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Please talk to me about unschooling/homeschooling post 11

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

(I've posted this in the unschooling forum because I'm interested in unschooling-friendly thoughts, but not that I'm not interested in what others have to say). 


We have a big decision schooling-wise to make with ds in the next year: secondary school. Round here its very different to the US. To get him into any secondary school (junior high?) within a reasonable distance, he has to take up a place at 11. If he doesn't take up this place next September, and later wants to try school, it is likely to be hard to get him a place anywhere less than an hour and a half bus commute away.


I'm mainly thinking about the social side. Round here it does get harder socially for HSd kids at secondary level. A lot of kids go back to school then. Activities and so on dry up a bit. He's not the most sociable of kids really, and probably prefers stuff that is quite solitary-reading, fiddling about with electronics and computing, doing solo sports where he challenges himself-to those with others. He does have social activities-music, scouts and sport stuff- and those are likely to continue, he does voluntary work and he has a strong network of family and, hopefully if there isn't too much drop off, friends, but I can very easily see how he could spend a lot of the next few years in his room. The particular school we're in the catchment area for is one that attracts quite academic, geeky kids and the local friends he has are all heading there. 


I'm generally quite aware of local alternative stuff, hackerspaces, craft stuff, green stuff, skillshares. I think there are a few projects that he might be able to get involved in as he gets older, and one thing that he's totally fine atm with is working with people older than himself. All the projects tend to be very DIY, so everyone has an equal chance to prove their worth really and there are a lot of people willing to skillshare. But I guess I'm worried partly because I'm not seeing other HS'd kids already involved in these projects-although they probably know of at least some of them. My impression is that they are just not interested in doing this stuff. What's going on? Is this a teenage thing? The stuff we have locally are things like a volunteer/student run permaculture/cookery cafe, a community garden, bike workshops, projects with asylum seekers, plus a hackspace, campaigning groups, folk music groups etc...they normally have a good showing of young students but HSers don't seem interested.


There are academic considerations, partly specific to the UK system, but I think those are things that can be overcome and are worth a gamble.  


He's in two minds, leaning toward wanting to go because he can always pull out, but can't do it the other way. He's tried school once, for a day. He's also aware that he will have to sort out some academic stuff first really, if he doesn't want to struggle when he's there. (he struggles a lot with writing, and this is not a school known for its pastoral care-ultimately I think we'd need to consider getting an assessment and a statement of whatever additional needs)


Any thoughts on this huge ramble very gratefully received :-)

Edited by Fillyjonk - 8/29/13 at 6:18am
post #2 of 9

Is part-time attendance an option, or is it all or nothing?

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

no, really no part time option! Its full time which is something like 8.30 til 4.30, iirc.  Flexischooling/part time is now illegal here, I believe, though it was almost unknown for an oversubscribed school to agree before, certainly not post 11. And its a very academic school. The only part time option would be to go part time to FE college at age 16.

post #4 of 9

Well, that makes it a harder decision.  If he takes his spot, he can probably keep it only as long as he's actually enrolled, right?  So if he tried school and then decided to leave, he'd lose the spot forever?  I'm not sure I have any helpful thoughts.  I might be leaning toward trying it if I were you.  But if it's a very academic school and he struggles with writing, he could be really miserable there.  But if he were there mainly just for the social experience and you made it clear to him that it didn't matter at all to you what his grades were or how hard he tried, maybe he could just enjoy being with other kids and not stress about the rest.  But maybe going to school under those circumstances would just be silly.  shrug.gif

post #5 of 9

If it's just the social aspects could he not have that need fulfilled by joining clubs, sports teams, or other organizations during extracurricular time rather than spend it at school? 


The thing is, school is more than just the time you are there. I don't know what the UK is like, but in Canada and the US there is a LOT of homework given to high school students. I worry that a kid used to having free, unstructured time in which to "tinker" is going to find himself way overscheduled in a school environment.


I understand your fears of missing out, but I always tell myself in these situations that I have to make the decision that is right for us NOW and not worry about the 'what ifs' down the road. IF you find later that he wants school, you have no idea what the options might be at that time. Life has a way of working itself out when the time comes...

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

smile.gif thanks. The trouble is, we've already been through this to some extent, in that he'd have really liked to try out primary (pre 12) school in order to see how much he liked it. No spaces at all, we've applied for a place each year for around three years now. It can be a real problem in UK schools actually. My 8 year old would really like to just try school too but-you just can't do that. If you don't get in at age 4 (yes) or then at age 11, that's it really. On the upside, he'd get a free bus pass ROTFLMAO.gif(distance!). 



My feeling really is that high school is very overrated. I also know that the opportunities are there and I know these guys running bike workshops, hackerspaces, community gardens. I know it would be easy to create opportunities for him -and I believe they are good, real, non patronising opportunities, "real work" as Holt would have said-but I'm somehow concerned because no one else is taking advantage of them. I'm wondering if I'm missing something about the teenage psyche. I'm also worried I'm going to end up with a electronics geek who never emerges from his room and refuses to join any clubs or societies or look at daylight, because believe me, the seeds are there.ROTFLMAO.gif


But at the same time, we've been here already, made a decision that was right for him at 5 and probably less right for him at 10. I think in honesty this would be the wrong decision for him at 11, but could be the right one by 14. 


Also, he probably has more friends going onto this school than he does among HErs. 


Oh its very hard!


Oh and this might be a UK specific issue but I'd say, music aside (and he does quite a lot of music, to be fair) but actually, there isn't a huge amount open to teenage HSers. An awful lot is organised through schools.

post #7 of 9

My brother is in the UK with his two kids, one of whom is the age of your ds. They've never chosen to homeschool, but we've had a few conversations about how the UK system differs from that in Canada, and why it feels like more of a gamble to cast one's lot with the homeschoolers. That may be partly personality and perception on my brother's behalf, but I believe there's a lot of truth to it. But that's probably what you're referring to in your sentence about academic considerations. 


So, that I guess puts the focus on "emotional, social and learning needs over the next 6 years." Which is so hard to predict, isn't it? It'll all be so dependent on personality and developmental trajectory and circumstances and serendipity.


For what it's worth, what I noticed in my kids, what sent them looking towards school to fill those needs (in our case thankfully on a flexible part-time basis when desired) were the following:


First, they had a desire to begin seeing themselves as worthwhile people in the context of a wider world. Where we live there is almost nothing specifically for unschooled teens. (There is a vibrant teen unschooler community 90 minutes away -- things might have been very different if we'd lived there -- but they needed something they could tap into regularly, almost daily, without having to rely on their mom taking them on an all-day expedition and waiting around while they did whatever it was.) My kids had youth choir once a week, they had adult friends, they had family, but not much else. The "close friends and family" frame of reference they had for their own value was not at all objective. They wanted to go be amongst people who weren't invested in their success and see how they fared there. This was something that began to kick in around age 11 or 12 for my girls, maybe a year or two later for my ds.


A second and related desire: they wanted to measure their ability to learn, and their academic skills, against an external benchmark. Kids attending school claimed to be working hard and spending a lot of time at their schoolwork. My kids worried that, because they spent little time actively studying, they might be cutting a lot of corners and missing out on some crucial skills. It was one thing to use an advanced textbook, but they knew it was quite another to be able to demonstrate, on terms a school teacher would accept, their mastery of the content of that book. This concern was fairly quickly put to rest, and it probably would have been possible to do so without having them go to school (dd10 did school math and Spanish exams last spring that assured her she's able to achieve in a school format) but I think it was one of the things my older kids wanted to get from attending school.


Probably the biggest factor, though, was that at the age of 13 or 14 they began wanting some external accountability for the structured learning they were wanting to do. We tried to create this accountability at home, but it just didn't work. If I was willing to create a system of accountability at their request, things immediately fell into whiney, immature, defiance. At which point I would say "Look, you asked me to set up these rules!" And they would say "I don't care. I don't want to do it." And that was that. They weren't shy about not fulfilling expectations they had set up and had asked me to enforce. But they knew that if a teacher outside the family did administered a system of expectations, they would never in a million years want to lose face in front of that person. That's maybe partly a temperament thing: they're perfectionistic and introverted. An on-line course, or a promise to an on-line virtual teacher, was not sufficient. They cared not one whit about satisfying a hunk of software. And virtual relationships were too easy to muddle up with virtual personas: my eldest actually lied a couple of times to her on-line teacher when she was about 13, greatly embellishing her accomplishments, something she'd never in a million years have done in real life. My kids needed an in-person relationship. 


So that's what I've noticed about the teenage psyche. The business about the teenaged geek who never emerges from his bedroom ... well we had some of that, but it was time-limited. They may cocoon for a year or two but then they come out of their bedrooms. Don't know if all this is any help, but there it is.



post #8 of 9

IDK but is online school an option.  Either where you are at or can you take american online school?  Just a thought?

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

hey that's weird, I really thought I'd replied to this. I don't think there was anything removal worthy in it-I basically just said thanks to the posters above. So thanks guys. Its really helpful to chew this one over.


The more I think on it the more I am feeling like the academic stuff doesn't feel like a huge deal. It seems to me like the worst case scenario would be that he had to go to uni a year or two late and spend that time doing exams. His birthday is four days before the end of year cutoff, so tbh that's not a huge deal anyway. 


The social stuff...I dunno...but I think I have to stop thinking of it as though school is necessarily a good place for a kid, especially a geeky one, a fairly extroverted, absolutely not shy kid with zero interest in being part of a group as either a leader or a follower, and one who is young, even for his chronological age but certainly for his academic year, to get socialised. He also seems to have an unalterable need to spend a lot of time outdoors running off energy and I just don't see how he would physically cope with an 8-4 day plus homework.


All that said...what I think we've decided is to apply for the place and operate as though he will be starting next year in terms of not closing off options. We'll make a final decision, I guess, next August. I do feel a little bad for whichever other kid (it would be someone out of catchment) really wants this place, but I don't see an alternative at present.

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