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    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    Regarding the Recent Media Frenzy on Unschooling

    As the homeschooling movement progresses and more people shift towards more natural styles of learning, the world asks "What is Unschooling?"

    Most people do not understand what it really is, and all that the recent reporting can do for the general populace is create uncertainty and derision for both unschooling and homeschooling in general. I will never say that unschooling is a bad thing, only the incomprehensible way (to the public) that media "reports" it is.

    Big media has done this with homeschooling, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, unschooling, and many other things in the last few years. They stack the reports and make things look bad, or at least somewhat questionable, so that the "average joe" will rise up against the "horrible neglect" or "abuses" that are happening to "those poor helpless kids". It's just a sad little media game.

    The most insidious part of their game is that in presenting these "news" items the way they do, they even pit us against each other. In a time when all homeschoolers, no matter their methods, all people for that matter, need to stand together in solidarity against these injustices, we are standing divided, arguing over semantics and the precise definitions of words.

    I am a radical unschooler. My kids teach themselves whatever they want, when they want to know it. My 5yo is teaching herself how to read, addition, and subtraction. My 12yo is studying to be an interfaith minister, learning business management, and knows more about her civil rights and the way the government really works than most adults.

    My children may look like they are "doing school" when they get out their workbooks and text books, but they are really playing with things they enjoy. When they want to, because they want to.

    I know a few unschooled adults. College degrees and all, they chose to continue learning, because their subjects were their passions. I have never met an unschooled "failure".

    Real life, real learning, is interest based, is fun, is what you want to do, not some forced, rigored, strained thing. How much have you learned since you left school just because you wanted to know?

    Every action, every reaction, teaches something, if only one is willing to listen to what the world is teaching. I taught my children the love of learning. I teach them how to find their own answers. I teach them to never give up, and I help them find the resources that they cannot find for themselves.

    I'm a homeschooler, but I don't teach my kids in the "normal" meaning of the word. I'm more than just a teacher, more than just a parent.


    wes said...

    You expressed that very well. My hat's off to ya.

    tracy said...

    Beautifully said!

    Deborah said...

    Sure wish you had been my parent. Parents have no idea how much damage they generally do to their own kids. And Narcissists are the worst, perpetuating the behavior for generations. Trust me, I know from which I speak. Schools are bullying grounds, and (sometimes in these days) actual homicide factories. If the students don't drive you mad the faculty will.

    Heather said...

    I'm a homeschool mom. I LOVE it. SO do my kids! I liked this post and how expressive, yet easy to comprehend it was. Maybe the light will finally come on for some reading this!

    Anonymous said...

    I suppose I'd count as one of those "unschooled adults" you know. School taught me a lot, sure. But since high school, I've learned more by teaching myself than I have through any formal training. Two different colleges failed to teach me anything new, but going out and finding the information myself has taught me a lot about many fields.

    What helped the most? Roleplaying games. In my pursuit of better gaming, I've learned about physics, history, number-crunching, government, cooking, the entertainment industry, the FBI (for that character on the Square that year we painted Zip-Flop-Penis' power armor pink, remember?), problem solving, and a whole slew of other things, not to even begin to mention the keyboarding skills I've picked up from it all.


    marilyn n. said...

    I both agree and disagree with your article. Unschooling (sorry, I'd never heard the term till now) means that the child learns what they wish, or what interests them? OK, here's a classic example and it was done under the guise of "homeschooling". The parent couldn't make her kids go to school anymore and they were in danger or being kicked out.
    They did get along with others at the school, they were just sick of it. The Mother, who had a very hard time in school herself, as to learning, didn't help any. She decided to homeschool. She went to the school, after filling out the correct forms and such as required and submitted her curriculum. It was OK'd. The children and there were two, never did a thing. Didn't read. Didn't study anything and nobody learned a thing. Her son ended up getting arrested and her daughter, pregnant. Neither can read or write that well, or operate a computer. Or add, subtract, multiply, divide, know history, politics and such.
    There are also "those" types of un- or home-schoolers out there, the ones who couldn't care less. You obviously aren't one of them, but that doesn't mean that they aren't there....

    TheRambleman said...

    I'm honored to be your friend and a fellow unschooling parent :-)

    Cindy said...

    The percentage of parents that decide to homeschool take their children's education very seriously. I come from an education background. I worked for seven years as a teaching assistant and then teacher. But now I stay home and homeschool my own kids. I took the time to learn more about homeschooling and the different methods and I can tell you when I get back into a traditional classroom one day I will be armed with many more ideas for teaching in the classroom that I never learned in college.

    And keep in mind that there is a growing percentage of kids going through traditional public school that come out not knowing how to read and write. Sad but true.

    Brian said...

    regarding cirriculum, I'm sure most home-shooling parents take pride in trying to provide a well-rounded education for their young. What interests me about this article are the sociological effects. I agree that many schools, especially large ones, provide opportunistic alpha males with a chance to smash their way to the head of the heard by bullying or even gang type violence. However, can a child who has been home schooled their entire life enter a work force as a young adult and not be hung up on the lack of social skills?

    Heather said...

    Lack of social skills always kills me. I mean no disrepsect Brian. This is just my feeling on it. They are very well socialized. My children aren't sitting in a dark closet everyday, with no one to speak to, no one to listen to. They are taught well, and my oldest daughter is in gymnastics, scouts, art calss, and goes to church. My little one does church, but she's not a social bug yet. Not to mention family gatherings. What more socialization could she possibly get?? Other than the kind we don't want het to have, which is why we homeschool. We want to be the main influence in our children's lives. It's also for religious purposes. We are trying to raise godly children in an ungodly world.

    Whimspiration said...

    Marilyn, you are correct. Not only in homeschooling, but in all walks of life, there will always be those sorry few who don't care about anything, not even themselves or their own children. Those Few who sour the name for everyone. That's why it is so important to stand up and set a good example with whatever you do; to help outweigh the folks giving a bad name to whatever your passion is.

    Brian, If a child has spent their entire life being stuck in a situation where they are not allowed to talk, visit, or socialize for most of every day for 13 years, where do they learn social skills?

    When they are being told to sit down, shut up, and not think for themselves, are taught that memorizing things in order to forget them right after a test is "learning", and that true education is something there is no time for. When these same children are never taught how to teach themselves, how to learn, or how to enjoy the process of gathering information. The kids who are forced into mindless obedience just to get by each day and never let into any situation where they can truly engage in conversation with other people no matter what their age differences so that they could learn the all-important multi-generational communication skills necessary for survival in the world away from instutional schooling.

    The questions really are; "How can those poor kids I described manage to survive in the day-to-day "real world" of work and play where communication and the ability to absorb true knowlege and wisdom is paramount to success? How can these poor, instutionally stilted, unsocialized, public school children get along lacking the vital skills they never learned because those lessons don't get high test scores or more government funding?

    A good many of them end up in factory and service jobs, spending their lives serving others for low pay and nonexsistent benifits. Good little worker drones, just like the system ordered.

    I read in a book once about the comparison of homeschooled children to instutionally "educated" ones. The analogy was of a race field. If half of the field was loaded with landmines (instutional schooling), and the other half was not (homeschool), sure, some of the children from the mined side would reach the finish line (lifelong learning and success), while most if not all on the non-mined side would, but isn't it more sensible (and humane) to let the kids not have to fear and possibly be damaged by the mines?

    Public or private schooled children socialize outside of their percieved educational boundaries. Extra-curricular activities and neighborhood play with other children are the only chances they have. Unschooled and homeschooled kids are not only constantly learning, but they have numerous chances to interact with a whole variety of different people on a daily basis, not including their own extra activities, thus enabling them to have communication skills on par with the average 20yo by the time they reach 9 years of age.

    How many hurdles do you want to put in the path to your child's success?

    marilyn n. said...

    Thank you, Kristina for explaining this all out.

    Ok, you changed my mind for most. Most meaning not the parents that I knew, and also not probably us. I wouldn't have minded home-schooling, but since we're in such a small town here, and our son was what we'd call a "joiner", meaning he joined everything and anything that the school had to offer - he once joined three activitys on the same after-school day and didn't want to hear it when we told him he had to pick one!

    He's 29 years old now, college grad., has a good job as a webmaster, and is still very social, though from what you're saying he'd have gotten the social skills from the way you teach as well. What he couldn't have gotten and some of the homeschooling groups are probably as big as his graduating class from high school, which was all of 69 kids(!!!!), was the other activitys that he loved so much, the Math Club, taking Japanese for two years, French for five, being a member of Model Congress and going to debates with children from all over the country, every year, dates (ok, that was scary back then! lol), going to school early each morning as he was also on the closed caption (in-school) cable TV, where he and the others broadcasted to all the classrooms of the news and weather and said the Pledge.

    I can't even come up with all the things he was in, but he loved it all.

    Being that the school was and still is so small, everyone pretty much got along. I think our town is the exception, in that I didn't know anyone who homeschooled - the kids liked the school they were going to and also tried and could read and write. If he'd been in a larger school, possibly the city-schools, I would probaby have had a totally different viewpoint, than in a teeny place where we all knew each other and still do! Great post, Kryistina and thanks for taking the time to answer everyones questions!
    Sounds like you are doing a great job :)

    Oh, and keep writing, please!

    Cindy said...

    Yes homschooled kids have tons of opportunities to experience social interaction with other children. But homeschooled kids are also socialized by adults more so than with other children. In the long run it means that they will have better skills at dealing with other adults which is the place that they will spend most of their lives.

    Whimspiration said...

    Sounds like your son had the perfect educational experience for him! *smile*

    What most people (no matter what "side" of the homeschooling "debate" they're on) forget to realize is that every situation, every family, every child is different. Some kids do better in public school, some prefer homeschool and on and on into infinity for the many reasons families have for choosing any particular educational path.

    The best we can do as parents is provide what works best and is most comfortable, both for our children, and our families as a whole. The only ones who can judge how we "school" is ourselves.

    I have friends who have one unschooler, one public schooler, and a one (previously an unschooler) in college to be a teacher. Those are the choices their children made about their own education, and it works for their family.

    There are even homeschoolers out there who take advantage of the public school's (some schools anyway) offer to allow the kids to participate in classes, clubs, sports, and after-school activities even if they are not enrolled.

    There are a LOT more options now than there were when I was a kid. Now you can homeschool for free using stuff printed from the internet. When I was little homeschool wasn't even a word you heard once every 5 years. Nobody even knew it existed except for a very select (and oft-reclusive) few.

    Education is always the family's decision.