Originally Posted by MarineWife
Miranda ~ I have said again and again that I think it's perfectly fine for a teenager to choose school. ...[snip]... If you read the title of this thread, it's about young children.
I understand that the dilemma you're facing is with a much younger child, and that's what the original post was about, almost two hundred posts ago. I was responding to the more philosophical, metaphoric discussion that seemed to have sprung up: whether unschooling is the metaphorical equivalent of breastfeeding, whether unschooling is always the ideal form of education. Personally I don't think the metaphor works. While I completely agree (and you'll see, from my previous posts) that schooling should not be the default choice if a 7-year-old expresses some unhappiness with unschooling, I was disagreeing with this:
Originally Posted by MarineWife
I think an unschooled teen is much more capable of handling the school environment than an elementary age child.
The ideal best, most natural would be unschooling, then would come homeschooling with the family (as long as it's not harsh), then would come schooling with a few like minded families, then an institutionalized school...
It sounds to me like you're saying that a teenager should be able to choose to go to school because at that age s/he can handle the fact that schooling is a pretty mediocre-to-poor educational choice. Once I would have agreed with you, but as I have watched a lot of different kids grow up, and move back and forth between the school system and unschooling, I don't really think you can say that school is always the worst of the choices. Some kids thrive in a school environment, whereas they were unhappy and kind of "stuck" as unschoolers -- even in creative, caring, responsive unschooling families. Some kids, at some times in their lives, genuinely like having their learning led by others. Just as I normally arrive in a new city and wish to explore it on my own terms, occasionally I'd prefer a guided tour, finding my curiosity aroused by things others have decided are worth paying attention to.
My friends are strongly considering sending their hitherto-unschooled 10-year-old to school this fall. He lives on a homestead with four siblings, two parents and two honourary uncles, a long way from town. They have an amazing, self-sufficient life. He breeds and raises his own animals, helps with the family handicraft import business and market garden, builds fences and berms with big machines, helps with carpentry, busks very successfully with his violin for spending money, watches films and documentaries, plays computer games, spends time with my 14yo ds learning computer programming, skis the mountains in the winter and bikes them in the summer. It's an amazing natural-learning lifestyle, nicely wired and at the same time close to the earth, involved in the stuff of daily living and real, meaningful pursuits of family and community life. Yet he's unhappy. They cannot afford many group-based extra-curriculars, nor can they afford the gas to drive him to town for social experiences more than a couple of times a week. There are only about a dozen kids his age in the region, all of them go to school and none live within walking or bicycling distance. He loves having a daily routine, so long as it's provided by an emotionally neutral source. For example, he has loved the sense of accomplishment he got from participating in the long hours of theatre camps over the past few summers, but spits acid at his parents if they try to gently or firmly enforce a similar routine even *at his request* at home, and blames them for his lack of productivity and achievement. He's been kind of spinning his wheels for a couple of years despite all the creative things he and his parents have tried -- mentorships, more travel, on-line contact with agemates, on-line learning, schedules, rhythms, loose mutually-derived expectations, more responsibility, less responsibility. Yet it all falls short. He absolutely comes alive in group learning situations with children of similar age, finds his passions ignited, his enthusiasm and leadership abilities valued. He dislikes any input or overseeing by his parents, yet struggles to self-structure his academic pursuits, then gets discouraged and avoidant and angry -- and his self-esteem suffers.
The school he'll likely end up attending in September is our small town public school. He'll be in a multi-age classroom (5th, 6th and 7th grades) with an amazing teacher with lots of flexibility and big-picture creativity, a bit of a maverick who is universally loved and respected in the community. I honestly think he'll be much happier, and will learn very well indeed, even though his parents have been fabulous unschooling parents. He may not go to school for years, but I'm pretty sure it'll be good for him in the medium-term.
I guess if you mean that in ideal circumstances (if his parents had an extra $20K income a year and they lived close to town, and there was a homeschooling co-op group within 2 hours, and academic mentors available, if there were writers clubs and classes and theatre groups and science clubs nearby) that unschooling could be better for him than school. But then I think you also have to afford school the same courtesy of operating under ideal circumstances. The reality is that no situation is ever truly ideal, unschooling or schooling or otherwise. We do the best we can at the time for the particular people we care about.