I live in an intentional community with people and families with kids of all ages. One child goes to a liberal private school, some of the kids go to conventional public school and two of the kids do a home/school blend program where one goes a few days a week and the other never goes, but does a "school at home" approach. (hates it, rebels, acts out, miserable most of his days)
A largely educated and open minded community, for the most part/so I thought.
Enter my 13 year old radically unschooled daughter.
We've only been here 6 months and she's beginning to say things like:
"well I feel really stupid here because I don't know the same stuff as them"
"unschooling isn't even legal anyway."
"I just want to go to school and do the same things as everyone else"
I've suddenly become very protective of my daughter and don't much like the influence this "open minded" community has on her! I honestly don't think this is as supportive of an environment as I once thought. I didn't have this kind of problems in a conventional neighborhood full of public schooled kids! Educate? Defend? Move?
I tried to explain to her that there were a million ways to learn, and that I thought classwork, public school and that particular model of education to be very limiting and narrow. I wanted to give her the WORLD, not just one classroom and one version of it. I tell her that I have more trust and belief in HER than in some person somewhere whose job it was to decide what EVERY ONE should be taught. (She's not "everyone"!) I hurt for my daughter, particularly if she actually believes that what she is doing is somehow inferior to anything these other kids are forced to do... and... ILLEGAL!?
I think its worth talking with your dd about how she feels about her education, what she thinks she should know that she doesn't, etc. Sometimes how we educate out kids needs to shift to meet their needs. It sounds like she feels she needs to do something different. I would honor that and find out if there is material in history or science or what that she feels she lacks, so you can help her make a plan to gain the knowlege she desires. There are lots of ways to learn something without having to go to school- books, computer programs, etc, as you know, but perhaps she wants a curriculum to help her learn things she's never thought to ask about. However, if what she really wants is the experience of trying school- that is a learning experience in itself.
I think there is a lot to be said for her age and desire to "fit in". I don't think it matters what a teenager is doing, they just want to blend in with the crowd.
I second talking to her about what she thinks she's missing. Also, a discussion about fitting in/not fitting in would also be useful. The problem with going to school means she fits in - for that requirement only. There is a whole host of things to not fit into. Perhaps a conversation about what kind of person she'd like to be and what you're trying to teach her might be helpful in sorting this out.
As far as moving, I think it's natural to want to spend time with people that have the same values as you do. It makes life easier. But can you get everything you need no matter where you live? (Perhaps you can.) I think it's a fine line to walk between realizing there are all sorts of people in the world and struggling against a lot of people that are really different from you.
(I know, not much help.)
What would I do? I would do everything pp's have suggested but I would also seek "community" for my daughter elsewhere. I love IC's and we fully intend to move to one eventually but I think it's important to recognise that they wont be able to meet everyone's needs all of the time and it seems like your daughter is running up against this. Is there an unschooling group or homeschool group with a lot of unschoolers in it anywhere near you? Within an hour drive? Two hours? I'd search hard and be prepared to travel in your situation.
Alternately or concurrently have you talked to her about the what specific things have prompted this comment
"well I feel really stupid here because I don't know the same stuff as them"
Is it stuff she's interested in and wants to know? That would bother me if I were her and I'm sure she'd appreciate your help learning it. Or is it that the other kids have been "testing" her? If so I'm sure it will fade as the novelty of someone who doesn't go to school moving into their community fades.
On many unschooling forums/discussions I've seen the suggestion that ages 13 and 14 is when the more "academic" learning becomes important to an unschooled child. So maybe it has less to do with your community and more with her age?
I would take this as an opportunity to really lay out your unschooling philosophy for her and explore with her what things she's interested in, what things she thinks she should know, etc, and start looking into those things. She might, for example, decide that she should know more about algebra... You can help her get started with learning it, and keep evaluating along the way whether what she's learning is meeting her needs.
I don't think that criticizing school as a learning environment is going to be helpful at this point in her development. It seems like a more useful tactic would be to show her that she has the ability to learn anything she would be exposed to in school on her own and help her discover her own "learning power," if you will.
I don't know if your child has been unschooled all along, but if she has I might be inclined to let her give school a try, after a lengthy discussion of course. She might decide she likes it a lot, and she might realize it's not what she thought it would be. I think what's important is that I'm hearing you standing clearly on the side of not wanting her to go to school (I'd feel the same way!) but also at age 13 she is IMHO old enough to think about these things and make decisions for herself, and I think it's important that you come across clearly to her that you totally respect her ability to make those decisions. You'll just provide her with information and a sounding board but the final decision will be hers. Otherwise I fear she will sense that school isn't really an option for her, like it or not, which may have the effect of turning into the forbidden fruit. Of course, in discussing the issue with her it may come to light that the issue isn't really school but something deeper -wanting to fit in for example.
As for moving, I'd say it depends on how you feel and whether this is the only "down side". I think it wouldn't hurt her to be challenged by living in a community where people are doing things differently. It could be a good learning and growth experience for her. OTOH if you are really unhappy with all aspects of it I don't think there is anything wrong with saying "this isn't working for us" and moving away.
This seemed quite plausible to me. Age 13 is almost high school age and many unschooled children do start attending part-time or even full time academic programs by then. I hear that in some states the schools themselves offer homeschool students part-time attendance options for science labs and the like.
For some it may be a step towards college, though not all may decide to go on to college. I have heard that some start taking classes at the community college as early as age 15 or 16 - which is really just 1-2 years ahead of those who go through 12 grades of school and are eligible for college at age 17-18.
I agree with Piglet68 that your daughter needs to know that you respect her ability to make decisions about her academic program, that you are ready to help her think through it, and that while providing information and sharing your views and perspectives, that you will not be disappointed with her choice. This last bit can be hard, and I know I have to work harder on it myself. One day my little one will be a teenager too <gasp>.
I've not read it, but I wonder if she would benefit from reading "The Teenage Liberation Handbook."
It sounds like maybe she wants some structured academics. If she is self-motivated, maybe she would like to read some books on home education and choose an academic path or philosophy for herself, and then you can provide her with the resources to follow it ? Or maybe she would like to be enrolled in a correspondence program ?
The Well Trained Mind and the Thomas Jefferson Education books both have plans that she might enjoy following. At some point I would like to follow one of them for myself.