Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unschooling - what do you think?

When my son was born, I was enthralled with the idea of homeschooling. I read a ton of books about the benefits of homeschooling, the different methodologies, the issues and the like. I loved the concept of a classical education and the idea that content could be catered to a child's interests and focus. Needless to say, I was more interested in secular homeschooling and I was happy to see a lot of support in our area for that (groups and the like), including support programs in our public schools for homeschoolers.

All that said, our children go to public school. It all came down to a few things (without going into too much detail): personality and loss of income. However, we are lucky in that our public elementary school uses some of the curriculum that I would use at home - Saxon and Singapore Math and Junior Great Books for reading. They are able to provide an environment that I certainly couldn't do on my own, as well as services they need.

But, one thing I never could wrap my brain around was the concept of unschooling. Basically, unschooling is centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including child directed play, game play and social interaction rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. All of this is facilitated by adults.

I really like the theory behind unschooling, but I don't believe that children would learn everything that I personally think is important to be able to make certain life choices later. In other words, it doesn't provide them with the toolset to do certain things as an adult. I wouldn't want to restrict my children's ability to do anything they wanted to do later in life and that's what unschooling appears to do from my perspective. And, before any panties get twisted, I'm referring mainly to later career choices in math and hard sciences or anything that requires a significant foundation of knowledge.

Good Morning America just did a piece on unschooling. I got the impression they had an strong opinion about it before the interviews and were trying to confirm their pre-conceived ideas about it with the families they chose. They report that 150,000 kids in the U.S. are unschooled.

What do you think of unschooling? For those unschoolers out there, why did you choose unschooling instead of more "traditional" homeschooling? The families that GMA covers do radical unschooling which extends their unschooling ideas to their parenting and they have no rules. Is this common?

Photo by Tup Wanders. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tupwanders/83092660

215 comments:

1 – 200 of 215   Newer›   Newest»
Sparkless said...

I'd like to hear from an adult who was "unschooled."
I wouldn't want to play around with my child's education just in case it messed them up later in life. But the concept is interesting.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Like you, I really liked the idea of homeschooling, but it was just never going to work for us, for, I suspect, similar reasons to yours. One of my children in particular also does much better with the structure and discipline of a school day. There are times when I wish we lived in the back of beyond and I taught them at home, but on the whole we and they are happy.

Unschooling is not something I thought was formalised and I'm not sure it would be legal here due to the level of notification needed. I'm sure it happens though.

"I'll pick up a text book when I need to" sounds great, but if you haven't learnt the discipline of learning, how are you going to rapidly learn the necessary to be an engineer/vet/geologist/architect?
I decided to train as a nurse at 18, and had to use all that algebra I'd spent the last 5 years telling my maths teacher was a waste of my time.(I was right about sine, cosine and tangent though. I've never needed them.)

Maybe it doesn't necessarily have to be that there is no parental direction at all (the young children were being 'taught' about money) and maybe the whole 'no rules, no discipline' thing is a separate issue, but my children would have a houseful of inappropriate animals, no teeth and square eyes if they had the same say as us.

I'm all for ways of educating alongside typical textbook work, but I fail to see how an entirely unschooled education sets you up for the real world. Self confidence is wonderful, but an unrealistic idea of how important you and your wants are must make transition to adulthood very difficult socially as well as academically. DH had parents that told him it was up to him what he did (so he played hooky mostly) and he regrets that he didn't make more effort at school. My parents on the other had were constantly encouraging and wanted me to do my best. I don't share his feelings that I could have done better/had more career options.

I don't believe that a 7 year old can know what's best for them with no idea of what is to come in life. Actually, or a 14 year old either. They'll regulate eating and sleeping (though possibly in an anti social way) but how can they know that their food is full of transfats or HFCS or anything else we may know about as adults?

It would be interesting to hear about adults who had an unschooled upbringing.
Phew! Sorry, bit of an essay...
Hazel, UK

Robj98168 said...

Honestly. I didn't smoke 30 years of Camels so you could decide not to school your children. Don't waste those tobacoo taxes. There aren't anymore coming from me, What's next= taxing pop and candy?
What that? Oh. Never Mind.
Actually I have nothing against unschooling and homeschooling except that no public funds should be allowed. No sports. No candy sales!

Glenda said...

We're an unschooling family, so I obviously think highly of it [g]. We would fall into what GMA defined as radical unschooling.

Why do we do it? That's not something that can be reduced to a soundbite.

Anyone that ever expresses doubt about unschooling is expressing doubts that we unschoolers have heard time and time again, and possibly had ourselves when we were new to the idea of unschooling.

My favorite places to direct folks are Sandra Dodd's website (http://www.sandradodd.com/unschooling) and Joyce Fetteroll's website (http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/). Sandra is the mom of 3, the youngest of whom is 18, all of whom were always-unschooled.

===I wouldn't want to restrict my children's ability to do anything they wanted to do later in life and that's what unschooling appears to do from my perspective.===

Unschooling is not about restricting abilities - far from it. If an unschooled kid decides they want to pursue a career that requires a "significant foundation of knowledge", there's nothing stopping them from acquiring that knowledge!

You've said that you can't wrap your brain around the concept of unschooling -- the thing is, you *won't* be able to if you're used to thinking education can *only* be acquired a certain way (a curriculum dictated by school or parents). To "get" unschooling, you have to be willing to step out of that box. If you're truly interested in knowing more, spend some time at the links above, and go with an open mind. Read some info, then let it roll through your brain every so often for the next month. Go back in a month and read some month. And so on.

I have no interest in trying to convince other families they should unschool -- what other families choose to do is their choice, period. Why we choose to unschool is our choice -- I can't imagine our reasons are going to change the mind of someone who says they can't wrap their mind around the concept. If someone feels it wouldn't work for them, then guess what, it won't work for them!! But if someone's honestly interested, there are plenty of resources (websites, books, conferences) where they can get more info.

knutty knitter said...

We did homeschool with one child for a year and it was only marginally less disastrous than school so I was quite happy to send him back when we found somewhere that could cope with him.

On the other hand, he likes to do stuff so unschooling might just have worked. But it definitely wouldn't work for the other child who prefers regular stuff.

I might add that our choice of schools at present is very good indeed so I am quite happy to get them out of the house for the day :)

viv in nz

belinda said...

I guess my only thought on this is child directed is not necessarily child controlled. As with everything in parenting you get to use your more mature intellect to find a way to engage the child if you truly believe a skillset is necessary. It's your responsibility to know what your child has learned and how it fits into your overall learning picture for that child. Thus in my view unschooling done well, at least in the early years, is just more work for the schooling parent.

Reading about dinosaurs is still reading. Deciding to learn to read because you want to be able to read the Dinosaur books in the library means at the end you read. Learning about the science behind carbon dating through finding out about dinosaur fossil records is still building your understanding of scientific learning and theory and that's just one reasonably common childhood obsession. Learning about fractions by making muffins is still understanding basic fractions.

For a child that loves to actively learn, and let's be honest that's most children, they will tend to pick up a pretty rounded education over time as long as they are exposed to a wide range of concepts and ideas to engage with. I suspect the main necessity to unschooling is to ensure that at every age level they are exposed to a full range of environments and activities to allow them wide ranging passions and an actively engaged adult mind to ensure they get the opportunity to learn all they can from those experiences. The best thing you can teach a child is to love to challenge themselves and to learn how to learn.. with that they have the keys to any academic endeavour they wish to follow.

The preparedness for the workforce side of things I am not willing to comment on.. I have never worked with with an unschooled colleague. That said I do know that some of the most ingenious ideas can be created by people that think differently.

Kind Regards
Belinda

Glenda said...

==="I'll pick up a text book when I need to" sounds great, but if you haven't learnt the discipline of learning, how are you going to rapidly learn the necessary to be an engineer/ vet/ geologist/ architect?===

Learning is a natural thing. Kids don't have to be taught how to learn in order to learn! I'm living with proof of that.

Why would someone have to "rapidly" learn in order to be an engineer, vet, geologist, or architect? If their parents require they obtain that degree by a certain age, well, yeah, that might cause "rapidly". But if their parents have that mindset, odds are good it's not an unschooling family.

===I decided to train as a nurse at 18, and had to use all that algebra I'd spent the last 5 years telling my maths teacher was a waste of my time.===

Really, you needed to spend FIVE years prior to college to learn algebra? Imagine if you were allowed to work on algebra at your own pace, and you were learning it because you wanted to in order to pursue that nursing degree. Would you have spent five years on it, only spending 40 minutes a day on it, not being able to move forward when you were ready to move forward? Or would you have worked through the concepts faster, perhaps spending more than 40 minutes a day on it, definitely learning it much quicker than in 5 years?

===I fail to see how an entirely unschooled education sets you up for the real world.===

Unschooled kids are living in the real world. If you fail to see it, it's because you don't live it, and if you don't live it then those of who do can't make you see it.

===an unrealistic idea of how important you and your wants are must make transition to adulthood very difficult socially as well as academically.===

Again, that's your interpretation of a way of life you don't live, and it's an erroneous interpretation.

So the popular kids in high school don't have unrealistic ideas of their importance in the "real world" when they get out into it, eh?

Unschoolers are equal amongst each other. This kid isn't more important than that one because he's on the winning football team or because she's the lead in all the school plays or because s/he wins all the science fairs. Unschooling kids are on a pretty level playing field.

===DH had parents that told him it was up to him what he did (so he played hooky mostly) and he regrets that he didn't make more effort at school.===

They gave him the option to unschool??? Traditional parenting + a kid who plays hooky from school is not at all the same as unschooling. It's easy to stand in the here and now and say, "I wish my parents had been more strict about school", but there's no way to know if they had pushed him if he would've embraced it or if he would've rebelled.

Again, you're comparing traditional school to unschooling, and they're not the same. Unschooling doesn't mean "not learning".

Glenda said...

===I don't believe that a 7 year old can know what's best for them with no idea of what is to come in life.===

No one knows what it to come in life. I know plenty of people who wish they'd known, because they might've chosen to live life differently, more joyfully, and enjoyed their loved ones right then.

===They'll regulate eating and sleeping (though possibly in an anti social way)===

What does that mean, to regulate eating and sleeping in an antisocial way???

===how can they know that their food is full of transfats or HFCS or anything else we may know about as adults?===

You have a very low opinion of children if you do not think they are capable of acquiring that information. If they read, they can read labels. If they don't read yet, their parents can show them that info on labels.

I think folks unfamiliar with unschooling would be quite surprised at just how much communication happens within an unschooling household. It's not unparenting -- in fact, it's quite the opposite -- it's VERY hands-on parenting.

Glenda said...

===I was quite happy to send him back when we found somewhere that could cope with him. I am quite happy to get them out of the house for the day===

Then school is definitely the best choice for your family. Homeschooling unhappily isn't better than public- or private-schooling happily.

===On the other hand, he likes to do stuff so unschooling might just have worked.===

Not if the parent at home with the child would rather the child be at school.

===But it definitely wouldn't work for the other child who prefers regular stuff.===

You'll never know. If he's never had the option to unschool (truly unschool, not the vision of unschooling you seem to have), he only knows "learning" in the context in which he's experienced it thus far.

Me said...

I've always been interested in the idea of homeschooling and unschooling, even though I am shortly to become a qualified mainstream teacher.
I've noticed that kids are supposed to fit into the set school system rather than vice versa - but this also works with children not fitting into homeschooling so it goes both ways I suppose.
I am not sure that I'd homeschool/unschool only for the fact that I don't know enough about the social aspects - how do homeschooled/unschooled children go with new aquaintances and strangers?
It is definitely an interesting concept and I'll be looking at the links mentioned above to find out more.

TheSimplePoppy said...

Oh GOD, I've been talking about this all week, due to that stupid GMA show.

I went to school until 6th grade, and was then homeschooled/unschooled. Yes, it was sort of a combo, and once I reached the age where I could work full time, I did. I was a buyer at the co-op I had grown up with, and then a buyer at a natural foods store before I was 19. Life experience does a hell of a lot for the schooling when you are in you upper teens. I went to college - graduated with honors. Of course, it was in English, which a lot of people pooh pooh. My younger sister majored in Math, but then decided to become a physical therapy assistant which meant more math, and a lot of science. She graduated at the top of her class. This is while she was suffering with melanoma cancer at the time. She is in remission now. She kicks ass.

We are homeschooling our children - NOT unschooling. Our state (PA) is very strict and I am concerned about meeting those standards as well as preparing my kid to be a productive member of society. This is what I feel I can achieve with MY children, can't speak for anyone else. I know some unschooling children who are great and smart - I also know some who are possibly the worst children I have ever met. I believe this is because of the radical unschooling that extends to parenting, leading to the attitude that whatever that child does is for their own good, whether it is reading a book, or beating the sh*t out of another kid. They are learning! It's all good! Yeah, I call bullsh*t on that particular style of schooling AND parenting.

KM said...

Crunchy-

I have been reading your blog for several years and was pleasantly surprised to see this topic show up!

I haven't seen the GMA piece yet, but I am enjoying all the unschooling discussions it has spurred.

This article is written by an unschooling dad and makes some great points: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lee-stranahan/unschooling-how-igood-mor_b_543880.html

I am an unschooling mom. I was also unschooled for 7 years myself. I went on to a public high school for three years and then onto college on a full scholarship.

I have no doubts about my own ability to interact with my world, and no worries about my children's place in life either. They are cheerful, curious, and social. They are excited about learning new things. They have time to sit and think and imagine and create. They come up with some amazing ideas.

Unschooling is an amazing and wonderful life for us.

K.

KM said...

Follow up:

As I've been following the trail of online unschooling discussions, I came across this gem about learning math from Psychology Today:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201004/kids-learn-math-easily-when-they-control-their-own-learning

Unschooling isn't for everyone, but I do encourage people to take an honest look at it. Many homeschoolers who do "school at home" find inspiration in unschooling approaches.

KM

New Mama said...

I just wrote a blog essay on unschooling, if anyone's interested:

http://newmamamusings.blogspot.com/2010/04/vast-and-endless-sea.html

Adrienne said...

I was not "unschooled" but in elementary school I went to a school where to a large extent they let us focus on what we were interested in. And I learned as little math as they made me learn... and I wish they had made me learn it properly, b/c I think the only way I was going to get good at it was to practice from a young age. Being in (public) high school and constantly struggling with it, being okay but not good at it, made me feel like any higher education or career options involving math were right out.

Lil said...

My opinion is as though unschooling seems very open-minded and full of possibilities for the child, it may be a little utopic to say that the child will be able to choose the career he wants because he has as much time he wants to learn the very specific subject he's interested in. Yeah... If a little 19 years old guy decides he wants to be a rocket scientist, he'll have to be overmotivated to make up for all maths and physics and others he'll have to start learning when others started maths at the age of 6 ! Truth is unschooled children often choose jobs either manual or "atypical" (by this I mean, not demanding too much school skills, more talent, like art for example). Unschooling narrows career possibilities.
Public school is far from being perfect, as the needs of each child are not much taken in account. But in public school there is social interaction and general knowledge you can't really reach at home, alone !

Greenpa said...

I have only one point to make, and it may or may not be relevant to unschooling for young kids.

I went to Oberlin College, a school that regularly experiments with education, often before anyone else. While I was there, they decided to move away from the old graduation requirements, you know, 2 years of foreign language, 2 years of Phys Ed, 2 each of "science" , "religion", "philosophy", "math","literature"- etc. Lots of detail.

The buzz was, this was old fashioned and too restrictive for the bright minds we all were.

Thing is; I was a junior when it was repealed. So I already had done most of the requirements.

I wasn't particularly ticked off about it. Because by the end of sophomore year, I had repeatedly had my eyes opened to worlds I knew nothing about- and never would have, left to myself. Quite a few things I was required to take I already had a serious disdain for- I never would have looked. Now what I know about them enriches every aspect of my life.

And I do know that a lot of freshmen (in my junior year) - by the end of their sophomore year- were spending most of their time in their "areas of interest" - and not expanding their horizons.

I think the jury is out- real assessment can only come from examining whole lives after exposure. But I regularly struggle to communicate with a friend who brags about getting through Amherst without taking a single science course. He's actually crippled in whole areas of thought- and does not know it.

For what it's worth.

Deanna said...

Here is what my 26 year old son wrote on Facebook regarding the GMA unschooling segment:

I was unschooled in junior high and high school. Did I struggle in college? Nope. I was an honors student and had one of the highest GPAs of my graduating class. Did I have a difficult time adjusting socially? I had zero problems making new friends. I can, without a doubt, say that I felt more prepared for college and had better grades than most of my fellow students who went to local public schools.

While my friends were at pep rallies and school assemblies about the dangers of pot I was given the time to freely study philosophy, Russian literature, Dada art, free jazz, 20th century classical music, world politics, beat poetry, and whatever else interested me on top of the basics. And in depth. Not just through a solitary, dull as dirt text book chapter in a class taught by a football coach. Surprise! I even managed to get good grades in my college math and science classes! Who would've thunk?
********
And a comment he made in response to someone else:

I'd like to clarify and say that there are also a lot of terrific teachers out there. I'm not trying to demean that profession in any way. I had several incredible teachers in elementary school and I also went to college with some people who will probably be fantastic teachers. I'm just saying that public education is kind of a gamble and to dismiss the successes of unschooling (which is different than homeschooling) would be foolish. I'm constantly amazed by how little some of my intelligent friends know about history, geography, literature, philosophy, religions other than Christianity, and the world outside of the United States. It's not because they're dumb, it's because they didn't learn anything in public school, and the meager things they WERE taught were merely memorized and regurgitated for tests, and then promptly discarded.
**********

I think it's pretty obvious that unschooling didn't ruin him. My daughter was also unschooled (4th grade through high school) but since she reads this blog I'll let her speak for herself.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of the concept. It may sound great in theory, but I've interacted with a few adults who were unschooled and it was not a glowing endorsement. Aside from having huge gaps in basic knowledge (presumably, they were not motivated to attain it?) they lacked the social skills to work in a group. I'm not talking about being the life of the party either--I mean being able to realize when they'd crossed a social line, or were making someone else uncomfortable or overstepping bounds.

I also noticed a lot of frustration; there are a lot of little things that you learn in school (or can also learn in homeschooling groups/activities), like how to focus in a busy environment or work withing a set of boundaries, that seemed to be lacking. Which was frustrating to them, and everyone else.

Frankly, education in this country sucks. I say this as someone who went to public school. We don't need to lessen academic requirements and structures, we need to make them tougher. If I had kids, I think I'd seriously consider homeschooling with a more classical based education. Of course, I'd have to get one myself first, so that might be an issue.

Anonymous said...

Radical unschooling and Unschooling are two different things entirely. The GMA piece features Radical Unschoolers and gives a pretty accurate picture of a radically unschooled home where the kids have no rules and watch TV and play video games all day.

On the other hand, unschooling allows kids to learn in a way that works best for them. I have been unschooling my 13 year old son for the last 4 years and find that this method of education allows my son to further his knowledge over what he may gain in a school setting. He is able to learn what he wants when he wants in the way that he wants. He reads books of his choosing and writes novels on topics that interest him rather than having a teacher decide for him. The freedom furthers the passion. In the interest of having my son obtain important life skills, I teach him math and science and expose him to other subjects he may not choose on his own. Many unschoolers operate in this same way and really are trying to do what is best to prepare their kids.

Unfortunately, radical unschoolers give unschoolers a bad name. I have come in contact with many radical unschooling families over the years and it can best be summed up as lazy parenting. The kids do play all day...and are woefully behind academically. The kids just seem so lost and I wonder what they wil make of themselves down the road. A favorite quote of radical unschoolers is that their children will choose to learn something on their own when they feel the need, but unfortunately, the draw of playing video games or the thrill of hitting each other with homemade swords typically wins out. Radical unschoolers are fiercely protective of the ability to raise their children in this so-called free way so I suspect I will get blasted for these comments.

Krista said...

I am so, so grateful for your input here, Glenda! Thank you so much!

This subject is easily researched online and there are countless, wonderful advocates of unschooling out there, as Glenda mentioned, Sandra Dodd, Dayna Martin, but also John Holt. This is not a concept that can be put in a nutshell or easily defined in even an entire blog post, much less a sentence. That's the nature of unschooling, it's not education wrapped and defined in a neat little box like we're all used to. It's like trying to put "life" in a box. It's like trying to have a neat little answer for "what does it mean to be alive?". Unschooling means going beyond seeing education and learning in terms of "goals" and "grades", "outcomes" and "subjects", just as being alive obviously goes far beyond breathing, eating and sleeping.

I did a fun little "ABCs" of unschooling on my blog, if you'd like to see that. Still, since writing it, my understanding of and experiences with unschooling in my family have broadened and deepened beyond what I ever imagined.

http://this-inspired-life.blogspot.com/2009/10/our-unschooling-abcs.html

Lisa Z said...

I unschool my 13-year old son, while 11-year old daughter chooses to be in public school this year (though for next year, due to high levels of frustration with the public school we have found a private school which we hope will be a much better fit). DD11 has homeschooled some, and DS13 has been to public school some. We've been there, done that on all of it.

As a background note, in Minnesota the homeschool requirements are to take a standardized test every year. My kids consistently score above the 95th percentile on these, no matter what we've done for schooling that year.

I don't think of unschooling as "unparenting" as some have said. No way. We don't let our kids rule our house, either, and we definitely teach them how to live in polite society. But I do believe education should be enjoyable, not in a Sesame-Street-entertain-you kind of way, but in a way that the person (child or adult) has an interest in the subject and pursues it at whatever pace works for them. We work hard to expose our kids to many things, but if they don't want to go in-depth about it, that's okay. We read constantly, attend arts events, travel, etc.--much more than many families, less than some.

I consider myself an unschooling adult. Meaning, since I left formal education (Master's Degree), I have taught myself and learned more than in all my years of schooling. This isn't called the "information age" for nothing. My kids have access to all the information I do, and they have learned to use it. It's easy, it's wonderful, but it is deiniftely a commitment.

I keep in mind all the time that I want my kids to have all thier options open. To that end, since they want to attend college, we talk about what that requires and we will, as parents, make sure they learn what they need. But it doesn't have to all be done now, or when their age peers are doing it. There's an ebb and flow to learning, and it's a joy to watch in my unschooling son. Right now he's reading Homer's The Odyssey. I guess I forgot to tell him that's too hard for a 13-year old to read!

rfs said...

For those of you who never having heard of unschooling, received the extremely biased and negative introduction to the topic from ABC News (Good Morning America) this week as a first exposure, you can be forgiven for your initial outrage at what could be perceived as a irresponsible and negligent way of raising kids.
But my patience stops there.
As I would suggest with my own unschooling kids when confronted with a bewildering issue/question, I want you to dig a little deeper within your own self and ask yourself why is the idea of unschooling getting you upset?

Because, as with every other topic/concern/idea in this world, opinions need to be formed based on intelligent investigation, rather than a reactionary response.
Lets follow then for this occasion, the approach any unschooler child would take. Are you ready? Let me take you hand....

Your first lesson, O New Comer, that the unschooling child would demonstrate to you is to approach a new thing with an open mind.

The beginner unschooler would then google the topic (or if he is too young, ask for your help doing this). He would take out books from the library; he would speak to the experts-other unschooling families.
This is known as research.

Find out all you can about the philosophy: this is the act of learning.

We think of it as immersion into the subject matter.
As unschoolers, we are unafraid of spending months, even years on one particular subject area: and this is called developing expertise.
After all, which would you rather:the doctor with loves his job, who is constantly adding to his knowledge and learning new ways to be a better doctor, or the doctor who is not really into doctoring, would prefer to be a playwright and spends most of his time dreaming up scripts?
Questioning, seeking understanding is what the unschooler is raised to do; all of which is natural to humans but gets booted out of people after years of being made to conform.

Are you still with me? Now that you have a better comprehension of the topic, you are now in the position to make an intelligent comment, O Newly Initiated.
From this beginning, a whole new world will begin to unfold. You might learn the history of education in our western culture and that institutionalized public education has only been around for 150 years; you might learn about the Greeks who preferred to learn in groups of 5 or 6 out in the world rather than in a classroom, you might learn about other sorts of educational strategies and opportunities such as apprenticeships, mentors and self education.
You might from there, become interested in history (and this is called following your interest) which might lead you to learn about slavery and how once upon a time, slavery was considered the norm.

Or by following this interest you might discover another passion; the history of women and their contributions and following that you might learn about a scientific method that intrigues you and that you can apply in your work.

When you get to the root of the word, etymologically the word education contains educare (Latin) "bring up", which is related to educere "bring out", "bring forth what is within", "bring out potential" and ducere, "to lead." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education).

You might actually discover that learning is a natural thing; and what is education if not a journey of self discovery; the bringing forth of that which is already there?

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Hey Greenpa, I went to Oberlin too and really enjoyed getting to choose ALL my classes!

We are leaning toward unschooling our oldest daughter but just for the first couple of years. Our public schools are notoriously bad and the private schools, although generally more progressive, are too expensive and too homogenous. Plus, we feel that the current emphasis on math and science in the schools is often at the expense of art and music and physical education. Our daughter has a strong interest in these areas and I feel that she should have a couple of more years to explore the woods, bang around on our piano, and finger paint. She'll do fine entering a formal education environment later on.

Alicia said...

I use some unschooling with a few of the basics thrown in (reading, math). My oldest son (now 16) struggled mightily in school through the 3rd grade. He is typically a very cool headed personality, but his level of stress at not being able to read or keep up in math increased to the point where he began having serious behavior issues. I pulled him and started focusing on his particular talents without forcing him to perform at a certain pace. He blossomed and is now working very successfully as an apprentice with a local electronics repair company. He thrives there!

Sarah said...

I've taught for 8 years in public school and 3 in private schools. I think unschooling sounds amazing. I don't think there is only one way to educate a child, and it is a parents decision to make. Just because it's not mainstream doesn't mean we should be afraid of it.

Jennifer said...

Glenda pretty much covered all the links and resources I would have left here and summed up what I think actually. But I'll add that we're an unschooling family and it works for us - the hardest thing is the schedule. Now my son attends a Free School, that's focused on unschooling because of schedule conflicts (I'm a FT writer and single mama). But since unschooling is a way of life, more so then an educational path, it's still working for us.

It took me years to like math when I was a kid (because of teachers calling me stupid at math - forcing it, etc) but my son has always loved numbers and because he's been free to explore math without the pressure, I think he's loved it from the start. He actually asked for math books this year for his birthday (really) and then picked out ones well above his 'age' level because he said they looked "Hard and fun."

Like Glenda above, it's not my job to get other people to unschool/free school but basically we made the decision for a number of reasons...

*More physical activity and outdoor time then public schools can allow.
*No shaming into learning.
*No rewards for learning then forgetting topics in a flash.
*Time to focus on pet topics for longer periods of time.
*My son should get personalized attention along with learning activities, not be crunched into a group of kids all learning the same thing at once.
*I'm not interested in my son always hanging out with same age groups and being compared to them. He's an individual.
*Kids are smarter then many people assume. My son, and most likely other kids, will ask to learn about varied topics without constant urging from adults.

It's hard for people to wrap their brain around, but unschooling actually does work - if you're a hands on parent with interests of your own (kids have to see learning in progress). Like any choice there are downsides, but having seen my son learn on his own with help from the adults and other kids he's around has shown me that it works for us.

surban said...

I know a parent who unschools. Her child is 10 years old and cannot read. When I questioned her about it, she said that he will learn to read when he decides to, that he just hasn't shown an interest in it yet.

This particular parent lets her child watch tv and play on the computer all day. They occasionally go on field trips, but her philosophy is that she will only teach her child something when he asks her to. She is not exposing him to situations that will spark interests. They just stay at home most of the time.

I admit that my disdain for unschooling alone comes from this parent. I'm sure it can be done better and that some kids who have very dedicated parents might benefit from this style.

My question is, why not do both? Why not either send your child off to school or do home schooling and also incorporate the best parts of unschooling? My daughter is almost 14 and is in public school. She gets good grades and likes school. When she shows a real interest in something that they learned about in school, we talk more about that topic and learn more about it on our own. We go to gardens, parks, museums, political rallies, plays, operas, concerts, street fairs and cultural events on our own time and she has learned so much from experiencing these things. I have kept her home from school on occasion when I think that what we could do on a given day is more productive than what she would be doing at school. I took her out of school to see the President speak in our city and to attend an immigration rally. I told her teachers why she was missing school on those days and they were perfectly fine with it.

As parents, it is our job to teach our children. Public and private school teachers sure help out and do the majority of the teaching for many kids, but in the end, they are our children and we need to supplement what they learn in school to the best of our ability.

It would be wonderful if all parents supplemented their child's formal education with the tenets of unschooling. If they did so, their children could live richer lives.

Liz said...

I take a middle-of-the road approach. I think homeschooling is a great option for many families. As a child I was homeschooled on and off for about six years. I think you can incorporate unschooling aspects into homeschool. For instance, I plan on loosely homeschooling or unschooling my son for the first few years of elementary school, and then gradually I will introduce more formal education. I think kids need more transition time as they go into a formal education setting. Too many lose their innate love of learning otherwise.

Krista said...

While I see the value in your comment, Alicia, and appreciate your sharing, I am concerned when I read phrases like

"I use some unschooling with a few of the basics thrown in (reading, math)."

because this sounds to me like you're saying if you are unschooling, you do not learn math or reading and you have to "throw it in" as well.

Unschooling encompasses ALL learning, not to the exclusion of "the basics". Unschoolers are more than free to use any curriculum or resource, use any method to learn that works for them, whether it's structured formal work or learning math through building a chicken coop. The point is, it's all learning the way it works for each individual. There are no rules that say "we are unschoolers so we are not allowed to use curriculum!". Ack. There are just so many misunderstandings of the term unschooling, it's scary.

Greenpa said...

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

"Hey Greenpa, I went to Oberlin too and really enjoyed getting to choose ALL my classes!"

:-)

I'm not surprised! The problem of course is that you're reporting subjective data from inside (as am I)- and unless you can wind the clock back, so you're 18 again, do it all over, and then compare, at age 50... one can never know which you truly would have preferred!

As I'm sure you know.

This is kind of the crux of the discussion, and a large part of why it is hard to resolve- anecdotes are wonderful, and true- but not helpful in the larger picture. Humans are so wildly variable, as are their parents, etc.

Another aspect of life, I think, where parents have to choose, kid by kid. And not be afraid to change directions in the middle, if doubts grow.

ALL indications from recent research are that major changes (like needing 4 languages instead of 1) strongly tend to make kids smarter, all around.

Maybe we need a new movement! "Everything Education!" All kids required to be taught, in random sequence, according to all theories...

:-)

Anonymous said...

I have 3 kids in public school and I'm homeschooling 1 daughter (11) for the first time this year.

We have a pretty laid-back approach to schooling - about an hour or so a day of structured work (mostly math and Rosetta Stone french for homeschoolers) - and the rest of the day, Georgia reads, writes, plays with the animals, gardens, etc.
We do some history (reading aloud and marking dates on our homemade timeline) and science (mostly related to gardening, environmentalism and weather) - but probably not daily.

This is my concern about radical unschooling - there have been a number of times that I've had to push Georgia to keep going with something she finds "too hard" or "too boring" (mostly in math). We've worked through it, kept going, plodded along - and then she's "gotten it" and said something like, "Wow, this is actually kind of fun, now that I understand it." And then she's continued it on her own, with no nagging from me at all.

I think if I left her entirely up to her own devices, she would read and write all day, and do nothing else. While these are certainly valuable pursuits, I think it is good to work through something hard and feel the competence that comes with mastering it.

Sometimes, I push my kids (a little) to try something new (asparagus, goat cheese, bike riding without training wheels) - and lo and behold - they find they love it! I've found this to be true of schooling as well - but don't get me wrong - there's a lot about unschooling that I do love, and I'd take it any day over those homeschool programs that have kids doing daily work in reading, writing, spelling, geography, grammar, history, science, latin, logic, religion, handwriting, punctuation, diagramming sentences . . . oh my.

Interesting discussion.

Kate (in NY)

Alicia said...

Hi Krista,

I see your point and really should have phrased it differently. I agree that unschooling does encompass ALL learning.

What I meant to convey is that I choose some of my own specific reading and math studies for them. So they are not free to use any curriculum/resource/method to learn that works for them in those situations.

I think more than constant misunderstandings of the term unschooling, it may be that many folks have their own definitions. I'm sure that's probably the reason for other unschoolers who make it clear in personal discussions that I couldn't be a "true unschooler" because I choose some of my children's materials for them. Thus the explanation I gave in the first place . . .

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-Unschooling isn't for everyone, but I do encourage people to take an honest look at it.-=-

I would love for them to either take an honest look at it (or ANY look at it; there's so much ignorant noise this week!), or just be quiet.

Unschoolers know all about school and schooling and school at home, AND unschooling. Unschoolers are the only ones who have the knowledge to discuss it rationally.

There is a yahoo group where you can ask questions of older unschooled kids, teens and adults. There are also notes on my site at http://sandradodd.com/teen (accounts from several families over the years).

-=-Truth is unschooled children often choose jobs either manual or "atypical" (by this I mean, not demanding too much school skills, more talent, like art for example).-=-

"Truth is"? Based on what knowledge? That same paragraph started off "My opinion is as though unschooling seems very open-minded and full of possibilities for the child..." (Not written very clearly, and not indicating knowledge of the topic.) "Truth is" should be reserved for a knowledgeable statement of truth.

I'm happily amused by rfs's post explaining how unschooled kids would learn about something they were bewildered about. My kids have done that for years--done their own research and asked around. I was never their only source of information.

As to late reading, there are stories here of all kinds of natural learning to read, sometimes "early" and sometimes "late" but without tears and "failing grades" and shame.
http://sandradodd.com/reading

Rue said...

GMA did a follow up to their initial (biased) segment. You can see it here:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/parents-defend-radical-unschooling-instilling-proper-values/story?id=10422823

Leigh said...

Hi. I found your blog by following links. I homeschooled my two, after a brief stint in both private Christian and public school. There weren't a lot of resources then, so I hadn't heard of unschooling and simply tried to recreate a classroom. Well, it didn't take me long to figure out that a classroom setting isn't conducive to learning!

What I did finally figure out, was that motivation was the key to learning. Elijah Company used to have a saying (I guess they still do), that teaching isn't the filling of a bucket, rather it is the lighting of a fire. I realized that when my kids were motivated, I didn't have to "teach," they devoured everything they could get their hands on! It didn't take me long to figure out that checking boxes to make sure they'd "learned" the facts and figures wasn't so important as their learning how to find and utilize resources as they needed them.

The older they got, the more responsibility I expected them to take for their own schoolwork. By the time they were seniors in high school, I handed simply them their books, a list of research projects to hand in, and a test schedule. It was up to them to organize, research, and be prepared. When my daughter was a college freshman, and the others in her classes were clueless about organizing their time and studies, she said, 'piece of cake!'

But that's not unschooling. If I had it to do over, I would start with unschooling at an early age. However, self-discipline is a necessary life skill too, and a good way to teach it is through things like memorizing multiplication tables, etc. When my kids would grumble, I would tell them that not everything in life is "fun," and it is important to be able to be mentally and physically diligent in many areas.

In the end, I agree that to properly analyze unschooling's effectiveness requires results, i.e. adults who were educated in the method. To try to dismiss unschooling because of "failures" doesn't hold water. It's no secret that public education fails many, many children. I think the ones who succeed are natural learners anyway and learn in spite of the system.

Sorry for rambling. Homeschooling was such a great experience for us, and my kids have turned into such great adults, that I love talking about it and encouraging others to try it too.

Idzie said...

To the people who're interested in adult unschoolers, I'd suggest you check out this list of successful unschooling adults: http://eligerzon.com/blog/2009/07/links-to-successful-unschoolers/

Elisabeth said...

Very interesting topic! First, my background: I was homeschooled classically, loved it, don't have children yet, and don't know if/how I will homeschool - I am a firm believer in doing what is right for each individual child.

That being said, I am not entirely anti-unschooling. I agree that there is not one "right" way to teach and/or learn and that there are more enriching and creative ways to learn besides the standard model, including "life experience" learning. I can't get behind child directed learning, though, and from my limited understanding it is integral to the unschooling concept.

I really don't see how a parent could facilitate child directed learning K-12 - there's just too much information I wouldn't be willing to let my child miss out on. Would I have ever pursued math left to my own devices? Absolutely not! I didn't even start to enjoy math until college. Have I ever used calculus or trigonometry in real life? Why, no. Was I pleasantly surprised by how much of the math that I never though I'd use helped me when I decided to start making fine jewelry a few years ago? Yes!

Some children may thrive being unschooled; others I've seen suffer disastrously. I know adults who were unschooled in high school and don't know the most fundamental science or basic algebra (Because it wasn't necessary to know? Because the child didn't want to learn it?)! I also know children who are currently being unschooled whose only interest has ever been video games and, while I'm sure they're excellent game players, they're five grades behind in basic subjects and have absolutely no social skills. (If they go on to be professional gamers, maybe one could call their self-led education successful?) On the other hand, I met public-educated students in college who were unaware that the earth revolves around the sun and of how intercourse works. I believe parents, one way or another, are responsible for their child's education. A six, ten, fifteen -year old can't possibly know what's best well enough to direct their own education.

I do know that I want my children to be well-rounded individuals. And no matter how I choose to educate them, I will be involved. I do think that one of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that it allows a student to pursue their interests and integrate them into their basic education.

Sandra Dodd said...

-=- I can't get behind child directed learning, though, and from my limited understanding it is integral to the unschooling concept. -=-

I can't get behind that phrase either, nor "child-led" nor a child being "in charge of his own education." They're all irritating and keep people who are trying to unschooling from doing it smoothly and well. There are people who patiently point out the problem when an unschooler uses those, at least in some discussion lists and forums.

This might make it clearer (both to those who are afraid of unschooling, and for those wondering why it's not working as well in their family as it could):

http://sandradodd.com/nest Pam Sorooshian has written some really great things about this.

jennee said...

I really have been intrigued by unschooling too. I too did not feel it met my standards of what I want my kids to know. I have found that the Charolette Mason style of homeschooling has worked well for our family. http://simplycharlottemason.com/basics/what-is-the-charlotte-mason-method/
This is my second year of homeschooling, and I love the quick but rich lessons.

~Katherine said...

Before Karl was born I already knew I wanted to homeschool him. People in SC and TN where I had been living often homeschool for religious reasons. I had many reasons for homeschooling which had zero to do with that and everything to do with philosophical reasons connected to my parenting style. I found unschooling information in the parenting forums I visited online and then began an intense study of homeschooling in general and unschooling in particular appealed to how I wanted to parent. As it turns out my child leads a very interesting life, has several friends in different states, plays with great zeal and enjoyment, and is amazingly peaceable compared with his school friends. One friend who had begun homeschooling at 9 because of school bullying was a bully himself, and I am glad that this experience is not an event that I don't know about which Karl is faced with daily, as it would very likely have been had he gone to school. He had the choice of avoiding this painful situation rather than repeating it multiple times over the course of attending many years of school, like I did. That's the same prerogative adults have. If they don't like the behavior of a friend, they can usually find ways to avoid that person. School children don't normally have such choices.

My main parenting philosophy is to provide my child with as much freedom of choice as makes sense in these early years so that he will have the experience of making decisions at a young age in the protected environment we're providing for him at home and elsewhere in the world with us.

The clip is funnily misrepresentative. The mother is one of my FB friends. She's amazing and so are her kids. Kimi their daughter went overseas at 10 years of age by herself, meeting with friends on the other side of one of the (you know) big ponds (Australia, I think). They showed (it was edited out) the water conservation project the kids were doing. I would like to see the unedited film and I feel cheated that Juju Chang tied up the 5 minute clip doing nothing but talking about what the kids are missing out on by being homeschooled. Had Kimi been going to school, she *might* have gotten the chance during summer break to go to Australia. Kimi went there, stayed with people she knew (cheaper and more fun), and learned about the culture first hand from people who have lived there all their lives. Her family has traveled all over the US in their RV while most families (about 90%) are stuck to the school schedule. (Work schedules are more flexible than school schedules, sad but true.) Ms. Chang was kind of silly going on and on about the sports the kids would miss out on, when they have been in martial arts for years, and have played many other sports, uncoerced. Contrast that with me, and I'm far from atypical: I went to school and continue to avoid sports as much as humanly possible due to school damage about involvement in sports. These kids *are* involved in sports, a fact which was edited out of the Juju's clip. Maybe she forgot the info she already had about the family in her mad dash to put into the clip what *she* had to say about how preposterous unschooling is in her opinion, someone who admittedly has only just discovered it and knows little about it.

Here's something. An unschooling friend of mine has a daughter who is doing roller derby. Try getting that sport at just any old school.

~Katherine said...

I'm a wholelife (or if you prefer, radical) unschooler. It IS a radical idea.

Spanking at one time was the norm (like almost 100%) all over the world. Now it's nowhere near 100%. Unschooling and many of it's principles are simply expressions of a changing culture.

One of the great things about wholelife unschooling is that a child is already experiencing life for years, all their lives, rather than first going to school which admittedly puts life on hold many years. School provides a tiny sliver of life, and educational enhancements are things like extracurricular activities. Anyone can learn all of the same things and more outside the confines of school. If not, how would the first school teachers have learned what they need to know in order to be school teachers in the first place? They learned outside of school, and most learned at home. Many were schooled at home and came from professions like governessing, tutoring, etc.

I went to school, graduated from high school and, as typical, when finished, had no idea what else to do with my life. That question "What are you going to do after graduation?" began looming up long before graduation, in middle school. But since school for the most part only presents the answer of still *more* school, other options don't appear to be at all viable. So I went to school again. Then I did it some more. I acquired degrees, and then I continued going to school off and on, well into my 40s.

School, more typically than not, gives such sink or swim results for many children's futures. I didn't realize the opportunities that exist outside of school. I could have apprenticed myself to any number of professions, and had I realized that, I would have because I learn very well from being shown how to do something. Talking, which is what college lectures are all about, don't get across the practical info to me nearly as well. It wasn't wasted though because I have lots of head knowledge or tons of trivia, which I really do enjoy. I never settled into any profession though I held a number of different jobs, here and there, and moved from state to state for a variety of reasons. It's probably the new norm these days, especially with declining employment rates.

Unschooling has been around longer than many forms of homeschooling. It became the homeschool movement in the US in the late 60s when John Holt, a school teacher, dropped the idea of school reform and inspired people to homeschool their children. Funnily enough the movement was a return to what was in place before school even existed on a scale to warrant calling it a "system" and using tax monies to fund and support it. The US is full of greats and entrepreneurs in the history prior to the instigation of the school system, which after not even 100 years had been failing for quite some time. And it's only worse now with funding linked to teaching through test results, where instead of the learning being about the learning material, it's about getting the kids to memorize more stuff so the school can get more funding (or continue getting *any* funding at all, it's that bad in many many school districts).

We can pull up (test) the whole garden lot worth of plants (students) to look at the roots (what's in pupils' heads), and in the process interrupt the flow of and the love of learning for years in a row. Unschooling avoids doing that.

Brad K. said...

Two things I believe to be true.

First, that there is a need to achieve the fundamentals needed for a democratic society, preferably by 8th grade or age 16. English, a certain level of math proficiency to understand budgets and the amount of science needed to understand statistics, limits and capacities, weights and measures, currency and other financial matters. A basic understanding of science to understand growing food, amending soil, maintaining common household and public surfaces and mechanisms. Sociology to understand group dynamics, and fundamentals of American and world cultures, as well as domestic and foreign policy imacts of treaties, laws, and regulations. Civics to understand our relationship to the police officer, the sheriff, the National Guard, the state and national governments, how the government operates and how it is organized. Since our culture and society today is based on what our parents left us, a certain familiarity with the cornerstone social, culutural, and artistic concepts, achievements, and artifacts is necessary.

Second, that the public school system is used, today, to further liberal social agendas. Conservatives tend to think local schools should be under local control, and abstain from misusing them.

Liberals, on the other hand, think in terms of imposing their idealogy on others. Using public schools to deliberately institute and support programs of social engineering and value imposition is an unresistable lure, and has been used that way for many decades. Whether the topic be integration, "We love Obama" songs, ecology, condemnation of (parent) smokers, or "guns are evil" programs - the Department of Education, at the national level, abuses the trust of educating our children in a wholesome way on a regular and ongoing basis.

(For those opposed to gun ownership - first, look to South Africa today - confiscation of civilian firearms is part of a systematic oppression effort. Next, look at the most recent FBI report, detailing where every state and city that has implemented concealed carry programs in the last decade - saw incidents of crime reduced.)

Lastly, there is one concern I have - I think the national teachers union tends to serve itself, regardless of detriment to the health of the community and state. Today Oklahoma is searching for places to stretch a reduced number of dollars available. The teachers union is floating an initiative to require full funding of school-employed teacher union members. Because they are union members. My own feeling is that when times are tight, the people of Kay County and the state of Oklahoma should make there own judgment about how to use scarce resources, not a national level union or even federal bureaucracy. It is the people of Kay Country and the state of Oklahoma that will live with the consequences - not the national headquarters of the teachers union.

I looked at the Sandra Dodd web site - a mere glance. One premise strikes a chord - ""Teaching" is just presentation of material. It doesn't create learning. "

That is a tough one. Because one of the toughest parts of teaching is discipline in the classroom (discipline - the will to complete a task). I imagine discipline is as tough for parents to master, keeping the children engaged, as it is for teachers. And I do mean meaningfully engaged, not just docile and in their seats.

@ Robj98168,

I understand there is some criticism of the taxes on cigarettes now, from the conservative side of the aisle. It seems that high taxes tend to create a market for smuggled, untaxed cigarettes, for theft of cigarettes, and generally growth in organized crime and related violence. No wonder the taxes keep going up. The mafia pays more for politicians. It isn't like smokers could order tobacco seed from, say, SeedMan.com. Oh, wait . . you can. Also Amazon.com.

Sandra Dodd said...

Brad, are you suggesting that kids in public schools (or private) learn all this by 8th grade or 16? Can you not remember public school? Have you taught public school?

-=-First, that there is a need to achieve the fundamentals needed for a democratic society, preferably by 8th grade or age 16. English, a certain level of math proficiency to understand budgets and the amount of science needed to understand statistics, limits and capacities, weights and measures, currency and other financial matters. A basic understanding of science to understand growing food, amending soil, maintaining common household and public surfaces and mechanisms. Sociology to understand group dynamics, and fundamentals of American and world cultures, as well as domestic and foreign policy imacts of treaties, laws, and regulations. Civics to understand our relationship to the police officer, the sheriff, the National Guard, the state and national governments, how the government operates and how it is organized. Since our culture and society today is based on what our parents left us, a certain familiarity with the cornerstone social, culutural, and artistic concepts, achievements, and artifacts is necessary.-=-

My kids know a lot of that, and a great deal more. It's not all being taught in schools, though. IF there were a school teaching all that, what percentage of the kids would really understand it well enough to remember it as adults?

Brad K. said...

@ Sandra Dodd,

Yes, I actually think that the initial premise of public education got it closer to right the first time - that we shouldn't assume that every child gets to attend more than eighth grade, or to age 16, and that every adult citizen must have as much of that as background, to participate meaningfully in political discourse and voting. It is my conviction that it is the parent's responsibility, with the community, to provide further education where warranted and needed.

Jay Leno and other "man in the street" interviewers, and ACORN in the last election, have made your point agonizingly clear - schools aren't doing the job required of them. Not all.

Some schools do well, in some communities. Some teachers are amazing - but the teachers union isn't set up to support amazing teachers, and school administrations are usually more focused on federal programs, initiatives, and guidelines, than on which teachers are amazing - and why the rest aren't (remember, the teachers union "protects" against evil administrators).

I confess that I didn't follow very far in your "unschooling" site. The impression I got was what you call unschooling, I would call homeschooling without a formal curricula or agendas. That you manage material and guide the learning in a way that is useful and meaningful to your children.

If I have a doubt about what you are doing, it is assuming that all parents are capable of observing and engaging with their children, that all parents are capable of mastering the process of guiding and supporting their children's learning. I know that you don't promote your approach, you don't recommend it to others. But by making that choice for yourself you present an icon, an example of change, and an accusation against the federally motivated public schools.

I accept that your approach and practice is meaningful and fruitful, for you. I applaud you and home schoolers as well, for reducing the exposure of your children to federal dictates and programming.

As I understand it, all a local school board needs to do to implement your strategy across their school system, is to approve a budget that uses no federal money, and thus needs adhere to no federal perversions of community needs.

Like many two-income families could increase income by keeping one of them at home, I suspect many school systems would gain, monetarily, from rejecting federal money as well as federal rules and impositions.

No, Sandra, I mean no criticism of you at all. As for the public schools, I think any of them could be improved - and most should start with kicking the feds out. And maybe kick the teachers union out, too. A national teachers union would seem to be a conflict of interest, once the local school board reasserts local control. I mean, I don't know a lot of homeschoolers (or unschoolers), but none that I know seems to need a union.

Anonymous said...

radiofreeschool.blogspot.com is doing a series on grown unschoolers: those who continued unschooling (that is bypassing higher education and those who ended up going into institutions of higher ed. Check it out. It's a great blog.

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-I know that you don't promote your approach, you don't recommend it to others. But by making that choice for yourself you present an icon, an example of change, and an accusation against the federally motivated public schools.
-=-

What's my option? To keep my kids in school rather than make some kind of living "accusation"? I care more about my own children's health and happiness than I care about politics.

MANY young teachers go into the schools filled with hopeful idealism and enthusiasm. I did. Only those who can bear drudgery and negativity stay until retirement. Often they go cold about the whole thing. No enthusiasm except for their retirement. I could name names, but let's not; likely every reader here knows or had some teachers like that. Going through the motions, tired of really trying.

-= The impression I got was what you call unschooling, I would call homeschooling without a formal curricula or agendas.-=-

It's a bit more than that, but you're basically correct. I do have "an agenda," but it's helping them learn as much as they can about everything they see, hear or experience, and finding more opportunities for experiences. It's creating an enriched environment in which learning can't help but happen.

Not everyone can do it. That's a point I make regularly. The parents have to change.
SandraDodd.com/deschooling Not my idea; known before I ever came to homeschooling, 18 years ago.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Thanks for the awesome comments everyone. This is a great discussion.

I'm happy to report that, little did I know, I do a lot of informal (is there formal?) unschooling in our spare time. Whenever my kids have an interest in anything (space, Egypt, Persia, sea critters, mining, dinosaurs et al) we take an unschooling approach in that I follow their lead - we go to the library, search online, do games and puzzles and I basically let them knock themselves out on the subject until they are fully sick of it. I suspect that many parents with kids in traditional schools do the same. So, the concept isn't all that foreign.

I still want to go back to my main question. As a lover of science and critical thinking based on a heavy foundation of scientific knowledge, how many unschoolers choose the hard sciences? I don't hear many parents saying their unschooled children are spending their free-time studying differential equations (partial or otherwise). There's arithmetic and then there's "math".

I looked at the list of successful unschoolers and didn't see too many physicists or PhD Economists, engineers, microbiologists or even lawyers, for that matter. I'm not saying that everyone has to be what's considered a "professional", but my concern is that the math and science education in this country already sucks big time - these are subjects that are known to be difficult.

And, no, these subjects don't *need* to be dry, but ask any student of organic chemistry or physical chemsitry how much "fun" they are having at the University level courses and I'll guarantee they'll admit it's a ball buster.

Some kids will enjoy the challenge, but the rest of us, well, sometimes you have to be forced to do something you don't like at the time, but provides a grander goal at the end. So, if it's difficult for someone with more traditional math and advanced science training to handle, how does that set up the student who doesn't have this foundation?

Sara said...

Does traditional school ensure success in life? Can school not mess kids up? How can you know? How can someone write about unschooling when they have no experience with it?

Crunchy Chicken said...

Sara - No, traditional schooling doesn't guarantee a well-adjusted, successful or, for that matter, educated individual. So, I agree with you there.

I do find it a little disconcerting that several people are using the argument that you can't write about unschooling if you have no experience with it.

How else do you expect people to learn about it without discussing it, stating opinions, asking questions and the like?

The same exclusionary argument could be said for any topic, really. The end result is that it just shuts down discussion.

Anonymous said...

I too am bothered by the idea that if you aren't an unschooler you can't speak about it. I guess because I am not addicted to crack I can't have an opinion on that? Do I need to become addicted just to be able to form one? Bizarre rationale is what it is.

Krista said...

"I do find it a little disconcerting that several people are using the argument that you can't write about unschooling if you have no experience with it."

I can't see where anyone said "you can't write about unschooling unless you've done it." Forgive me if I've missed that somewhere.

Part of my primary understanding of unschooling (which is just another word for *living and learning* to me) is that anyone can and *should* write about anything (asking questions and gathering information) in order to learn as much as they can about a subject.

I think what Sandra is saying, at least, is that people that haven't unschooled *can't* possibly write about it from an experienced perspective, or judge whether it is the "right" or "wrong" way to live and educate children. Naturally.

But yet, as we all so often hear, many people *do* write about it from an *experienced* or at least a very opinionated/judgmental perspective even though they haven't done it (same goes for home birthing, not vaccinating, vegetarianism, or any other debatable topic).

I'm disappointed that your post, which began as what seemed to me to be a curiosity about unschooling, has brought out the "opinion monsters" in the comments, as usual. Someone's always got to be "right" and someone's always got to be "wrong".

Everyone's afraid of something they know very little about, or something that's different from how they do things, and instead of connecting with that fear and maybe doing some self-reflection around what it's all about, they come out with judgments about the other person, "those are lazy parents", "that isn't right", "those kids are never going to be successful....", "look at those parents, neglecting their duties....". All judgments.

I like the idea that if one really wants to know about something, and is truly and authentically curious (not just looking for faults or wanting to condemn), then drop that guard, drop the judgments, and take an honest, concerted effort to find out all about it. Then, hey, if it doesn't resonate with you, if it's something that doesn't achieve what you value, then don't do it.

But please try to *trust* that this strategy of unschooling (again, I hate this word because there is no ONE real definition) really does meet many needs for many people.

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-- No, traditional schooling doesn't guarantee a well-adjusted, successful or, for that matter, educated individual.-=-

Not only that, schools know right now that they will fail some percentage of children who aren't even born yet, because that's what they do. They line the kids up, give a few A's, give quite a few more B's and C's, and let the others grovel and sacrifice to get a D instead of a F. And some get the F's.

No matter how hard all the kids in a class work, they can't all get A's. Teachers who have tried to give all A's and B's are told to stick to the skewed bell curve.

A friend of mine was working in a private prep school, though, and was told the parents pay big bucks for their kids to get A's and B's so she needed to give nothing lower than a B. Those kids go out to compete with kids who were on the skewed bell curve.

That argument has gone on for years, and will go on for years.

Meanwhile, no unschooling child can "fail" to learn because once the parents can make it flow, there's learning all the time. They won't learn the same thing kids in school learn, but the kids in school don't all learn the same things, either, not even kids in the same school and not even kids in the same class.

Schools create failures.
Unschooling does not create failures.

Amber said...

I am sending my own kids to public school. However, I know several unschooling families, but no radical unschooling families. I don't think that radical unschooling is really all that common.

In the families that I know, 'unschooling' means that they mostly follow their children's interests. However, their kids are still enrolled in a homeschool program that meets local educational requirements. So, it's more like allowing the child to choose their learning environment instead of just never covering off math. And in a homeschooling environment, kids get lots of one-on-one time so even if they're not spending the same number of hours 'learning', they may be covering more material.

Homeschooling isn't for me, for a number of reasons, but I think that unschooling can really work. At least, as I've observed it, it can.

Aydan said...

I'm a junior in college. While my high school experience, at a large, overcrowded, underfunded public school, was in many ways rewarding, I sometimes wish I had unschooled for part or all of high school. One frustrating thing about high school and college is that it didn't and doesn't leave me enough time to pursue my own interests; of course, as far as I am able, within the confines of the system I study what I am interested in, but sometimes I have to study things that aren't very interesting in order to get my degree. Which is fair, but I wish I had more time to study things of my choosing... off the top of my head, I can think of about five literature classics I'd like to read, a certain sociological project I'd like to pursue, and a language (or two) that I'd like to learn. I don't have the time, partially because I am satisfying someone else's expectations of what my education should be.

I know that I am very self-directed, so unschooling would have been a good fit for me. I had the desire and the motivation, and I wish I could have had the freedom to pursue what I really wanted to study.

Crunchy, I do know a couple of homeschooled/unschooled kids who are very into math and science, at the high levels they mention. That is, they are homeschooled, but as far as I can tell this intense interest in math and hard science is of their own volition and self-directed.

rfs said...

Hi there, here is an inspiring story about an unschooled math whiz who became a professor at MIT at age 19.
Listen to the interview here:

http://radiofreeschool.blogspot.com/search?q=go+figure&updated-max=2006-12-13T11%3A13%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=20

FernWise said...

Holy cow! There are already 55 comments!

I know a lot of young adults who were unschooled. They are doing as well as any other young adults I know.

HOWEVER - while unschooling, as I've seen it, is child-let, it hasn't been 'let the kid do whatever they want and only that'.

One young woman who wanted to learn about horses REALLY learned about horses - which included learning everything about biology, some chemistry, psychology (how to train them), economics of raising horses, history of the use of horses, etc.

One young man wanted to become a hockey player. Thus had to learn biology, phsiology, how to handle money, coaching, physics, etc. Now. towards the end of high school I know that he was only practicing his skills, but back in the day when he was young he was doing worksheets like any other kid. I got lucky in keeping up with his family - they started off living near me, then moved out to the country and ended up hanging out with a homeschooling friend I had out there.

That said, I did NOT unschool. Or, maybe we did. At the time the Spawn was in high school he wanted to become an electrical engineer, so we contacted on of the top 5 engineering schools and asked what they'd expect him to have taken in high school. He chose the direction. But I administered tests.

Glenda said...

===As a lover of science and critical thinking based on a heavy foundation of scientific knowledge, how many unschoolers choose the hard sciences?===

You'd have to find a good way to gather that data, Crunchy.

Really, though, why does it matter how many choose it? If it's something one of your kids wanted to pursue, does it matter how many other kids had pursued it before them?


===I looked at the list of successful unschoolers and didn't see too many physicists or PhD Economists, engineers, microbiologists or even lawyers,
for that matter.===

I haven't looked at that list. I think it's ridiculous for such a list to even exist.

How many unschooled kids will go on or have gone on to become physicists or PhD economists or engineers or microbiologists or lawyers or doctors? However many who are interested in having those careers and can afford the formal education required for those degrees.

===my concern is that the math and science education in this country already sucks big time - these are subjects that are known to be difficult.===

Interestingly, my concern is how many kids graduate high school who cannot spell and who proclaim that they hate to read (although I've heard the "hate to read" comment from kids as young as elementary-school age).

You're assuming just because something's difficult a kid won't pursue it without being pushed by a teacher or parent. That's incorrect.

One of my best friends has a 19yr old always-unschooled child who did "early admission" to college and has been taking college classes ever since -- some pretty darn challenging ones, and he's carrying a 4.0 GPA. He likes the challenge. He's not being pushed by his parents to attend college, he wants to attend.

I've read unschooling lists for a number of years and know there are kids who enjoy math and enjoy science. They may not be learning it in a textbook way, but that doesn't mean they're not learning, and it doesn't mean they can't pursue those fields on up into higher education.

===And, no, these subjects don't *need* to be dry, but ask any student of organic chemistry or physical chemsitry how much "fun" they are having at the University level courses and I'll guarantee they'll admit it's a ball buster.===

Just because it's a ballbuster doesn't mean it's not worth doing in order to achieve a goal.

If my kid was taking those classes, it would be because he wanted to obtain a degree that required them -or- because he enjoyed the classes. Just because a kid has been unschooled doesn't mean they shirk from challenge or never do anything difficult.

Glenda said...

===I think what Sandra is saying, at least, is that people that haven't unschooled *can't* possibly write about it from an experienced perspective.===

I'm not speaking for Sandra, but what Krista said here is how I feel.

It's one thing to say, "It's not something our family is interested in", quite another to say, "It won't work for anyone."

Those of us for whom it does work, know that it works for our families.

History has shown time and time again that the "that won't work" attitude doesn't hold water as long as there are people who are willing to try and who are willing to provide information to those who are interested in trying.

For those who "live green" and who question unschooling, think about how you came around to the idea of living green. Think about how you gathered, and continue to gather, information. Think about how you share that information with others who are new to living green. Think about how you can't make someone else start recycling or being thoughtful about their purchases -- they come to it on their own, with an open mind. Think about all those people who say climate change is not real or that we can't make a difference. Well, that's what you're doing about the topic of unschooling when it's not your lifestyle yet you feel you have the knowledge about it to say it won't work. It works for people who are willing to do what it takes to make it work.

Brad K. said...

@ Sandra Dodd,

Peace, please?

I had and have no intention of accusing you of anything, or contesting anything you say or do. Congratulations on your success.

Anonymous said...

I am a regular reader of this blog, didn't just stop by here because of this topic. I am however, going to post anonymously to protect my special needs child that I am still homeschooling, even though we are legally registered as required by law where I live.
I have 3 adult children who were unschooled, 1 has never had any formal education beyond continuing ed classes at the local art college, the other 2 are excelling at university, respectively in their sophomore and junior years. One of those did distance education in his mid teen years and one entered the public school system, by his choice, at grade 11. All 3 are independent adults living on their own, supporting themselves and currently involved in long term personal relationships.
Unschooling is not unparenting. Some kids who are in public schooling have absent or negligent parents too. No curriculum or program can cover everything, by homeschooling or through the school system. Therefore choices are being made all the time about what is basic or essential for kids to learn and what is the best way for them to do this. I have been homeschooling/unschooling for 18 years and I can tell you that what is considered important or essential changes all the time as do the teaching methods. I also currently have a son who is in grade 12 at a new modern city high school so I can compare homeschooling and regular public school education. Well, socially and academically I would choose homeschooling any day. My son attends school because he needs his grade 12 for what he wants to do next and sitting through school is easier than homeschooling. He has already been accepted to the post secondary institution of his choice.
I hope that all this discussion, here and everywhere just now, about unschooling will make people aware that there are options and choices around education and learning for children and if your child is unhappy or not thriving then you can try something different. Homeschooling or unschooling too can be a choice that works well for some families and children.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Glenda - I'm interested because I'm wondering if any of those kids who were unschooled were prevented from going into the hard sciences because they didn't have advanced math and science foisted on them. That's all. I do believe that unschooling would work in the right environment, but it seems like the vast majority are pursuing non-professional careers.

As for "the lists" I was referring to the ones recommended by previous commenters here.

It's difficult to discern some opinions in this discussion because there are such huge philosophical differences between homeschoolers vs. unschoolers vs. radical unschoolers and I think that there's been some cross-communication when one is referring to one thing, but is thinking of an element of another.

I think unschooling would work fantastically for my son, it just wouldn't work for the rest of my family.

Lisa Z said...

@Brad K.--I didn't get the idea that Sandra was battling with you at all. I think she's just stating her case, and it seemed the two of you are in general agreement or at least not arguing...

Great discussion, everyone.

Juliana Crespo said...

I am currently exploring what it means to be a non-native student and instructor in our current educational system. I teach at a university, where I've witnessed some pretty surprising things. The posts are on my blog and titled "I Was Destined To Not Be A Schoolgirl" (Part I and II so far). Here's the link:

http://spiritofdreammountain.blogspot.com

Glenda said...

===I'm interested because I'm wondering if any of those kids who were unschooled were prevented from going into the hard sciences because they didn't have advanced math and science foisted on them.===

So you're concered they wouldn't know it existed if someone didn't present it as a course of study, and if they didn't know it existed then that "prevents" them from going into that field?

Well, I suppose that could be true if I added some "if's" to it: if no one in the child's family or extended family or among family friends or the child's friends has any interest in math or science; and if there's nothing around their house or at extended family's or friends' houses that would prompt an interest in math or science; and if the child never browses through a library or bookstore; and if the child never has access to the internet, tv, or movies; and if the child never wonders "what happens if" or "how does that work" or any of those types of thoughts; and if the child never hears the words "quantum physics", "astrophysics", "MIT" or the names Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein and says "what's that" or "who's that"; and if they never wonder what the speed of light is or how long it takes to get to the moon or what a black hole is; and if they never go to a planetarium and wonder how that telescope works; and if they never look at an aiplane and wonder how something so big stays up in the air; and if they never look at a bridge or skyscraper and wonder how those are designed; and if they never see an artificial limb and wonder how that works; and if and if and if.

Perhaps for some schoolkids, the interest in higher-level maths and sciences only comes after being told "you have to take this class"; others may take the class because the interests already exists. For unschooling kids, the interest comes more naturally, from the "what if's" and "why's" of how a plane stays in the air or what exactly did Albert Einstein do or what kind of math is that that they do in that tv show "Numb3rs" or how does he move the fingers on his artificial hand, etc.

===it seems like the vast majority are pursuing non-professional careers===

What do you define as "professional", Crunchy?

===As for "the lists" I was referring to the ones recommended by previous commenters here.===

That "successful unschoolers" list, right? I realize it was a link someone posted and not a list you came up with. If they'd take "successful" out of the title, I'd be more cool with it. But putting "successful" in there feels as if they're trying to appeal to the nonunschoolers.

Crunchy Chicken said...

"and if and if and if"
Got it. And got it. And got it. It's definitely a different approach, but I got it now.

"What do you define as professional?"
The same thing I thought everyone else does. "The term commonly describes highly educated, mostly salaried workers, who enjoy considerable work autonomy, a comfortable salary, and are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work."

In other words, the standard lawyers, engineers, professors, doctors, scientists, etc.

What do you define as professional?

Juliana Crespo said...

Sandra, your discussion regarding how instructors are forced to grade their students on a scale is so true. I currently teach writing at a university as part of my graduate program (MFA in fiction), and I recently came under attack by a professor for assigning my students too many A's on their poetry portfolios. He wanted me to rank my students and assign them new grades. I was quite bothered by this and told him I would not disrespect my students by doing this. I was ready to lose my job if necessary. These are poetry portfolios, for God's sake, in an introductory creative writing course. I won this small battle, but he is now insisting on going over their most recent fiction exam to assign new grades where necessary. These are students that I've managed to get excited about writing, students I've managed to show how fun writing can be, yet he couldn't care less about this. To him, it's business as usual, and this is what scares me ... this and the way education is becoming so depersonalized. I've decided to write about this on my blog, even though I might get fired :). I've decided that teaching at the university level, based on this and some other things, isn't for me. I'm tired of the politics and the way most instructors I meet on campus are bitter and unhappy with the classroom experience.

Debra said...

I have used a combination of textbooks, mostly for math and science, and unschooling, for English, history, social science, and any other subject my children in which my children show interest. As a home educator for over 21 years, I have participated in this social experiment, and think that the results are amazing. My oldest child, after graduating from my home school, went on to earn a BS in physics. My second child, also a thirteen year participant in our experiment, is in her third year at a local state university and is majoring in English. She earned a 4.0 for three straight semesters. My youngest is in tenth grade, and is reading things like Dante's Inferno, and To Kill a Mockingbird. She is learning about chemistry, and just today we did an experiment in which we heated water in an aluminum can and then put it into cold water to see how it would implode. We do use Saxon for math as I do think that math is something that should be practiced daily, and a traditional text is easier to use in that way. After home educating my children for so long, and seeing such amazing results, not only in academics but also in their social skills, I have no regrets that they do not go to traditional schools until they are in college.

Debra said...

Physics is a hard science, by the way.

knutty knitter said...

Glenda, that is being rather unfair. We very carefully picked education for what seems to be unschooling principles anyhow. I might say that education here is not about any sort of testing until the last three years of high school. And that all teachers are trying their hardest to keep it that way.
It was just that myself and this child were, at that time, incompatable. We needed to find someone to inspire him and that was what we did.

The other child is in Steiner education with a fantastic teacher so although I could teach or homeschool, there is really no need. If the need arose, I would do it.

And I have no objection to the sort of homeschooling you do :)

viv in nz

Brad K. said...

Glenda, Crunchy Chicken,

When answering Crunchy's question about whether unschooling prepares a student for hard science and math efforts later on, please don't forget the peer pressure in many public schools.

Some kids are college-bound by parental decree. When the parents are focused entirely on the "required" curriculum and grades - the child is, too. That is, take the least difficult classes required, so the best grade is more likely. Where students actually have a course of study, later, in mind, they often understand they are outside the "norm" and pick classes for their value as a foundation for later learning - although, usually still chosen for meeting dictated curriculum prerequisites.

Then there are parents that have a heartfelt need to "never take a class again" (my cousin, the cpa/tax attorney). Their children grow up avoiding every class, and especially "difficult" classes, they can. That is the concept they carry from home.

Crunchy, public schools, and often parental pressure as well, impose an artificial avoidance pressure on classes that don't have to do with family occupations.

I imagine that parents that unschool, and many that homeschool, achieve most of a college degree in education (and maybe other subjects) by the time their second or third child meets high school requirements. They have to master research, meeting state requirements, planning material, and much more. They have to maintain an enthusiasm for each topic and lesson, adapt to the student's needs and master each course before/as it is being studied.

Just like in public school, the student isn't likely to go, where the parent/teacher cannot (will not?) go.

Deanna said...

I've tried to at least skim all the comments so I don't think anyone has mentioned this point. There seems to be a common misperception that in order to pursue a degree/profession requiring higher level math and science one must have had years of formal education in those areas before entering college. I have two degrees, one of them in a science-based field, and I can tell you that is absolutely not true. The vast majority of my fellow students in college had retained very little of the math and science they had supposedly learned in high school. And college professors understand that to be the case. It's possible that a student with no formal exposure to those subjects might have to take a remedial or lower level course or two at the beginning but I have seen no evidence that would suggest they cannot catch up very quickly to their more traditionally educated peers. So much of what we spend years *learning* in school can really be learned in a remarkably short time when the need and motivation is there.

I'll bet most of you are familiar with the book, "Cheaper By the Dozen". It's a true story about a very large family. I have also read the book the mother wrote about their family and in it she talks about how she would remove each child from school for a few weeks at one point in their education and teach them everything they would ever need to know about grammar. She felt it was silly to spend years and years on this topic which could easily be taught in a short span of time.

I believe the same to be true of many subjects. Our system of doling out little bits of information every year, endlessly reviewing because it was never truly learned in the first place, is a huge waste of time and effort. In contrast, an unschooled child following their passions and guided by involved parents (I believe that to be key) can easily master even so-called difficult material in a remarkably short period of time when necessary.

My son, whom I quoted toward the beginning of the comment section, worked through most of an algebra textbook, about half of an algegra II text, and perhaps a third of a geometry text during his years of unschooling. That is far less than college-bound students are required to have in school these days and yet he scored very well on the ACT, was awarded academic scholarships and graduated from a university with a very high GPA. While math was not his focus (he's a writer/poet) he had absolutely no trouble with the various math and accounting courses he did take in college. In fact, he did better than most of his fellow-students who had taken math courses every year in junior and senior high. If a math or science based career had been an interest for him, I have absolutely no doubt that he could have pursued such and would have had great success despite his lack of formal math during his home education.

Glenda said...

===Glenda, that is being rather unfair.===

Knutty Knitter, I quoted *your* words. Based on *your* words, no, homeschooling would not be a good choice. If a parent says they are happy to send their kids off to school, then that's what needs to happen. A parent unhappy having a child at home will only create more unhappiness within the household. I "get" that some parents need the time to work or do things around the house when their kids are at school. I don't judge that at all. But when I a parent makes the comments you made and then gets peeved about someone saying, "that's the best choice for your family, then", perhaps that parent needs to be more thoughtful about what they're saying (or typing).

Glenda said...

===[Professional] The term commonly describes highly educated, mostly salaried workers, who enjoy considerable work autonomy, a comfortable salary, and are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work. In other words, the standard lawyers, engineers, professors, doctors, scientists, etc.===

College isn't necessary to be "highly educated" in one's field. The professions you mentioned are quite traditional.

I have family and extended family whose business associates and other professionals within their fields would define as "highly educated" in their field; they don't have college degrees, but they do have years of specialized experience and specialized education within their fields.

My personal experience growing up made me very aware that college is not the only path to success or being a business "professional". For more traditional careers, yes, it's the necessary path right now. For not-so-traditional careers, there are other paths.

Glenda said...

Last night I was reading an article about our state's Dept of Education. This year is the once-a-decade year in which they revise the curriculum standards that will be in place for the next 10 years.

I don't know how many people follow these kind of proceedings in their own states, but the article was very eye-opening for me. Some of the motions (those that have passed and those that did not pass) made by the "professionals" who comprise our state's board are downright frightening.

Crunchy asked those of us who unschool why we do so. This is absolutely one of our reasons -- our son can learn about whatever or whomever piques his interest, without being told "we can't teach that; you'll have to pursue that interest outside of school hours".

Brad K. said...

Glenda,

I think your last comment, about "we can't teach that; you'll have to pursue that interest outside of school hours", is something all parents should keep in mind.

That is, parents are responsible for teaching what their child needs to know. That is the way the law is written. Public schools have their guidelines - but if there is something they leave out, "Oh, well!" Parents are still on the hook.

And that is the way it should be. If you send your kids to public schools, you should be tracking what they learn, and supplementing what you think is appropriate but not included.

Robert A. Heinlein made that point in a science fiction novel from, serialised in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (August, September, October 1958), and printed in hardcover in 1958. This isn't a new concept, if if you didn't read everything Heinlein wrote before Stranger in a Strange Land (when he got really weird, IMO).

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-That is, parents are responsible for teaching what their child needs to know. That is the way the law is written. Public schools have their guidelines - but if there is something they leave out, "Oh, well!" Parents are still on the hook.-=-

WHAT law? Each state is different, and half of them change the laws every few years. For every state with which I'm familiar, I think you're incorrect.

Heinlein isn't binding on anyone in ANY state. (Or if a person is in such a state that he considers Heinlein binding, that's not binding on unschoolers.)

Sandra Dodd said...

In case no one else brought this, there's a new interview with an unschooled adult:

http://radiofreeschool.blogspot.com/2010/04/cameron-lovejoy-is-this-what-i-want-to.html

Olivia said...

Reminds me of the old Bob Dylan line, "You're right from your side, I'm right from mine".

One comment I would like to make is that perhaps home/unschoolers need to be a little more open and tolerant towards those of other opinions. Maybe we all do. There's obviously no one-size-fits-all approach to either education or child rearing and undoubtedly there are successes and failures on both sides but one thing is constant, I believe, and that is that we all need to get along in this world and derogatory comments and/or insistence that one's preferred way is the best or right way is fruitless.

Being from a generation that was generally schooled in the traditional way (i.e. public school) I would also like to echo those who noted that they "had" to study subjects that they might not have chosen were they left to their own devices but found that these subjects were necessary later in life - eg. Latin. Five years of high school Latin came in mighty handy both as a journalist and also when I went on to a Master's degree in Theology.

Although my Undergraduate degree was in English and French, I could never have taught my children to be fluently bilingual as they are now, having been schooled entirely in French but speaking English at home. As a Canadian, fluency in both official languages is essential for many jobs in this country - particularly government jobs - and my two oldest kids would never have been able to work in their chosen fields without this ability. Sure one can learn different languages when one is older but not, I believe, with the same ease and fluency as when one grows up speaking different languages as the young child's brain is the most open to learning language.

That said - every parent must decide what they think is best for their child and live with the consequences.

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-One comment I would like to make is that perhaps home/unschoolers need to be a little more open and tolerant towards those of other opinions. -=-

All week unschoolers have been reviled, laughed at, insulted, called horrible names in national news shows and are being accused of being neglectful parents by people who had never heard of unschooling before Monday.

I think you're blaming the victim.

-=-That said - every parent must decide what they think is best for their child and live with the consequences.-=-

I didn't decide what I thought was best for my children. Each had a choice to go to school or stay home, and the first several years we discussed it every year to see if any of them would like to go to the elementary, within walking distance. Each year, each child decided to stay home again. After a while I stopped asking.

Their decision was easy because I worked every day to make sure their lives were rich and interesting. I did think that was best, in any case--that their lives be full and safe. Their lives were about learning.

Lisa Sharp said...

I am an unschooled adult, here is my story-
I went to public school until 4th grade at which point my parents choose to homeschool my brother and me (we all talked about it before hand!).

At that point I could hardly read, spell or do math. I have learning disabilities but I was in the gifted and talented program and quiet so no one really noticed. I also could memorize to pass a test so my grades were fine, I was even an honor student several times.

Thankfully my parents knew I was having trouble and knew 4th grade was going to be very hard for me.

When we started homeschooling I repeated 3rd grade math using Saxon. Finally math was making sense to me! I needed one on one time and someone to understand I don't learn like everyone else.

I'm also ADD so my mom would let me run laps in the house, play with the dogs, play piano or do art when I started getting antsy so I could sit still again.

At first our schooling was scheduled and we used more normal homeschooling methods but over time it got less formal as that wasn't working best for us.

After awhile my only textbook was Saxon math, mind you to this day that is still my worst subject. haha

Point blank the unschoolers shown on GMA are not like the unschoolers I know. We did school but it was more hands on, honestly it was closer to the gifted and talented program I was in, in public school (the only of part of my public schooling that I remember!).

We raised a tadpole you could see through for science, we went on field trips, I helped my dad build a fence to help me understand basic geometry, every family vacation included museums, all of our life was about learning, not just a few hours five days a week.

We did things for every subject, we just didn't use textbooks. And my brother and I had control over what we did to a large degree.

While I didn't go to college, I did take the ACT so if I ever wanted to I could. I did really well in science, pretty well in English and reading, and well enough in math to not need any remedial math. And my overall score was plenty high to get me in to the college I would have gone to.

I could have done better had I accepted the help you can get as someone with a learning disability but I didn't want to, I wanted to do it on my own.

I also took the Iowa Test (a standardized test the schools in Oklahoma used to use) in 6th grade and was at grade level for somethings and above for most.

My husband is a public school teacher and said the other day that if we ever have kids we would homeschool. That should say something. He went to public school his whole life and his father is a professor of Education and both of his parents have been public school teachers.

Anyway I hope to write a blog about this at some point so I won't put everything in this. But for those who think an unschooled kid can't do well in life, think again. My brother and I prove unschooling can work, and it can work well!

Lisa Sharp said...

About the science question. I enjoyed science and thought about becoming a nurse so I went to the library when I was young and started checking out books on all the elements. I also read my mom's old nursing textbooks.

Also since I liked science when our homeschool group did science labs at the local college I joined them. So I was taught science by college profs. I did well in all of them. Even though I was the only unschooler and hadn't be formally taught science like most of the kids in the class.

I also did really well in science on the ACT.

I was taught by my parents that if I wanted to learn something I should read everything I can on that subject.

So when I wanted to be an architect, I read all about it and my parents got me a drafting table for Christmas and a drafting set.

When I wanted to be a nurse my mom gave me her old textbooks to read and we went to a college I found online that I wanted to go to. We went twice to visit their nursing program. (I was the youngest student there every time!)

When I wanted to do web design, I did it! I taught myself HTML, my parents got me Frontpage and Paint Shop Pro. By 16 I had my first paid client.

Because of unschooling I now know if I want to do something, how to do the research to find out how to do it.

I'm currently an intern for this lady- http://www.rhondaragsdale.com/

I'm currently doing research for her dissertation. She has commented that I have great research skills. Did someone teach me that? NO! I learned to research things because if I wanted to learn something I did.

Now if you ask me something and I don't know the answer I promise you I will know it before the day is over.

Eco Yogini said...

@ Olivia;
I do believe that it would be possible to have bilingual children without sending them to immersion or francophone school (depending on your province).
As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I can state, firmly, that research on paediatric bilingual language development (and I'm referring to Canadian research specifically on French and English), a child is considered bilingual if they have been exposed to two languages prior to 3 years of age.
like you said- not to say that an individual couldn't learn a second language after the fact, but research states that the chances of a child becoming fluently bilingual are pretty slim past school entry.
the window for language development occurs between birth and six years of age. most late bilinguals are actually first language dominant (ie first language English dominant, second language French- no matter how strong their second language skills are).
For example, what language do your children dream in?

In any case, when I see clients who are wanting to teach their children two languages we talk about things that are not school related. For example, finding local French library groups, community meetings, listening to French radio, television, reading French books, attending French festivals, allowing their children to attend a French preschool-daycare.

Children learn another language best from first language speakers and peer first language models. Which may be difficult to achieve depending on where you live, but definitely not school dependent. :)

I agree with you Olivia, there is a lot of anger here. But I also believe that unschooling is something that was poorly portrayed on GMA...

great discussion :)

Cave-Woman said...

Please check Sara Janssen's website "Walk Slowly Live Wildly" if you would like better information about unschooling.

She has a lot of information there---some of which she has written, some of which she has linked.

You may find it inforamative.

Cheers!

MadameMim said...

I think it would depend on the child. I would love to do unschooling...if my little one would cooperate. This would maybe work a little better if your child has been in school for a few years and has started developing interests.

However, if a child is an unmotivated, lazy little thing (not being mean), it could be difficult...

Sandra Dodd said...

I wanted to leave a link to the site Cave Woman mentioned.
http://walkslowlylivewildly.com/2010/04/16/unschooling-a-life-of-freedom/#comments

Madame Mim, it is not possible to refer to someone as "an unmotivated, lazy little thing" without being very, deeply mean.

Being in school a while does NOT help unschooling, http://sandradodd.com/doit

Sandra Dodd said...

Doh. Sorry.
http://sandradodd.com/doit

Deb(bie Debbie Doo) said...

Here's the link to my post of our *un*typical week of unschoolers you asked me to post, Deanna - thanks for chiming in!

http://turtleoak.blogspot.com/2010/04/little-window-into-our-little-own.html

~Katherine said...

"We can pull up (test) the whole garden lot worth of plants (students) to look at the roots (what's in pupils' heads), and in the process interrupt the flow of and the love of learning for years in a row. Unschooling avoids doing that."

I want to give credit where credit's due. I posted my above paraphrase (at the bottom of my comment here: http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/2010/04/unschooling-what-do-you-think.html?showComment=1271873551443#c1764174271506795418).

It refers to an idea written by Pam Sorooshian.

The quote is below as I first read it (from http://sandradodd.com/pam/howto):
"Don't worry about how fast or slow they are learning. Don't test them to see if they are "up to speed." If you nurture them in a supportive environment, your children will grow and learn at their own speed, and you can trust in that process. They are like seeds planted in good earth, watered and fertilized. You don't keep digging up the seeds to see if the roots are growing—that disrupts the natural growing process. Trust your children in the same way you trust seeds to sprout and seedlings to develop into strong and healthy plants."

Many more such great word pictures can be found to explain unschooling in greater detail at Sandra Dodd's website (http://sandradodd.com) and in her book here: http://sandradodd.com/bigbook

Also thanks very much, Deanna Duke, for hosting this provocative discussion on your blog.

Olivia said...

Eco Yogini:

Actually my kids were exposed to French long before they went to school only because there were some French language television shows that they enjoyed (for whatever reasons I do not know) and also because some of their friends' older siblings were already in immersion and talked to the younger kids in French - again, I'm not sure why. Since I do speak French - although not nearly as well as my kids - I also used French with them off and on and read French childrens' books to them. Maybe, then, this had some effect? All I can say is that, comparing them to the kids who were schooled in English - well, there is no comparison. Also, the "early immersion" (grade one) kids are generally far more comfortable speaking French than the late immersion (grade seven) kids. I'm not saying this is a hard and fast rule - just anecdotal observation as, it seems, is most of the "evidence" on this entire discussion. Also - all the kids' teachers' mother tongue was French - there wasn't an English speaker in the lot. Does this make a difference - just asking.

Sandra - maybe YOU didn't make the decision to unschool your kids but you did make the decision to allow your kids to make the decision, didn't you? So - there are still consequences to that, but I'm not implying that there are bad consequences - simply consequences.
I don't know why any of us have to feel guilty or defensive simply because we are trying to do the best for our kids. If homeschooling works for you and your kids then good for you. If putting kids in a school system works for others then good for them. We do live in democratic countries, after all.

Jenny Cyphers said...

The idea that science is something separate from life and difficult to learn, is something that people have picked up from school.

There is science in all of life. Being more creative is good for science. Some of the most creative people in the world are scientists. One of the best artists I know is a person who delves deeply in science and math and engineering.

Why must all these things be separate in life? They didn't used to be. Leonardo DaVinci certainly didn't make huge distinctions between art and science.

My 16 yr old daughter loves hair and make-up. She studies, through observation and trial and error, products used in hair and make-up. She's considering getting a license to cut hair.

Many people would say, she's *just* a hair dresser, but there is science in that.

She loves special effects make-up. Anyone that has EVER worked or been around that can tell you how much science is in that. It's very creative hands on science. How does one create a blood that oozes just right? What kind of lighting works with what effects to trick the eye?

All of that is connected to everything else she knows, which is volumes away from what her schooled peers are doing in their high school classes.

She's very analytical about most things, even socializing. Just the other day we were discussing what an anthropologist would do and what skills would make for a good one. Again, science.

She reminded me yesterday of a speech she attended, given by a professor in biological anthropology, a friend of ours. She was extremely fascinated by what he had to say and still talks about it a year later.

Anyone who looked at my daughter or saw her in passing would make immediate judgments about her because of how she looks. She even had someone call her misguided, a woman with several children waiting for her outside a 7-11 while she went in to buy a carton of cigarettes and a case of beer, while she was there to buy her little sister candy to eat in a movie theater that she was accompanying with.

She's an artist, she's a scientist, she's brilliant at dissecting interpersonal and intrapersonal relations. She doesn't need to take a class to affirm these things, she already IS these things. She can make quick decisions in a grocery store without a calculator, and quicker than me, to tell me which item is the better deal.

She's been unschooled her whole life, she just turned 16. She has a little sister who is 8. This whole day has been about exploring Greek mythology and history, simply because she was interested.

Anonymous said...

Before my first child was born I remember reading something that said children are not born civilized...we must civilize them through our teaching and our example. For instance, a child isn't born knowing how to use a fork and spoon. We must present them with these tools and either demonstrate use, or in some cases provide hand-over-hand teaching to show them what to do.

The thing that bothers me so much about the television piece is the utter lack of presentation/example by the parents. There is a HUGE difference between having a houseful of books, educational materials/tools, etc, to show your kids what is available to learn, and simply letting your children eat what/when they want, watch tv all day, or play video games.

I think that for homeschooling of any type to be successful, parents must present topics or lead by example so the child can generate interest. You don't know what you don't know, and that is especially true for young children. We need to expose them to what they don't know so they can become interested in knowing it.

Sandra Dodd said...

Dear anonymous,

You did know that the original TV clip was a total botch job, right? The parents of the family created a blog to present some of the things ABC/Good Morning America knew and could have presented, but chose not to:

http://livingtheunschoolinglife.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-we-wish-media-shared-about-us.html

Brad K. said...

MadameMim,

From what I gather, it is the parents that make unschooling work. About any child will succeed with attentive, disciplined, and caring parents that encourage and support their children. I think that goes for public, private, homeschooled, and unschooled educations. Parents that choose to homeschool or unschool take on a personal responsibility, that parents relying on public or private education often overlook or reject.

Bob Collier said...

"But, one thing I never could wrap my brain around was the concept of unschooling."

Judging by some of the "anti-unschooling" nonsense I've been reading over the past few days, there are lot of people out there whose brain is not where God intended it to be.

Joanna said...

We are radical unschoolers, and I just wanted to add that when I first heard about unschooling, I thought it was crazy. Why would kids learn anything if they didn't have to?!? Needless to say, I've come a long way after a lot of research on my part into how and why people actually learn--which, by the way, looks nothing like what typically happens in school--which is also why people who have been to school themselves can't believe that children would want to learn anything they didn't have to. See the circle?

Anyway, my 14 yo son has a few loves--one of which is math. He searches out computer games that require a high functional level of math to solve. He's worked out solutions to algabraic problems that are every bit as sophisticated, yet much more practical, than anything I did in high school algebra. He also loves the english language, and has been interested in learning how to break things into their grammatical components. He has a wonderful ear for language, which also makes him a fantastic writer.

I have no doubt that if he chose to enter school, he'd catch up on a few skills that may be behind, and then be light years ahead of most of his peers--because he's not lost his sponge-like mental quality. He's stayed engaged, interested and curious in his life, while his schooled counterparts are figuring out, like I did as a good student, just what the teacher wants so they can get by.

Glenda said...

===If homeschooling works for you and your kids then good for you. If putting kids in a school system works for others then good for them.===

Several unschoolers have made similar comments already. In fact, I said it 90-something comments ago! And a time or two after that.

Unschoolers are not coming in here saying, "school is wrong, school-at-home is wrong". The unschoolers are saying "this is right for our family."

There have been some non-unschoolers who've said variations of "unschooling is wrong" and "unschooling won't work", and then get irritated when unschoolers give examples of how it can and does work for us.

Yet somehow that comes back to unschoolers being defensive and now everyone needs to respect everyone else's choice. That needed to happen waaaaay back up earlier in the comments.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I can appreciate the frustration unschoolers have been dealing with the last week or so on other forums, but bringing that defensiveness to this post doesn't help the discussion here.

If you take issue with specific comments, please address them, but the majority of us here are interested in what you have to say and are fairly open-minded.

But I, for one, am starting to get turned off from the insults and occasional self-righteousness. I hope this isn't representative of the unschooling community.

Joanna said...

-=-But I, for one, am starting to get turned off from the insults and occasional self-righteousness. I hope this isn't representative of the unschooling community.-=-

I think it's representative of the human community!

As an unschooler, I've thought through this whole discussion, that there haven't been enough questions. Too many people, starting with George Stephanapolous and the female interviewer, have stated opinions about a topic that they clearly didn't have any real understanding of.

Unschoolers are saying that it works, but it takes looking at things differently. If someone wants to understand then they have to be willing to look at it differently. It's fine if someone then says, "No, that's not for me." But to just claim that there's no way it could work when there are so many of us having it work so well is a little frustrating.

I appreciate the genuine tone of questioning in your original post, and in the posts of those who really want to understand this thing that is new to them. Seeking out new ways of living is good for all of us--it helps us to see a broader range of possibilities in our lives, and then we can share those with our children.

Eco Yogini said...

@ Olivia, yes I would definitely said it had an impact :) And if you (or anyone else) would like some research articles on the topic of bilingualism and language development, please feel free to email me earthyogini (at) gmail (dot) com, as I have a bit more than anecdotal evidence, and would love to share :)

I agree, French schooling is not a bad thing, it is helpful in learning a (second) language should the home environment be completely devoid of that language. And it sounds like you actually did a lot more than simply send your kids to French school, which is fantastic, and has benefited them.

I just wanted to point out that children do not actually learn a language from school, but from peers, models, cultural importance and community.

Speaking a language and reading and writing are quite different- as many individuals who are perfect language speakers but have difficulty with reading and writing will inform us.

that was my basic distinction :)

Sandra Dodd said...

Again, the unschoolers are being criticized for defending their families and children. What we've done isn't easy. It would be way easier to put the kids in school and copy what the neighbors do.

We're criticized not only by the general public, but by school-at-homers. We get used to criticism. But there IS a cumulative effect. A question that's okay the first five times and irritating the next ten can be infuriating the hundredth time. And when it's put in the form of a strong statement in the probably-to-assuredly range, it seems unfair to complain when those who have been disparaged respond.

-=-I really like the theory behind unschooling, but I don't believe that children would learn everything that I personally think is important to be able to make certain life choices later. In other words, it doesn't provide them with the toolset to do certain things as an adult-=-

Although that is more politely worded than some of the other criticisms flying this week, it's the same thing. It says we're neglecting our children and don't care whether they'll be able to live in the world as an adult.

It's not true. Should be be allowed to detail why we know it can work, or would the polite thing to do be to say "Perhaps you're right" for the sake of peace on a blog page?

Rebecca said...

Anonymous wrote: "I think that for homeschooling of any type to be successful, parents must present topics or lead by example so the child can generate interest. You don't know what you don't know, and that is especially true for young children. We need to expose them to what they don't know so they can become interested in knowing it."

John Holt, the man who first coined the phrased "unschooling" in the 1970's, wrote in one of his books:
"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns.

Therefore, we do not need to “motivate” children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning.

What we need to do, and all we need to do is bring as much of the world as we can into [their lives]; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way.

We can trust them to do the rest."

To me, this sums up exactly what engaged and attentive unschooling parents do. This is not a passive learning approach at all. It's just not coercive or dismissive of the child's preferences.

Rebecca said...

Crunchy Chicken asks:
"For those unschoolers out there, why did you choose unschooling instead of more "traditional" homeschooling?"

Unschooling is an extension of how we parent. We chose to "attachment" parent our child (no cry-it-out), we baby-wore, we extended breast-fed, we co-slept. To attend to our child's learning as we had his other needs seemed like part of a natural progression for us.

From a young age, I could see that my son was intensely curious about the world and that his curiosity would lead him everywhere he needed to go in terms of learning.

We did do some formalized math starting after he turned 8, but it seemed to be dampening his enthusiasm for math rather than fueling it. So, we stopped.

I am a counsellor by trade and have worked in the public school setting as both a counsellor and a teacher. I also have worked in alternative education (which is when I was introduced to unschooling - in the early 1990's). I have seen many kids choose alternate routes to learning and become successful, happy members of society. I have also worked with schooled kids who have... and schooled kids who haven't.

Choosing to homeschool (and then, if it fits with one's parenting approach, unschool) really is a decision that is more about parenting style than it is about any individual child.

In our family, we trust that our child can learn what he needs to when he needs to. He always has. He always will.

Crunchy Chicken also asks:
"The families that GMA covers do radical unschooling which extends their unschooling ideas to their parenting and they have no rules. Is this common?"

There is a difference between rules (which are very black and white, not very flexible) and principles (which are all encompassing and provide opportunities for dialogue). I would say that many "mainstream" parents also use something like principles for raising their children. "Rules" are what "Brick Wall" parents (a Barbara Coloroso term) stick to when they are dealing with their kids. It's the "my way or the highway" approach to parenting and tends to be absolute, resulting in punishment or "consequences" for relatively minor misdemeanors. Other parents have "rules" but really use them as guidelines for their children's behaviour rather than opportunities to be authoritarian or punitive. They may think "natural" or "logical" consequences are a fair way to deal with a child's behaviour, not realizing that those are often punitive in their own right. eg) a child forgets his lunch and goes hungry as a result... a "natural" consequence; or a child leaves his Lego on the floor for a week, so it gets piled in a bag and put on the top shelf in the closet ... a "logical" consequence that takes away something the child cares deeply about.

Radical unschooling takes discipline to a different level with principles. Principles guide the interactions within the family. They help to provide a compass for behaviour... for all family members. But unschooling parents also realize that when a child's behaviour is difficult to live with, it may be because the child is trying to communicate something they can't put into words. Unschooling parents take the time to get to the root of the problem rather than punishing a child or isolating a child through time out. It's a compassionate approach to "discipline" that doesn't mean that "anything goes". It simply means that children are treated respectfully, gently, and with kindness at all times.

I hope that helps to clarify.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Rebecca - Thank you. That was awesome. We, too, do attachment parenting or try to now that they are 6 and 7. As I've stated we (or, rather, I) looked into homeschooling as an extension of that.

I do like some of the concepts of unschooling as it pertains to parenting (and have read Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn, which seems similar in concept) and will try some of the techniques because I don't like the punitive parenting that is so often recommended by the mainstream (and my mother :)

As an aside, one of my readers has written a book on unschooling, Parenting A Free Child: An Unschooled Life, and is sending it to me to check out. I'll be doing a review of it later.

Jenny Cyphers said...

"For those unschoolers out there, why did you choose unschooling instead of more "traditional" homeschooling?"

We didn't like the school we were in district for. Both my husband and I worked part to full time. My daughter was in a nice little preschool next door to an elementary school that had an integrated sign language program. By law, at the time, I could petition my local school to sign a waiver letting us change schools based on established child care.

I sent out the petition to our local school principal. She refused to sign it giving her reason, which was that she had low kindergarten enrollment and couldn't afford to lose students to another district.

My child's education meant nothing to her, all my child was, to her, was a number with a dollar sign attached.

I hadn't even considered homeschooling at that point. I could've gone over her head, instead I said "fine, then nobody gets her! I'll keep her myself". I spent about 2 weeks doing lesson plans and it was so boring and my daughter resisted. It wasn't hard to find an alternative!

I arranged my work to take my daughter with me. We both flourished and learned together. We loved it so much that we never considered putting her in school again until a brief period in the middle school age where she considered it. After peering into windows and hallways of the local middle school, she changed her mind. The walls were bare and boring, there wasn't color anywhere, not even in the art room. She decided that she wouldn't be very happy in such a sterile environment, so we continued on, happily doing what we'd been doing all along!

I never ever thought the idea of unschooling seemed extreme or absurd. I hated school and resented my time there, feeling stuck. I didn't like the hegemony of the whole environment. My dad said something once that stuck with me forever. Some school kids came up with the motto, based on our high school mascot the Crimson Tides, "rise with the tide and go with the flow". That motto irritated me and I said something about it to my dad. He looked at me and said "any old fish will rise with the tide and go with the flow".

That has embodied my thinking forever since!

Rebecca said...

Crunchy Chicken wrote:
"I do like some of the concepts of unschooling as it pertains to parenting (and have read Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn, which seems similar in concept) and will try some of the techniques because I don't like the punitive parenting that is so often recommended by the mainstream (and my mother :)"

Alfie Kohn's great and he's a prime example of someone who uses principles with his kids rather than the whole rules/reward/punishment schtick. He doesn't unschool or even homeschool. His books are great, though, and I like that he's making a difference in terms of how parents and educators are thinking about children.

There are a number of people who come to unschooling because they start off attachment parenting or following ideas like Alfie Kohn's but have trouble bridging the disconnect between how they parent at home and their children's experiences at school. The discrepancies are amplified when children start to resist school or come home with those stories about teachers or bullies or...

There are many people who come to homeschooling later in their children's educational career. It's never too late to change course if it's what is best for your kids and your family.

I'm very grateful we found this way of learning and living as it allows me to be the parent I've always wanted to be.

I'm glad you are getting a copy of Rue Kream's book. I look forward to reading your review!

Christina said...

Someone commented "I really like the theory behind unschooling, but I don't believe that children would learn everything that I personally think is important to be able to make certain life choices later. In other words, it doesn't provide them with the toolset to do certain things as an adult."

Undoubtedly true. Yet also universally true, applied to children experiencing all manifestations of education. No child's upbringing is going to provide them with the perfect knowledge and experience to confront all things and situations as an adult. They'll grow up to make mistakes, to fail.

What I like about unschooling (and I characterize myself as an eclectic homeschooler and not a radical unschooler), is that as a paradigm it helps me to nurture my kids in knowing how to acquire the knowledge and skills they need, when they discover they need them. Sometimes that's in advance, sometimes it's after the fact - just as it is for adults.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Well, as the comments are dying down and before everyone wanders off too far...

I wanted to thank all the unschoolers for commenting and letting us learn a little more about your approach to education. I think it has been eye-opening and I certainly have a greater appreciation for other alternatives out there.

Rue - I received your book today and started reading it. Thanks again!

Glenda said...

Crunchy Chicken, Rue Kream's book and Sandra Dodd's first and second books are my three favorite unschooling books. In fact, back when we were new to unschooling, I bought my parents and my hubby's parents copies of Rue's book and Sandra's first book, so they could better grasp the concept. All three books are very portable, and are written so that it's easy to read a page or two here and a page or two there.

Also, on the Unschooling page on Sandra's site, she has a "randomize me" button, which will pull up a random page on her website. Sandra's been kind enough to use her site as a storage place for useful comments and discussions that occur on unschooling lists and chats, so not only will you find her words on her site, but the words of many other unschooling families. The site is here: http://sandradodd.com/unschooling -- the "randomize me" button is towards the top on the left side of the page.

===But I, for one, am starting to get turned off from the insults and occasional self-righteousness. I hope this isn't representative of the unschooling community.===

There are many different personalities and voices in the unschooling community, just as there are in all communities. Insults and self-righteousness exist in all communities, not just unschooling.

When I was first learning about homeschooling years ago, in just one conversation with a local homeschooler, she managed to insult non-Christians, unschoolers, and women who work outside the home, without stopping to ask if I was Christian, if I was interested in unschooling, or if I worked outside the home -- I opted to look for other resources about homeschooling after that conversation. I kept looking around for info until I found a personality and voice I liked, and then from there I found other similar voices and personalities.

That was over a decade ago, and, I'll tell ya, there is so much more information available now, and easily available at that. You live in an area of the States in which you have access to quite a few radical unschoolers; if you wanted to talk with someone in person (always better than getting info online, in my opinion), you could absolutely find some gems in your neck of the woods.

Bob Collier said...

However many "unschoolers" there are in the world (100,000?), I suspect there are many times that number of adults who would say that schools do not teach (and sometimes will not teach) many things that are vital to a successful adulthood while at the same time they teach things that turn out to be useless or even detrimental.

This may not change the mind of anybody who believes that "unschooling" means allowing children to laze around all day doing worthless stuff that doesn't prepare them for the "real world", but, for me at least, it makes the holding up of "schooling" as the form of education against which everything else should be expected to measure up seem just a little bit ... hmm ... maybe people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

As Judy Breck (handschooling.com) says, "Findability in the global commons is the new core of education". In other words, education is moving onto the internet and we all have access to the internet do we not? It has already become obvious to me - incidentally, the father of a now grown up always schooled daughter who can put LLB(Hons) after her name should she choose to do so (and a number of other letters) - that a school (or homeschool) curriculum is merely a preordained selection of what there is available to be known and that a preordained selection is not what's needed in our rapidly transforming society. Especially since any preordained selection can now only represent a *very thin slice* of all of humanity's massive and growing store of accumulated knowledge - and since we can look stuff up if we need to even as we go about our daily lives without the necessity of finding a "professional educator" to acquire the knowledge for us and pass it on to us. How cool is that? No need to wait to be taught. Or, if I do need a teacher, I can pick and choose from the best on the planet.

Here in Australia, a National Curriculum for Schools is being introduced, and even after years of careful consideration what's in and what's out has caused ongoing arguments. Inevitably, some would say. The political party in opposition has even suggested that it will substantially redo the curriculum if it wins the next election. Sensible people might well prefer to simply get on with their lives. The fact is, in 2010 it has never been easier to get "a good education" without setting foot in a school classroom and, thanks to the phenomenal advances in mobile digital technology of only the past 2-3 years, it's even possible now to get an education 'on the fly' wherever you happen to be. Strange but true. Life, Jim, but not as we know it.

When my wife and I pulled our "digital native" son out of school seven years ago, because he was bored and unhappy, I had no idea that was coming. I don't think anybody saw it coming. But it's here.

And, if what I've been reading on the subject of "the future of education" over the past few years is any indication, as the saying goes, "schools will be last to know".

In the meantime, not only is digital media based "learn anything anywhere anytime anyhow" a reality right now whether traditionalist educators like it or not, those best placed to take advantage of its benefits are ... the "unschoolers".

I'm not saying they will make good use of their advantageous position of course. They might decide to continue sitting on the porch watching the clouds drift by, might they not?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was "unschooled"! We left public school when I was 10, and didn't do any formal anything (not so much as a math worksheet!) until I went to college at 16, where I did quite well thank-you. Mostly we went to the library every 2 weeks, got armloads of books of our choice, our parents would sometimes bring home interesting books, I read my parents college texts, I took music lessons, studied yoga, traveled, and ran a successful babysitting biz. School stuff would have gotten in the way of my life.
I'm now a 30 y.o RN, with a some graduate work completed, happily married with my first baby on the way. Also I did quite well compared to my peers when it came to self-directed work in college because I knew myself and how I learn well. Being an RN, I can say when I need to, the math and science were not that hard to learn.
If it suits your family and your child's personality, go for it.

Sarah said...

This is a really interesting conversation...I don't unschool or homeschool (my oldest is in public school which is not perfect but is working well for us at this point). I am in fact a professional educator: a college professor. I am open-minded and realize that the point should be that there are a variety of educational models for the variety of types of learners. I have a few questions...

With unschooling, how much exactly is guided by parents? In other words, if a child is really interested in dinosaurs, does the parent say, "let's explore geology" or does the parent let the child come to that field (or not)? If the child is focused on just one area say writing poetry, does the parent ever suggest spending time in other fields or is the child allowed to spend years writing and reading poetry to the exclusion of all else?

Are there limits? What wouldn't unschooling parents allow their children to do? Create violent videogames? Study something that seems obsessive and not-productive? Refuse to learn altogether?

Are there any instances where you can imagine sending your children into school or adopting a homeschool plan?

It seems there is an online unschool community...is there an actual community where people live where they meet on a regular basis to socialize, for support, etc (I know a lot of the homeschoolers in my area meet a few times a week to have the kids play organized sports or free play in parks).

Do most unschooling parents stay at home or work from home?

Thanks!

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-Study something that seems obsessive and not-productive? Refuse to learn altogether?-=-

"Productive" of what?

School works in "class periods," units, report-card periods, semesters, "school years." Those don't exist in the real world, only in school.

There is no such thing, in a calm, natural life, as "refuse to learn." In school there is refusal to cooperate, refusal to perform, refusal to care.

A collection of writings and thoughts about Focus, Hobbies and Obsessions. There's a dinosaur link at the bottom. The Barbie pages are nice.
http://sandradodd.com/focus

-=-Are there any instances where you can imagine sending your children into school or adopting a homeschool plan?-=-

"Send your child" is the glaring bit there. Allow a child to choose? I think most unschoolers would.

Unschooling IS a homeschool plan.

Rebecca said...

Sarah wrote: "In other words, if a child is really interested in dinosaurs, does the parent say, "let's explore geology" or does the parent let the child come to that field (or not)?"

Unschooling is non-coercive. It is not, however, non-interactive. If my child is interested in dinosaurs (which he has been), then I ensure I support that interest. I don't, however, direct it, limit it, or in any other way, take it away from the child. It's too easy for any adult to squash a child's interest in something by becoming too invested in the finished product or by taking it in a direction the child isn't interested in. At the age of 5, a child interested in dinosaurs may or may not then be interested in geology. If her interests persist, by age 12 she may be. So, as a parent, I'd ensure I brought home great science DVDs, books, toys, games, magazines, etc. related to all-things-dinosaur. If we are traveling, I'd make sure we would take in any interesting venues that may relate to my child's interests. I'd maybe even bring home some great resources about geology. Or evolution (last year was great because of it being Darwin's 200th birthday - lots of great resources are around). The difference with unschooling is that I don't mandate that my child actually watch or read or play with any of those things, but I absolutely make sure they are available.

Sandra Dodd has come up with a great term for what unschoolers do in order to help enlarge their children's worlds: strewing.

Strewing doesn't stop with areas of a child's interest, though. It is about helping to make a child's world as large as possible. So, the parent is constantly researching and bringing home things that may interest their child... without strings (or agendas) attached.

Sarah wrote: "If the child is focused on just one area say writing poetry, does the parent ever suggest spending time in other fields or is the child allowed to spend years writing and reading poetry to the exclusion of all else?"

A busy life with parents actively engaged in "enlarging the world" means that a parent would never have to make that suggestion. A child can immerse himself in writing poetry to his heart's content. However, because there are people to relate to and things to sample and engage with, a child is never left alone with his interest. It's absolutely supported (as an adult poet's work would be), but even an adult poet has other things going on in his life.

I am a big believer in what I call "strength-based" education. Instead of children all being required to be good at the same things at the same time (as in a school setting), I believe that there is room for people to excel in their areas of strength and interests according to their unique developmental timelines. When kids are allowed to pursue their passions, they naturally pick up other things along the way without being force-fed - not only the "3 R's" but other content areas as well. My interest in history, for example, only came about through my interest in art and music. When I learned about art history and music history, then I became interested in world history as a byproduct . But the art and music had to come first.

Unschooling is the very opposite of narrow. It is full of abundant opportunity when parents understand their role in their child's "unschooled" learning life.

Joanna said...

Rebecca said: "I am a big believer in what I call "strength-based" education. Instead of children all being required to be good at the same things at the same time (as in a school setting), I believe that there is room for people to excel in their areas of strength and interests according to their unique developmental timelines."

Right! The problem with the "well balanced" approach, although it sounds good in theory, is that real live people generally aren't. Plus add in grades, and you've got a perfect storm for disenfranchisement by most. Most people are not good at everything, yet are tested and ranked so that they know exactly what they are good at and what they aren't. And when someone isn't feeling invested in what is being taught, very superficial learning is taking place. Maybe just memorization, which utilizes a small part of the brain, without connection to the whole.

When children are allowed to develop from where they are strong as a base their learning will look somewhat like brainstorming bubbles, where there are connections and bridges built into knew territories based on a solid foundation. This is a recipe for confidence, and coincidentally resembles how learning researchers find that adults learn best. Through interest, curiosity and confidence, and in the absence of fear. This type of learning builds a web of interconnected understanding about the world, with lots of sticky places for new information to enter.

People (children) are learning all the time, but we need to ask ourselves what are they learning. It's often not what we think. A teacher may carefully construct a lesson plan, but research is showing us that what is happening with a person emotionally is much more important to what is deeply learned and retained. The emotional and social context of learning is hugely important.

Sarah said...

Thanks Rebecca and everyone for your comments.

Sandra, Perhaps I wasn't clear that I am not coming from a place of judgement: these are legitimate questions I have. And, I think we can all agree what "productive" means. I think at this point we are haggling over the meaning of words which is...unproductive! It all leads me to another question I have about educational goals but I dare not ask it and I think I am getting a sense of what the response would be.

In any case, a classroom setting (complete with years and periods, etc---which, btw reflects the way the work both my husband and I do, and he is not in education but is in high tech which is often about deadlines and short term projects) seems the right avenue for my family though I am glad other options exist (as I stated earlier) and that families can choose what is right for them!

Sandra Dodd said...

"And, I think we can all agree what "productive" means. "

If clarifying what is meant is "unproductive" in your view, then we can't begin to agree.

Knitting afghans might be productive, but what if nobody needs an afghan or wants those afghans? Then it becomes something more akin to time-waste and littering.

The kinds of "crafts" little children do in school are considered "productive" because there is a physical "product," but it's often junk.

With unschooling, what is productive is whatever leads toward more learning, better understanding, mental skills, maturity, compassion, awareness.

Understanding something about dinosaurs, asking intelligent questions and actually caring about dinosaurs, playing games about dinosaurs, or writing stories or drawing pictures would be massively more productive than doing worksheets and building a school-style diorama.

Every one of my children's reading was hugely helped by video game play, and manuals, and the "recipes" for Harvest Moon (in Holly's case). That was productive because they learned (I could name many things), and they were having fun in a safe, happy environment.

http://sandradodd.com/videogames Many accounts, links to research, articles...

anna kiss said...

Sarah wrote, "In any case, a classroom setting (complete with years and periods, etc---which, btw reflects the way the work both my husband and I do, and he is not in education but is in high tech which is often about deadlines and short term projects)"

Are you suggesting that years, periods, bells, grades, etc. are the most efficient way of learning the setting and achieving of goals in both short and long-term? I find that curious given that so many people (from traditional schooling backgrounds) have such varying levels of skill with goal setting and achieving. In my experience, good study habits, follow-through, and commitment are all traits that are strengthened or formed outside of a school setting, not because of it.

All people must learn to do what they need to do to achieve their goals, whatever their goals. This is not unique to schooled children. The difference, perhaps, between schooled and unschooled children, would be that unschooled children have greater opportunity to pursue their own goals rather than those arbitrarily forced upon them.

Sarah said...

Nope...not suggesting anything! Just stating, again, that there are many options and that is good. That setting worked for me and it seems to be working for my daughter too. I am sure that different paradigms work for different people.

Rebecca said...

Sarah, if you are wondering about educational goals, you might be interested in reading John Holt's books, How Children Learn and How Children Fail. A collection of his talks and essays are gathered in the book titled Learning All the Time (a personal favourite of mine).

If you mean post-secondary when you say educational goals, there are unschoolers who do get into university by using alternate routes (other than conventional k to 12 schooling).

Conventional K-12 schooling does work for lots of kids. It can also do some serious harm along the way.

I have known about unschooling for a long, long time and have understood it and was moving toward it, but I didn't fully embrace it for my own family until I heard the story of a gifted teen who took her own life (in part because of the pressure she was experiencing at school). I sat down and really sorted out what I know about education and learning and what I really wanted for my child. I realized that in order to fully support my child's happiness, both present and future, I needed to shift my perspective about his future, which belongs to him after all, and let go of any achievement goals lurking in my parental hope chest.

My child's time with me is short. I want to enjoy every moment together that we have and I want him to know absolutely that he is the author of his own life.

Glenda said...

===But I, for one, am starting to get turned off from the insults and occasional self-righteousness. I hope this isn't representative of the unschooling community.===

I have to say, this comment has been bugging me for many reasons. The tone of your post, even the post's title, were off-putting and I approached the discussion warily. But to see snarky and rude comments were made by non-unschoolers and you chose not comment on those when you made the above comment, to me that speaks volumes and has completely turned me off your blog.

From my perspective, for you to then thank the very folks who were apparently turning you off moments before . . . the thank you feels not especially authentic.

Crunchy Chicken said...

===But to see snarky and rude comments were made by non-unschoolers and you chose not comment on those when you made the above comment, to me that speaks volumes and has completely turned me off your blog. ===

Unfortunately, I expect the snarky comments from non-unschoolers. That doesn't excuse them from making them but, by the same token, the burden of proof lies with the unschoolers. We have experiential evidence on the results of traditional schooling. Traditional homeschooling has been around long enough that we even have the results of studies done on decades of homeschooling.

Unschooling, however, is new to most of us. And, with all new things, I expect resistence from people when they first hear about something new, however radical, particularly when they feel attacked as well. Many unschoolers have painted traditional schooling with a broad brush that is offensive to many, much like the opposite side has done with unschooling.

I'd have to go back and read through the entire comment thread, but my impression was that the snark was being laid on a little heavily by some unschooler comments when people were just asking questions. It is from that perspective, and further into the comments, why I made the comment that you are referring to.

And, frankly, if someone is too tired or sick of the discussion from other forums and don't have the grace to answer the questions and responses like someone like Rebecca and others on here, then well, my only advice is that no response is better than a condescending one. It doesn't help your side of the argument. Again, I'm saying this because the burden of proof lies on the unschooling side.

As for being turned off by my blog, I always enjoy earning the respect and readership of new (and old) people, but I can't please all of them all of the time. I, too, sometimes feel attacked and respond accordingly, particularly when someone uses my direct quote to make a ridiculous statement. I can't be magnanimous all the time.

===From my perspective, for you to then thank the very folks who were apparently turning you off moments before . . . the thank you feels not especially authentic.===

Honestly? I think it's completely possible to thank others for their contribution even if I don't necessarily appreciate some of them. I do recognize they are taking the time and effort to add to the conversation. I'm not sure what you are expecting here.

Sandra Dodd said...

Unschooling is not easy to explain, and it's even harder to understand. People who want to unschool do a lot of learning and changing.

Frank Maier, an unschooling father of two now-teenaged daughters, wrote this on his blog:

"If you haven't come to Holt, unschooling, et cie on your own, don't look to me to distill the collected thought and effort behind that philosophy into a few paragraphs on a blog post for you and then labor to convince you to buy my goods like a streetcorner whore or storefront preacher."

Unschoolers aren't selling unschooling. There is no "burden of proof." It's easy to make quick, critical statements but only those who know about both schooling AND unschooling know what they're talking about. Those who had never heard of unschooling until this last week really should read more before they express an opinion, I think.

Here's Frank's blog post:
http://pvmaro.blogspot.com/2010/04/you-obviously-mistook-me-for-someone.html

His family is very happily unschooling. He knows both sides, too.

Joanna said...

Cruchy Chicken said: "Many unschoolers have painted traditional schooling with a broad brush that is offensive to many, much like the opposite side has done with unschooling."

But it's not the same. All of us who unschool have come from a background of having gone to school, and often having had our kids in school. My oldest was in two schools, as a matter of fact. That doesn't make me an expert on schools, but it does give me a base of experience, combined with my own and my husband's experience, to form an intelligent opinion about school.

If I say something unflattering about school, it's because I had a real experience. And I answer the statewide homeschool information line for my state, so I many experiences to draw on from which to form an opinion. People talking about unschooling who haven't DONE unschooling, or seen it in action in some concrete way don't have the right to paint any picture of it at all. They can make connections, ask questions, have an opinion, etc., but to make any pronouncements about it such as it couldn't possibly work, doesn't really make sense to me at all.

If someone says something "offensive" about school, and a reader hasn't had that experience, then chances are they know someone who has. If they haven't and they don't, then that's fine too (and a good thing!), but the stories are in the news all the time. It's not as if we are making this stuff up! There are reasons that we've searched out an alternative to traditional schooling. And don't forget that you posed the question on your blog. If we all felt warm and fuzzy about traditional school, we probably wouldn't have chosen to unschool, and you wouldn't have asked the question.

Tonya said...

We have always been a "radical unschooling" family. I don't like labels and I honestly didn't know the label existed until a few months ago. I have 9 children aged 4-22. When my first son was born I parented the way I felt was right for us. I never really cared what other parents did. The same way with educating my children. I have no opinion on other parents decisions on how to raise their children, and I ask the same in return. If a parent has no interest in unschooling then why even try to understand it. I don't even pretend to try and understand all the other ways people choose to raise their kids because I will never choose those paths anyway.
I don't believe there is only one right way to raise and educate children. As parents we all are choosing to do what we feel is right for our families.

Anonymous said...

"The Burden of Proof"--what exactly does that mean? Why do unschoolers need to prove anything to people who still believe school is best for their families?

Many of us need to prove to our school boards that our children are learning, and that is fine. But why do we need to defend ourselves and our lifestyles to the rest who've decided to drink the Koolaid?

Honestly, I think a lot of the criticism comes from people who just can't imagine spending all day, every day with their own kids! And that's fine too. Most parents can't and shouldn't unschool. It is hard work. It takes a lot of energy and attention--energy and attention that many adults would much rather expend on themselves. That's okay too--after all, it is the culture you were raised in.

But please, don't condemn us or call us crazy because you don't/can't/won't even think of opining your mind and your heart and seeing your young people in a new light.

Paradigm shifts take a looooooong time. It's okay if you're not ready to jump on board yet. It is hard to admit that you and your children are cogs in the machine, to recognize that schooling was started to create worker drones....

If you're interested in research:
Studies in Education: From the Extream to the Mainstream: www.fraserinstitute.org/commerce.web/product_files/Homeschooling2.pdf

How many hours a day in school are spent pnreal learning:
www.besthomeschooling.org/articles/math_david_albert.html

Jenny Cyphers said...

"With unschooling, how much exactly is guided by parents? In other words, if a child is really interested in dinosaurs, does the parent say, "let's explore geology" or does the parent let the child come to that field (or not)?"

My oldest daughter loves horror movies. She loves anime and manga. She loves make-up and hair. She loves music. There are many things that she loves to explore and do. Those few interests among many others that I listed, led us to explore being involved in a large, local, haunted house production.

As the parent, I found it, I contacted the right people, I found a way to get her in since they usually don't allow really young teens to be there. I accompanied her so that she could be a part of it. We worked together on unloading trucks, painting set pieces, making yucky corpses, helping with special effects make-up, making costumes, etc.

Through that we met lots of people, mostly adults. The handful of other young people, teens that came were all older than her. Last year, we brought friends that I was responsible for, as the parent. They were able to do roles that other teens weren't because I was there and helping them and they became known to be trusted to not goof around or do other irresponsible things while we were there. I drove, I got us there on time, I got kids home on time. I acted as the go between for them and the people who run the haunted house production.

My daughter was offered an internship to study special effects make-up because the woman who did the make-up there also had her own studio and recognized talent and reliability. It wasn't even something that my daughter had asked for. She was there doing something she loved doing and her passion, her ability, and her willingness to follow through, even on unpleasant tasks, let her shine.

None of those things would have been possible if I hadn't made it possible. That's what unschooling parents do. They help their kids follow their passions by finding ways and means to make it happen.

Jenny Cyphers said...

As a follow up comment to my last post...

Lest anyone think, "yeah, but a kid from school could just as easily do it too".

That most certainly is the case, but, the schooled kids that came were all older, they had to wait to participate and even then, the people who run the production are very wary of teenagers being there.

In their experience, teenagers goof off, leave their posts, don't show up on time, complain about jobs given, and in general are terribly irresponsible to have around and sometimes even dangerous. They often will leave early for a number of reasons, sometimes because the parents come early to pick them up and insist they leave now, or because they need to leave early to get up for school the next day. Sometimes they wouldn't show up on days they had agreed to show up because something more fun came up last minute, or they were grounded, or other such nonsense.

We took our commitment seriously. Even the kids we brought, we made it clear what the expectations were and that they wouldn't be asked back if they messed up, or their parents grounded them or in any other way threatened to mess up that commitment. The parents had to sign a waiver.

Since we didn't have school to deal with, it allowed us the freedom to really be involved, sometimes until 2 am on a thursday night.

Jenny Cyphers said...

As to burden of proof goes...

Schools don't do a good job of showing the burden of proof. They get to claim all the success stories and blame the failures on parents or the students. That's not a good enough burden of proof.

Where else in the world does that ever hold up? This idea that we, as people, can only claim the good and never take responsibility for the messes we create? Schools do that! Every year, every day!

B said...

"With unschooling, how much exactly is guided by parents? In other words, if a child is really interested in dinosaurs, does the parent say, "let's explore geology" or does the parent let the child come to that field (or not)?"

We unschool and my six year old daughter is very interested in dinosaurs! So far, we've gone to the Smithsonian (twice); visited U Penn and spent hours with a the archeology grad students in their labs; read all the Dinotopia books over and over again and attended a month-long workshop called Fact and Fantasy at our local art museum that ran in conjunction with the Jim Gurney exhibit; went digging for fossils along the C&D canal; attended rock and mineral exhibits at another local university; read LOTS of books on dinosaurs and watched the Walking with Dinosaurs series many times.

Through her love of learning about dinosaurs, she's done a lot of real-world math (drawing different species to scale), learned a bit of Latin and Greek (wanting to know what the dino names mean), and learned how to read maps and a compass (fossil hunting). She's learned a lot more too, but these are some of the things that immediately come to mind.

The reason, I think, that so many unschooling parents are up in arms about the GMA coverage is it made us look like we don't facilitate learning opportunities for our kids. This is so far from the truth! As unschooling parents, we work really hard at creating an environment that stimulates and enriches our children and their interests. Buying a curriculum, or sending them off to school, would actually be a lot easier! And take a lot less time!

As others have already said: unschooling is NOT unparenting.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I am not suggesting that unschoolers are "selling" unschooling. Those of us who do not do unschooling want information about how it works and how well it works in preparing a child for higher education. That was the point of my post. I think that question has been answered many times over.

Why the questions? Because many of us on this discussion thread (myself included) are curious and, in some cases, are interested enough to want to learn more in case unschooling becomes an option in the future.

As for the "burden of proof" I merely meant that for most people to see that this is a viable option, unschoolers would need to provide sufficient evidence in support of their position that unschooling is an effective form of education since there isn't much data on it.

I'm not asking you to defend yourselves against those who have "drank the Koolaid". I just want to know how it works and does it work for you and others.

Can we please get back to the original question at hand, please?

Crunchy Chicken said...

B - Your dinosaur intensive sounds awesome. That's the kind of stuff I like doing with my kids based on their interests.

How does your method differ from homeschooling theme-based learning? Do you offer suggestions and then let your daughter choose what things she wants to pursue or is it more directed?

lu103 said...

Crunchy Chicken said: "How does your method differ from homeschooling theme-based learning? Do you offer suggestions and then let your daughter choose what things she wants to pursue or is it more directed?"

I'm not sure what you mean by "directed."

Mostly, I offer ideas: "Wanna go check out some dinosaur skeletons"? Or we'll go to the library and check out our limit of books on the subject. Sometimes I'll go to the library or bookstore myself and check out/buy the books I think my daughter will enjoy and I'll leave them out on the table for her--as an offering--without expectation or demands that she like or even read them.

A lot of it is looking for things in our area that coincide with her interests at any given time. When something comes up, I'll ask if she's interested. Sometimes she isn't...usually she is. I wouldn't take her somewhere that she didn't want to go just because I thought she'd like it--is that what you're asking? And given her personality, I don't often "surprise" her with trips/events, because she doesn't like feeling unprepared for things.

Crunchy Chicken said: "Those of us who do not do unschooling want information about how it works and how well it works in preparing a child for higher education."

In my pre-unschooling-mom life, I was a college prof. I can assure you that the very things I found lacking in many of my students: critical thinking skills, an ability to make intellectual connections, agency over their scholarship, love of learning for learning's sake, are exactly the traits I see being developed by the unschooling teens I meet.

School, in my opinion, isn't too hot of a job preparing kids for higher ed!

How much of what you learned in K-12 do you really remember? How much of it do you know? How much of it made a lasting impression? Now, how long do you think it would take you to learn those things from scratch, providing you were either interested in them, or knew they were necessary?

Children do not need schools to learn. Young people do not need to go to school to prepare for college.

lu103 said...

ugggh, sorry....I meant:

School, in my opinion, isn't doing too hot of a job preparing kids for higher ed!

Olivia said...

I guess this "discussion" could continue ad infinitum . . . but I would just like to say that I have both an undergraduate and a graduate degree, as does everyone in my family and - come to think of it, most of my friends and their kids - and we all came up through the school system. So did all my university mates including the Doctoral candidates so, in my opinion, some schools somewhere must have been doing something right. In fact, I daresay that the majority of university graduates have come up through the public or private school system so schools can't be all that bad!?

This is NOT a comment on unschooling or homeschooling - simply a refutation of that previous comment. Come to think of it - why not continue home/unschooling through the university level? Why not avoid all formal education altogether?

Eva said...

I'll get back to that first question - I really wish I'd found a thread like this when we were trying to decide how to handle schooling as parents. Thanks for putting it out there, Crunchy.

We came to homeschooling the roundabout way. Started assuming we'd send our son to school like we both did. Considered some alternative methodologies. Tried a Waldorf School for pre-k. Didn't feel right, but we couldn't put our finger on it. Decided we didn't like the fact that almost all kids cried to be left. Knew we both did, and turned out fine, but still felt a nagging little tug in the back of our minds. Decided it felt too much like "breaking" a horse, and committed to researching all of our options before we went back. Truthfully, we were just new parents, confused and overwhelmed, just like most people are with their first kid. We just wanted to see what was out there.

Started our research and came across homeschooling, then unschooling. Decided to try it, just for kicks, since he was still young (not yet 4) and we felt we had time to spare. Read a million books, tried a bunch of stuff, and settled into a rhythm that looked most like what would be called "unschooling".

Our little guy would get into something (knights, for example) and we'd help litter his path ("strewing", as referenced before) with interesting knight information, events, books and activities. When I wanted to segue into a new topic, I'd link it to the last ("knights rode horses, just like native americans, let's look at some new books and compare how they rode..") and hope he'd take the bait. Usually he would, but not always.

He's almost six now, and has learned about plant biology, medieval times, the roman empire, and native american settlements. He's grown a garden, learned some basic cooking skills, and can tell you about nutrition better than most adults. He can add, subtract, multiply and divide and asks to do math before bed (in his head) because it's fun. He can define a few dozen vocab words from his science book (which we bought because he wanted to understand how his magnets worked) because we mentioned, in passing, that science was cool and try to drop scientific ideas into conversations when it seems reasonable.

This fall would be the year he'd start kindergarten if we sent him to public school (late birthday) and now that we're immersed in our unschooling lifestyle, we can't imagine going back. For me, as for many others who wrote above, it's a lifestyle as much as an educational choice. I didn't want to send my child away from me for most of the waking hours of his life, and I suspected I could do a better than average job of educating him.

The method we chose is simply what worked for us. I have friends who are curriculum based, and for them it's fantastic. I have friends who's kids are in school, and for them it's great, too. My only wish is that all parents had a basic introduction to the options of homeschooling. We feel it was random luck that we discovered it the way we did. The sad fact is that I minored in education at a fancy college, got certified as a teacher, and was never once introduced to homeschooling in any form. If there was less vitriol around it, I think a lot more parents might try it out, and for some of them it might stick. It's been a life changer for us, in the best of ways.

Jenny Cyphers said...

"As for the "burden of proof" I merely meant that for most people to see that this is a viable option, unschoolers would need to provide sufficient evidence in support of their position that unschooling is an effective form of education since there isn't much data on it."

I knew what you meant. I disagree though. If schools can't even show burden of proof, I really don't think any alternative method of education should be held up to higher standards. Or at the very least alternative methods should hold up to the same standards allowing at least a certain percentage of success, a certain percentage of failures, and a huge percentage of mediocre.

What often happens in discussion such as these, is that the alternative, in this case, unschooling, is being held up to ONLY the success percentage of schooling.

Schools create successes AND failures. Unschooling doesn't do that at all. It's inherent in the method. Get to know adult unschooled folks, they exist. I've never met one who was unsuccessful, even by school standards.

If someone claims to be an unsuccessful unschooled person, I'd question whether or not they were actually unschooled.

Jenny Cyphers said...

Here's a very candid talk with grown and near to grown unschoolers.

http://sandradodd.com/listen/teenpanel

And one of another grown unschooler

http://sandradodd.com/listen/roya

Sarah said...

I really take umbrage with this:
"Honestly, I think a lot of the criticism comes from people who just can't imagine spending all day, every day with their own kids! And that's fine too. Most parents can't and shouldn't unschool. It is hard work. It takes a lot of energy and attention--energy and attention that many adults would much rather expend on themselves. That's okay too--after all, it is the culture you were raised in.

But please, don't condemn us or call us crazy because you don't/can't/won't even think of opining your mind and your heart and seeing your young people in a new light."

I don't think it is not about spending time with your child/having energy/opening your heart ...it is about picking the option that is right for your child. And this is not even to mention that fact that unschooling may be difficult for single parent families or families where both parents have to work (though I am sure it can be done---it would be difficult).

As far as this:
"It's easy to make quick, critical statements but only those who know about both schooling AND unschooling know what they're talking about."
While as we've seen it is quite easy to make quick judgements on both sides I think that those who haven't unschooled can know what they are talking about (I have never been a member of Congress but I can talk about the work they do and even understand it). This conversation has led me to read a lot of the websites and blogs suggested and have a long conversation with an unschooling friend. Our choices are different but we can listen openly to each other.

Thanks everyone for taking the time to give examples for my dinosaur/geology question.

Eva said...

I forgot to add, one of our dearest friends is a professor of Optical Physics here at the University of Arizona. He has five grad students, and one is a wonderful home/unschooled woman. So, not only female in a male dominated field, but also at one of (if not the) premier physics programs in the country. Just to answer Crunchy's original question about whether any kids end up in the hard sciences.

Christina said...

Those of us who do not do unschooling want information about how it works and how well it works in preparing a child for higher education.

I guess the short answer is, "as well as the child wants it to". The thing is, what's the value of higher education? Isn't part of the point that theoretical and applied higher education have taken us down this road of modern society and brought us to the brink of descent?

I wasn't E^3 or peak aware when I started homeschooling 12 years ago, but I already knew that I wasn't going to lock my kids into a "higher education" path and perpetuate the idea that official, intellectual knowledge was the ultimate goal. My argument has always been, "What if they want to throw pots in Sedona?" Do they need higher education for that, or would they be better served on a different path? (Someone once thought I said "grow pot in Sedona"!) If they want to pursue a path via higher education, I want them to be able to do that too - so as a homeschooler I want to leave the doors open and make sure my kids are pursuing the path of their choosing, not the path of society's choosing or of mine.

Now that I am E^3 or peak aware, being at the pinnacle of formalized education seems even more obsolete. Not that knowledge and skills, science and technology are no longer valuable, but we need a million farmers and right now we have going on two million lawyers. Somewhere along the path of descent, we need to get the value of higher education properly integrated with the value of all the other important paths. I'm still working hard to keep the doors open for my kids, but I have the sense that the pot-throwers (and maybe the pot-growers!) might win the day...

Sandra Dodd said...

What is this about?
"I wasn't E^3 or peak aware..."
"Now that I am E^3 or peak aware..."

I asked friends, but they didn't understand it either. Google only suggests it might be about the oil industry or charter schools in New Jersey, and neither fits in context.

Christina said...

E^3 means energy-environment-economy, and peak is peak oil. They make a whole lot of sense in the context of this blog as a whole work.

Lesli said...

I just started reading this post, belatedly, and have barely begun reading the comments, but one thing that strikes me about the controversy regarding unschooling is that those who do, as well as those don't, often present it as exclusively "allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including child directed play, game play and social interaction ...". My reaction is always this; good parents unschool as a part of their daily lives, whether their child is in traditional school or not. Unschooling does not have the monopoly on these things, by a long shot.

Sandra Dodd said...

You're talking about attentive parents who are nice people. It would be great if all parents were that way.

If a child is in school and has attentive parents who are nice people, that doesn't equal unschooling.

Stephanie said...

~Katherine wrote:

"We can pull up (test) the whole garden lot worth of plants (students) to look at the roots (what's in pupils' heads), and in the process interrupt the flow of and the love of learning for years in a row. Unschooling avoids doing that."

This plant analogy could also be used in this way; "We could leave the plants to grow as they will (unschooling), and those that seek out and find the light (guidance) and food sources (knowledge) they need will thrive, while the others will wither away (video games)."

There are good and bad situations in every walk of life, and unschooling is no exception.

Brad K. said...

Lesli,

I think you have to qualify parents just a bit, when you say all families unschool, naturally.

Many adults in American hated school. They choose lives that minimize the need for (deliberate) continuing education. Some rebel against education on principle, others are just unable to organize the energy or awareness to participate in their children's education.

Most of the adults that have chimed in about home schooling and unschooling have been articulate, literate, and persuasive, as well as personally engaged in their children's education. I contend that the children of such parents are thrice blessed, and most would be destined to succeed whatever education path they found themselves on.

So, I disagree with you to the extent that not all homes set the examples, role models, and encouragement needed to supplement or drive their children's education.

Lesli said...

"Strewing"...I've seen this term bandied about a lot lately, and it's just a new name for the concept of facilitating your child's interests. A long-time concept that every good parent incorporates into their child's life, no matter what methodology of learning they practice.

Lesli said...

Brad, I said "good parents" unschool, naturally, not all families.

Lesli said...

Sandra, you wrote:

"If a child is in school and has attentive parents who are nice people, that doesn't equal unschooling."

I agree; in some cases, this situation is superior to exclusively unschooling.

Sandra Dodd said...

Strewing is about introducing something new, without making a lesson out of it.

http://sandradodd.com/strewing

It's about enriching the environment in casual but surprising ways.

anna kiss said...

Well unschoolers are probably going to disagree with you there, as are many, many educators who find most of schooling to be detrimental with its focus on teaching-to-test and obedience, as well as the unnatural social environment, the punishment/reward system, the increasing amount of corporate influence in the classroom, ever growing piles of homework, the extending day and year, and the bizarre flip-flop of the day for the adolescent body.

Lesli said...

Sandra, I know what "strewing" is. I do it every day, and didn't even know it.

It's a shame that caring, attentive, nurturing parents, regardless of their parenting styles, feel the need to promote one mode of learning over another. Bottom line...whatever works best for the parent AND the child is the way to go.

Lesli said...

anna kiss, I know there are a lot of sub-par traditional schools out there, but there are very many good ones, as well. Just as there are good and bad parents. The action of taking on unschooling exclusively does not a good unschooling parent make. It is not the automatic cure for all educational ills.

anna kiss said...

Lesli, of course there are good and bad parents in all walks of life. But if a parent has the inclination and the insight to consider their children's education to such a degree as to investigate unschooling (as it certainly takes some motivation to do since it is not a common choice) and take on full-time, round-the-clock care of their children, wouldn't it seem as though they are in all likelihood already committed and engaged?

Even still, I'm not convinced that schooling is at all superior. Any type of schooling. I suppose it depends on what you want. Unschooling may not be the superior method for churning out kids adept at playing the game and interested in committing their lives for a paycheck. My goal is to have grown children who are most uniquely themselves, for them to be confident in whatever they choose. That may very well not include higher education or mainstream definitions of success.

Lesli said...

"My goal is to have grown children who are most uniquely themselves, for them to be confident in whatever they choose."

We have the same goal.

"Unschooling may not be the superior method for churning out kids adept at playing the game and interested in committing their lives for a paycheck."

This an inflammatory and misleading statement, very disappointing, but an example of what I mentioned before; it's unfortunate that good, well-meaning parents with differing methods of parenting can get so nasty regarding this topic. I mean, seriously, to even make that statement based on what I wrote is asinine, at best.

Bob Collier said...

Lesli wrote: "My reaction is always this; good parents unschool as a part of their daily lives, whether their child is in traditional school or not. Unschooling does not have the monopoly on these things, by a long shot."

Indeed it doesn't and that's an aspect of how unschooling is sometimes presented that I think adds to the confusion.

As far as my own "radical unschooling" is concerned, the "unschooling" part goes back only to 2002 when my son quit school at the age of seven. The "radical" part goes back to when my daughter was born in 1985.

Throughout the 13 years my daughter was in school, there were requirements for attending school that we all willingly acceded to, but outside the school she was in the jurisdiction of the ethos of her family and her parents made sure she had maximum control over everything that affected her in that area of her life. She chose what to eat, what to wear, where to be and who with, whether or not to do her homework, what time she went to bed, even on "school days".

You might suggest that that's a case of a good parent unschooling as part of their daily lives (which I wouldn't have done because I'd never heard of the word back then), but it seems to me that thinking of it as "unschooling" in the same sense as parents whose children are out of school altogether think of "unschooling" only adds confusion to the confusion.

Bob Collier said...

Crunchy Chicken wrote: "the burden of proof lies with the unschoolers."

"Those defending the current educational system will predictably "demand" every new approach to education should meet a threshold that no old approach even comes close to meeting. It is a near-perfect deflection strategy. But it is ultimately a bluff that needs to be called out." - Clark Aldrich, author of "Learning Online with Games, Simulations and Virtual Worlds"

Lesli said...

Bob, I appreciate your comments, and understand where you're coming from. However, to clarify, when I say that good parents unschool regardless of any other method of education also in place, I meant it regarding much more than just giving a child free rein in making their own life choices. For example, my children were unschooled exclusively for the first three years of their lives (like many children are), and in that time my two oldest learned how to read, while my youngest, who is not beyond "sight words" quite yet, is our resident mechanic and can disassemble and reassemble just about anything. These things came to pass not because of any formal training whatsoever, but solely from their interests and abilities being recognized by me and my husband, and us providing the tools and experiences to help them further explore those interests. Though my two oldest are also in "regular" school now, we have not stopped doing what we did those first 3 years of their lives. In fact, they call summer break "Mom school" (weekends and evenings are "A taste of Mom school.") "Mom school" can be video games, museum trips, library visits, visiting with friends, cooking, gardening, music, art, bike rides....whatever. This combination is what works best for them. If our school system was shabby, or if my children were different people, it could certainly have been exclusively "Mom school", as for some people, it is.

No one way is inherently and universally better than another; people should do what works best for their families, and respect that others do the same. It seems you do just that.

Thanks again for your comments.

Lesli said...

Brad, I apologize...my "Bob" note was meant for you.

Sandra Dodd said...

A child who goes to school for nine or ten months a year earns that summer vacation and shouldn't need mom-summer-school.

-=- For example, my children were unschooled exclusively for the first three years of their lives (like many children are)-=-

A child who went to school at the age of four was not unschooled for three years before that.

Unschooling is instead of regular schooling, not around the edges of. It's quite dismissive of unschooling to say "Oh, we all do that."

Lesli said...

"A child who goes to school for nine or ten months a year earns that summer vacation and shouldn't need mom-summer-school."

First, it's not a need, it's a want...actually, more of a lifestyle. Also, they don't really "earn" anything in the way I think you mean it; my kids enjoy school, it's not work they toil at for which they then need to be rewarded.

"A child who went to school at the age of four was not unschooled for three years before that."

Are you suggesting that those first three years are different from those of a child that does not go to school at age four? If so, how?

"It's quite dismissive of unschooling to say "Oh, we all do that.""

I agree in general, but, regarding some specific comments that are made by people who insinuate that unschooling has a monopoly on particular things, my feelings hold true. For instance, you wrote:

"With unschooling, what is productive is whatever leads toward more learning, better understanding, mental skills, maturity, compassion, awareness."

So, yes, from "...what is productive..." on, we feel that way, too, and do things to facilitate this same environment. Take the "unschooling" label off, and my stance would remain the same, but you wouldn't be offended by my statement.

Lesli said...

Sandra, I have to add that I'm bothered by the sense I'm getting from you that unschooling has to be an all or nothing endeavor. I wonder why you feel that way, and why you wouldn't instead be happy for those parents who incorporate many different modes and methods of facilitating their kid's quest for knowledge into their lives? I wouldn't be offended if your children, say, expressed an interest in taking a formal math class someday, and dismiss that as "not really going to school" because, you know, they didn't do it before, all the time. Your stance perplexes me as it seems you almost want to alienate people rather than embrace their interest in your family's style of learning.

Joanna said...

Leslie said, "Sandra, I have to add that I'm bothered by the sense I'm getting from you that unschooling has to be an all or nothing endeavor."

I'm not sure what you mean by saying that your children were exclusively unschooled until age 3. There is no compulsory school requirement, or even social school expectation of children under 4, so "unschooling" isn't even an option. It seems dismissive of people who devote their lives to unschooling to say that you did that, and (although I don't know your circumstances) probably unintentionally and after the fact.

Leslie said, "I wonder why you feel that way, and why you wouldn't instead be happy for those parents who incorporate many different modes and methods of facilitating their kid's quest for knowledge into their lives?"

What bothers me is that you are identifying with an aspect of what makes our lives tick, and then saying that it's the same thing. I'm sure you are a lovely parent, from what you describe, and your children are lucky to have a mom that recognizes the importance of what you offer your kids apart from school hours. What you do is great!! But it's not unschooling, because your kids go to school. And kids that live their whole lives that way, without the shadow of school, really do have a different outcome.

Any child will benefit from their parents understanding and applying the same principles which drive unschoolers. I believe their lives will be fuller, better, happier. But it's still different. I won't even go so far as to qualify that difference--that's completely up to each family to decide for themselves. But it can't be called unschooling, unless it is.


Leslie said, "I wouldn't be offended if your children, say, expressed an interest in taking a formal math class someday, and dismiss that as "not really going to school" because, you know, they didn't do it before, all the time."

It's different for a child to choose to take a math class (usually to further some goal, but maybe just out of interest) than for a child to have no say in how they spend the majority of their waking hours, in a system that dictates what they will be learning at any given time. The difference is choice. And that's fine if parents don't believe they should have that choice--not arguing with that--that is the choice that parents freely have.

Taking a math class isn't the same as going to school.

And I've known unschooled kids who choose to go to school. They are no longer unschooling, by definition, but they have a very different relationship, by and large, to school than their peers. They have a sense of control, and choice. In every case, the parent is open to them coming home at any time, so there isn't the sense of being trapped in they system that many kids feel when things aren't going well.

Leslie said, "Your stance perplexes me as it seems you almost want to alienate people rather than embrace their interest in your family's style of learning."

I think it's about clarity. It's not clear for one to hear about unschooling, and then after the fact say that that is what they've done. It rarely is, because for unschooling to really click and work, the parent must do a lot of "de-programming" to find a different way to view learning. I speak for myself, and most of the parents I know (a lot) that unschool. I don't speak for all.

But we were almost all raised in the school system. We all have pretty strong preconceived ideas about how and what learning should look like. It runs pretty deep in most people. And it's valuable for anyone to examine that--even if they decide that they are perfectly happy with type of learning they see in school. The examination helps us, in every sense, to make more informed decisions.

Pam Sorooshian said...

Someone said they'd like to hear from an adult who was unschooled.

My unschooled (really unschooled without any required subjects "thrown in") kids are now 19, 22, and 25. They are in or have finished college. They get all A's in college courses and have been given multiple scholarships and awards based on outstanding academics. My oldest just started graduate school. Second is a senior at the University of California with a double major in drama and history. She also plans to go to grad school. My youngest is a math-lover - she's currently just finishing up a calculus class, in which she has a 99.9 percent grade. She's also going to double major - her first major is in Deaf Studies, she hasn't decided on the second major - math is a likely possibility.

They haven't lacked any tools for success. In fact, the biggest surprise they had in college, was the lack of certain skills in fellow students who HAD been going to school their whole lives.

In addition to outstanding academic achievement, my kids have interesting jobs with great responsibility (not just working at the mall) and have active social lives, are physically active, keep up with current events, read voraciously, and do tons of volunteer work.

My kids speak at unschooling conferences. Rose will be speaking at the Life is Good Conference in May 2010 and again at the HomeSchool Association of California conference in August 2010. All three spoke in Santa Fe last January and at a number of other conferences in the past. There are recordings of some of their talks. Try looking for the Good Vibrations Conference in San Diego - there are recordings of my daughter, Roya, speaking there.

Brad K. said...

Leslie,

Apparently, "unschooling" as I understand it is only partly a direction in education.

I understand what you are saying.

In one sense, I can see the rationale for a government-directed "universal" application of education requirements. As I understand it, the impetus for public education was to produce a citizenry uniformly able to follow in and participate in the discourse of voting - the proposals of laws, understanding government limits and authorities, and the expression of the rights and obligations of a US citizen.

That initial agenda has been hijacked, in my view, by often petty special interests.

But the nation-wide application of social education intended to produce an informed electorate makes sense.

I can also see why an initally home schooled and unschooled citizenry "worried" proponents of compulsory education. That is, they could establish a curriculum for every child in America (or maybe male children, I forget the era) - or trust millions of families to come to a useful point that might achieve the same thing. Recall that many American families entered the nation from places where formal education was denied or merely unavailable. Initially many families were challenged to pick up English, let alone understand the limits and authorities of the US government. Compulsory education homogenized a population often expressing bigotry in violence to enclaves of newcomers - empowering the "melting pot" culture that is our heritage.

Apparently when we discourse with unschoolers, they are still expressing a united distrust and rebellion against the formal curriculum dictates of a determined and powerful force toward socially engineering the next generation of those under the sway of the US Department of Education.

To be fair to the Dept of Ed, there is also a strong market force of the industrial age, that demands as many students as possible be educated and raised uniformly to be interchangeable position-fillers in factories and offices. These cookie-cutter entry requirements impose cookie-cutter education requirements on the colleges they endow, which set entrance requirements on students, which are reflected in high school and grammar school requirements. Hey, we are a capitalist society (or we used to be), and using government to support and promote industry is nothing new.

So if it seems to you and I that those devoted to unschooling are a bit, um, forceful in their expressions, perhaps we are overlooking the veneer of rebellion, of "We found the light; you haven't" kind of epiphany threshold. Perhaps to unschoolers they are thinking of social intercourse more than the details of the education of their children.

. . . And I still think successful unschooler parents are particularly affluent in what Sharon Astyk calls the "informal" economy - time and resources at home to devote to raising their children, much above the average today. They must also be motivated and skilled to adequately conduct their children's education, to recognize and nurture the learning. They must also be willing to deny those talents to the rest of their community, reserving themselves and their energies entirely to their own family. And, yes, I understand that "charity begins at home."

Lesli said...

Joanna, I appreciate your well-reasoned response, and actually agree with much of what you say. The issue here, for me, is regarding statements in which the position is presented that unschooling has an exclusive hold on, say, promoting a love of learning, or facilitating a child's freedom to express interest in something. Having somebody indicate that I shouldn't have my children cooking, gardening, going to the library, etc. during the summer because they're in school during the year is bizarre to me, as well as exclusionary. It almost seems to suggest that, since I don't have them home learning freestyle 24/7, I should never have them home learning anything at all. To be clear, I do not refer to myself nor think of myself as an unschooler, but I do recognize that there are some aspects of unschooling that we incorporate into our lives.

On the first three years issue...in my mind, regardless of labels, the style of learning that takes place early on is continued throughout life, and exclusively so in an unschooling environment. I feel that learning doesn't just start at the age that schooling is mandated by law.

Also, I agree that taking a math class isn't the same as going to school full-time, but it is certainly an element of going to school. Just as facilitating learning, teaching morals, responsibility, etc. isn't the same as unschooling full-time, but by all accounts, these things are elements of unschooling. Not exclusive to unschooling, just as taking a class is not exclusive to going to school full-time.

I've been reading about unschooling and homeschooling for years, well before these became hot media topics, and have always appreciated elements of both, and incorporated, expanded, or just recognized the presence of those into our lives. What I don't appreciate is when supporters of any method of schooling promote their ways by means of universally disparaging other methods. I think they do a disservice to themselves and their methods, and unfortunately add to any bad perceptions out there that those who are not as well-versed in different lifestyles.

Thanks again for your response.

Lesli said...

Pam, I think it's wonderful that your children are so accomplished, happy, and well-adjusted. Good examples of success in unschooling, perhaps, though so many other factors come into play as well. Just as I'd never credit going to traditional school as being the sole reason why many others with similar traits and successes to your children have become who they are, either.

"In fact, the biggest surprise they had in college, was the lack of certain skills in fellow students who HAD been going to school their whole lives."

This statement is disappointing, though I suppose it could be taken as a positive as it indicates that your children started with a good opinion of the school system in general. So many different types of people go to school, why should it be expected that all of them have the same exact skills amongst themselves that your children expected to see? Just as I'm certain every unschooled child is not a carbon copy of your children, children schooled in other ways are not carbon copies of each other, either.

Jenny Cyphers said...

Pam wrote:"In fact, the biggest surprise they had in college, was the lack of certain skills in fellow students who HAD been going to school their whole lives."

Leslie wrote:"This statement is disappointing, though I suppose it could be taken as a positive as it indicates that your children started with a good opinion of the school system in general. So many different types of people go to school, why should it be expected that all of them have the same exact skills amongst themselves that your children expected to see? Just as I'm certain every unschooled child is not a carbon copy of your children, children schooled in other ways are not carbon copies of each other, either."

There's something to what Pam's children experienced though. Kids coming to college straight out of high school don't have that sparkle of learning anymore. College is just one more hoop to jump through. I saw that lots when I was in college, heck I was even one of those, even if there were classes that I loved and learned from.

When I look at my own daughter, who is 16, there is something deeply different about how she views the world, something NOT at all what schooled children have. It is very much directly because of unschooling.

It's not that kids in school don't learn and that there aren't kids in school who succeed and do well, it's that it's a crap shoot. Kids with nice parents, parents like Leslie, will fair better and will likely succeed in spite of school, because they have nice parents. I was such a kid. School had it's positives, and more negatives than I can count, but because my parents were kind and generous with their time, I came through it ok.

Those parents are more the exception than the rule. That's what I see. There are far more parents that send their kids off to do their kid/school thing, while they do their adult/work thing, and they never meet in between.

Sometimes a kid growing up with that disconnect still survives the school system relatively unscathed, those are the kinds of people who would survive through almost anything. The kids that aren't that way, who don't have a parent support system, flounder and fail, and school plays a BIG part in the causation of that.

Unschooled kids never experience either of those things. They have both the parents right there supporting them, AND the freedom to learn unattached to a system that squashes curiosity in large and small ways in almost every child.

Sandra Dodd said...

Pam has just said her daughters speak at conferences. Not to be paid, but to help others understand unschooling.

-=-They must also be motivated and skilled to adequately conduct their children's education, to recognize and nurture the learning. They must also be willing to deny those talents to the rest of their community, reserving themselves and their energies entirely to their own family.-=-

http://sandradodd.com/unschooling
We're not denying talents to the rest of the world at all. MANY unschoolers voluntarily help others find ways to learn for fun and live in peace without school.

-=-On the first three years issue...in my mind, regardless of labels, the style of learning that takes place early on is continued throughout life, and exclusively so in an unschooling environment. I feel that learning doesn't just start at the age that schooling is mandated by law.-=-

My parenting was alternative, La Leche League, Attachment Parenting before we thought of homeschooling at all. I don't count that in the years I unschooled. I count that from the August when my oldest was five years old and didn't go to school. Before that I was a parent. Before he was school age, I had three children. The day he was compulsory school age and didn't go to school is when I started unschooling.

-=. Having somebody indicate that I shouldn't have my children cooking, gardening, going to the library, etc. during the summer because they're in school during the year is bizarre to me, as well as exclusionary. It almost seems to suggest that, since I don't have them home learning freestyle 24/7, I should never have them home learning anything at all. To be clear...-=-

Clarity should've started earlier. No one said any of the things you've summarized. I was talking about calling it "school" when it was NOT school. It was the time that school kids were not in school.

I learned like crazy in and around school in ways that had nothing to do with the textbooks and lessons. I always have and I still do, and have also helped other people whose love of learning was snuffed out to discover again the joy of learning for fun.

Jenny Cyphers said...

"Clarity should've started earlier. No one said any of the things you've summarized. I was talking about calling it "school" when it was NOT school. It was the time that school kids were not in school."

Right! To a school kid, who doesn't want to be in school, it would be dismissive to say that summer was just the same as unschooling. Our family knows a few kids who would find that laughable! These are the kids that hate school and don't pass classes, whose parents are marginal parts of their lives, who see without any doubts that unschooling is an option for some, but not for them. Summer vacation is just that, a vacation from school, it is NOT unschooling.

You can't have both. You can't unschool preschool years and then put your kids in school during the compulsory school years. Unschooling is something that you do INSTEAD of school, not along side of it. By its very nature and definition, it's not something you do with every intention of sending your child to school, or at the same time you child is in school, but on break from school.

To say as much would dismiss the very qualities that make unschooling work and flourish. It is the very act of living as if school didn't exist that makes unschooling work so beautifully. If a kid is on vacation, or it's the weekend, school is still up around the corner lurking and waiting. Unschooling could never flourish in that kind of environment, where a kid is knowing that they'll be returning to the world of school in 2 days or 2 months.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I have a lot of comments to make on the recent additions to the thread, but don't have time right now. But, I did want to ask, since it hasn't been addressed (or I didn't see it), what is the opinion that unschoolers have about advanced formal education. In other words, college or university.

How does that fit into your philosophy about education since it sounds like many of your children go on to that type of formal education that you avoid in the primary and secondary years? If unschooling is a sufficient learning style, then why bother getting a degree? It sounds contrary to the goals you are trying to achieve.

Sally said...

My in-laws are retired public school teachers. For two years I got hell from them. They thought that my husband and I were crazy for unschooling our daughter. Now they are impressed with our daughter. They say that she is their favorite grand-child. They say that she is getting a better education and is better socialized than her cousins that go to school.

Lesli said...

Obviously some of you are firm in your belief that traditional schooling is universally harmful and inferior to unschooling, and that's OK; what you believe to be true does not in fact make it true. However, it would be nicer to read more real facts about unschooling's benefits rather than consistently encountering the misleading, globally applied, inflammatory, and frankly false statements regarding the grave, inescapable harm of attending traditional school that are often given in lieu of simply stating unschooling positives (of which I'm sure there are.)

Also, a few things I wrote have been, I believe, purposefully misquoted and/or taken out of context, at least one thing repeatedly, and I think perhaps it is just what Brad suggested, the "We've seen the light, and you haven't."-type syndrome.

Been interesting reading, regardless.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't unschooled but my parents now say that was what they would have done if that had been an option for them at the time. However, I missed MUCH more school than I ever attended and I like to call myself someone who became educated in spite of having to endure public school!

Ultimately I obtained two degrees, the second being a law degree from one of the best law schools in the country, and graduating in the top ten percent of my class. Public school did nothing for me whatsoever, and I did not learn anything there that got me into or through university -- that was all the "extra" stuff I did on my own time.

I am just starting to unschool my oldest (she is just reaching school age) and I definitely believe she will do just fine and proceed to university if that is what she wants to do. If she decides to do something else, I will also support that just as wholeheartedly.

Bob Collier said...

Lesli wrote: "For example, my children were unschooled exclusively for the first three years of their lives (like many children are)"

My children weren't "unschooled" exclusively for the first three years of their lives. They were parented.

It's my view that a child not yet of "school age" cannot by definition be "unschooling". I'm happy to argue that point until the cows come home, even with unschoolers.

It seems clear to me from the origin of the term "unschooling" that the idea being conveyed is of either removing a child from school or not sending a child to school when he or she becomes eligible to attend.

When my daughter was in the first three years of her life, why on earth would it have even crossed my mind to compare her lifestyle with the lifestyle of a child who was attending school? It what way was her lifestyle an "alternative" to school? To think so would have been utterly nonsensical.

Rebecca said...

Crunchy Chicken wrote: "How does that fit into your philosophy about education since it sounds like many of your children go on to that type of formal education that you avoid in the primary and secondary years? If unschooling is a sufficient learning style, then why bother getting a degree? It sounds contrary to the goals you are trying to achieve."

I'm curious that someone would think that attending post-secondary was "contrary" to the goals unschooling parents are trying to achieve. I think that statement really highlights how difficult it is for folks to truly understand unschooling, especially from a blog comments discussion like this. Tricky.

Truly, the primary goal I have for my child is that he feels fully supported by me in every aspect of his life, including learning.

If a person is truly able to "follow his bliss" (thank you, Joseph Campbell) in terms of learning, then he should be able to access whatever sort of resource will best help him (or her) do that. For some kids who unschool, that means that they choose to attend a University or college. Other kids who unschool will make a seamless transition into their adult life without school.

Kids who have unschooled have access to the "real world" and may choose classes or formal lessons. Some kids do choose to attend high school and then they are no longer "unschooling". I've known even younger children choose to try school for a period of time, because they were curious and wanted to see what it was all about. It doesn't mean they stayed there, though, or that they "had to" stay there. They were choosing to explore it as part of their learning and their parents supported that.

And, yes, personally I believe unschooling provides a much better learning (and living!) environment for children, especially my own. That doesn't mean that I believe that all parents are able (or willing) to provide a supportive unschooling situation for their children. Nor does it mean that I think school is a bad place for all children. And it also doesn't mean that post-secondary education, which occurs in a very different milieu than compulsory school education, isn't something that a "grown" unschooler would like to try.

Lesli wrote: "The issue here, for me, is regarding statements in which the position is presented that unschooling has an exclusive hold on, say, promoting a love of learning, or facilitating a child's freedom to express interest in something."

Lesli, there are many names for what you are talking about here: natural learning, child-centered learning, delight-driven learning, enthusiasm-based learning. All these things can be part of unschooling, for sure, but are not exclusive to it. What is exclusive to unschooling is facilitating a child's natural learning without adding school or coercion to the mix. As soon as a parent enrols her child in the local school (or preschool), that child is not unschooling, regardless of how wonderful the parent is at supporting that child's interests outside of the school setting.

I think people are simply asking you to not call what you do "unschooling". There are lots of other choices that may describe it better.

Joanna said...

Crunchy Chicken said: "How does that fit into your philosophy about education since it sounds like many of your children go on to that type of formal education that you avoid in the primary and secondary years? If unschooling is a sufficient learning style, then why bother getting a degree? It sounds contrary to the goals you are trying to achieve."

At that point, it is about what their goals are--not mine, and the reality is that some things need an advanced degree. Some things don't, and from what I'm seeing so far from other grown unschoolers, is that they are able to work the system to get what they want/need from it as VERY savvy consumers. They are much more likely to design their own majors, for instance, to really fit their interests.

One young man I met redesigned the whole undergrad general ed program so that he didn't have to take the survey courses for each elective--he could take the in-depth courses. At first this was actually denied him, so he befriended the president of the university, and that made it possible.

I would LOVE for my children to come out of their childhood with a sense of true empowerment in being able to be the captain of their life's ship--not trying to figure out which hoop to jump through to make others happy--which is how I came out after a successful school career and a four year degree.


Leslie said: "Also, a few things I wrote have been, I believe, purposefully misquoted and/or taken out of context, at least one thing repeatedly, and I think perhaps it is just what Brad suggested, the "We've seen the light, and you haven't."-type syndrome."

What is the one thing that has been repeatedly misquoted/taken out of context?

As for the "we've seen the light" statement, that one is tricky, because I've been in the preschool and then school world, then in the homeschool-but-I-think-I-know-what-you-should-learn world, in the unschooling world and now in the radical unschooling world, and have also seen people in many different stages of moving toward radical unschooling. I know things that people who have only had kids in school really don't know. I can try to describe what I know, but if a person hasn't experienced it, they don't know until they know--you know? lol

It really has taken a lot of work on my part--a lot of questioning, a lot of shifting, and a whole big heaping portion of trust to let things be and watch them unfold in order to start to reap the benefits. It's a long term game where the "results" don't show up right away for many.

I guess all I can really say for sure is that the more choice a person--any person really, but in this case a child--has in their lives, the bigger and richer and more full their life can be. And more of their own making. Real choice--not whether to wear the red shirt or the blue one (although that might be a real choice for a 3 year old!).

This is the crux of what makes unschooling different. The kids have choice, and so by the time they are reaching 14, 15, 16 or so, they've had lots of practice making profound choices and they start to make pretty good ones. I know that I (and my friends) were not in that position as teenagers.

Deanna said...

Crunchy Chicken said: "How does that fit into your philosophy about education since it sounds like many of your children go on to that type of formal education that you avoid in the primary and secondary years? If unschooling is a sufficient learning style, then why bother getting a degree? It sounds contrary to the goals you are trying to achieve."


Good question. I think it's up to the individual and their goals. Obviously some careers will require a degree. And some jobs really don't need a degree or specialized training but that formal piece of paper is required anyway. In some ways, a college degree has become as expected as a high school diploma used to be. Do I agree with this? No, but it is what it is.

I have two unschooled children who made different choices as adults. One has always been pretty academically oriented. He took a couple of concurrent classes at the local university and really enjoyed them. He was awarded enough scholarship money to almost pay for his entire college degree and we have a local university which is fairly small, his grandparents both worked there, and it is quite inexpensive. He was undecided about his future and it only made sense for him to go to college. We have a guest house which he moved into and he was able to go to school, work part-time and have perhaps a bit too much fun during those college years. ;) He now has a degree which increases his options for the future.

My daughter, on the other hand, married right after *graduation* and has pursued her own interests and furthered her learning independently and successfully. She's a blogger, environmentalist, part-time photographer and web designer, and currently doing an internship for a Ph.D student at Rice.

The key is that they both had options and were encouraged to do what was right for THEM. I do think it telling that as soon as my son graduated from college he made the comment that he would be glad to have more time to read and learn again. ;)

Rebecca said...

One of the blogs I follow had a timely post this AM about an unschooler who decided to go to University.

Her story (and perspective) might lend some context to the posts about post-secondary and unschooling.

"The Idea of University Popped Into My Head"

Lesli said...

OK, lots of information, comments, and a question, but hopefully this will help. First, when quotes are taken from me as referring to myself as an "unschooler" (which I noted in one of my others posts I do not consider myself) I was always stating that in response to comments covering specific points, such as "Unschooling kids are/do/learn a, b, and c" that were made in an exclusionary manner (i.e. they only applied to kids who were unschooled). My responses were meant, pretty clearly I thought (apparently not, however) that, since those criteria fit my situation, that means in those instances, I must be unschooling, too. Somebody mentioned what I really was doing was "child-led learning" etc...yes, certainly, but what I was responding to were comments claiming that unschooling had the monopoly on just those things, and it simply doesn't.

There are many, many comments claiming unschooling to be the best answer else you resign yourself to perhaps being lucky enough to make it through school unscathed, with all-inclusive tags such as "always", "never", and "every", applied, and these are just not true. To refute just one, I had a great spark, huge, in me when I went to college. (College is a whole different ballgame than the earlier years, nothing like a continuation of primary and secondary.) Still do, as a matter of fact. So I alone prove whomever indicated otherwise as incorrect. I also know a family who tried unschooling to great disappointment, but neither I nor they hold up their one experience as proving a point for everyone; it just didn't work for them.

The mere fact of commenting here shows at least some interest on the posters' parts in their children(s) learning process, and I'd hazard a guess that there's a actually a lot of interest, and some great, engaged parents here. It dismays me then to see disparaging comments, and the global assumption of what is and what isn't based solely on personal experience and knowledge.

On the preschool unschooling thing...I feel that mode of learning sounds very similar to what is continued in later years through unschooling, and after disagreement on that, I was very surprised to then see on Sandra Dodd's Unschooling page what I interpret as a similar sentiment:

"NOT JUST FOR KIDS!
The way adults tend to learn things is the way people best learn—by asking questions, looking things up, trying things out, and getting help when it's needed. That's the way pre-school kids learn too (maybe minus the looking things up), and it is the way "school-age" kids can/should learn as well. "

(Sandra, interesting page by the way, congrats on being motivated to write a book on this, sounds great; I'll have to check that out. Hope you don't mind I checked it out as you had the link right here.)

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-(Sandra, interesting page by the way, congrats on being motivated to write a book on this, sounds great; I'll have to check that out. Hope you don't mind I checked it out as you had the link right here.) -=-

I don't mind at all. I think my site and probably Joyce's and others have been linked several times in 181 comments. I'm glad someone finally looked! That's where unschooling is laid out and where questions are answered. Those are the places people to go if people really want to know more about unschooling.

So you won't need to go back up through the other posts, or in case Joyce Fetteroll's site wasn't here:
http://joyfullyrejoycing.com

Sandra Dodd said...

-=-(Sandra, interesting page by the way, congrats on being motivated to write a book on this, sounds great; I'll have to check that out. Hope you don't mind I checked it out as you had the link right here.) -=-

I don't mind at all. I think my site and probably Joyce's and others have been linked several times in 181 comments. I'm glad someone finally looked! That's where unschooling is laid out and where questions are answered. Those are the places people to go if people really want to know more about unschooling.

So you won't need to go back up through the other posts, or in case Joyce Fetteroll's site wasn't here:
http://joyfullyrejoycing.com

Lesli said...

Rebecca, in your post (as well as many others) there are some examples of the type of comments that bother me. One:

"That doesn't mean that I believe that all parents are able (or willing) to provide a supportive unschooling situation for their children."

There are some parents who are able and willing to provide a supportive unschooling situation for their children, but feel that other options work better for them.

Another:

"What is exclusive to unschooling is facilitating a child's natural learning without adding school or coercion to the mix."

Well, no, not quite. Exclusive to unschooling is not adding school, I'll give you that. Not exclusive; coercion.

So very many negative words globally applied by some posters...why? Just take comfort that your decision is the right one for you and your family, take pride that what you do is of enough interest to others that they want to know more about it and perhaps even cobble some of your ideas together for their own use, and finally, know that you simply can't know everything about everybody, every situation, every school, really everything, so thus can't reasonably apply your situation to people across the board.

Anonymous said...

Unschooler won 2nd place in NASA No Boundaries national competition

http://www.examiner.com/x-10046-Unschooling-Examiner~y2010m5d6-Unschooler-won-2nd-place-in-NASA-No-Boundaries-national-competition?cid=email-this-article

Anonymous said...

Unschooler won 2nd place in NASA No Boundaries national competition

Lesli said...

I have to clarify myself....my comment:

"Well, no, not quite. Exclusive to unschooling is not adding school, I'll give you that. Not exclusive; coercion."

should read as:

"Well, no, not quite. Exclusive to unschooling is not adding school, I'll give you that. Not exclusive; the part about coercion."

My point; children who go to school are not universally coerced. Not my original point; who's to say there aren't some unschooled children out there who are coerced in some way?

Lesli said...

While I think it's nice for a smaller movement to post "proof" their methods work, I for one don't find it necessary. There's many more instances of "proof" that school works, too. Proof in quotes because it's all a numbers game. I'd even suspect that perhaps a higher percentage of unschooled children compared to the percentage of ALL schooled children have success stories; however, the schooled children pool contains children of all walks of life, including those of disinterested and disengaged parents. I firmly believe that if you compared the group of children at school who have parents sincerely and fully engaged in their learning process to unschooled children, of whom I feel most must be sincerely and fully engaged, the numbers would be comparable. It's all about what works best for you and your family.

Rebecca said...

Leslie wrote: "There are some parents who are able and willing to provide a supportive unschooling situation for their children, but feel that other options work better for them."

Then they are not willing to unschool. They are willing to do something different, regardless of their reasons.

"Well, no, not quite. Exclusive to unschooling is not adding school, I'll give you that. Not exclusive; the part about coercion."

School is coercive. There may be a few alternate settings that are not, but they are the exception.

Some homeschooling families also use coercion to get their children to engage in school-like work or activities. Giving a child chocolate chips for practicing math facts is coercion, even if it seems benign on the surface.

People who understand and practice unschooling do not need to use coercion with their children.

These may not be comfortable ideas for you, but they are what they are.

Rebecca said...

"I firmly believe that if you compared the group of children at school who have parents sincerely and fully engaged in their learning process to unschooled children, of whom I feel most must be sincerely and fully engaged, the numbers would be comparable. "

That would absolutely depend on what you are measuring. Academics? Mental Health? Self-confidence? Family relationships? Future satisfaction?

Schools impact children in ways that parents cannot control or even ameliorate. Also, unless a parent is present 100% of the time in a child's classroom, there is no possible way that a parent can be fully engaged in a child's learning process. It's simply not possible.

And people who send their kids to school are generally accepting of that.

Unschooling families don't need to proselytize. No one is trying to convert anyone. When, however, people ask questions about unschooling or make statements that misrepresent what unschooling is, it is reasonable to expect a response (perhaps in the form of anecdotal or statistical "proof") from people who do understand unschooling.

Lesli said...

Rebecca, this has nothing to do with my being comfortable. We're just going to have to agree to disagree. I am apparently more open to the idea that just because something seems best for one person that doesn't automatically mean it is best for all others. Your blanket statements don't apply, period.

By the way, not every school or schooling method is about giving children chocolate chips for practicing math facts (or using other modes of coercion)...though I'm thinking I have to get in on that one for myself, I love chocolate! ;)

Lesli said...

"Unschooling families don't need to proselytize."

Hmmm. Rebecca, who has been proselytizing here?

Lesli said...

"Also, unless a parent is present 100% of the time in a child's classroom, there is no possible way that a parent can be fully engaged in a child's learning process. It's simply not possible."

With all of the freedom that unschooled children are said to have, I would think that those children also do not have their parents immediately present 100% of the time, either.

Lesli said...

To further explain my prior comment in case it's needed....simply not being present in the classroom does not necessary mean parents are not engaged.

Rebecca said...

"Rebecca, this has nothing to do with my being comfortable."

Lesli, in this discussion you have written:

"I have to add that I'm bothered"
"very disappointing"
"nasty regarding this topic"
"is asinine, at best"
"I'm bothered"
"Your stance perplexes me"
"This statement is disappointing"
"It dismays me"
"comments that bother me"
"So very many negative words globally applied"

All of the above point to something like discomfort.

"I am apparently more open to the idea that just because something seems best for one person that doesn't automatically mean it is best for all others"

So, it would not be best for all children to experience respectful, non-coercive learning environments that support them to build on their strengths and interests? (And if you can find a public school that does this for every child in every grade, please, call the press. I'd love to read about it.)

Of course parents who choose to unschool do so because they believe it's best for their children... perhaps for all children. And this is a conversation about unschooling, so people are going to present that point of view. I have already stated that I understand that not all parents are able or willing to unschool. I don't judge their decision to send their kids to school, although I know for a fact that schools are not optimal learning environments for all/most children, and I feel a great deal of compassion for those who would like to unschool but whose life circumstances make it difficult.

"simply not being present in the classroom does not necessary mean parents are not engaged."

No. But it does affect the degree to which they can be engaged, involved, or understanding.

Lesli, I appreciate that you would like to agree to disagree. That would be the nice thing to do. And I'm absolutely fine with you choosing whatever educational path you'd like for your children. However, I know schools very well. And I know the impact schools have on children - emotionally, socially, behaviourally, and cognitively. I came to unschooling after doing my research (literally) because I could not ignore what I learned about schools. And I can't pretend to not know it now.

Lesli said...

Please don't take my comments out of context. Here is the context from which my statement was made:

You wrote: "People who understand and practice unschooling do not need to use coercion with their children. These may not be comfortable ideas for you, but they are what they are."

This is to what I was responding, clearly, I might add. So as far as my other phrases selectively quoted by you...well, I think it's obvious that you pulled phrases out of context and tried to apply them to something else entirely. Why take the time when it's so clearly not relevant?

"So, it would not be best for all children to experience respectful, non-coercive learning environments that support them to build on their strengths and interests"

What on earth....this is a prime example of faulty logic.

As far as the rest; you know what you know, I know what I know, and hey, I've researched things, too. I also know what I don't know...that's important. There is no one best answer for everybody. I'm sorry, but it seems you feel that your answer has to be the end-all be-all for everyone in order for you to feel good about it. Feel good anyway!

Joanna said...

Leslie: "There is no one best answer for everybody."

Researchers that study learning do actually know what some of the best answers are--kind of like the principles that should apply to situations, but schools are generally not designed to support those principles. That doesn't mean that they couldn't be, but most of them just aren't. There was a big attempt in the 70's to re-design them to be closer, but it didn't hold.

Researchers into learning KNOW (across the board), that a learner needs to feel comfortable, safe, competent and curious in order for learning to happen. It doesn't effectively happen in a competitive environment, or an environment where someone feels emotionally (let alone physically) unsafe. Play is also a huge component of learning--as it is in all intelligent species. A sense of connection is also vital for children to learn. We don't learn as effectively in the presence of strangers (or those who feel like strangers to us).

I don't think that unschooling is the only place where those conditions can be met--and that's where families can evaluate these things for themselves. But unschooling is a place where all of those conditions CAN be met, which is why I think those of us engaged in it can tend to think it is an "ultimate" form of education.

It's not impossible to meet these conditions through school--just not easy or common, in my experience.

Lesli said...

Joanna, I'm no stranger to what researchers into learning have found, and what you've written is, in it's very simplified version, surely part of what is posited. What you wrote, though, seems not so much the result of research but just common sense, with research into more advanced concepts and theories backing it up.

Also true is that unschooling is not the only way those conditions can be met. And your experience is, indeed, yours. If I went off of my experience only I would have written off non-traditional methods of education as being a big mistake for anyone and everyone ages ago.

Rebecca said...

"Why take the time when it's so clearly not relevant?"

Those snippets are relevant as they illustrate your ongoing reaction to unschooling parents in the context of this thread.

"What on earth....this is a prime example of faulty logic."

I used it to point out faulty logic.

"There is no one best answer for everybody."

I agree. And there are answers that are simply better answers, especially when held up against the other available options. I suspect the issue is that everyone has different criteria for "best" and "better". The criteria I use have been well-researched and are informed by peer-reviewed, empirical research, so I'm confident in my assessment.

"I'm sorry, but it seems you feel that your answer has to be the end-all be-all for everyone in order for you to feel good about it."

It might be easier for you (in terms of your own choices) if that were the case, but it's not. Your choices make no difference to me on any level.

I do have valid and informed criticisms (and suggestions) about public education and I know that unschooling addresses these concerns much more efficiently and effectively than an overhaul of the education system.

So, yes, I feel great about our choice to unschool.

Joanna said...

Leslie said, "Joanna, I'm no stranger to what researchers into learning have found, and what you've written is, in it's very simplified version, surely part of what is posited."

So we agree then.

Leslie said: "What you wrote, though, seems not so much the result of research but just common sense, with research into more advanced concepts and theories backing it up."

Is that some way of discrediting what I said? I'm honestly not sure what you meant by that... It actually reminds me of the phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." If common sense tells us something, and it's backed up by both experience and research, then what is all the kerfuffle about?

Leslie said: "Also true is that unschooling is not the only way those conditions can be met. And your experience is, indeed, yours."

I am aware that it is also, because of my position within my local and statewide communities, reflective of many--and growing.

Leslie said, "If I went off of my experience only I would have written off non-traditional methods of education as being a big mistake for anyone and everyone ages ago."

But then you'd be going against common sense, the experience of many others AND "research into more advanced concepts and theories backing it up." Your statement doesn't make sense to me.

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