Hi there. Manitobamommy has answered a lot of your questions very capably, so I'll just pick up on this last one:
|I also realize that our society is made up around these learning/teaching structures. So, if my son doesn't receive "schooling", then he'll somewhat be excluded from society?
I think the only time in their lives that people are routinely forced to learn things in a top-down fashion whether they consent to it or not is in compulsory school settings. I mean, if your employer insists you upgrade your accounting skills and tells you to take a course, you're free to look for other work. If you take Spanish classes, you're doing so by choice. If you spend six hours trying to figure out basic home wiring to put in a track lighting system, well, you could have hired someone to do it instead. If you discover you hate biochemistry at university, you're free to drop the course. Yet as school students, children have absolutely no choice but to be taught how to spell this week's 10 spelling words, who signed the Constitution, the chief exports of Peru, what 6x7 is. Their only choice is in how they greet that learning, and often they choose to respond begrudgingly, passive-aggressively, or with overt rebellion against it.
So is school "necessary preparation for a learning paradigm that exists elsewhere in society"? Not in the slightest.
If you're wondering whether by not participating in schooling your child will be excluded from the social world as a child, this is certainly not the case. Unschooled children are indeed excluded from a particular type of mostly worthless and sometimes downright harmful social scenario (the age-levelled pack mentality of school pecking orders). But thanks to their inclusion in the real world of families and communities, they get excellent quality genuine social experience. They meet people over common interests, they meet people engaged in meaningful work, they make friends not as a result of a social pecking order, but because of genuine enjoyment of each other's company, regardless of age, social status, pop music affiliation, reading ability, height, or any other shallow criteria.
If you're wondering whether children not forced to contend with authority-driven learning models will be equipped to cope with them if and when they decide that such a process will get them somewhere they want to go, the answer is a resounding yes. What makes unschooled children so adept at dealing with structured learning situations is their adaptability and their desire. My own kids do a variety of school-like activities (orchestra, violin lessons and group classes, piano lessons, gymnastics, art classes) and they are almost without fail the most attentive, least disruptive, most highly engaged members of their classes. They haven't had hundreds or thousands of hours of experience at being bored, frustrated or otherwise annoyed by coerced education that is meaningless to them so they go into new settings with open, optimistic minds.
Schoolteachers don't always agree that unschoolers entering the system "do well", though, and here's an example of why. My friend's daughter Tess tried a semester of school at age 15. She wanted to do drama and history. She did well, was well-liked, and got very good marks. But she quit half way through the semester. The teachers and students probably thought "she couldn't hack it." In reality, she found the attitude of the other students, who had absolutely no interest in learning, disruptive and frustrating, and decided that unschooling allowed her far more flexible, stimulating ways to learn the same stuff.
If you're wondering about the availability of post-secondary education to unschooled children who haven't jumped through the hoops that give them a conventional high school transcript, well, I don't know what it's like in Sweden, but in North America there are many routes to college for unschoolers. Some are "back door" routes like writing equivalency exams or entering as "adult learners", some are ways to generate a reputable transcript, perhaps by using a charter ("umbrella") school to document home-based learning.
Hope that helps!