care what future my son chooses, but I feel pretty confident that he will choose the thing that excites him and makes him happy. Unschooling has taught him that if he chooses something, he chooses the rules and guidelines that go with that choice... so I think he could flip burgers if his heart was in it. I don't think that work would fill his heart with joy, because he is very creative and thoughtful and likes to make his own path. Don't we all want our kids to find the thing that fills their life with joy foremost?
Unschooling has not taught him that he can do whatever whenever or that he needs no discipline. I think that unschooled kids generally must have much more discipline than public school kids who get told what to do and when to do it. Unschoolers finish projects by their own will, not because a teacher told them that they would get an F if they don't. They choose things all the time (like college classes or trips or adventures, getting driver's licenses, planning vacations, arranging events) that require deadlines and hard work and tests. They understand the natural consequences of their actions (don't pass driving test, you can't drive) versus the artificial consequences of public school (what is an F, really? It is the letter that comes between E and G! Does it mean you haven't learned or haven't invested energy? What's it REALLY measuring and how do you know?)
MLC is NOT a charter school. It is very much a public school, an alternative public school that uses techniques such as Outward Bound model and storyline to teach skills in a self-directed manner. And, yes, I'm very familiar with their educational history.
I feel that most things of value in MY education (and the education of my children) have been themes or topics that I would not have discovered on my own.
I'm curious why no one is discussing the topic of diversity. Quite frankly, this appears to be a very class-specific practice. It's great to foster a sense of life-long learning (something we teachers are trying to do each day in public schools), but it needn't be done at the expense of exposure to a variety of social and ethnic classes.
I'm curious how unschoolers manage to be exposed to the kind of diversity that public schools present, because if they are not, this would seem to be quite detrimental to their development.
Education isn't just about intellectual development, but social development as well.
On the question of class: my parents raised and unschooled two children through the 70's, 80's and 90's on a combined income of roughly 25k per year. They both worked part time in "professional" jobs. What social class does that mean we were members of? What about the multiple single parents we knew who unschooled their children?
And to the point that "home/unschoolers are unsocialized weirdos" There's plent of children who are full time in public schools displaying the same behaviors. And I'll be sure to let my boss know I'm a failed employee, though I think she'd disagree with the assertion.
Well, I'd say you were of the same social class that I was raised in, namely, educated parents who didn't make a whole lot of money but got by. There is a tremendous difference between uneducated lower- to lower-middle class and educated lower-middle class. Educated parents can educate their children to be independent learners, and that's great.
Now, it appears that you took my post as a criticism of your upbringing, however I was simply wondering, asking, how unschoolers get exposed to social and ethnic diversity. How did you manage this? How did you manage not to just be stuck with your family's social or ethnic group, as opposed to being exposed to the cross-section of humanity that public schools offer?
Also, I am extremely curious how single parents managed to unschool their children. How did they do this without committing neglect by leaving their children while they were at work? Did they rely on welfare to get by so they could stay home and educate their children? If so, I can't think of a better use of welfare funds than to allow a parent to stay home with their children.
Thank you Christian for your reply, and I hope to hear your thoughts on these questions.
I am a single parent, and I homeschool/unschool. I work our of my home, and a great deal of what I do is in the evenings, or on the computer while my child is in the same room working on a project, or reading, or doing her own computer research. Other single homeschool parents I know also work from home, and/or trade time with other parents. It's possible, and it's not neglectful. If I worked full time I could make about 4 times what I make now, but my priority is my child's education, which I don't believe she would get in a government school.
There are a lot of things I don't buy even though they'd be fun. We don't go out to movies or restaurants much. I would love to have a nicer house and newer car. We do travel - a LOT! - and go to museums, concerts, plays, sports events, etc. Educating my child is what I choose to spend my money on. Of course, my taxes also help educate thousands of other children, and I don't begrudge it... but it sure would be nice to get some support from society for educating my own child.
Diversity? We meet and interact with people of all ages, all walks of life, all colors, all abilities. Some of my daughter's best friends are middle-aged; some are her own age; some are several years younger. We even interact with people of many different homeschool philosophies!
"but it sure would be nice to get some support from society for educating my own child."
You already do, you just choose not to use it. We taxpayers pay a lot for public schools to provide your kids that opportunity but you turn your back on our offer. We provide buildings, highly educated and trained teachers, libraries, support staff and all the rest.
Please take personal accountability for your own choices.
Your logic is unsound. YOU do not offer me something, we ALL pay taxes toward schools, etc. If I choose not to use them that frees up space for others. So how is that not taking responsibility? I'm paying twice, really, for my child's education, by my choice of course. So my taxes are more of a donation when it comes to schools, and I am okay with that.
We tried our public schools. They were not acceptable.
"Your logic is unsound. YOU do not offer me something, we ALL pay taxes toward schools, etc."
Ahem. I don't have any kids. I gladly pay my taxes as an investment in all of the children of our society. That is what "we" offer, a collaborative caring for all children in the form of public schools through our voting to "offer" to tax ourselves to build and staff the public school system.
I pay taxes for a supposedly wonderful school district that none of my four children attend - they don't attend that school because there are NOT highly educated and trained teachers there, and there is not what I consider education happening there.
Your question "how do un/homeschoolers get exposed to X" is the number one question that people have about the process, and it's sometimes hard for me to get across that in my house growing up it was a non-issue. I was exposed to other people/ethnicities (such as they were present in Wisconsin) social classes, etc. by virtue of the fact that my education took place as much in the community as it did in the home. We always volunteered extensively, and I had at least a part-time job from the time I was twelve on. One has to completely dispose of the notion of "school at home" to begin to visualize what my childhood education was like.
As someone who never went to school until I went to college, I am continuously struck by how many people ascribe to the schools those experiences which are part and parcel to participating in one's community in an active way.
I am a high school science teacher. Parents can certainly be competent teachers, or educational guides, or whatever you want to call it. There is an obvious big advantage to having a 6:1 student:teacher ratio. But in my experience, few home schooled students who arrive in my classroom have much scientific competence or knowledge. For instance, your guest describes her child mixing various substances together to "see what happens." This is the Science Lite approach to science in which the student has little hope of ever anchoring their observations to scientific principles or the rigorous approach that scientists use. They may learn that baking soda and vinegar fizzes when mixed together as opposed to baking soda and mud. But their own course of self discovery is unlikely to lead them to an explanation related to valence electrons, reactants and products, the law of conservation of mass, or principles of stoichiometry - all standard concepts taught in high school science classes. These are all concepts that I would argue every adult should have a basic understanding of in order to participate in a global society wrestling with problems related to global warming, personal and public health care, and pollution.
The example given, of combining substances to see what would happen, was from a young child, not one who is ready to enter your highschool class.
I entered highschool science with very little scientific knowledge - after a fully conventional schooling. Isn?t that what high school science is for? To teach science?
If an unschooled child has, or develops, interest in science, a good unschooling parent will facilitate opportunities to grow that. Or the child will seek it out. Or the child will learn it later, in far less time than the all-day every-day school week for 12 or 13 years. Or maybe the child will never really be interested in science, just like many conventionally educated children.
The unschooled or homeschooled students who end up going to school are not a proper statistical example.
Our experience with unschooling never resembled "overprotective coddling" It is a collaborative effort of lifelong learning. Some pursuits I introduced, some were introduced by the kids. My three children are now 27, 24, and 22. One is in grad school and a teaching fellow at Columbia University, one is an architect working for a large firm in Portland, and one has been working in the food industry for seven years. All three are pursuing paths that they were engaged with since they were very small children.
Just as an aside, one of the most rewarding benefits of homeschooling is the deep bond and love that grows between the kids. They continue to be a large presence in each other's lives.
I note that all of the complaints about public schools are the result of decades of attacks by conservatives on the public school systems. Their anti-tax ideology which cut funding for schools, their insistence on teaching to the test, their attacks on the teachers unions, all that and more have devastated our schools.
I grew up in public schools and I gained a lifelong passion for learning from the public school systems everywhere I lived. California used to have great schools before Reagan and his Conservatives started attacking them, Oregon too.
We need to put liberals back in power and take some funding away from the Conservative Military Industrial Complex and the Conservative Private Mercenary Armies like Blackwater, and get back to investing in our nations children.
Most of the things that the ?unschoolers? like were done in our public schools when Liberals funded them.
Many homeschoolers/unschoolers would agree with you. However, I think that, at least until we hire one teacher for every four or five kids, a mass education system will never provide quite the level of individualized learning that a very small private school or homeschool can.
It is interesting that most people hiding their children in home schooling claim to be Christian. When I read the New Testament, Jesus did not say to hide your children and isolate them from society, but that is exactly what they are doing. There are few things that bind us together as a society, one is a common language and the other is a common educational experience. Instead of hiding your children from life, get involved and "Improve" the community educational system - that is what Jesus would want, involvement in improving the work, not hiding under a bushel basket.
i am a student at VFS (village free school) i don't think that a kid should be forced to sit a desk for 6 hours a day.
I think it is admirable that people of means and with the desire to do so can spend the time to unschool or homeschool their children. But I suspect that most parents don?t have the means and the desire and would rather have well educated professionals do what they do best, teach.
I think that every child ought to be given the opportunity for a good education and so we ought to improve our public schools to do just that.
I actually find the argument of economic status being a large factor, offensive. We live on very little money. We sacrifice for our children. We live on one income. It can be hard, but what we gain is so much more valuable than brand new cars and a large house.
Our children are the most valuable aspect of our life! Every decision we make we make as a family, with our children in the forefront of our thoughts and actions. Unschooling isn't just for the rich or people with "means". It isn't for everyone either. It is for parents who are very very dedicated to raising their children with respect and trust. Any child can unschool but not just any parent can.
I know a lot of homeschooling families and they are all living on one income. They are average families who are dedicated to their children's education. Yes, every child should be given the opportunity for a good education and public schools should be improved.
We have chosen to homeschool as a lifestyle for our family. We do not get financial assistance. We pay for every educational item we purchase. This is our choice. But we also pay our taxes to support public schools. Please do not forget that.
I understand that there is an opportunity for bright, highly-motivated parents who homeschool to provide their children with an excellent education, and I do not want to imply in any way that my own experiences reflect the entirety of the homeschooling community.
However, I do wonder who should be responsible when it isn't working? As mentioned, no information has been gathered about what these children end up doing later in life. This movement is just in it's beginnings and we have very few examples of adults today who grew up in such an environment. Yes, I do believe that it is worth worrying about our children's future.
My cousins were homeschooled - unsuccessfully. Why do I say unsuccessfully? My cousins are 29 and 20 years old now. Neither have the skills that would allow them to live as independent adults, or support themselves. They live at home with their parents. They cannot drive. Neither has ever worked a paid job. The older cousin has taken a handful of community college courses, but she drops out of any course she does not like, or any course where she doesn't like what the instructor asks of her. My cousins have little tolerance for adapting themselves to social situations, so that even extended family gatherings are "too much" for them to handle.
Now, you might think that we could have seen this coming all along. But, for the first several years, they sounded just like any of the homeschooling parents who spoke on the show today. They talked about all the wonderful interests that their children were pursuing. They talked about how they were going on field trips with other homeschooled children. They talked about how the children were up-to-grade-level on the state tests. Our whole family held our breaths and waited to see what would happen when they turned 18. The answer was nothing.
It is with deep caring and concern for my family members that I wonder aloud - what is going to happen to them when the parents are no longer able to support them?
Should someone have intervened? if so, when? and who?
YES, we must consider what will happen to the homeschooled children when they grow up.
We unschool. And I have the same situation - a relative who has a grown (30-something, homeschooled not unschooled) child who lives with her parents and doesn?t do ?anything?.
But I know someone else who also (age 50) still lives with her parents, doesn?t hold a job, doesn?t do ?anything? - and is a product of public school.
So - is a public education a guarantee of success?
What about the people who have gone to public school and turn out this way? Who should intervene? Who is responsible?
YES, we must consider what is happening to the schooled children as they grow up.
If you read JUST the comments on this forum you will see example after example of unschooled children who have grown up to be responsible successful adults.
But what we don't see are comments from the parents of the unschooled children who turned out to be failures.
We see comments from the people who had experience trying to deal with those failures but no honesty from the "unschool" crowd about them. Lying by omission.
It isn't lying by omission. I don't know any unschoolers who "failed" although I'm sure others do. I know public school children who have "failed".
There are many reasons why people have difficulties in their lives and observers from the outside cannot always know what those reasons are. I am sure, much of the time, it has to do with other factors in their lives, not just the education they received. Support from our parents in whatever we do as children is a big factor. Learning difficulties can also come in to play. Addictions can come in to play if there are holes in our lives that we are trying to fill.
Also, success can mean different things to different people. So what I think is successful may not mean success to you.
I hear a lot of anger, towards homeschoolers, in your comments. If you knew the families, involved in homeschooling, that I know, I'm sure you would find the children to be responsible, respectful, and successful children.
"I hear a lot of anger, towards homeschoolers, in your comments."
Some of the unschoolers and homeschoolers here sound like reasonable thoughtful folks but some sound like Conservative anti-government ideologues who are using their children as tools in their ideological battles against "The State". I don't appreciate people who tell and promote lies and that is the anger you perceive.
I am aware that some people have home-schooled their kids while sailing or just traveling around the world. There is some history of scientists home-schooling their kids while living in foreign places and doing sociology, anthropology, and other things. So I know that it is possible to do successfully and I applaud and support that.
Remember that fine Christian woman a few years ago from down in the south who drowned her children in the bathtub to "save" them from the devil? That's the extreme end of the kind of religious abuse of children that I am very wary of and I keep wondering from some of the comments here about how much and how many religionists are trying to "save" their children from some fanciful evil "State", to the detriment of their children.
You will find extremes in any activity where humans are involved. Atrocities happen to children all the time, worldwide. They have nothing to do with the act of homeschooling. Adults who commit these acts may homeschool or they may not. They may be religious or not. This woman was mentally ill. The fact that she homeschooled or was religious had nothing to do with the act. She was a sick woman. There are plenty of sick people who are not homeschooling and not religious. And the huge majority of homeschoolers, and I would also say religious people although some would disagree, are not mentally ill and not committing atrocities against children.
I have homeschooled for 16 years and known hundreds of homeschooled children. They come from families who are committed to their education. Homeschooling is a time consuming job. It is a huge commitment on the part of the parents. I wish you knew the children I have known and that I have watched grow into responsible adults and citizens. My children and others I know, who have homeschooled, have been very involved in community service projects every year. They are also well-educated. These are the people I trust with my future as a senior citizen in this country.
From your comments, I do not believe that you know very many homeschoolers. My mother-in-law was not a supporter of homeschooling when we started, but she has met many homeschooled children over the years and watched our children as they have grown and become responsible teenagers and adults. She is very supportive of homeschooling, now.
I think you are wary of the unknown and you are placing your blame in the wrong place.
"I think you are wary of the unknown and you are placing your blame in the wrong place."
You think wrong.
I know some home-schoolers and I also know and am very experienced in religion and the effects of religion on peoples behavior.
I want to draw attention to the distinction between the goal of school and unschooling. I was a public school teacher and now unschool my children. The goal of school, as illustrated by the leader of the direct instruction school, is to teach and manage a large group. Unschooling put the emphasis on the child's learning. The resposibility of using teachers and mentors for the purpose of learning still belongs to the child. This is not taken away from the child by telling them what and when they will learn. The unschooler recognizes their right to learn all the time.
All people have this right and many wait until they are adults to exercise it , with personal interests and careers. The school teacher who spoke early in the program of her concern about this method working for "the average child" is defining the "average child" by the children who have been plugged into a system for 12 years. Schooled children, just like all children are smart, and have learned very well. They just learned how to work in the public school system, where as unschoolers have learned to work in the world at large, learning and discovering from all the resources aroud them. It's true that unschoolers show more interest in learning and passion for their interests than the "average" child, but this is only apparent because of the "average" environment of a public school offers very little of interest compared to the world at large. We all learn best when we are pursuing our own interests. This is as true when we are children as it is when we are adults.
I have just finished listening to the show. I enjoyed it and thank "Think Out Loud" for addressing this topic. I would like to give several reactions to the content.
1) I was disappointed that the show spent so much time talking to an educator from an alternate but more traditional school. He was interesting, but he wasn't really relevant to the topic at hand. I would have preferred that you spend the time talking to more actual homeschoolers, like Dave Albert, who unschooled two children *very* successfully. They are now grown and are very successful in their fields. He's written three books on homeschooling and lectures on the subject. There are other regional people with similar backgrounds Who would have been more appropriate as well.
2) I appreciated the comments by the unschooled gentleman who said that his one regret about unschooling was that he wasn't forced to learn math more rigorously as a child. He may be correct. Or, on the other hand, he may have become totally uninterested in math, or may have developed "math anxiety" as a result of being forced to do math, perhaps unsuccessfully, for 12 years. One can't tell where alternate paths would actually lead.
I was traditionally schooled, 12 years of parochial education. While very successful in the verbal arts, I entered high school behind in math and never caught up. I took pre-calculus twice on the college level, because I was interested in a science career, and was never able to master the subject enough to go into a science field. Would it have been different if I was homeschooled, if my parents investigated different math curricula until something "clicked", if I was allowed to progress at my own pace, rather than always being behind and never able to catch up? I don't know. One doesn't know where alternate paths would have led.
I have homeschooled my son since the end of 3rd grade- actually, with encouragement from his teacher, because she thought having to go at the pace of the class was holding him back. I have made him do math regularly over the years, though we consider ourselves "eclectic" homeschoolers. We have switched curricula, trying to find something that would give him a love of math. So far, nothing has worked. He has aced high school algebra courses taken at the local community college (he's still high school aged), and he is presently teaching himself trigonometry. He is showing no interest in a career that will involve much math. If that changes, he may suddenly develop a strong interest in math, like the gentleman who spoke during the show.
3) Which brings up another point that I don't think was addressed during the show. One fundamental belief of most homeschoolers is that learning is life-long. For example, I indicated above that I am very math-phobic. I'll never be good at it. But when I started my own business, I taught myself how to keep the books sufficiently to do the day-to-day bookkeeping. I then hired an accountant to do the "heavy" stuff- this was actually required by my lease and my franchise agreement. It wouldn't have mattered if I'd had a PhD in math. Knowledge is best aquired when the interest or need exists first. I intend to keep learning until I die. And I certainly expect my son to keep learning throughout his life, as my husband and I have.
I missed the end of the show today, so I hope I didn't miss some discussion on my question. I'm wondering about the feasibility of home/unschooling for lower-income parents. It seems that in order for unschooling to really broach all subjects -- and dig deeper into the interests of the kids -- additional museum trips/traveling/outside classes/etc are called for. But unlike public school, all of those things cost parents out-of-pocket. I don't begrudge parents spending money on these things for their children if they can afford to, but what about those parents who can't afford Japanese classes, or fencing lessons?
I'm honestly curious to hear from parents who may not have the resources to fund lessons, classes, or large traveling ventures for their homeschooled kids. I was a very bright child who had no problem with the structure of school, but like many people here I remember very little of what I learned outside of the basics -- reading, writing, computation. I loved college because i finally got to choose what I pursued, and once there I was irritated with other students who saw the experience as a linear course towards a stupid piece of paper. In college, I was after the fullest experience possible, and willingly took the maximum course load each semester in order to explore classes in philosophy, anthropology, statistics, astronomy, French architecture, horseback riding, etc. I was one of the few music majors who didn't live entirely in the music building! Although my mother had provided for as many outside activities as possible, she was a very young single parent and money was tight. I remember not being able to take gymnastics because we couldn't afford the cost. I don't know that she would have been in a place, financially, to provide a varied, well-rounded set of experiences for me if she had had to pay for, say, French lessons out of pocket. Can anyone in a similar situation who is now home- or unschooling speak about their experiences?
You understand the meaning of unschooling! Our goal was to teach our children a love of learning that would last their lifetimes. If you give them the tools to find out what they want to know, they can learn anything. I believe all able children are born with a drive to learn. I see that drive being stifled by structured schools by 2nd or 3rd grade.
I always home schooled my three children. I quickly found that anything I labeled school was met with resistance by my oldest child. So I quit calling things school and just let my children enjoy learning. This does not mean they ran loose all day, watched t.v. all day, or had unstructured lives. What it meant was, my job was to provide them with as many opportunities as I could (limited by time and money) and find out what their interests were. I believe we all have gifts and those are usually the things we are good at and the things we enjoy. They are also the things we remember when we learn about them. If you find a child's passion(s) and provide them the opportunity to pursue those interests, you will have a child who does not get into trouble as a teen! As parents, we need to determine what is suitable and what a family budget can afford. The child chooses, but chooses from the choices provided by the parent.
We did a mixture of unschooling and more structured homeschooling (but never as structured as some of the home schooling families I know). It has not been easy living on one income (not a large income) and we have spent a lot of money on home schooling.
There are ways to spend less. When my children were younger, we went to the public library every week. My children loved going there and loved coming out with a pile of books covering subjects they wanted to explore. You can "travel" or have many other experiences through books or videos from the library.
Another big part of our home schooling experience was 4-H. You can make any subject you want to study, into a 4-H project. Many educational materials/books for 4-H are inexpensive and provided by the land grant college in each state. In Oregon, Oregon State University prints the educational materials for 4-H. My children have belonged to four 4-H clubs at one time, each covering a different project they have been interested in. 4-H emphasizes leadership training and community service. There are also opportunities for organizing acitivities and events, speaking in front of small groups or large groups, teaching others, and being creative. 4-H is an incredible program and I highly recommend it for any child.
A friend of ours, who ended up majoring in music in college, taught my children piano when she was in high school, for a very reduced fee. It was a good job for her and the only way I could afford piano lessons. My youngest daughter, who is 16, is now teaching piano to other home school children for a very reduced price. She loves it and is a very talented musician.
Of course there have been classes my children could not take because of limited funds. If you have relatives that can afford it, a museum membership is a very nice gift. If one relative cannot afford a membership, you could ask relatives to combine their money to purchase the gift. Our first OMSI membership was a gift from my mother-in-law and we kept the membership ourselves for a few years after that.
Many educational camps have scholarships. As they get older, children can earn money to pay for specific classes they want to take.
For high school, my children have taken a correspondence course through a non-profit, private, accredited high school. They earn a high school diploma. They also had credits from subjects they were learning while unschooling in high school. My oldest is starting her senior year in college. This past spring, she was informed that she is in the top ten of her college class. My second child is starting college this month. Both of these children earned a scholarship from their college, based on their grades and SAT tests.
My children are all high achievers and all have the love of learning we were striving for. They have been successful in goals they have set for themselves. They are driven by their own ambitions and interests, not mine. I have been there to support them and help when I can. I try to give them what they need, but that is not always possible. That is life and part of parenting and being a family.
Socialization has never been a problem and it always takes me by surprise when someone asks about it. If your children are involved in outside activities, as a home schooler, they meet and socialize with people of all ages. 4-H has been a big part of my children's socializing, including friends their own age and dedicated leaders and parents who have become friends.
I love the relationship I have with my children and the time we have spent together. There are gaps in my children's education, but I realized when I was in high school that there are gaps in everyone's education, even within one school. There are things my children have not experienced by not attending a public school, but there are experiences public schooled children have not had because they did not home school. What we have had is the ability to make our own choices and to follow our own schedule.
It is a lifestyle choice for a family. It is not right for everyone. I do believe a lot of people are critical of home schooling because they do not understand it. I'm sure there are some failures. There certainly are many failures in public schooling. I have know a lot of home schooling families over the years and the parents have all been dedicated to their children's education. There have been studies of home schooled children. Colleges and universities have found home schooled children to be successful students.
If you have an interest in home schooling, I would encourage you to try it. Find a support group in your area. They can be great resources for planning field trips and activities for your children.
I was a single mother for years and was dedicated to raising my own child - so I did anything and everything I could to work from home, work short hours, trade childcare with like-minded parents, start my own business, etc. I would never have been able to pay for French lessons, but if my child had expressed an interest in learning French I would have found a way - that might have meant connecting with people in my community who spoke French and needed childcare (a trade) or getting tons of books and CDs and videos from the library and learning it together, or asking about a scholarship or low-income rate for the local french classes at the community center. Unschoolers are resourceful!
I'm wondering how low-income or single parents afford to send their kids to college?
There is money available for college for low-income students. You can find a lot of information on the internet. Don't forget to check with your employer to see if they offer scholarships for children of employees. There are many national scholarships offered and colleges also give need-based aid to students that can amount to quite a lot. There are also federal grants available. Your local high school counselor(s) can also give you assistance with scholarships and grants that are available. Start early. There are deadlines for applications and some of those deadlines begin in September. Be sure to file a FAFSA to be eligible for federal funds. Check with your college for deadlines for the FAFSA and scholarships, etc. You can file the FAFSA after January 1st each year and you should file it as soon as you can after that.
Unschooling to me sounds like the greatest threat to America since Terrorism!!
Think about it, 100 years from now---we, with a country of 'unschooled children' who have grown up to 'really enjoy' being waitresses, motor mechanics and all those wonderful fulfilling careers, competing with countries like India and China, sporting all those well educated mathematicians,scientists,medical proffessionals etc. etc.----If 'unschooling' becomes the norm, it's then that we should change the prayer from'God Bless America' to 'God Help America'.
You are joking, right? Or did you not read the many previous posts from parents whose kids are excelling in higher education and professional life? Or do you think the success of homeschoolers like Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, etc., are just flukes?
When you talk about 'home schooling' and then 'unschooling' you are talking about two different subjects.
The unschooling that I am refering too is the so called 'school' that allows the child to do whatever he wishes and has no prescribed carriculum and is not registered with the state as a school, nor do they have qualified teachers----there are over 50 of these so-called schools in Oregon.
I agree, home schooling if conducted in a responsible manner by a qualified person can be very effective.
Although my question has been---who determines if the person conducting the home schooling is qualified!!
I was brought up in the public schools here in Oregon. Of 12 years of schooling, I can count on one hand the number of "qualified" teachers I had! My fourth grade teacher, and an English teacher in 7th grade. That is it.
What you say about having unqualified teachers in your 4th and 7th grade--first, how did you find out that they were not qualified--and if so, did your parents object.
Secondly, just because you had that sad experience, are you in favor of knowingly sending children to a school with unqualified teachers?
I am a newcomer to this State having arrived here within the last 15 months and the horror stories that I hear about the underground teaching scam with unqualified schools really amazes me.
One question I have is--were's the teachers union??
rmommy, I was sitting here reading over again your response, were you say "what about Roosevelt,Edison,Einstein,Churchill etc".
I would think that these people had access to the finest tutors----are you telling me that every parent who ellects to teach their children at home has the tutorial experience or perhaps the necessary basic intelligence required to impart knowledge to a child.
Maybe the VERY lucky few.
Making enquiries in Portland I find that they only have one individual person responsible for testing these home taught children and they are lucky if this person gets to test them once every 3 to 4 years----great system, right!!
I personally think that it is a disgrace!!!!!!!!!We really care about our kids!!
Sorry, but you are quite mistaken about testing of homeschoolers. There are several dozen qualified testers and testing locations in the greater Portland area. Homeschoolers (including unschoolers) are required to take the same tests at the same schedule as public schoolers. It might surprise you to find out that homeschoolers, on the average, test better than public schoolers, even though a great portion of public school is dedicated to "teaching to the test."
There are kids who excel and kids who don't in either venue. There is at least as much oversight of homeschooling as there is of public schooling. At least I know where my child is every day, and what she's doing, and who she's doing it with.
And we don't have metal detectors at our front door either.
I wish I could say that I was wrong---calling the authorities in Portland we were told that they had only ONE person testing home school children----we have a child in our family who will be ten years of age this month, his mother has professed 'home schooling' and no one, and I mean no one has ever tested this boy for proficiency from the city, county or State.
We just recently took him into a public school (being concerned grandparents) and found that this close to ten year old child could barely read at the second grade level--he didn't even know the 'days of the week'.
I call it CRIMINAL!!!!!!!!!!!
Here's a list of the Oregon approved homeschool testers. It's 37 pages long.
Quite a few of them are in Portland - especially if you count Tigard, Beaverton, Gresham, Oregon City, etc.
Neither homeschoolers OR public schoolers are required to test until the end of third grade. Private schoolers are not required to test at all.
Give it another year or 2. Many unschooled children don't learn to read until later. My oldest learned at the age of 11/12. Fast forward 2 years and she is a voracious reader. You would never know that she hadn't learned until just a short time ago.
Learning the days of the week took a while too. Again, though, you would never know that now. All of it seemed to come together at once. Prior to that, she was building other skills that were more relevant to her, ultimately leading her to the person she is today, a very intelligent one with a variety of fascinating interests that she actively pursues.
You can call it criminal if you like, or you can relax and enjoy your grandchild and really look and see what he DOES know and enjoy.
I agree with Jenny C. The beauty of homeschooling is you can allow for different rates of learning. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
I would hope that you can see the beauty in this child and focus on his strengths. I'm sure he knows a lot about the subjects he is interested in. Maybe you could have a conversation with him and find out what he's enthusiastic about.
Perhaps you could provide a membership to OMSI or fund some other educational activity, after asking the parent what they would like to receive.
I agree, it is the greatest threat to America! 100 years from now all these unschooled free thinking children who were taught to question and question again, not taught from a single publisher of textbooks what history looks like, not conditioned that all rewards come from doing as you are told... who is going to work in the factories?? It may certainly be the end of the world!
(in jest... first, certainly there are not enough unschoolers to cause this kind of damage to our system, in either my example or the one above... second, there are much greater risks, such as the future of children growing up without adequate medical care, or those being raised by the growing number of parents who are addicted to drugs. let's get some perspective.)
All this talk about schooling out of the public system, either in the home or an alternative school, are all wonderful ideas if they truly educate.
But doing it without verification as to it's effectiveness, is not only foolhardy, but a form of child abuse (denial of education).
The State of Oregon does not have sufficient oversight in place to protect these children by frequent testing.
Calls to the board of education get a 'sorry, we can't help you on that' response------criminal!!!!
Here's a little grammar lesson for you:
The word "its" or "it's" is frequently misused. The apostrophe is only used when the word is a contraction of "it is"; not when it is a pronoun.
Homeschoolers are tested as frequently as public schoolers, and with better results.
I suggest you bone up on your research skills.
The fact that you possess the knowledge that home schoolers are tested as frequently as the children in public schools, then pray tell me, who do we contact to get our home schooler tested frequently?---I would appreciate the name and telephone number of the contact person or department.
Here's a list of the Oregon approved homeschool testers. It's 37 pages long.
Att.rmommy-----------Personal attacks are not necessary---and if you are home schooling I hope that you don't demonstrate that to your children----they learn a lot by example!!
I'm not understanding how frequent testing protects children. It is the parent's responsibility to educate their child properly. What I see in my unschooling/parenting community are families that are very involved in their child's education and upbringing, and they don't need state officials to verify that.
Even if a parent is capable of home schooling, there is the question of available time (careers and making a living interfere)so for every parent who is able and capable, how many millions are not?
As for testing---it's not a question of 'state officials'-- it's having people with the knowledge and qualifications, testing and determining if a child is meeting the necessary educational standards.
Having a child is a choice, as is working outside the home in a career, driving a car, owning a home, etc.
I don't think anyone here has said that every parent should unschool their children, of course there are parents who aren't capable of unschooling or who just don't want to, but those aren't the parents we are talking about.
As far as "necessary educational standards" - well, those are subjective. Sitting at a desk all day and doing boring repetitive work and taking tests is not what's going to help my child meet my own high educational standards for them. I don't need someone else to test my children to know what they are learning - I know exactly what they are learning because I spend time with them and talk to them - how could someone else (more qualified?) have more knowledge about my own children than I do?
Children have human rights and it is in the interest of "we the people" to protect those rights by making sure that parents don't abuse them. One way of protecting the rights of children is by testing them to be sure that parents are not neglecting their education.
I started on this path because I am a huge child advocate - it's clear to me that public schools are neglecting to educate children properly! Who/what is protecting public school children from being abused? Standardized tests?
Why all this focus on learning, what about other important life skills? Like FUN - how much fun are kids having? How much joy is being experienced on a daily basis by parents and kids? Kids are no longer enjoying their childhoods because everyone is so focused on them being "successful" (which usually means rich) when they are adults, and we are forgetting that in order to learn kids need time to play and be free. How about peaceful conflict resolution skills? How about attention to the "social" part of school that is supposed to be so important for kids? Most teachers are clueless when it comes to helping kids navigate their friendships or social difficulties. Kids are bullied and teased and threatened and ridiculed at school everyday, and NOTHING is done. Why is this OK? I visited the Portland Public Schools fair last January and most of the principals acted like I was speaking a completely different language when I asked about the social-emotional components of their curriculum - I spent several hours talking to principals and teachers about creative learning, positive and respectful interactions, discipline, conflict-resolution, etc. I bet they were glad when I left! :)
I came home with my idea of the "acceptable" schools in PPS, from a respectful parenting perspective - these are the only schools that had anything interesting to say about learning and/or social-emotional development - and I was actually more impressed with some of them that I thought I would be. :)
Portland Village School http://www.portlandvillageschool.org/
Sunnyside Environmental School http://environmentalschool.org/
Creative Science School http://creativescienceschool.org/
The Opal School http://www.portlandcm.org/opal.htm
The Emerson School http://emersonschool.org/
Metropolitan Learning Center http://www.mlc-k12.com/
Trillium Charter School http://www.trilliumcharterschool.org/
School CAN be wonderful, and SHOULD be a choice - make schools non-compulsory - if they are really great than parents and kids will choose to be there. Why are kids eager for weekends and holiday breaks? Unschooled kids NEVER stop learning and never need a break. Why do parents of school-kids dread summer vacation? Is being with your own children that you chose to bring into the world so bad?
For us, unschooling is an extension of respectful parenting - which in our family means that our children have limits and yet no punishments or rewards.
Here are some wonderful parenting resources for folks who are interested in a different way to raise children (schooled or not):
http://www.connectionparenting.com/parenting_articles/index.html (scroll down to parenting articles)
What you have said about schools is true---however, my experiences from my school days of being bullied, ridiculed as well as being discriminated against because of religion, prepared me very well for handling the same treatment as an adult.
One way or another, we eventually have to learn how to handle personal relationships and you can't shield your children from the 'real world'.
As for fun--you learn at school--you also learn from your parents behavior, and you have fun at home!!!
So, are you saying that making kids endure teasing, bullying and ridicule when they are young prepares them for more of that as they grow older? This sounds like a very sad life. Shall we feed kids carcinogens when they are young because the world is full of them and they are going to have the get used to the real (polluted) world? Or perhaps we should be mean to them because there will be mean people in their future? Unschooling, on the other hand, is all about joyful living.
My kids are doing all kinds of things in the real world every day. So are all the other unschooled children I know! Kids need to learn to stand in line? My kids accompany me to the grocery store, the bank, etc. and they stand in line JUST FINE. They interact with people (nice and mean) and hone their relationship skills all over town and with people of every age.
I don't get it - people are saying that unschooling parents are neglecting their children, and also that we are coddling, sheltering, and over-protecting them!
My wife and I homeschool our children and used pretty much what you are calling the unschooling method. My older daughter was homeschooled through the 8th grade after which she chose to attend our local public high school. There she got straight A's and was affectionately known as the "Book" for her comparatively vast knowledge. My second child was homeschooled all the way through taking only a semester total of high school classes. Both are doing well at a top quality private college today.
One of the most important pieces of advice I received when our children were young was to read them stories that I as the reader enjoyed reading. When other children were having Peter Rabbit read to them over and over, our children were listening to Watership Down, Roots, To Kill a Mockingbird, and even Lord of the Rings. I don't find it surprising at all that my kids like to read a lot. The older child had no reading education past the age of six and the younger never had any at all. We never even taught her the alphabet that I can remember.
My kids also learned math without little apparent effort. One day when they were still of preschool age they asked me to play a game with them. Not likely board games much myself I decided to mix in a little education, so I made up a few cards and spinners and we played our new Math Game. Almost every day the kids would ask me to play the Math Game with them and I would add a few new cards and we would play. Within a few months I realized that my kids were now doing high school algebra, and they though math was a game. The older child required little further math instruction from me until she was faced with Calculus in high school, again the younger child got almost no parental help with math at all, but always scored 99-100% in math on the state mandated testing. Not even Calculus stumped her.
Homeschooling is made easy by unschooling. Kids are programmed to learn, unschooling accentuates this whereas traditional classroom teaching is all to apt to turn it off.
It was very pleasing to read about your success with your children---intelligent parents and consequently intelligent children.
I agree about reading, although mine went to Public School, we had a reading hour every evening before bedtime when everyone (mom and dad included) would read.
It's a misnomer to call it 'unschooling'---you practiced "home schooling'
'Unschooling' should be applied to those 'sham' schools with no carriculum.
You are misundertanding what unschooling means. It basically comes down to teaching your children through their interests. For any one subject, you can learn many subjects. For instance, if a child was interested in birds that nested around their house, they could study about that species of bird (Biology class), they could build a bird house (Shop Class) which would include measuring (math class), they could observe the birds (they could keep records which would also be math), and they could write about the birds. They could also incorporate photography and from my personal experience they would come up with many more ideas, that I would never think of. I know with art work, I would supply the materials my children wanted, but I would never dictate to them as to what to create, because from the time they were very little I was amazed at what they thought of on their own.
Unschooling does not mean not teaching a child. It means providing a child with tools and materials to learn what they are interested in learning. All of us learn and retain information much more easily when it is a subject we are interested in learning. That is all unschooling means. It does happen to be much less structured than conventional school. Instead of allowing a child to study something for 50 minutes and then tearing them away from that to study something else, they can be allowed to continue uninterrupted if that's what they want to do.
I believe it encourages a child's imagination and desire to learn. Instead of dreading studying something, they can't wait to learn the next step, because it is based on their interest.
I would ask you to open your mind to this. It does work. I have experienced this and seen the result. What you are talking about is not what others are talking about when they speak of Unschooling. To me it sounds like you are speaking of no education occurring. What you are talking about is not what is happening in most home school families that are unschooling.
My son goes to one of those "sham" schools with no curriculum. He is one of the brightest and most interesting kids I know. And I know lots of kids.
My husband and I are/have been child protective service workers. In my 6 years investigating abuse and neglect, I have only run in to two families in which I felt homeschooling/unschooling was being used to keep kids out of sight. Very close to 100% of kids who I have had to remove from their homes because of abuse or neglect were attending public schools. Unschooling is not at all akin to negligence, and public school attendance does not make a good parent.
What name can we give to the public schools, like the one my son came out of in 7th grade in David Douglas district, his interests crushed and social life poor? The school where his journalism teacher pushed him aside when he tried to share the typed 50-page novel that he was writing in his free time, when he was hoping she, a trained professional, might give him some feedback? The school where a teacher gave him a zero for putting his name on the wrong side of the paper, when he had answered the questions 100% right, and then sent him to the office for insubordination when he asked why he got an F when he had the answers correct? I'd call that a sham school, if the name weren't already taken. I don't blame the teachers, I think they mostly meant well, they were swimming in bureaucracy and had too much to manage. Thankfully, he goes to a sham school now where he does not have those worries. And I have my kid back, my kid who learns like he breathes, from the moment he gets up until the minute he goes to sleep, without public school.
Readers in doubt can try to dismiss the success of unschoolers here to the intelligent parent default, and I think I would mostly agree.... unschooling parents are often intelligent and thoughtful about their choices. Which makes it kind of silly to see so much stereotyping here about the fate of unschooled kids. I think that there are likely very many more public schooled kids with parents who are not thoughtful about education of their kids than there are unschooling parents in the same boat.
My God, to listen to all you people I get the distinct message that the public schools in the State of Oregon are a disaster!---are they REALLY that bad? People in the Portland area paint a picture of poor teachers, undisciplined classrooms and neglect, it's starting to sound like a 'third world country'.
My children and grandchildren were educated in New Jersey public schools and every one of them has become a success and are happy with their lives.
It never crossed my mind that 'home schooling' was necessary.
You folks certainly paint a terrible picture.
See SCHOOLS LEFT BEHIND http://action.publicbroadcasting.net/opb/posts/list/1407016.page
More than 430 Oregon schools failed to meet the national targets.
We read all the time about how many schools in Oregon fail to meet 'national targets'---I'm ignorant of the facts, so could you tell me WHY they are failing??
And of all the children receiving home schooling--are there studies to show that they as a group meet 'national standards' or do we have only to take their parents word for it?
I'm terribly disappointed that Mary Gold's interview was not included in this broadcast... Mary has created an amazing conference for PNW Unschoolers (Radical or Whole Life Unschoolers) called LIFE is Good. In 2009, we'll be gathering in Vancouver, WA, May 21-24. Check it out at lifeisgoodconference.com :)
I'm in agreement there hahamommy! She is most definitely an awesome example of unschooling in action! As are many other unschoolers in the area, you included...
All in all the radio program was ok. Just ok. It could have really been about unschooling, no offense to those that were interviewed in the program who I'm sure are fine people with fine kids. Just didn't sound like the unschooling adventure that I've come to know and love!
I just wanted to agree as well. I think Mary is great - and while I was glad they took my call in - I was wondering why her voice was missing from the conversation. I thought the program was a decent beginning to a much more complex conversation. My only strong critique is that they didn't capture the full continuum of approaches and ideas under the "unschooling" banner.
The Village Free School
? a member of the Conservative Party of New York ? and has received several awards from libertarian organizations, ?
That tells us a lot about how much credibility he has (very little) and how much we ought to just consider as Conservative/Libertarian propaganda against public schools because the Con-men consider them as socialism.
From a review at Amazon.com:
By E. Young...
"BUT, I wonder why he keeps telling us that kids performed better in school when teachers were allowed to beat them."
Apparently he advocates child abuse, a very traditional Conservative "Family Value".
If you want to critique his stand on education, read one of his books, not his wiki profile or highlight of a certain amazon review. You skipped the part about his army service and his multiple awards for teacher of the year in multiple public school roles.
Unschoolers come from many political backgrounds, and Gatto is not our leader, although he does have some very good writings on the subject. The credibility of unschooling does not stand with whether or not you like him. I won't speak for others, but I know that my take on the success of the model comes primarily from the success and happiness of my child.
Your post reminds me of something I heard Lars Larson say on the radio today while flipping channels, that Obama was possibly a drug dealer because he never said he wasn't, and how else would he have gotten drugs as a teen? There's about as much connection in your misplaced and skewed view of a review of a book you haven't read that you've used to make a leap that isn't accurate, with the suggestion it reflects on people who unschool. You sound like a smart guy, (although I don't get where your con-man comment comes from and it seems like you were trying real hard to say something that you didn't have enough real support for so you used strawman arguments instead), I bet you could work out a more educated stand.
My partner and I just moved from San Francisco. She has two teenagers who have been unschooled most of their lives. I won't take the time to give all the details, but be assured they are amazing, bright, socially capable young adults. We want to continue homeschooling/unschooling them, and I have been researching the best way to do this legally in Oregon. In California we had declared ourselves a private school, which allowed us to avoid the standardized tests that come with declaring them homeschool, and side-stepped the legislation passed in recent years requiring homeschool parents to have teaching credentials. I was wondering if anyone who is currently or has unschooled children has any advice for us, if there are good inexpensive umbrella schools we could look into, or any other options. Thanks to any who can offer help.
"Because I don't think the government knows best how to school my kids."
Is she saying that the government has NOTHING to say about how people school their children? Or that the government can't say everything about how to raise her children? It seems like the latter is a strawman but the former is false on its face... Or would she agree that the government has no role to play in the education of children - hers or anyone else's?
The world doesn't evolve around us. Nor does "doing what you're supposed to do" necessarily lead to a life well lived. Let's recognize there are infinite paths for living a fulfilled life. The trick is discovering the most effective path for each individual.
Hello, I am 17 and I haven't been officially unschooled (I've been enrolled in public school my entire life) but I've grown up in an environment very similar to unschooling in that I've always had a passion for learning and regularly persue my own areas of interest and research regardless of its relation to school. My parents have encouraged this and always allowed for my branching out into other areas not related to my school work so I greatly identify with many of the methods being discussed and as a result of being so encouraged to follow what interested me instead of being boxed into a public schools cirriculum I feel like it has greatly increased my academic ability and has been a major compliment to my public education. I am convinced that more of this kind of learning whether it be actual unschooling or even simple encouragement to branch out in your "play time" to follow what you enjoy would be invaluable to both the students and the educators involved.
I have a few questions that I'd just like to hear some people's thoughts on.
What do you think unschooling or alternative methods of schooling would have on an autistic child or a child with ADD/ADHD? I heard earlier in the program that one mother had a daughter with dyslexia and was doing very well in learning to read, do you think that this would be the case in children with other disorders?
And if you are a New Age weirdo like me, do you think that unschooling would have any relation to or affects on an Indigo child?
I think that unschooling would absolutely have an effect on these kinds of children and (coming from someone currently in public school and one who sees far too many kids with these disorders or "attributes") I think that methods like homeschooling or unschooling that are based on putting many of the choices regarding education in the hands of the students are an extremely important piece in learning to interact and better educate children as we move forward. More in the "now" of things, it is very obviously not the same world in which the traditional methods of schooling are the best. And by this I don't mean that traditional methods don't work at all, I greatly acknowledge the fact that there are many students who prefer traditional methods and flourish in those environments but I think that as we see an increase in the various disorder epidemics being observed in children alternative means of obtaining education will become more and more widespread. I feel that the traditional methods will slowly but surely fade away as we restructure our system even further. I'm not one to believe that the economic situation is the only thing we will re-structure (or is even a bad thing!).
I think unschooling parents make one hugely inaccurate assumption -- that kids who are traditionally schooled are somehow automatically suffering and stifled. My 15-year-old daughter does well in school but still has that innate curiosity and imagination. We encourage her to pursue her interests and support her in her endeavors. After she befriended a local "autodidact," I asked her how she felt about unschooling. She wasn't interested. Yes, some kids actually like school.
But without some traditional education, these kids grow up disadvantaged. I know a couple of kids here in Corvallis who are unschooled who basically do art projects for most of the day. The oldest child now works as a dishwasher in the family restaurant, and that's the future I see for a lot of these kids.
By the way, this seems to be a privilege of the "hippies with means" subset around here. Two-parent families where one parent can not only afford to stay home, but can afford to spend hundreds on whatever community classes the kids are interested in at the time. As a single mom, I couldn't attempt this without basically leaving my kids home to watch TV every day... which is also what some of these kids are doing, as their parents try to explain how Nintendo fosters math and coordination skills. I think unschooling is a product of one or both parents hating school when they were young, and projecting that on the kids.
You can still raise wonderful, inquisitive children in a public, private or homeschool setting. Unschooling is going to hold your kids back eventually. And frankly, parents of unschoolers have no issues taking their kids to formally educated doctors, nurses, etc. or using attorneys and accountants. Not everyone can sell homemade earrings at the Saturday market for a living.
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