Hi. I have been lurking pretty extensively here for a while. My DS is young, so I am clearly not yet a hs-ing Mom, but I now plan to be one. I feel inspired to write something about how I moved from being a public school advocate to a homeschooling advocate from (what I think is) an unlikely place. So, I thought I would use my story as an introduction to you all - I hope to be here for a while. This is long, but I'm trying to be as concise as I can...
As background, my DB and DSIL hs their six children (ages 19-5) for religious reasons, and when they began, I was adamantly against it. At the time I was in public high school. On paper I was enormously successful in school, and I was heavily invested in all its culture and extracurricular activities. I was the product of parents who were of the mind that the teachers needed to be treated as though they were were always right, and I had been indoctrinated into that thought process as well. I thought I was learning as effectively as could be expected and I thought I was as happy as could be expected. Turns out in hindsite that those were low expectations. Since ps was all I knew at the time, I didn't fully realize that I was learning shallowly and was un
happy, in the scheme of things. (As an aside, I now realize I was strongly peer-oriented and suffered the predictable side-effects, which you'll understand completely if you've read "Hold On To Your Kids" by Neufield and Mate). The point is that I grew up a firm believer in ps education, probably because of my success on paper and ignorance about alternatives.
I went to college at a prestigious private engineering school that I would argue was probably like more high school, only taught really fast. That's all I'll say about that.
Then, I went to a large public university for graduate school. I did great in course work (also kind of like more high school - where the process is to be filled like a vessel with knowledge from the professor, to please the teacher, to solve problems for which the answer is already known, to learn entirely on paper, and as a result, usually to forget 90% what was "learned" shortly after the end of the semester).
After all that schooling (I think 22 years of formal schooling at that point) where was I? I was like a walking example of people's (e.g., Kohn's) lists for why typical pedagogy is lousy. I didn't have a lot of common sense because I was taught how to think in ways that would please others and accomplish narrow tasks (like essay questions), I was overly competitive and kind of a know-it-all b*tch because of the dog-eat-dog graded-on-a-curve atmosphere in formal classes, making me a poor team player or leader, I did the absolute minimum amount of work necessary to achieve a high grade, so I understood only the shallowest amounts of each subject, and I had no internal motivation to learn and as a result I would skip as many classes as I could while still getting good grades, cheat if I sould safely do it to avoid work
: , and mock classmates who were serious or interested in the subjects. There's probably more I could say, (I shudder to think) but the idea is that I was a prototype for a well-educated yet unlearned (ignorant?) person.
So, finally, where did I see the light and what does this have to do with unschooling? Well, after grad school courses were done, I had to do hard core research to get my degrees. I worked for a professor who did not involve himself in my work except to fund it. In fact, he would would be outwardly upset if I asked for guidance without having thought things out on my own very thoroughly first. Even then, he only offered loose, open-ended guidance. I was to learn on my own how to run a laboratory, design experiments that would stand up to scrutiny in the academic literature, and carry out all aspects of a large multidimensional project independently. I was completely and utterly unprepared. I was panicked. I had no idea what to do - no-one knew the answers to these questions already. No one was waiting to check my incremental progress. I needed to generate ideas and make other people care about them. I procrastinated. I knew I could fail at this and I had never failed before. I became depressed. I did nothing for years
. Well, I did do things... I learned to sew and make candles and mountain bike and play tennis... now I think I was being deschooled during that period of time! My professor was patient and left me alone. I joined a support group for pathetic procrastinating grad students like myself, and one day it clicked that I was choosing to be in graduate school and had amazing facilities and opportunities at my disposal... why not try to do this.
Left to my own devices, in this enriched learning environment that was graduate school, I was allowed to take limitless courses without being graded; I was allowed to use a massive array of equipment to run interesting experiments; I was provided funding to purchase any supplies I needed; I was allowed to think up problems to solve and then figure out the answers myself; I was given a laboratory to run as I saw fit; I was allowed to make mistakes without punishment. In this new situation where everything was unstructured, but rich with possibility, I finally learned
! I learned more than in the previous 22 years of classes, very quickly, deeply, and thoroughly. It was amazing to me, to everyone. I grew intensely interested in my work and worked continuously, usually for 60-70 hours a week(!) My potential, which was evident, but twisted in the context of taking classes, was finally unlocked. I learned to work cooperatively, to take risks, to think critically and innovatively, to overcome obstacles. I was so lucky for that experience.
Before I came to this forum, I had never heard of unschooling. After reading about it here and in links that you've provided in other threads, I realized that this experience in grad school that was so valuable to me was an awful lot like unschooling. I was instantly hooked on the idea... and excited about the amazing possibilities it could afford a little one!
Well - the upshot is that I needed to go through 22 years of formal classes as the "entry fee" for this wonderful learning experience I had in graduate school. I plan to see to it that my DS doesn't need to pay that entry fee and is allowed to experience how great learning can be right from the start. I hope I will be successful.
I am done with my
. If you read this far... thanks!
p.s. OK - not done. I need to add credit to my DH who who is well grounded and intuitively knew all this all along. His great influence in this process can't be overstated!