Misconceptions about unschooling - Page 5 - Mothering Forums

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#121 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 12:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, duh ! I forgot about a really good one on my own website!

Developing a Homeschooling Philosophy: The Unschool Mambo, by Lisa Rivero

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#122 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 01:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by ShannonCC
But again, it's the difference between whether the kid wants to be taught or not. If they don't, they'll let you know and what you do then is up to you. But if an unschooled kid asks someone to teach them something, it's still unschooling. If they don't have a choice, then it's not. The way I see it at least
Me too. Lillian
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#123 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 02:26 AM
 
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Originally Posted by luv my 2 sweeties
I introduce subjects (history and math, so far) and say things like "Let's do some homeschool stuff when I finish the dishes." These are the strikes against my claiming the lable "unschooler". But the "homeschool time" is a concession to my dd -- she would love to have me doing interesting things (including math and history) with her for many more hours than I have available for one-on-one interaction.
That reminds me of an HEM article I read once where the radical unschooling mom had a daughter who demanded to sit at a desk and learn from a chalkboard and have bells between classes! But it was all her idea, so it's all unschooling to me (and to her).
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#124 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 02:33 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ShannonCC
But again, it's the difference between whether the kid wants to be taught or not. If they don't, they'll let you know and what you do then is up to you. But if an unschooled kid asks someone to teach them something, it's still unschooling. If they don't have a choice, then it's not. The way I see it at least
To me, that's defining unschooling too broadly. The way I see it, if I say to my kid, "Let's learn math and science and Latin and ..." and he says, "OK, mom," that isn't unschooling, because it is parent-led, not child-led.

I think it's a misinterpretation of structured homeschooling to say that kids don't have a choice. Most homeschoolers I've known give their kids choices all the time. The difference is that the parent is still acting as teacher, not facilitator; the child is agreeing, but not initiating.
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#125 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 02:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Why Natural Learning? - Does It Make Sense?, by Kathleen McCurdy.


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Wherein my children have excelled, it is not something I did for them. They did it themselves. They are like plants which grow as best they can, given the sunshine of encouragement and the rains of opportunities-until something interferes with the process. Parents who take credit for "training" their children may have created interesting Bonsai-like specimens, but they can hardly take credit for growing mighty oaks and firs to their natural proportions. That happens as a matter of course.
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#126 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 02:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by pookel
To me, that's defining unschooling too broadly. The way I see it, if I say to my kid, "Let's learn math and science and Latin and ..." and he says, "OK, mom," that isn't unschooling, because it is parent-led, not child-led.
But there's nothing that says everything within unschooling always needs to be child led. A mom might say "Let's go to the international festival," or "How about starting a science club at our house?," or "Want to play a fun math game I just learned?" - and her children might be as agreeable at any given as if one of them said "Let's build a fort." Families living together have all sorts of dynamics at play, and there's no reason why something a parent suggests would necessarily be taken as more coercive or undesirable than something suggested by someone else in the family. It's highly unlikely, on the other hand, that the average child is going to be gung ho about everything a parent suggests.

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#127 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 03:20 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Lillian J
But there's nothing that says everything within unschooling always needs to be child led. A mom might say "Let's go to the international festival," or "How about starting a science club at our house?," or "Want to play a fun math game I just learned?" - and her children might be as agreeable at any given as if one of them said "Let's build a fort."
And that is what is different about unschooling; parent leadership of education is an occasional, random thing, not an overall organizing principle. I get that. I think it's valid. It obviously works well for some families. I just don't think it's the only way to raise a child who loves learning and is well educated.
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#128 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 04:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I think it's valid. It obviously works well for some families. I just don't think it's the only way to raise a child who loves learning and is well educated.
And on that I agree. For that matter, even school can work well for some. Lillian
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#129 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 09:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by luv my 2 sweeties
I have to laugh, because I really walk the line between unschooling and not. (to judge from this thread, anyway!) As I read the first couple of pages -- which were still mostly about misconceptions -- I started thinking, "Oh, well if that's a *misconception*, maybe we *are* unschoolers." Then I'd read something else and think, "No, really we aren't." I've gone back and forth like that for all SIX pages!


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Originally Posted by luv my 2 sweeties
I introduce subjects (history and math, so far) and say things like "Let's do some homeschool stuff when I finish the dishes." These are the strikes against my claiming the lable "unschooler". But the "homeschool time" is a concession to my dd -- she would love to have me doing interesting things (including math and history) with her for many more hours than I have available for one-on-one interaction. If I didn't schedule time for her in in *my* schedule, I wouldn't be giving her enough, kwim?


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Originally Posted by luv my 2 sweeties
So ? I guess I'll continue to embrace the terms "relaxed" and "eclectic" as they seem less controversial and feel more honest.



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Originally Posted by luv my 2 sweeties
I think it's because if you run in certain circles (like MDC), unschooling has a certain cache. Unschoolers are seen as somehow braver, wiser, more "natural", and/or less uptight than other homeschoolers. (Perhaps that's another misconception.) Many of us aspire to those qualities, and if we believe unschooling to be the manifestation of them, it's an attractive label.

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#130 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 10:48 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Stephanie
I think it's because if you run in certain circles (like MDC), unschooling has a certain cache. Unschoolers are seen as somehow braver, wiser, more "natural", and/or less uptight than other homeschoolers. (Perhaps that's another misconception.) Many of us aspire to those qualities, and if we believe unschooling to be the manifestation of them, it's an attractive label.

Wow. Really? I've never gotten that impression. Mostly, I feel like unschooling is dismissed.

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Originally Posted by Lillian
I, uh...sort of thought the image was more like reckless, ignorant, sloppy, and lazy.
Yeah--and irresponsible, disinterested in their kids, negligent...

Of course, like-minded people "get it" but for the most part, I think people believe the misconceptions that started this thread, regardless of how many unschoolers say, "No, it's not like that."

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#131 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 11:20 AM
 
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To me, that's defining unschooling too broadly. The way I see it, if I say to my kid, "Let's learn math and science and Latin and ..." and he says, "OK, mom," that isn't unschooling, because it is parent-led, not child-led.
Yes, but I did say “if an unschooled kid asks someone to teach them something” What you said is different. And I have no problem with a parent *asking* the kid if they want to learn something the parent can teach them (though, this is a fine line, but if you ask it every day, it stops being natural and becomes pushy). But that’s not what you said. You wrote “Let’s learn . . . “ which, to me, sounds like there’s less of a choice. I don’t mean to get totally nit picky here but really, I wouldn’t tell my dd “Let’s learn this today”. I might, however, say “Would you like me to show you how to do . . . . “.

For example, my daughter asked me to show her how to write in cursive. If you walked in when we’re doing it, it would certainly look very schoolish. Me writing cursive letters on the chalkboard, her copying them. But it’s her choice. And it’s her choice to let it drop so that we haven’t done it in weeks. I ask her if she wants to do some cursive every now and then but I’m truly asking, not telling her we’re going to do it, or that I want her to do it or anything like that.

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I think it's a misinterpretation of structured homeschooling to say that kids don't have a choice. Most homeschoolers I've known give their kids choices all the time. The difference is that the parent is still acting as teacher, not facilitator; the child is agreeing, but not initiating.
The structured homeschoolers I know give their kids choices all the time, yes, but in the end, the kids don’t have a choice of *whether* to learn something. What I have seen is that most structured homeschoolers try to give their kids a choice in what curriculum is used or if a curriculum is used, what time of day to study the subject, what day of the week math is on vs. science, how long to study for, etc. My friend, for example, ordered numerous samples of math curricula off line to give her son a choice in what he would use, but in the end the choice of whether to do math or not was not his to make.

I’ve read many arguments (here on MDC and elsewhere) about how kids do not know what they need to know like their parents do and it’s not a good idea to give them the choice of whether to learn something. That’s one of the main reasons some people don’t like unschooling. I think that my kid is capable of learning what she needs to know without me telling her. Most structured homeschoolers (like classical) do not. We are both doing what we think is in the best interests of our children, we just disagree on what that is.

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And that is what is different about unschooling; parent leadership of education is an occasional, random thing, not an overall organizing principle. I get that. I think it's valid. It obviously works well for some families. I just don't think it's the only way to raise a child who loves learning and is well educated.
Good lord, no! There are plenty of children who love learning and are well educated who are not being unschooled by any stretch of the imagination Some kids love structure for example. Some kids don’t but have parents who make the structure as loose as possible. Heck, there are even kids who are in school, regular old 7 hour a day, public school, who are loving it, learning and thriving! They might be the minority but they are there. I love unschooling and think it’s great and like I said before, I *do* think more people could benefit from it, but it’s definitely not the only way to raise happy, well educated children who love learning

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I think it's because if you run in certain circles (like MDC), unschooling has a certain cache. Unschoolers are seen as somehow braver, wiser, more "natural", and/or less uptight than other homeschoolers. (Perhaps that's another misconception.) Many of us aspire to those qualities, and if we believe unschooling to be the manifestation of them, it's an attractive label.
Ahhhh. Ok, I think I get it. Like how if you go to the nutrition board, the vegans often get seen as being holier than thou. Or if you go to a mainstream board, the AP moms get the same rap. I sort of see it, but like Lillian and Joan, I often just end up feeling like we’re thought of as “bad parents” who don’t care about our kids and let them flounder around through childhood with no parental guidance. I get that impression on MDC even. But then, maybe we’re being too sensitive on *both* sides?
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I agree with Stephanie. I do think it's like that at places like MDC. Well, among those who are closer to "getting" unschooling, anyway. And, IME, unschooling is often presented as the ideal way for any kid to learn and the most natural, as luv my 2 sweeties said.

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#133 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 11:28 AM
 
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Obviously the image of unschooling varies depending on who you're talking to. I have known school-at-homers who believe the misconceptions listed here, and who would probably define unschooling quite simply as not using curriculum. However, I have known unschoolers who are quick to tell someone "that's not unschooling" with the attached judgement that you are failing both to understand the philosophy, and to live the pure lifestyle. It's hard not to be a little put-off by that judgement.

Personally, I see unschooling as living with the goal to facilitate and encourage my children's gifts. Education and love of learning will happen inevitably along the way, but it's not the goal. To me, that's what makes it fundamentally different from, say, TWTM, which is primarily concerned with training minds. While unschooling, parenting requires that I help them learn to live in our society, which includes learning budgeting, hygeine, nutrition, and the other major life skills.

I guess another misconception about unschooling, IMHO, is that it's a method of filling childrens heads with the appropriate knowledge.

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#134 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 01:00 PM
 
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I had another thought. I think part of the problem with lables getting so broad that they become less useful is that homeschooling is new enough that we don't have good lables for philosophies that are on the margins of the main philosophies.

For example, my 3 y.o. ds attends a Reggio Emilia preschool. The head teacher there describes the curriculum (in as much as there is one) as "negotiated". It's neither purely child-led nor completely teacher directed. The teacher begins the year with only vague ideas about what they *might* explore in the coming months. The interests of the children, the dynamics of the group, the feasibility of projects, the resources of the parents and the wider community all come into play in how the year takes shape. They believe strongly that children must construct their own knowledge within a meaningful context. They are strongly against the "now we will learn about the letter A" style of teaching. But the teachers and parents *are* involved in deciding what projects will be, what activities will be done, the schedule of each day, etc.

One of the reasons I like this preschool (and send my kids there even though I have no intention of sending them to kindergarten afterword) is that it closely matches my own way of approaching education with my kids. Taken as a whole, what we do is neither child-led nor parent-led. "Negotiated" is really a good word for it. Maybe I should think about how to create a term that expresses that. (To be clear: Individual activities may be child-led or parent-led -- we don't negotiate *every* detail of our day. I'm talking about the over-all philosophy.)

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#135 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 02:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by pookel
To me, that's defining unschooling too broadly. The way I see it, if I say to my kid, "Let's learn math and science and Latin and ..." and he says, "OK, mom," that isn't unschooling, because it is parent-led, not child-led.
I think the distinction here is subtle. To me, the distinction has to do with parental expectations and the child's perspective on those expectations. If the parent is presenting a certain set of planned learning activities with the expectation that the child will do as asked and participate, though willing to adapt if clear resistence is encountered, that's probably more on the side of parent-led homeschooling, especially if it occurs in a family environment where there are certain clear rules that the parents impose ... rules around, say, bedtime, TV and chores. It may not be clear to the child that the parent's expectations for academic work are not imposed rules in the same sense that all those other family rules are.

Now, if I said to my 9yo "let's learn math and science and Latin and ...", he'd look at me like I'd grown a second head and say "Are you kidding? I'm busy playing. I don't like that sort of learning anyway." He'd know that I had absolutely no expectation of him complying with my plan. He'd know from his experience with my style of parenting that I don't make rules unilaterally about anything, so the educational plan I've just tabled is not something I am trying to impose on him.

My 12yo is currently studying math, music theory and Latin is a bookwork-textbook-kinda-way. For two years she did no bookwork at all, and then a few months ago out of the blue she suddenly decided to take up Latin and get busy with formal study of math and theory to fill in some of the gaps she has. She has decided to do this work three times a week and has asked for my help in sticking to her schedule. So, oddly enough, three times a week I find myself saying "come on, time for math and Latin and theory," and my daughter whines and mutters under her breath and then sits down and merrily, self-directedly, does the work she's assigned herself.

The thing here, though, is that she knows from direct experience that she is perfectly entitled to say "actually, I've decided not to do any more math or Latin or theory" and I will shrug and say "okay" and I will not be annoyed or upset or disappointed in her for it.

Miranda

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#136 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 02:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I had another thought. I think part of the problem with lables getting so broad that they become less useful is that homeschooling is new enough that we don't have good lables for philosophies that are on the margins of the main philosophies.
I just want to note that the unschooling term hasn't broadened at all. To the contrary, it has unfortunately started to take on a narrower widely held understanding than it traditionally has had. See the articles I linked to earlier, and you'll see a very different attitude expressed. And even some who consider themselves "radical unschoolers" don't think of unschooling in such narrow terms as it's fairly recently come to be understood. The reason I started this thread was just to clear up the kinds of misunderstandings that are rampant out there among people who have avoided it because of thinking it means neglect and all that - but all this discussion about its meanings and nuances has been a good thing. Lillian
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#137 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 03:29 PM
 
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I don't know, I think I'm not getting the point because I just can't see a mom *not* talking to her little kids about random stuff like this.
I couldn't agree with this more. I have always explained things, in great detail to my kids, my husband, and my girlfriends- although I stop when the eyes start rolling. Now it goes both ways of course.
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#138 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 04:24 PM
 
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What negative perceptions do I have about unschooling?

I think many of them are formed by cases that I think are extreme cases, but I don't know. One of the "formative" was from a list I was one, where a mother related the story of a 15 year old from her local group who could not write his letters properly. His mother felt that telling him, "Hey, that 'r' is backwards." would be interfering.Or the belief that you should not point out spelling or punctuation errors in things the child has written. Those are the stories that make me cringe. I don't know how much these concepts are part of general unschooling, though.
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#139 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 05:08 PM
 
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What negative perceptions do I have about unschooling?
<snip>
Or the belief that you should not point out spelling or punctuation errors in things the child has written. Those are the stories that make me cringe. I don't know how much these concepts are part of general unschooling, though.
I've been so busy recently, I haven't commented on this thread at all, but I wanted to say something here. I remember, as a kid, I loved to write stories. Mostly about talking animals. In the beginning, I brought these stories to my mother to read, and while she enjoyed them (and told me so), she also pointed out the mistakes I'd made in punctuation, spelling, etc. Eventually, I stopped showing her. I didn't like my mistakes in the spotlight.

Now, when my son brings his stories to me, I'll read them and we'll talk about the characters, the cool dialogue, the frightening scenes, and he's happy. Sometimes, he'll ask me, "Did I spell everything right?" That's when I'll point out mispellings. When he's going to give it to one of his great grandmothers or to a friend, he'll usually ask, "Does anything need to be fixed?" Meaning, "Can they tell what I'm saying?" That's when I might point out the need for a comma here or a period there. That's when we talk about capitalization, or not breaking a word between two lines.

The thing is, for the most part, he's picked up everything on his own, simply from reading and writing. He's learned spelling, spacing, punctuation, grammar (he even uses the word "whom" correctly), etc. all from living his life. I don't need to interfere. If he has a question about something, he asks - simple as that.

I'd say, for the most part, unschoolers don't point out mistakes without first being asked to do so. That's almost certainly not true for everyone who calls her/himself an unschooling parent, but for the majority.... It's part of trusting children to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know.
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#140 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 05:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by warriorprincess
What negative perceptions do I have about unschooling?

I think many of them are formed by cases that I think are extreme cases, but I don't know. One of the "formative" was from a list I was one, where a mother related the story of a 15 year old from her local group who could not write his letters properly. His mother felt that telling him, "Hey, that 'r' is backwards." would be interfering.Or the belief that you should not point out spelling or punctuation errors in things the child has written. Those are the stories that make me cringe. I don't know how much these concepts are part of general unschooling, though.
Well, I can tell you without hesitation that her particular viewpoint is just her particular viewpoint . The fact that she identifies herself within the category of unschooling doesn't mean that's one of its underlying principles. What do Christians believe? Pretty much depends on which Christian you ask. But this is different yet, because unschooling isn't even a religion. - Lillian
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#141 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 05:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ShannonCC
The structured homeschoolers I know give their kids choices all the time, yes, but in the end, the kids don’t have a choice of *whether* to learn something. What I have seen is that most structured homeschoolers try to give their kids a choice in what curriculum is used or if a curriculum is used, what time of day to study the subject, what day of the week math is on vs. science, how long to study for, etc. My friend, for example, ordered numerous samples of math curricula off line to give her son a choice in what he would use, but in the end the choice of whether to do math or not was not his to make.
I'm trying to think of how to explain my feelings on this, because to be honest, my opinions on different homeschooling philosophies are mostly instinctual. I read a book, and I get a gut feeling of "Yeah, that!" And that's what I got when I read WTM.

So, my instinctive reaction explained: I honestly can't imagine children truly not wanting to learn something. If it is presented in an interesting way, by someone who is good at explaining it, and the child has some choice over which subjects to study in-depth and which to pass over more quickly ... I just can't imagine my child saying "no, mom, I really don't want to learn any math AT ALL."

For me, it was public school that killed my desire to learn; the boredom of it all, the dumbed-down textbooks and the classes of 25 bored kids and the teachers who didn't want you to ask difficult questions. If I had had the freedom to learn at home in my own style, I can't imagine not wanting to learn everything I possibly could, in the same way that I was learning when I was 3 and my parents were teaching me to read off flashcards. Maybe I'm projecting my own experiences too much onto my kids, but then again, if they're my kids, aren't they more likely to be just like me?

I'm open to changing my style if my kids turn out not to fit in with my plans, of course.

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I’ve read many arguments (here on MDC and elsewhere) about how kids do not know what they need to know like their parents do and it’s not a good idea to give them the choice of whether to learn something. That’s one of the main reasons some people don’t like unschooling. I think that my kid is capable of learning what she needs to know without me telling her. Most structured homeschoolers (like classical) do not. We are both doing what we think is in the best interests of our children, we just disagree on what that is.
I kind of agree with those arguments, but I don't want to make it sound like a "parents know best" thing. To me, the issue is more that kids don't usually have a broad enough experience to be aware of the vast amounts of knowledge they *could* be learning. I think it takes a really self-motivated kid, or a parent who's really good at offering a lot of choices, for an unschooled kid to learn as much as they would in more formal schooling.

The key idea I got out of WTM is, kids are capable of learning a lot, and they enjoy it. I'm sure it isn't universally true, but I think many kids can benefit from being challenged to learn as much as they can.
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#142 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 05:51 PM
 
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I'm never sure what to say about anecdotes like that. I'm sure there *are* kids who are unschooled who grow up lacking in basic skills. There are certainly kids who are regular homeschooled, or school schooled who grow up lacking in certain areas, so why would unschoolers be immune? So on the one hand, I don't want to put unschooling on some huge pedestal but on the other hand, all the unschooled kids *I* know are doing great. Maybe that 15 year old is going to blossom in the next year or two, or maybe there's a problem there that isn't being addressed. Dunno.

But you know, I don't tell my dd when she makes mistakes in writing either Unless she *asks* me if she did. I had a similar experience to folkypoet. My mom, who meant well and thought she was helping me to be a better writer, was always giving me "constructive criticism". I eventually stopped showing her my writing and then stopped writing altogether. I'm only now, at 36, writing fiction again.

To be honest, my dd's handwriting is pretty bad and no, most people can't read it, but it's better than it was a year ago. And also, sad to say, it's actually better than her 42 year old, schooled dad's handwriting,

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If I had had the freedom to learn at home in my own style, I can't imagine not wanting to learn everything I possibly could, in the same way that I was learning when I was 3 and my parents were teaching me to read off flashcards.
Well, that's what I think. With the freedom to learn in her OWN style, my dd will learn and learn and learn. If I try to make her learn in my style, or on my timetable, or push it in any way, I'm in danger of squashing that drive to learn. Now, I freely admit not all kids are as strongwilled and independent as my daughter But I know from experience (since my unschooling is a work in progress) that if you try to "teach" my daughter something she shuts down. She just doesn't do well with teacher mode. Classical is defnitely not for us.

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I think it takes a really self-motivated kid, or a parent who's really good at offering a lot of choices, for an unschooled kid to learn as much as they would in more formal schooling.
I'm not being rude, really, I just can't disagree with you more here, Seriously. We have the internet (and anyone reading this does too), we have the library (most people have access to one), we have subscriptions to magazines (some we get from the library), we have a yearly membership to the local museum, we have knowledgable people in our own family who like to share their interests, we have our own collection of books we acquired before she was born, etc etc. We have the WORLD We're not limited by the textbooks of formal schooling. I don't think I have to be super-mom for my child to have a great education Heck, just stop at the internet and the library and you have the world at your fingertips
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#143 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 07:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think people who have older kids can relate only too well to children having distinct preferences about what they want to learn, regardless of how loose or creative or enthusiastic parents or teachers are in introducing things. One of the determining factors can be the way it's presented, although that's not the only factor. In following a formal plan, you'll probably find that you'll meet with surprising resistance in various areas along the way. That's why they post what I consider a disturbing article of advice about Encouraging Your Child to Work in answer to question in TWTM FAQ, "What if my child won't do her work?" For one thing, plans in general tend to have built in over-teaching in them, with expectations that children need to do x, y, and z to learn a subject properly.

My son is one of a number of unschooled young adults I know who is very impressive in his knowledge of a wide range of subjects that he's learned about on his own, and very impressive in his ability to just go ahead and learn about whatever interests him, with no preconceived notions of this or that being "hard" or daunting, or whatever. He and some of his friends have demonstrated in college what capable learners they are; while others have demonstrated in various careers what capable learners they are. But it's not as if they hatched and grew in a vacuum - they grew up in homes where active learning was modeled and facilitated. Many of us who have already traveled the homeschooling journey felt that the plans set up by a number of people out there are merely that - their plans. There's no widely accepted cultural expectation of exactly what body of knowledge every person is supposed to have or needs to have. Does it really matter what Bill Gates knows about art history, what George Lucas knows about algebra, what Yo-Yo Ma knows about Latin, what Martha Stewart knows about medieval history? Sure those are extreme examples in their fields, and sure, it's nice to know as much as we can about the world we live in - but who's to say what it should be that we all should know? I don't think it can be done.

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Maybe I'm projecting my own experiences too much onto my kids, but then again, if they're my kids, aren't they more likely to be just like me?
Well, if so, you certainly wouldn't be alone ! My son never shared my interest in even crayons! I provided him with every crayon known to man, but he barely ever touched them. He didn't share my interest in anthropology, or gardening, or poetry...or any number of other things. He has always had his own interests, growing all the time, and he's developed them very well. He's a lot like me in many ways, but he's not me - he's a unique individual. I remember when our kids were in their teens, how I used to laugh together with some of my homeschooling parent friends about how we had wanted to raise our kids to be strong independent thinkers, and we were having to finally accept that we'd accomplished our purpose, but, in the process, had to finally give up on expecting them to be like us. Kids don't tend to fit their parents' plans if they have a chance to grow freely in their own unique style rather than being pruned.

A self-motivated learner tends to grow out of a rich atmosphere of curiosity and exploration in which the parents have their own interests and share their enthusiasm without pushing their interests on the kids. Instead, they can model a love of learning, a curious mind, and an active pursuit of knowledge, while providing a lot of opportunities for learning about a variety of things, especially those things the child is interested in - all while respecting the child as a capable independent learner. It's not so difficult to offer a lot of choices, and it's not so difficult for kids to be out there finding and pursuing their own choices. I never found that we needed a book to tell us how to find all the wonderful choices out there - they're pouring into your life all the time if you're active and curious.

My experience is that kids don't need to be "challenged" to learn a lot - they want to learn a lot, because human beings are natural learners - and being "challenged" can feel pretty annoying and intrusive to some. The difference I see in our philosophies is that some of us don't think people need to be pointed to what to learn. Kids can show us a thing or two about what's out there to be learned. Lillian

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#144 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 07:25 PM
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To me, the issue is more that kids don't usually have a broad enough experience to be aware of the vast amounts of knowledge they *could* be learning. I think it takes a really self-motivated kid, or a parent who's really good at offering a lot of choices, for an unschooled kid to learn as much as they would in more formal schooling.
I teach middle school (for 8 more days), and I'm well-convinced that my daughter learns far more in an average week than my students.

The thing is, I don't divide the world into "subjects", like schools do. The idea of asking to "do math" would just seem weird, like asking to "do self-care" or "do social skills". Math is a huge, huge topic with all sorts of twists and turns, and the narrow view of math espoused by the schools is just a tiny corner of it. I could see my daughter asking me to show her how to figure out a certain mathematical concept, like asking how to multiply $5.15 by 12 without a calculator or how to take half of a fraction like 1/3.

School teaches kids a really narrow curriculum, and we're used to thinking or it as all-encompassing... but it's not. Schools generally omit huge areas of knowledge, or just touch on them briefly. Anthropology, sociology, psychology, ballet, formal logic, cricket, handcrafts, African history... I could go on forever, but those are just a few of the things my daughter knows about that most schooled kids don't.

And finding areas to explore and learn about just hasn't been a problem for any of the unschoolers I've known. Because they're not locked in to the idea of school subjects, they're free to explore all of the areas that interest them.

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#145 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 07:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dar's post jogged my memory of something a good friend of my son's wrote for him in a personal letter of recommendation for a full time volunteer position through AmeriCorps. I wish I still had a copy of it - it was beautiful and comically self-effacing. But the gist of it was that he had was pretty puffed up about his own private and public school education but was constantly having his ego deflated by seeing that my son knew more about any number of things without ever having had to study them the way he had to.

There's a good book that touches on a lot of this - it's not a homeschooling book: The Book of Learning and Forgetting, by researcher, Frank Smith. You can "look inside the book" on the Amazon site.

Lillian
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#146 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 08:04 PM
 
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Well, that's what I think. With the freedom to learn in her OWN style, my dd will learn and learn and learn. If I try to make her learn in my style, or on my timetable, or push it in any way, I'm in danger of squashing that drive to learn. Now, I freely admit not all kids are as strongwilled and independent as my daughter But I know from experience (since my unschooling is a work in progress) that if you try to "teach" my daughter something she shuts down. She just doesn't do well with teacher mode. Classical is defnitely not for us.
I think this is where "different people have different learning styles" comes in. I, personally, respond well to being "taught"; left to my own devices, I tend to putter around and pick up random trivia instead of learning an organized body of knowledge. Not that I don't want a certain degree of independence, but it helps me to have direction. I was the kind of kid who did well when given a list of books to read or questions to research and told, "do all these things."

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I'm not being rude, really, I just can't disagree with you more here, Seriously. We have the internet (and anyone reading this does too), we have the library (most people have access to one), we have subscriptions to magazines (some we get from the library), we have a yearly membership to the local museum, we have knowledgable people in our own family who like to share their interests, we have our own collection of books we acquired before she was born, etc etc. We have the WORLD
It's OK, I'm actually enjoying this conversation immensely, and I hope I'm not annoying anyone by being too "argumentative" here. I really like hearing about what works for different people.

Maybe I shouldn't say that you have to be exceptionally motivated or organized to be a successful unschooling family, but I think I can say for sure that you have to be more motivated than WE are. My husband and I are not "joiners." We're the kind of people who never go to museums or the library or learn new hobbies or take walks. I wish we did, but we don't do those kinds of things naturally. If we're going to do "educational" things with the kids, we're going to have to plan them. Honestly, if we didn't make an effort to offer more enriching opportunities to the kids, and we unschooled them, they would end up becoming experts in TV, D&D, comic books, and heating up convenience dinners.

I also look back at my own childhood and I compare what I learned entirely on my own to what I learned from my parents. Both were valuable, but I think I would have been missing out on a lot if they hadn't been teaching me, too. On my own, I read mythology voraciously and ended up with perfect spelling and grammar skills. Under their direction, I learned basic math facts and did science experiments. I don't think there's any way I would have learned my addition facts when I was 3 if they hadn't made a point of teaching me without my asking - and my early introduction to math was a starting point for an exceptional educational career in that subject (although I never was as interested in it as in English and history). I can't conceive of any way in which that early learning was a detriment to me, and I can't imagine not wanting to repeat that experience with my own kids.
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#147 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 08:16 PM
 
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In following a formal plan, you'll probably find that you'll meet with surprising resistance in various areas along the way. That's why they post what I consider a disturbing article of advice about Encouraging Your Child to Work in answer to question in TWTM FAQ, "What if my child won't do her work?" For one thing, plans in general tend to have built in over-teaching in them, with expectations that children need to do x, y, and z to learn a subject properly.
And I think that the workload and strict schedule of WTM are among the things I'd happily ditch. Additionally, of course, if I run into the problem of "he won't do the work," I think I'll assume there's something wrong with the work, not with him.

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My experience is that kids don't need to be "challenged" to learn a lot - they want to learn a lot, because human beings are natural learners - and being "challenged" can feel pretty annoying and intrusive to some. The difference I see in our philosophies is that some of us don't think people need to be pointed to what to learn.
And that's probably an irreconcilable difference between us. I agree totally that human beings are natural learners, but I think that, in general, being challenged to learn is a positive thing (for most; I agree that it's annoying and intrusive to some - but not me, for example).

One of the things I really love about WTM is the way the curriculum is organized around history, and the way history is taught chronologically. I read that, and I thought, "wow, this is the most natural thing in the world - why didn't I learn things this way in school?" It's something I never would have come up with on my own, and yet I loved history and loved learning about how different subjects are connected together, and everything I learned would have been so much more interesting and made so much more sense if it had been taught to me this way.

Btw, sorry if my thoughts are a little rambling ... I'm on Vicodin since I had an ectopic pregnancy removed on Sunday, and I'm occupying myself by reading these forums. It's been a surreal week.
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#148 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 09:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It's OK, I'm actually enjoying this conversation immensely, and I hope I'm not annoying anyone by being too "argumentative" here. I really like hearing about what works for different people.
Well, honestly, I don't think it's bothering anyone. I think we're just trying to offer you some insight from our experience for when your own child is older. Just consider me the buttinski list gramma. You really have to ultimately learn on your own what's going to work for you, though.

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Maybe I shouldn't say that you have to be exceptionally motivated or organized to be a successful unschooling family, but I think I can say for sure that you have to be more motivated than WE are. [etc.]
Ah! Well, you know what? I'd really be surprised if this doesn't change radically. Homeschooling inspires a lot of people to become active and curious exporers alongside their children - easily and without having to use somebody's educational plan! This is one of the wonderful things about homeschooling. And modeling is so much more important than trying to tell a child what's important.

And I'm so sorry to hear about your ectopic pregnancy. - Lillian
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#149 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 11:12 PM
 
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I think this is where "different people have different learning styles" comes in. I, personally, respond well to being "taught"; left to my own devices, I tend to putter around and pick up random trivia instead of learning an organized body of knowledge. Not that I don't want a certain degree of independence, but it helps me to have direction. I was the kind of kid who did well when given a list of books to read or questions to research and told, "do all these things."
Well, this is just a variation of what Lillian said I guess Sure, some kids/people do respond well to being sat down and taught, but no, you can’t assume your kid will just because you did. I have two kids who are very different from each other. That's just one of the reasons I shy away from any one size fits all curriculum. We *can’t* say that all kids will learn the same way. They just don’t and I disagree with those who say they do.

Also, like I said before, I respond well to actual teaching, BUT I've found that I do best if I get to choose the topic and when to study it. There's a whole area in between the "figure everything out totally on your own" and "have every thing planned out for you" camps

The thing is, if my dd wants to learn something in a very structured way, she can, if she wants to learn it just from reading, without involving me at all, she can. If she wants to learn any way she wants, she *can*. I’m not going to tell her that the way she chose to learn something isn’t what I would choose, or it’s not the way the book says, or not in the right order or whatever. That’s what unschooling is to me. It’s not limiting my dd to someone else’s idea of how learning should be. I just don’t agree that any parent can pick up any curriculum and have it fit their child and I bristle at the makers of those curricula who say that you can do this.

Which, of course, would be why I love that definition of unschooling that basically says to let the kids do what they want. That way, if they want structure, they get it, if they want sit down lectures with a parent at the blackboard, they get it, if they want to be wild and free and do their own thing, they get it. I also disagree with those few (yes, few!) unschoolers who seem to think it all has to be wild and free and structure is bad even if the kid *asks* for it.

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It's OK, I'm actually enjoying this conversation immensely, and I hope I'm not annoying anyone by being too "argumentative" here. I really like hearing about what works for different people.
Well speaking for me, I’m enjoying it immensely too I like you,

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My husband and I are not "joiners." We're the kind of people who never go to museums or the library or learn new hobbies or take walks. I wish we did, but we don't do those kinds of things naturally. If we're going to do "educational" things with the kids, we're going to have to plan them. Honestly, if we didn't make an effort to offer more enriching opportunities to the kids, and we unschooled them, they would end up becoming experts in TV, D&D, comic books, and heating up convenience dinners.
Hey, my dd loves comic books and has learned a lot from them, and we’re only just delving into RPGs with kids (Toons!) Really though, even if you go with a complete boxed curriculum, you should get to know your library at the least (if nothing else, it will save you from buying all the literature texts that the curriculum requires!). Hey, mine carries a large selection of graphic novels now I don’t know, just from all the interesting things you’ve written in this conversation, I somehow doubt you are as lacking in motivation as you think Though, to be honest, when I had a 1 year old I was pretty lacking too (and my house was a wreck and I was tired all the time – PPD and a high need baby) but I wouldn’t compare myself then to now.

And Lillian is right, as usual, Homeschooling (in any form) will more than likely inspire you to start exploring the world more too

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And I think that the workload and strict schedule of WTM are among the things I'd happily ditch. Additionally, of course, if I run into the problem of "he won't do the work," I think I'll assume there's something wrong with the work, not with him.
Mmm, this is making me laugh just thinking about it, but would there then be a debate over whether you are actually a classical mom or are just inspired by classical education? Hey, I think it’s really cool to be inspired to use a method but be willing to change gears if you find it’s not working for your actual, flesh and blood child. I definitely think a mom can be inspired by classical and still be unschooling as long as she doesn’t get married to the idea of *having* to use that method. And of course, if your kid absolutely doesn’t like it, you can always do the classical adult education thing I’ve been reading about

Sorry to hear about your ectopic pregnancy. I hope you’re feeling better soon I’m glad you're getting some fun from the boards
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#150 of 220 Old 05-18-2006, 11:46 PM
 
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I think it takes a really self-motivated kid, or a parent who's really good at offering a lot of choices, for an unschooled kid to learn as much as they would in more formal schooling.
What I've observed with my own kids is that unschooling nurtures and preserves those exceptionally high levels of self-motivation. If you're not highly self-motivated yourself, it's more than likely, to my way of thinking, that you're a product of your own other-directed education. I know I am. I did very well in school and did a lot of years of post-secondary training. Because of my long schooling history, it has taken me a lot of years to get over my own distaste for academic type learning ... and I'm doing so largely thanks to my kids.

So sorry to hear about your ectopic.

Miranda

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