All you really need to know about “unschooling”

All you really need to know about “unschooling”

I got a chuckle out of a front-page article in the Sunday New York Times about “unschooling” (No School, and the Child Chooses What to Learn.)

On weekdays, during what are normal school hours for most students, the.. children do what they want. One recent afternoon, time passed loudly, and without order or lessons, in their home…

As the number of children who are home-schooled grows — an estimated 1.1 million nationwide — some parents like Ms. Walter are opting for what is perhaps the most extreme application of the movement’s ideas. They are “unschooling” their children, a philosophy that is broadly defined by its rejection of the basic foundations of conventional education, including not only the schoolhouse but also classes, curriculums and textbooks…

What kind of parent would be foolish enough to choose this path for their kids? There’s a clue later in the article:

Ms. Walter, a natural-childbirth instructor, has had to assuage tense feeling from some of her peers.

Natural childbirth can be a wonderful experience when everything works out well. The natural childbirth advocates have some valid criticisms of the medical system, and unschoolers have some valid criticisms of the education system.

When natural birth advocates include a rigid insistence on home birth and a rejection of OBs, results can be devastating when things go wrong. I’m willing to bet the unschoolers are going to cause society plenty of problems.

November 27, 2006

5 thoughts on “All you really need to know about “unschooling””

  1. They used to call teachers’ colleges “normal” schools because their mission was to instruct in the teaching of norms, the basics of living in the society we all have to share. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by assuming that these un-schooled children are not being taught norms. With any luck, the best outcome for these kids will be that they grow up into misunderstood artists or some such. At worst, they’ll wind up criminals.

  2. You are correct, they were called Normal schools instructing in the “norms” of society. Our teacher’s colleges today teach anything but social norms. You are going out on a limb by saying that children are not taught norms. But what is normal. That guys can become girls through an operation? That God doesn’t exist. I think you’ll find that normal takes on a very different meaning today and what teachers colleges teach is NO longer normal.

  3. Another thought, let’s go with your childbirth scenario for a minute…

    Think about it, a girl can have an abortion at 15 without her parents permission and we have to allow it. But let a parent give their child freedom to explore life outside the norm and society will pay a price?

    Which decision is really going to cause society more problems?

  4. Well, I’d suggest you look into some of the traditional successes that nontraditional unschooling has produced. Start with the book Hard Times in Paradise, where the Colfaxes explain how they unschooled their kids into Ivy League schools. (I believe three of them went to Harvard). Or, you could call my 18 year old son, who is teaching English this year in Ambato Ecuador, studying music there, and learning more Spanish by immersion — after having attained his Eagle Scout rank, having transformed a “path in the woods” into an interpretative nature and history trail around the Army Corps of Engineers’ Arkabutla Lake. Or you could ask my other unschooled Eagle Scout son, who recently completed his project, which was to connect a local Boys and Girls Club to the internet, improve their computer lab and the individual computers, and build and install shelving for them. He starts community college spring semester at age 16. Or you could ask my 8 year old, who is a fluent reader but never had a formal reading lesson.

    Unschooling works as an educational method that produces self-motivated kids who excel. It also works by producing artists and welders and mechanics and video game designers. Whatever the kids want. Because it is incredible what self-empowered kids can create and achieve. It is flabbergasting to me that critics of unschooling have absolutely no understanding of this — apparently years of schooling have taken their toll.

    And don’t forget that 30% of our public school students (that would be 1 in 3) do not graduate from high school. (See the April 2006 issue of TIME). I’m not sure that it is too wise to criticize unschoolers for “devastating” results.

    Are unschoolers nonconformist? You betcha. Because conforming to the “norm” in education thru schools has certainly not produced a good track record for a large number of kids, which has definitely caused “society plenty of problems.” On the other hand, we take personal responsibility for our kids’ well being and ability to become independent.

  5. “On the other hand, we take personal responsibility for our kids’ well being and ability to become independent.”

    Well, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it–parents and their willingness to take responsibility for their kids’ well-being. WHERE and HOW they are educated–whether unschooled, homeschooled, in public or private school is FAR less important to the outcome than good parenting. I get frustrated with these discussions because they always end up savaging one educational style or another when really, it’s the PARENTS who will decide their child’s fate.

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