or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at Home and Beyond › Unschooling › Why do other people feel so threatened by unschooling?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Why do other people feel so threatened by unschooling?

post #1 of 84
Thread Starter 
Over the weekend my DH ran into a co-worker who was out with his wife and they started talking about kids. (They have a 2YO; our son is 4.5.) They asked if our son was in K4, and my DH explained that we were homeschooling him. I'm not sure how they found out about the unschooling, though my DH has a tendency to over-explain some of our parenting decisions. (He & I both got burned telling people we don't vax, so now that's not something we discuss with anyone else.)

Anyway, they were ALL OVER HIM with questions. They seemed really interested and I guess their minds were blown, lol.

This morning when DH went to work his co-worker met him at the door and walked with him to my DH's cube, where the guy had written out on my DH's white board subjects like biology, history, math, etc. He started pummeling my DH with questions about how our son would learn all of these things, and what happens when our son turns 18 and finds out he never learned about Ben Franklin? What happens when he's older and realizes he never learned all the things that other kids learned? What happens when he gets out in the "real world" and can't handle it?

My DH said that none of this came off antagonistically -- very assertive, yes, but not antagonistic. And I wasn't there. But really, writing subject headings on his white board, meeting him as he walked into work, peppering him with questions? What's that all about?

Why do people assume that what's taught in school is everything that a person needs to know? Don't they realize that curricula is chosen by the school board and administrators, and that by definition things are left out?

Our son is 4.5 and he knows how a steam engine works. He can explain the difference between a zeppelin and a blimp, and knows the history of zeppelins. He knows how the digestive system works. I know I don't have to give you guys examples -- I'm sure your kids are the same way. But I'm always blown away by all the stuff I'm learning right along with my son, stuff we're learning just because he's interested and not because it's part of a workbook that I'm forcing him to complete. If *I'm* learning new things at the age of 39, with my very good public education and four-year college degree, what does that say about regular education?

Thank you for listening. I'm just so amazed that DH's co-worker would get so worked up about this! Hopefully it's just that he's never thought about it before and we're actually opening his mind...
post #2 of 84
Wow that's bizarre and kind of funny too. Maybe your DH can counter with a power point presentation. I hate to break it to the guy but my son has known who Ben Franklin was since he was 5 and he knows more about his experiments than many adults (some of whom learned most of what they know about him from Looney Tunes apparently).
post #3 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by New Mama View Post
My DH said that none of this came off antagonistically -- very assertive, yes, but not antagonistic. And I wasn't there. But really, writing subject headings on his white board, meeting him as he walked into work, peppering him with questions? What's that all about?
Well, apparently the guy never got "socialized" in school, huh? Lillian

post #4 of 84
B/c it's basically saying, "My kid can stay at home and do nothing and be better than your kid who will be institutionalized for 18 years."

And yes, I totally understand US is way more than "do nothing" but the point is few people know what US is and so they have a stereotypical idea that the kid just runs wild at home.
post #5 of 84
I find that many people are threatened by unschooling, as well as homeschooling, because it is not the norm (though it certainly is becoming more so here in CA).

Anytime growing groups of people go against the grain there will be others who feel threatened by it.

Regarding your dh coworker: Sounds like your husband really gave him something to think about if he was that excited to rush into his office the next day and make a case for why unschooling wouldn't work.

At least it got him thinking and probably marinating in the thought for a while the night before.

This is how I learn and grasp new ideas as well. I listen, then seek info, and even argue why it wouldn't work before I fully understand something and in our case, end up going that route after all
post #6 of 84
how funny that his response to unschooling was to be schooly and teach your DH a class on how wrong he was!

I think that along with people being uncomfortable with differences among their peers, they feel uncomfortable imagining that all the time and effort and money spent teaching kids stuff was just an illusion. Kids learn basically the same stuff regardless, given time and opportunity.
post #7 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by prancie View Post
they feel uncomfortable imagining that all the time and effort and money spent teaching kids stuff was just an illusion. Kids learn basically the same stuff regardless, given time and opportunity.
Quote:
Originally Posted by claddaghmom View Post
B/c it's basically saying, "My kid can stay at home and do nothing and be better than your kid who will be institutionalized for 18 years."
I agree. It's partially that unschooling basically negates the need for all the crap we (cultural "we") invest in really heavily. Plus, if you think it's so great and such the right choice for your kids, then that means that whatever everyone else is doing is wrong.

Raising kids is personal. We want to believe that there's some right way of doing things and there just isn't. We're all different, but we want validation. That's why it's hard for many people to maintain friendships with people who parent drastically differently.

It hurts your feelings when people do things differently. It makes you feel like an outsider, like maybe you're totally wrong. That, or maybe they like you so well they're trying to figure out what's wrong with you and how they could have missed it!
post #8 of 84
Hey ya Mama,

I think simply , if someone who is public schooling (or planning on doing so) admits that US or Homeschooling might be a good thing, then really in a way their admitting that what their doing isnt...*gaff* and if You still have schooly speak in your brain, you cant possiable admit your wrong because they you would be eaten alive...*grins*
post #9 of 84
'*
post #10 of 84
I teach high school history, and I believe that I do my job well. Nonetheless, it would not surprise me in the slightest to discover that my school graduates 18-year-olds who do not know who Ben Franklin is.

(I don't teach US history, so Ben Franklin is not one of my personal responsibilities. I'm fairly certain a number of my students forget Robespierre, even though they simulate his execution using a mini-guillotine and baby carrots. And no matter how many times I pound on a desk with my shoe, a bunch of them also forget Nikita Khrushchev. Kids forget. It's a thing they do.)

The purpose of education should not be to make people learn a list of facts, which they may or may not find relevant. Because that is a stupid, boring, and ultimately futile job. It should be to teach them a set of skills, which they can apply in many situations and use to find things they never knew, or rediscover things they have forgotten. In schools, we often use selected lists of facts to get the skills across, and that's OK given what schools do. It works for a bunch of kids. Unschooling also works for a bunch of kids. Some kids are in both bunches.

You dh's coworker should chill out. If your ds knows all about blimps and zeppelins at age four, he has a great foundation for lifelong learning. If you are learning things alongside your 4yo, that also says lovely things about your regular education - you know how to learn.

I think sometimes people do react very defensively to other people's descriptions of their educational approach when those descriptions are presented in a way that is dismissive of all other methods. There are many children for whom the Montessori method is awesome, and then there is my youngest dd for whom it is not. There are kids who thrive in public school and kids who don't. No one should ever have to defend choosing the educational approach that is the best fit for their child. But perhaps your dh should check his presentation strategy? Because if it came with a heavy dose of "school sucks" I can understand his co-worker's desire to whip out the outline and play "What if?" But I still think the co-worker should chill out.
post #11 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stik View Post
The purpose of education should not be to make people learn a list of facts, which they may or may not find relevant. Because that is a stupid, boring, and ultimately futile job. It should be to teach them a set of skills, which they can apply in many situations and use to find things they never knew, or rediscover things they have forgotten. In schools, we often use selected lists of facts to get the skills across, and that's OK given what schools do. It works for a bunch of kids. Unschooling also works for a bunch of kids. Some kids are in both bunches.

You dh's coworker should chill out. If your ds knows all about blimps and zeppelins at age four, he has a great foundation for lifelong learning. If you are learning things alongside your 4yo, that also says lovely things about your regular education - you know how to learn.
Wow, I never really thought of it this way. Thank you for sharing. I will say that I was MISERABLE in school -- I felt like I was way too smart to be sitting around being held back from what I was really interested in -- so that may color how I present the idea of schooling. But I like your explanation, because I really don't want to put regular schoolers on the defensive when I explain why we HS.
post #12 of 84
I'd like to weigh in on (sort of) the other side. I have one grown daughter who went through school in the public system; homeschooling wasn't all that common back then, and even if I had moments where I would have liked to do that, my economic reality precluded any such possibility. Now I'm expecting another child (any day now, come on! come on!), and find myself in a more emotionally and financially settled situation where I am able to explore more options this time around. Having spent years in teaching positions myself, pedagogy is near and dear to me. I know it's a few years off, but I've been researching the possibilities, and of course, came across the concept of "unschooling."

So here's where I diverge from the thread slightly: I can easily imagine that man simply being confused about a few things and wanting clarification about an interesting ideology -- which is much different than feeling threatened. I've wanted clarification on a few things myself, and I am in absolutely no way threatened by unschooling. One of my children is finished with school, and the other has not even been born yet! I maybe wouldn't bring in a whiteboard (that's rather funny actually), but if that's how he organizes his thoughts, then so be it.

I imagine what he was wondering about is this: even if you accept the philosophy of unschooling as superior to the set curriculum/public school system, the fact is that at some point, if your child wants to continue formal education in order to follow a certain career path, he/she is bound to run up against standardized tests. And whether or not you agree with the wisdom of the way they structure these tests, and the types of questions they ask, they *are* the gatekeepers, as it were. There's also the question of transcripts: when you're child applies to university, they will ask for one, and they will expect a standardized form with grades for specific subjects. So, by not at least roughly following the curriculum set out in the public schools, are you not hobbling your child when it comes to university entrance? And, I would like to emphasize: this is an honest and well-intentioned question on my part, and in NO WAY an accusation or indictment of unschooling in general. I just wonder how it's managed in the end, and I think this man also is wondering the same thing. I mean, maybe your kids go periodically for testing, and that's how it's dealt with...I just don't know.

The other thing that confuses me: isn't unschooling something that parents would do anyway with their children? In addition to some more formalized education? It seems to me -- and again, correct me if I'm wrong because you all are actually living this -- that unschooling is all about allowing your child to follow their interests and learn generalized lessons from those interests as well as from life skills (ie teaching math by making muffins and measuring the ingredients), teaching them critical thinking skills (ie teaching them to learn, vs teaching them facts), and allowing them the latitude to be who they are in the learning environment. That all sounds great to me, but wouldn't you do those things anyway? Have I come up with an oversimplified version of unschooling? Again, this is an honest question, and implies no judgment whatsoever, but I'd love it if someone could explain these things to me.

This may not be the place for these questions...but it naturally grew out the response to the OP's initial subject.
post #13 of 84
Wow. That co-worker's reaction was pretty over the top. I can understand him having questions, but what you describe doesn't sound like a friendly conversation.

I do think that people feel threatened when they're not confident in their own choices--ie: (If you choose X then you must think my choice of Y is wrong.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie Mac View Post
the fact is that at some point, if your child wants to continue formal education in order to follow a certain career path, he/she is bound to run up against standardized tests. And whether or not you agree with the wisdom of the way they structure these tests, and the types of questions they ask, they *are* the gatekeepers, as it were. There's also the question of transcripts: when you're child applies to university, they will ask for one, and they will expect a standardized form with grades for specific subjects. So, by not at least roughly following the curriculum set out in the public schools, are you not hobbling your child when it comes to university entrance?
In a word, no. Unschoolers can take standardized tests as needed just like anyone else. There is no need to periodically take tests throughout one's life in order to be able to take a college entrance exam. If needed, SAT practice books and prep courses are plentiful.

And unschoolers provide transcripts as needed and they are tailored to the educational institution's requirements--meaning, some will appear to be standardized form and others will be in portfolio or resume form depending on the college. Really, a transcript simply answers the question, "What have you been doing for the past 4 years?" Many colleges now address hsers specifically in their admissions process, asking for an interview or essay in addition to the usual application information.


Quote:
... unschooling is all about allowing your child to follow their interests and learn generalized lessons from those interests as well as from life skills (ie teaching math by making muffins and measuring the ingredients), teaching them critical thinking skills (ie teaching them to learn, vs teaching them facts), and allowing them the latitude to be who they are in the learning environment. That all sounds great to me, but wouldn't you do those things anyway?
I think it's bigger than that. Some parents will support their children's interests outside of school, like you describe (and some don't.) But the time to do that is limited when they're in school.

I see unschooling as a complete-life philosophy, not preparation for the future and not a learning environment separate from the rest of life. My kids are living their lives and learning and of course, today naturally leads to the future, but unschooling isn't something I'm orchestrating for them to follow to some end.
post #14 of 84
Those kinds of reactions have usually seemed to me to be coming from people who grew up thinking learning was a job, a chore, and an obligation that the schools needed to orchestrate and demand in methodical ways, rather than a perfectly natural and enjoyable part of living that children are drawn to. If one has always thought of learning as something people need to be forced into - not something that comes in the course of enjoying life - it's only too natural to assume that children are never going to learn anything without the teaching and assigning going on. So they worry and fret that children not being "taught" correctly in the way they think is necessary will grow up to be veritable mushrooms who'll have to spend their lives on a corner in rags holding a misspelled cardboard sign asking for money because of never knowing about such critically important things as who Ben Franklin was. Lillian
post #15 of 84
So, do un-schoolers learn how to take tests?

I was home schooled from 2nd grade on, took the ACT for practice at 16, got a scholarship on that score, went to college when I was 17. So, I understand how home schooling works.

But, I had to get a GED. So, while I was waiting to take the test, since I was a minor, I had to be in the school's custody (I didn't need the time to practice, since I aced their pretest, so I was just sitting around their office all day... boring!) So, I asked for something else to do, since all their literature was super-easy, 8th grade level crap. Anyway, I ended up getting sent to the alternative school to tutor the kids there on their upcoming GEDs. I had to teach the kids how to take a test. They did not know how to read a question, or how to eliminate multiple choice answers, or how to reference back to the article they were being quizzed on (it was a "read this essay and answer the questions" type of test). So, I would argue that people DO have to learn how to take tests, and it can take quite some time to make that skill a habit so it can be called upon easily.

That was a long way of asking if un-schoolers learn how to take tests.
post #16 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by DirtRoadMama View Post
So, do un-schoolers learn how to take tests?
If/when they need to, sure. Why not?

Quote:
They did not know how to read a question, or how to eliminate multiple choice answers, or how to reference back to the article they were being quizzed on (it was a "read this essay and answer the questions" type of test). So, I would argue that people DO have to learn how to take tests, and it can take quite some time to make that skill a habit so it can be called upon easily.
I agree that there are certain useful strategies for test-taking. Often, it depends on the test itself (with some, it's beneficial to take a guess if you don't know the answer, with others, it's detrimental to guess.) But I disagree that it takes "quite some time" to learn these things. The process of elimination is not a difficult concept and it's something people do in their daily lives all the time. Ditto referencing back to an essay to find information.

The unschoolers I know who are in college didn't have any special or long-term preparation for admissions testing and they did just fine. I think the kids you have experience with, in an alternative school setting getting ready to sit for the GED, probably lacked some skills simply because of their situation. I mean, the unschooled kids I know who were sitting for tests were eagerly college-bound and motivated to do well.

Comparing the two sets of kids doesn't seem equal.
post #17 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by SagMom View Post

The unschoolers I know who are in college didn't have any special or long-term preparation for admissions testing and they did just fine. I think the kids you have experience with, in an alternative school setting getting ready to sit for the GED, probably lacked some skills simply because of their situation. I mean, the unschooled kids I know who were sitting for tests were eagerly college-bound and motivated to do well.

Comparing the two sets of kids doesn't seem equal.
I agree that the groups are not the same. I was just trying to show my experience with kids who weren't taught how to take tests. There were several types of questions on the test (essay, read and answer, multiple choice, true or false), and none of those kids had any skills on how to answer a question of which they were unsure. It took the whole time I was there to get them to use the skills I was teaching them in a consistent manner.

So, I was equating no one ever teaching these kids how to take tests to any other person who had perhaps not had much exposure to regurgitation situations.

Personally, I always had the hardest time writing essay answers on exams. I knew the answers, but I would spend so much time analyzing how the question was written (my true loves were English, spelling, and grammar) that I would get confused if the question was not very clear. If there were two ways to interpret a question, I would see both questions, and wouldn't know which one to answer. Anyway, if I hadn't a plenty of time to realize this was a problem, and learn how to get around it, I would have had a really hard time in college. There were several times when I asked the professor for clarification of an exam question, and they would end up addressing the entire class to clarify the ambiguity they hadn't seen before.

That's all just to say that some skills to take a while to learn, and it can be daunting to learn how to question a professor when you have never dealt with a formal teacher before, in my experience.
post #18 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by DirtRoadMama View Post
So, do un-schoolers learn how to take tests?

I was home schooled from 2nd grade on, took the ACT for practice at 16, got a scholarship on that score, went to college when I was 17. So, I understand how home schooling works.
All I can say is that my son never had a problem with it. His first tests (after a year in 1st grade) were when he was in the community college taking some classes he enjoyed, and he never thought anything of it. It just wasn't so complicated to figure out how to fill in answers or essays or check boxes .

[Edited to add: I got back to read the rest of your post and found the part where you said you'd had some problems with it - sorry, I wasn't meaning to be sarcastic. I guess it's an individual thing, but I just haven't heard before of it being a problem. Test questions can be poorly worded - true - and they can be misleading. I don't think it would take much practice to figure out how to take tests, though, without having to actually take them all along.]

And when he went to take his SAT, which he did well on, he was bothered by the rude way in which the person overseeing the test treated some of the young people there who had forgotten pencils - because it had really visibly upset them and made the test taking more anxious for them. So he went up the guy at the end and politely but firmly told him that kind of behavior was entirely out of line . So, yeah, I'd say he had a pretty good relationship with testing. - Lillian
post #19 of 84
[QUOTE=DirtRoadMama;15196342]

So, I was equating no one ever teaching these kids how to take tests to any other person who had perhaps not had much exposure to regurgitation situations.[QUOTE]

I think the difference is that, an unschooled kid who is preparing for college will know that there are tests they need to take and will seek out exposure to the kinds of things that will be on the tests (either through a tutor or a review book, practice tests, etc.)


Quote:
That's all just to say that some skills to take a while to learn, and it can be daunting to learn how to question a professor when you have never dealt with a formal teacher before, in my experience.
Unschooled doesn't mean that they've never dealt with formal teachers before though--I think there are probably a number of things at play here--individual personalities, exposure, etc. I haven't seen these difficulties with any of the kids I know though, so I wouldn't say it's an inherent issue with unschooling.
post #20 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by SagMom View Post
The unschoolers I know who are in college didn't have any special or long-term preparation for admissions testing and they did just fine. I think the kids you have experience with, in an alternative school setting getting ready to sit for the GED, probably lacked some skills simply because of their situation. I mean, the unschooled kids I know who were sitting for tests were eagerly college-bound and motivated to do well.

Comparing the two sets of kids doesn't seem equal.
I was thinking the same thing. It very well may be that school-going kids who are going for a GED might often dealing with subtle learning challenges they might not even know they have and that they might have missed picking up some skills along the way just from struggles that frustrated them. - Lillian
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Unschooling
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at Home and Beyond › Unschooling › Why do other people feel so threatened by unschooling?