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Old 08-12-2010, 10:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It looks like me and my family will be interviewed for a video segment on unschooling for Voice of America, an international news organization that translates their stories into 40+ languages. Do any of you have any experience with this? I just don't exactly know what the angle of the story would be, whether it would be like what Dayna Martin experienced (a very friendly interviewer who she felt was trustworthy and then the "producers" twisted the story to make unschooling look like a unwise choice in life) or if it would be more unbiased. I want to make the news crew feel welcomed and show them how we learn, but I also don't want to come off as someone who makes bad choices for my kids, kwim?

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Old 08-13-2010, 01:10 AM
 
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I really wouldn't advise letting them hang around to observe how you learn, because that's pretty unpredictable stuff - observable learning isn't something you can expect to necessarily show itself during the time they're there. Ironically, in "real life," the children would probably be spending that time observing what the crew was doing rather than the other way around. That's one of the things that went wrong with another unschooling filming not long ago - there was filming going on during those times when not much of anything visible was going on, but not when there actually were some interesting things going on.

Be sure to read this free downloadable guide that was written by Mary Griffith - it should give you some tips and confidence: The Homeschooling Image: Public Relations Basics. And it would be great if you can make them understand that there's no one way unschooling is done - that every family is unique. I think it would be helpful to emphasize what does happen rather than what doesn't happen - they can relate to that much easier. In other words, sharing some of the really interesting and inspiring things that happen, have happened, what has been learned, what interests are being followed and learned from, etc., will go a lot farther than philosophical talk about what you don't do.

You might want to think in advance about some of the things you might want to say about what works well - things you know the average person can relate to. Maybe you can get a friend to interview you for practice to get a feel for what you want to say or not say. I think your concern about not letting our guard down is very valid - remember that anything you say can be taken out of context, deliberately or innocently, and end up sounding different than you might have meant it. They want interesting and thought provoking things to come up in the interview - so they'll look for those kind of things that stand out.

You might also want to know some good stories about grown unschoolers and the kind of education and careers they've gone on to, so that you don't sound as if you're blazing a trail.

All the best!
EDITED TO ADD: Oh, hey - I see you live in San Franicsco. This is one of a set of article done years ago in the Bay area that turned out really well - the reporter was very open minded and conscientious, really trying to see the postiive: SINGING THE PRAISES OF HOME - SCHOOLING: North Bay kids find freedom, motivation outside of traditional classrooms - most of the kids in the article were unschoolers! But I think we were all pretty cautious in how we presented it, and I don't think anyone even thought to use the word "unschooling."



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Old 08-13-2010, 01:36 AM
 
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Nani knows this but I just thought I'd throw it out there; my husband and I were involved recently in an article and video on Unschooling that others also might find interesting:

http://www.telegram.com/section/massmoms

I don't know how Beth Fleming kept so cool and poised. It's not easy with a camera rolling. :-)
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Old 08-13-2010, 02:59 AM
 
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You could also plan out activities for your kids to do while they're there. What are your kids interests? A recent local interview I saw had a teen showing a laptop with her webpage and her NASA blog--impressive stuff. Little sister did the rubic's cube while hulahooping. The Mass mom tape had the kid showing off the complete works of Shakespeare. Playing off what Lillian said, maybe your kids could come up with a list of questions for the film crew and the kids could be videotaped interviewing the film crew. Or have your kids talk about something impressive that they've learned. Just don't let them sit in front of the TV or eat junk food. If you're radical unschoolers, frame your answers based on what the kids are learning. "Our kids have learned to listen to their bodies on when is a reasonable bedtime so they all end up sleeping a full 9 hours and wake up so fresh and ready to learn." Also, and this would be hard, but watch for sentences that can be cut to change the meaning. "We want our kids to learn to eat healthy foods so we only keep healthy foods in the house. This way...THEY CAN EAT WHATEVER THEY WANT...and we know they're making good choices."

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Old 08-13-2010, 03:02 AM
 
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Oh, and in the activist world...the more radical you speak, the more conservative you dress. Be VERY aware that your clothes are nice (without putting everyone in suits.) No over the top jewelry. Look really, really normal, but not frumpy.

And if you've got some things in your house that are on the edge, put them in storage. Try to arrange for the interview to happen in front of bookshelves.

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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Old 08-13-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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I'll put on my "I used to work in PR" hat.

Have you talked to the reporter and team about what sort of story they are after?
A quick conversation about what kinds of things they would like to see and what kind of information they are after would give you a sense of what kind of direction to take and if you listen carefully you can probably get a sense of the level of info the reporter already has and if there are potential biases.

You can also ask if she wants you to send her any background (the mothering mag article from a couple of years ago is a good neutral backgrounder).

Your kids are young - and that can make for unpredictable tv. I'd do a lot of prep work - make sure they are well rested, well fed, that they have an understanding about what the crew is there for, that there is a partner/friend of yours there who could entertain them if need be.

I would also have some things set out as triggers for them and you to talk about.
A photo book of a recent trip, a favourite game, a science experiment, an interesting pet, their corner of the garden, their art journal, a collection of something interesting, their judo uniform or swim badges. Is there some project or passion you are working on together that would illustrate unschooling positively? I'd have some visually interesting educational activities out for you and the kids to do as well which will give the camera good positive images to lay behind your voice if need be - pattern blocks, drawing journals/water colours, musical instruments, microscope/magnifying glass, puzzles, bug jar etc. The camera crew will use what they see to set up shots so if this sort of thing is readily available then it makes your job and theirs easier.

I agree with the PP to practise practise practise. I would write out your philosophy about why you choose homeschooling/unschooling and refine it so that it is concise and clear and non-negative. I would come up with a list of anecdotes about your kids and how they have learned something naturally or been engaged in a passion, about how they are engaged in your community etc. I would think of the top 10 objections to unschooling/homeschooling and again write out answers to those and refine them so that they are clear and positive. Read them and practise saying them so that the answers become genuine and the phrases you want to use become second nature to you. I'd suggest having someone who is homeschooling neutral listen to what you say to see how it comes across.

Be well versed in your local laws and some of the statistics about homeschooling in the US. Be ready for the "college" question with some stats and anecdotes. The socialization question is likely to come up. I'd make the case for clarifying socialization from socializing and have examples of your children's opportunities to socialize.

I would try to keep answers short, concise and clear. Rambling answers can be edited in such a way that the context is lost. If a question is framed in a negative way, answer the question that you wish the reporter had asked. Ie if the question is "aren't you concerned that your child will never learn how to get along in society?" reframe it so that you answer the question "How are you ensuring your kids will learn how to get along in society?". This does a couple of things - it stops you from answering a question starting with "No...." or "I'm not concerned about that...." and it keeps things more positive and proactive and keeps you in control of the answers you give. You can even say at the start of your answer "OH are you asking how we do ABC?" and answer from there.

If you sense that there is some bias from the reporter or the interview is heading in a direction you would rather it not go, a good strategy is to find common ground with other more readily accepted ideas. You could for example use other educational philosophies to help frame unschooling. There are parallells between Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio and even main stream schooling which can be used as a stepping stone to explain unschooling. Things like prepared environment, using inquiry based learning, respecting the child's developmental stage, building on passions, small group learning with an engaged adult, hands on learning, community based learning are all things that make sense within the context of many educational philosophies. You can also talk about how unschooling is akin to how adults learn - finding an interest, finding resources, and delving in until they are satisfied.

I've got to run - hope this helps.
Karen

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Old 08-13-2010, 03:07 PM
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I agree with what was written by the pp. My experience with the media comes from working in universities and having to be the spokesperson when students died or there were hazing incidents, etc.... When I would go before the camera, I would think ahead of time about soundbites. Short statements that would be less likely to be edited down and used out of context. That way I was able to control my message a bit more. Good luck!
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Old 08-13-2010, 03:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all the great suggestions! All of them are very valid points and need some deeper investigation and premeditation on my behalf. My worst case scenario is that I would say/do things on camera that would leave the producers with the impression that unschooling is just the worst choice anyone could make for their children and should be put on trial (as they do in my home country in Germany). The best case scenario is that we could inspire a new paradigm in learning across the planet What if people see this in Asia and Europe, Africa, and South America and think "Why can't we do this here? Why does our government dictate how our children are educated (and brainwashed, ...but I wouldn't say that on camera)?"
I need to find out how long of a segment they want to create and what the general bias is at that news corporation. From what I gathered, it is pro-freedom, pro-America....whatever that REALLY means, right?

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Old 08-13-2010, 04:50 PM
 
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Gently: May I ask you how did you get involved with this? I'm inherently suspicious when producers do segments on unschooling with parents of really young children. True, unschooling is a life learning philosophy, but it is not that different from just parenting your toddler and preschooler, right?

When families with young children are chosen to showcase unschooling, the bias is already present from the beginning. I'm sorry to be blunt, but watching a mom of kids so young talk about "unschooling" is not inspirational. It is puzzling. I'm not attacking you in any way, and I don't doubt that you are trying your best, but really, but I don't think this is doing unschooling any favours. Even if the interview goes splendidly, and the producers are most fantastic and supportive, the best that can be shown is that very young children do best when they are given the lead in their learning, which is a no brainer for most. And of course this invites a very valid criticism of "wait until your kids are older, then you will be sending them to school like everybody else."

When we are raising our children with the unschooling philosophy in mind, it is tempting to show the rest of the world how great it is. But in reality, NO ONE with the kids who are 5 and 3 KNOWS what unschooling is about, not from their experience. It is all about PARENTING at that age. Yes, mostly non-mainstream parenting, but parenting nevertheless. My oldest just turned 8, and I'm only know beginning to fully understand how unschooling applies to our lives, what it means and so on, even if we've been "hardcore unschoolers" form the very beginning.

This said, I wish you good luck and all the best.

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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Old 08-13-2010, 06:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Nani View Post
The best case scenario is that we could inspire a new paradigm in learning across the planet What if people see this in Asia and Europe, Africa, and South America and think "Why can't we do this here? Why does our government dictate how our children are educated (and brainwashed, ...but I wouldn't say that on camera)?"
Careful!

From what I've seen and experienced, that sort of thing happens only in small increments. That's one of my concerns about "Unschooling" being publicly put out there as a set package rather than as a very loose term that includes a whole spectrum and cornucopia of various families' experiences with incorporating education into their lives without the trappings that formal school systems have developed over the years to handle rooms full of children all at once. Rather than blow people's minds right off the bat with the idea that the children are learning only about what strikes their fancy, which could easily be very little in the imagination of the many, many people who don't get it, I think it's really important to make it understood that they're not living in a vacuum on their own, but that they're an organic part of a lively family and community and cultural dynamic that's always presenting new and information and experiences that intermingle with the development of important life skills and education.

Hey, here's an idea - go read the thread we had awhile back on Misconceptions about unschooling, because it's threaded with a bit of negative debate, and you can see a nutshell version of the kind of thing people react to. And this thread is outright confrontational - "is homeschooling really a good idea?" - so it will provide you with more common misconceptions to have in mind. Lillian
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Old 08-13-2010, 06:49 PM
 
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Gently: May I ask you how did you get involved with this? I'm inherently suspicious when producers do segments on unschooling with parents of really young children. True, unschooling is a life learning philosophy, but it is not that different from just parenting your toddler and preschooler, right?

When families with young children are chosen to showcase unschooling, the bias is already present from the beginning. I'm sorry to be blunt, but watching a mom of kids so young talk about "unschooling" is not inspirational. It is puzzling. I'm not attacking you in any way, and I don't doubt that you are trying your best, but really, but I don't think this is doing unschooling any favours. Even if the interview goes splendidly, and the producers are most fantastic and supportive, the best that can be shown is that very young children do best when they are given the lead in their learning, which is a no brainer for most. And of course this invites a very valid criticism of "wait until your kids are older, then you will be sending them to school like everybody else."

When we are raising our children with the unschooling philosophy in mind, it is tempting to show the rest of the world how great it is. But in reality, NO ONE with the kids who are 5 and 3 KNOWS what unschooling is about, not from their experience. It is all about PARENTING at that age. Yes, mostly non-mainstream parenting, but parenting nevertheless. My oldest just turned 8, and I'm only know beginning to fully understand how unschooling applies to our lives, what it means and so on, even if we've been "hardcore unschoolers" form the very beginning.

This said, I wish you good luck and all the best.

I think this is all very well said. I've often had some of those same thoughts over the years. - Lillian


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Old 08-13-2010, 07:23 PM
 
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Gently: May I ask you how did you get involved with this? I'm inherently suspicious when producers do segments on unschooling with parents of really young children. True, unschooling is a life learning philosophy, but it is not that different from just parenting your toddler and preschooler, right?

When families with young children are chosen to showcase unschooling, the bias is already present from the beginning. I'm sorry to be blunt, but watching a mom of kids so young talk about "unschooling" is not inspirational. It is puzzling. I'm not attacking you in any way, and I don't doubt that you are trying your best, but really, but I don't think this is doing unschooling any favours. Even if the interview goes splendidly, and the producers are most fantastic and supportive, the best that can be shown is that very young children do best when they are given the lead in their learning, which is a no brainer for most. And of course this invites a very valid criticism of "wait until your kids are older, then you will be sending them to school like everybody else."

When we are raising our children with the unschooling philosophy in mind, it is tempting to show the rest of the world how great it is. But in reality, NO ONE with the kids who are 5 and 3 KNOWS what unschooling is about, not from their experience. It is all about PARENTING at that age. Yes, mostly non-mainstream parenting, but parenting nevertheless. My oldest just turned 8, and I'm only know beginning to fully understand how unschooling applies to our lives, what it means and so on, even if we've been "hardcore unschoolers" form the very beginning.

This said, I wish you good luck and all the best.
I agree with this. My children at 2 and 4.5. There is no way I would feel like we were "photogenic" enough to be poster children for unschooling. Not that my kids aren't cute, because they are gosh-darned cute, but because we haven't even begun to touch on unschooling. My son went through a fire truck phase so we checked out all the library books on fire trucks. Same with building houses. But he doesn't even know how to read yet. I do not know what it is like to have a child teach themselves to read. The best example I have that is similar is his teaching himself to ride a two wheel bike. There is no way my MIL would consider learning to ride a bike and learning to read in the same breath. If we ever used the term "unschooling" with her she'd think we were nuts. So would most of society and we have no way of proving they are wrong because our children haven't done anything schoolish yet that any other toddler and preschooler wouldn't do on their own.

I just read a book we will likely give my MIL about homeschooling. It is called Homeschooling: A Path Rediscovered for Socialization, Education, and Family. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/143...ef=oss_product It is written in a tone to be non-offensive to people who are negative to homeschooling. It even has a gentle way of discussing unschooling, though it never labels it. You can read the first 10 pages at http://www.lulu.com/product/paperbac...family/1535584 Click on the Preview button below the photo of the cover. Perhaps that will give you a tone to use. Trying to convert the world will likely only backfire. Suggesting that unschooling is one of many valid options that some families would find successful probably alienates a lot less people.

Believe me, I'm always ready to convert the world to my enlightened ways of thinking. The problem is the world usually thinks I'm nuts and all I do is alienate them.

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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Old 08-13-2010, 07:45 PM
 
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I have to say that I agree with midnightwriter.
If unschooling were my "client" I would advise against much of the media exercises we have seen in the past year or so. The best way to introduce a radical idea is rarely through msm, and the spokespeople need to portray a high level of credibility. That's hard to do with limited experience.

I would caution you against getting ahead of yourself in terms of a expecting world wide paradigm shift . IMO the best you can do at this stage is advance the idea that unschooling doesn't completely deserve its reputation that it is only for lunatics or those who don't care about their children's education. (sorry to be blunt but that is a prevailing stereotype). You can do that by being articulate, mindful, well researched and by being grounded in the "real world". If you come across as overly passionate you may appear not cognizant and/or dismissive of legitimate main stream concerns.

I don't mean to be discouraging and I wish you well.

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Old 08-13-2010, 09:54 PM
 
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I agree with this. My children at 2 and 4.5. There is no way I would feel like we were "photogenic" enough to be poster children for unschooling. Not that my kids aren't cute, because they are gosh-darned cute, but because we haven't even begun to touch on unschooling. My son went through a fire truck phase so we checked out all the library books on fire trucks. Same with building houses. But he doesn't even know how to read yet. I do not know what it is like to have a child teach themselves to read. .


And even more importantly, with children that young one wouldn't know what it is like to have a child who doesn't teach himself to read at the age of 7, 8, 9? Or 10? 11? Not unheard of, among unschoolers.

When a toddler happily gobbles up books and is otherwise easy going and curious, unschoolig is easy (if you want to call it unschooling). But think about having a child who is "behind" by societal standards. This is where the real "test" is--will you trust that child to learn what he/she needs to learn, on his or her own schedule? How comfortable will you be with being "behind", and how much behind?

Just some things to think about....

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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Old 08-14-2010, 02:34 AM
 
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I confess, I'm skeptical and suspicious when it comes to mainstream media, and even some non-mainstream media. They answer to their ratings and their advertisers and are not in it to make you look good. I've heard way too many stories about producers who have sucked families into thinking they'll be "spreading the word" and then skewering them in the edits.

I also agree with midnightwriter: if someone REALLY wants to understand unschooling why interview a family with wee ones? That's like trying to understand mainstream school by interviewing preschoolers, isn't it? If one REALLY wants to portray what unschooling is with some suggestion of results, why not interview families with teenagers who have been unschooled?

The fact that they are seeking out a young family makes me more suspicious. My guess is you are going to either be portrayed as freaks, ignorant parents who "will find out when your kids get older", or it will be so loosey-goosey as to not make sense to anybody who is new to the idea.

I really hope for your sakes I'm completely wrong, but you have no idea how many unschooling families have been in your shoes and been crucified. Oh, and don't think people won't track you down through the Internet and harass you, tell you how you are ruining your kids, etc. If you are going to sign up for this be prepared for that. It will happen.

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Old 08-14-2010, 07:13 PM
 
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As a former member of the media, I agree with the pp's who are urging you to be cautious and uber prepared. In addition, you should know that Voice of America is the US Gov'ts broadcast to other countries, and is basically used for propaganda. Its purpose is to paint the US in the most positive light, always. Now, some may say that it's a useful tool when it can reach regular people in countries where the US is demonized by oppressive governments, that is a debate for another thread. But my question would be: how would a story about unschooling mesh with their purpose? The best positive answer I can come up with is that perhaps they'd like to show that the US is a land of such freedom that even the most wacky of parents are allowed to make educational choices for their kids. But even in that best-case scenario, the unschooler is portrayed in a poor light.
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