Is unschooling really a good idea? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 10:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm trying to ask this question as politely as I can -- please forgive me if I show lack of tact -- because on more than one post over time here on MDC, I'll read a situation like, "My son/daughter is 6/7/8/9 years old and since we've unschooled during our homeschool years, she or he can't read/do math and we now have to enter him/her in the public/private school due to XYZ circumstances."

If I were an unschooler, this would really concern me.

I have a few basic questions:

1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?

2. If your answer is something along the lines of, "I want my child to decide for him- or herself what's important," what about the fact that she or he may decide they need a particular skill long after the optimal "window" for learning it is gone? For example, research very clearly demonstrates that optimal foreign language learning takes place before about age 12, and that after that approximate age, you can pretty much count on never speaking without an accent and (probably) never being truly fluent.

3. What if they decide at, say, age 17 that they want to go to college, but the unschooling method has left them very much unprepared to do that in terms of basic skills?

4. What if your circumstances change, as in the example I posted above, and you now are faced with the fact that your child is considered "behind" when he or she gets into school?

Just wondering.
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#2 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:12 AM
 
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I'm not necessarily an unschooler, but the idea is very appealing to me. I think that my younger kids will have a fairly unschooling life; I think my oldest child (due to her unique circumstances) will have less of one. Perhaps, because I am not necessarily an unschooler, I am not the right person to answer these questions. However, perhaps because I am not firmly committed to it at this point, I can see more of where your concerns are coming from. Anyway, here's my best shot at answering.

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1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?
I'm not worried about my kids learning the basics because they are the basics for a reason. Schools graduate lots of kids who can't read or do basic math. Because I will be spending lots of time with my kids, I can introduce them to these things in a variety of natural ways that remove the pressure and heighten the relevance. Simply living a rich life brings along these skills. I am not concerned that my kids won't be able to read or do math to a degree that will hinder their ability to live a full life. I took pre-calc in high school, and honestly, I remember NOTHING about it. I remember very little from geometry, either, and I don't think I suffer for it. I remember a lot about the things that interest me and are relevant to my life. I don't need to know a lot about everything. A lot about some things is enough for me. If I suddenly got the desire for higher math, I could enroll in a community college class, or take some books from the library, or ask my math major friend for help.

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2. If your answer is something along the lines of, "I want my child to decide for him- or herself what's important," what about the fact that she or he may decide they need a particular skill long after the optimal "window" for learning it is gone? For example, research very clearly demonstrates that optimal foreign language learning takes place before about age 12, and that after that approximate age, you can pretty much count on never speaking without an accent and (probably) never being truly fluent.
Regarding your specific example, I don't really care whether my kids ever become able to speak a language with no accent. I don't think there is much advantage to that (I do believe there is a HUGE advantage to being able to speak another language, but the accent factor doesn't concern me). (In fact, no one in America speaks English without an accent! We have regional variations all across the country but it doesn't affect our ability to communicate with one another.) I lived in Belgium for a while and spoke decent (not fluent), accented Flemish. I got along fine. I had rich relationships with people, could travel independently, and could meet my daily needs with my imperfect Flemish. I probably couldn't have read heavy philosophical tomes in Flemish, but, if I wanted do that, I could have studied Flemish more intensely. Unless I want to be a spy, my ability to speak a language with no accent is inconsequential to the other huge benefits of speaking that language decently.

I think that people can generally learn whatever they want to learn whenever they want to learn it. I don't believe that you have to cram it all in before a certain amount of time or you're doomed forever. The human brain is flexible, and furthermore, even if we study the most intense curriculum ever created, we will never learn EVERYTHING there is to know, and there will ALWAYS be the chance that we will want to know/learn something later in life that was not covered earlier in life. I think that when people have the chance to decide what is most relevant to them, they will learn it better and what they learn will more naturally reflect where their interests and skills lead them in life.

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3. What if they decide at, say, age 17 that they want to go to college, but the unschooling method has left them very much unprepared to do that in terms of basic skills?
They can always enroll in a community college to get up to speed. They can always attend night school to get up to speed. They can always hire a tutor to get up to speed. They can always study independently to get up to speed. Many, many colleges and universities really don't have that stringent of entrance requirements, and I think that there is a way for virtually every person who desires to go to college to do so. Now, if a 17-year-old unschooler who is barely literate and can do only basic addition and subtraction (one or two of those kids may exist somewhere) wakes up one day and decides that he wants to go to Harvard in three months, that may not be possible, but then again, MOST kids who go to school can't go to Harvard either. I don't see the purpose of "education" as a hedge against all future possibilities, an insurance policy that, now that you have learned A-Z, you will be able to do absolutely anything you want to do and, if you can't, you've somehow failed. I would have liked to join the Peace Corps. I didn't have the skills they were looking for. Oh, well, I found something else that I wanted to do.

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4. What if your circumstances change, as in the example I posted above, and you now are faced with the fact that your child is considered "behind" when he or she gets into school?
Give the child extra help at home, hire a tutor, avail ourselves of the school's resources for helping students who are "behind," trust that my child will rise to the occasion, find another friend or family member who can continue to provide my child with an unschooling environment, find a school that is flexible and willing to work with us, there are many possibilities. ETA: Or not worry about it, because I don't think poor performance in school reflects poorly on a child.

HTH.

Namaste!
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#3 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?
No. I've seen two of my children learn to read and have no reason to believe that the third will not also learn. They each use math and haven't had any problem learning the concepts that they've needed to learn.

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2. If your answer is something along the lines of, "I want my child to decide for him- or herself what's important," what about the fact that she or he may decide they need a particular skill long after the optimal "window" for learning it is gone?

I don't buy into the "optimal window" theory. I've seen too many people disprove that in their own lives. I truely believe that we can learn whatever we desire to learn and that that desire is more important than the age at which we learn a particular skill. (And, yes, I do want my children to decide for themselves what's important. )


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3. What if they decide at, say, age 17 that they want to go to college, but the unschooling method has left them very much unprepared to do that in terms of basic skills?
I don't believe that unschoolers, in general, are "very much unprepared" for college. For some reason, that concern comes up again and again even after parents of unschoolers have explained how their children have gone on to college. It's sort of like the "what about socialization?" question, yk?

If my child lacked some skills to get into college, then they'd set about to acquire those skills. It wouldn't be unreasonable to take a class or hire a tutor or study on their own in order to fill in any weak spots. OTOH, colleges often offer basic skills classes because incoming freshman, who have gone to high school, often lack the skills needed to do college work. (That these kids have supposedly spent the last 4 years of their lives preparing for college just blows me away.)

But, again, if my child wanted to go to college, they'd find out what the requirements were and go about completing them in order to gain admission. Just like anyone else.


Quote:
4. What if your circumstances change, as in the example I posted above, and you now are faced with the fact that your child is considered "behind" when he or she gets into school?
I find it hard to imagine a situation where my kids would *have to* go to school, but assuming it happened, and assuming that they were "behind" what we did about would depend on how the child felt about it. If they planned to simply mark time until they could get out of school, we'd work with that. If they wanted to "catch up" to their peers, then we'd help them to do that.

The idea of kids being "behind" (or "ahead" as that's just as likely) is truely not a concern to me. What a child "should" have learned varies from institution to institution and town to town. It's not something that I take all that seriously.

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#4 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:33 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
because on more than one post over time here on MDC, I'll read a situation like, "My son/daughter is 6/7/8/9 years old and since we've unschooled during our homeschool years, she or he can't read/do math
Bold mine

I don't feel that is representative of unschoolers. It may be the case with some children who unschool.....but it is also the case with some children who do more structured homeschooling and children in school. Some children learn to read later than others. I feel it is unfair to attribute later reading to unschooling, as plenty of unschooled children learn to read at earlier ages (either because they've expressed and interest in being taught, or because they learned on their own).

eta....I have no idea if there has been research done to prove otherwise (that unschooling is assoc with later reading). Just my observations.


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1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?
I asked a while back if unschoolers tend to be naturally academic, at least in the early years, leading parents to be comfortable with unschooling. That is the case in my home. Dd is drawn to academics, and would be entering K knowing most of the end-of-year K skills. So, no, I'm not particularly worried, and not at all interested in guiding her in a different direction. She is very driven in certain respects, and less in others--but overall "ahead". To be honest, I'm not sure how I would feel if dd were not "ahead" of expectations for her age. I guess that makes me an uncommitted unschooler : .

As for the other questions, I have no great answers. Seems like borrowing trouble, when dd is only 5 and is not behind academically. She is interested in and exposed to other languages. Together, dd and I try to pick up dh's native Greek
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#5 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:34 AM
 
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First perhaps I should explain our reasons for unschooling. Our child has an innate curiosity and love of learning. We value this and want it to continue. Our child has shown himself to be motivated to enthusiastically learn how to crawl, walk, talk, ride a bike, etc. At age 6, our child reads "some", and he spouts various math facts that he's picked up from his interest in tape measures, rulers, and calculators. I have no doubt that if we drilled him, he could read better and spout more, but would he love it? Would he want to continue learning with the abandon he does now? And if so, for how long? We are not in a contest to make him know more than all other children his age. We want him to enjoy learning as part of life ... as a lifelong adventure!

On to your questions:
1. I have no doubt my 6yo unschooler will learn the basics and much much more. He loves reading. I have always read aloud to him. His comprehension and attention span is well above grade level. He reads "some" and I have every confidence that one day he will really take off with it like the day we took the training wheels off his bike (over a year ago) and he rode away, filled with excitement and pride in his accomplishment! My child also enjoys math and understands its importance in "life": keeping score, measuring things, purchasing things. He plays chess well enough to teach others to play. He understands the things he learns; its not rote memorization.

2. When my child was 4, he and I began learning a foreign language together. We enjoyed it for a while, but we haven't kept with it. He has, however, had the exposure, and may well decide to pick it up again at a later time. Many people have learned foreign languages past the age of 12. Many people have been force-fed languages earlier and then forgotten them later.

3. Unschooling will help prepare my child for college! College, after all, is self-directed.

4. Putting my child in school is unacceptable to me; I hope it never comes to that. I would also like to point out that there are as many unschooled children "ahead" as "behind" their arbitrary grade level. Do you remember the story of the Colfax brothers who were homeschooled (unschooled) and 3 of the 4 went on to Harvard? If I remember correctly from reading the book recently, the oldest learned to read at the same time as his two younger brothers, so they were 9, 7 and 4 at the time. Those are the three that were accepted at Harvard.
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#6 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:43 AM
 
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Hmmmm.

We are unschoolers or going-to-be-unschoolers depending on when it is OK to say you are doing so. But my dd is only 3 so we are really not into the ages where I am concerned about any lack of skill. So I am only speaking from my own educational experience and my own feelings about these concerns.

First, I am not at all worried about the "essential skills". I cannot imagine any child not wanting to know how to read. And if they really really do not want to learn, no teacher or workbook-waving parent is going to make it happen. I think "optimal age" is fooey. Yes, there might be averages but I know that in my case, I learned to read too early and had much frustration. Luckily I still love to read but if not for a few sensitive teachers I would be one of those kids that never voluntarily picked up a book. I do not believe that there is any age in which it is impossible to learn anything so that is not a concern for me. Every kid I have ever met (that has not yet been to school) is interested in letters and having books read to them. I find it very hard to believe that the interest will never continue into reading if left to the child to lead.

I can imagine a time down the road when we are going to deem walking, talking, and breathing "essential skills" that will need to be taught like reading. There is no difference between learning one thing or the other. Children are driven to learn. They are programmed to do so since brith. Why do we think they need to be taught one thing but will just learn the other when they are ready?

I have no interest in sending my child to school. If she decides she wants to go, then it will be made clear what she will need to know in whatever grade they assign her to and it will be her decision whether to catch up, go unprepared, or find a solution that involves a different grade or school to match her skill level. Same with college. Humans are amazingly adaptable. even if she were significantly behind the grade level, I am pretty sure she would catch up within the school setting IF she wanted to. I have known children that moved to the US midway through their education that showed up to class speaking very little on our language and woefully behind in the curriculum deemed important to our schools that caught up within one year. So no, I am not worried about that.

The only essential skill I would concern myself with is reading. I guess if dd turned 18 and still showed no interest then I would sign myself up as an unschooling failure. If one really does not want to learn math, there are plenty of ways around that. I would be quite surprised since math is needed for many activities enjoyable to children like cooking, buying candy, counting their piggy banks, figuring out when Christmas is, playing games, etc..... Want a shocker? My dh is an engineer (I am too) and he does not know his multiplication tables. Gasp. He missed that month of school due to illness and never found the need to figure it out. He not only got through conventional schooling but got an engineering degree and worked his way up to chief engineer of a midsized engineering company. He uses a calculator and everyone is happy.

I am using WAY too many words to say something very simple. No , I am not worried and no I am not going to be worried about what is going on in schools (or in "experts" minds) to determine what is right for my dd.

Now on to my own experiences. As I have learned about unschooling, I have become very sad for my own self. How much time I wasted learning "Essential Things". How many hours I was bored. How many hours I did busywork to learn things that I never ever use. I do not care if it was in school or if my parents made me learn it. It would still be useless and a waste of time for me now. It has taken DECADES for me to figure out that I can learn things on my own and follow my heart and interest. Once I became an unschooler, I have been so free! I have learned more on my own since this discovery than I did in years of school. I have learned things that are of interest to me. I have learned more biology from following my interests in nutrition, childbirth, and childrearing than I did in two years worth of high school and college classes. In fact, I had to go back and relearn that stuff since it all tumbled out of my brain the minute after the final. When I needed to know it, I devoured it. When I was forced to, it was torture. I am all over geography, politics, and history trying to figure out how our presdient is f-ing up the entire world while I forgot it the day after the report was due in high school.

Lesson learned for me? There is no right time to learn anything and the true gift of learning can only come from yourself.
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#7 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:48 AM
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Just a few thoughts:

I am concerned about what my child is learning as an unschooler but not as concerned as I was when he went to school.

As far as reading and math goes, when I took him out of school, his reading and math skills skyrocketed. He had the time and could read and do the math he was interested in without the distractions of a typical classroom.

I think accents are beautiful.

There are more basic skills than reading and math that schools rob children of. They are the ability to see, hear, feel (emotion, not tacile), touch, smell, taste, ask questions and reason. Not all schools all the time. But life doesn't happen in a classroom and life is what I want for my child.
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#8 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:54 AM
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I just remembered what my son remembers most about what he learned in school. He learned to tell time becaue that's what he did all day....stare at the clock! - see, school is not all bad.

And, BTW, it doesn't bother me that you are asking questions. That's how we all learn, right? If fact, those are the questions I asked before I decided and those are also the questions I get from friends and family ... and total strangers, too : .
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#9 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by dharmamama

I'm not worried about my kids learning the basics because they are the basics for a reason. Schools graduate lots of kids who can't read or do basic math. Because I will be spending lots of time with my kids, I can introduce them to these things in a variety of natural ways that remove the pressure and heighten the relevance. Simply living a rich life brings along these skills.
I agree that living a rich life brings along many skills, and speaking as someone who accidentally taught her dd about fractions when we were cutting potatoes, I can see that rich-life-living teaches some things, but with math especially, which has to be fairly systematic, I can't see how just living life would teach it effectively. The other issue, just to be a doubting Thomas here, would be upper-level math like calculus and algebra, which seem to have few "real-life" applications outside of engineering, physics, and the like. I'm not trying to sound dismissive here, really, but just going to the store, making dinner, playing in the park, etc. isn't going to teach quadratic equations -- or at least, it hasn't worked that way for me yet. I'm still waiting.
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I am not concerned that my kids won't be able to read or do math to a degree that will hinder their ability to live a full life. I took pre-calc in high school, and honestly, I remember NOTHING about it. I remember very little from geometry, either, and I don't think I suffer for it. I remember a lot about the things that interest me and are relevant to my life. I don't need to know a lot about everything. A lot about some things is enough for me. If I suddenly got the desire for higher math, I could enroll in a community college class, or take some books from the library, or ask my math major friend for help.
I've managed to live a full life even without pre-cal , but what I was thinking of was more in the line of career choices. I'd genuinely worry that by choosing an US method, I'd basically "opt out" of any heavy-duty academic, scientific, or medical field for my child, pre-empting those choices even before she was fully able to make them herself, KWIM?

Quote:


Regarding your specific example, I don't really care whether my kids ever become able to speak a language with no accent. I don't think there is much advantage to that (I do believe there is a HUGE advantage to being able to speak another language, but the accent factor doesn't concern me). (In fact, no one in America speaks English without an accent! We have regional variations all across the country but it doesn't affect our ability to communicate with one another.)
I don't know...I'd hate to have someone from Valdosta, Georgia break down in the middle of Bangor, Maine. Good luck.

Thanks for your answer!
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#10 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:01 PM
 
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Okay, you'd never put your child in school; what if you died suddenly and unexpectedly?

While children who read later than average might not be representative of all unschoolers, it seems to me that every other article I read on the subject of unschooling is about children who didn't learn to read until they were 9-12 years old. In fact, I can remember reading one about a family in which at least one child didn't learn to read until he was 16.

As to accented English, well, there have been times when poor articulation, speech and grammar have made it difficult for me, personally, to understand someone. If this wasn't an issue at all, that whole "Ebonics" mess never would have happened; In my opinion, it's naive to say that accents don't hinder communication, and it's just as naive to say that poor grammar and articulation don't likewise hinder communication.

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#11 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Joan
If my child lacked some skills to get into college, then they'd set about to acquire those skills. It wouldn't be unreasonable to take a class or hire a tutor or study on their own in order to fill in any weak spots. OTOH, colleges often offer basic skills classes because incoming freshman, who have gone to high school, often lack the skills needed to do college work. (That these kids have supposedly spent the last 4 years of their lives preparing for college just blows me away.)
Tell me about it. I teach high school, so I can tell you specifically what they blow off: MY ESSAYS.

[/mini-rant]
Anyway, the thing is, in some cases it could be years' worth of material, right? Hypothetically speaking, if a child never felt the need or desire to learn any math and then wanted to get into college, they'd have to go from basic addition all the way through algebra and geometry in what I'm assuming would have to be a relatively short period of time. And I'm not sure I agree with you about your doubt regarding the "windows" theory, given that in math specifically, I missed a decent chunk of math at a fundamental grade (first) and was not able to "catch up" later, which pretty much left me up the proverbial fecal creek.

Just wondering.
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#12 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:04 PM
 
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My DS is 5, and is currently teaching himself to read. He decided (on his own, with a suggestion from Arthur of PBS fame ) to start keeping a diary. He was flummoxed because he was constantly wanting me to spell words for him, but at the same time was very conscious that a diary was supposed to be private! So I got him a first dictionary, and now he is self sufficient. In the week or so that he's been doing this, he has jumped from not-really-reading to really-practically-reading, with an enormous boost to his confidence. Before we went through this, I really didn't think unschooling would work, for the same reasons listed in the OP. I still don't think we will do 100% unschooling, because at this point I do think it's good to develop the ability to do things that AREN'T particularly interesting at first. But my eyes were definitely opened to the ways that kids do naturally teach themselves these skills (math and reading) that we were taught by teachers. Plus, now I can see the value in the way he learned this skill - it is HIS. He's not comparing himself to a classful of other kids, he's not following an imposed timeline, he's not alternately bored and left in the dust - he's owning this learning.

However, as usual, I think it depends A LOT on the child, and a little on the parent's comfort level. Each of us must make the decision that will serve us best - there is no perfect solution for everyone.
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#13 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by sunnmama
Bold mine

I don't feel that is representative of unschoolers. It may be the case with some children who unschool.....but it is also the case with some children who do more structured homeschooling and children in school. Some children learn to read later than others. I feel it is unfair to attribute later reading to unschooling, as plenty of unschooled children learn to read at earlier ages (either because they've expressed and interest in being taught, or because they learned on their own).
You're mistaking me here. In my hypothetical example, I set up a situation in which an imaginary unschooling parent chose not to directly "teach" her child to read and her child also chose not to teach her- or himself, and as a consequence of those choices, s/he could not read at age 6/7/8/9. I based this hypothetical on several real examples of situations I've read about here on MDC.

I didn't say something to the effect of, "No unschoolers can read." I also didn't say, "Only unschoolers can't read." I teach HS, and believe me, I know how true it is that students who attend "regular" school can't necessarily read. I said, "Since we've unschooled, he can't read." I should've made it more clear that not reading was a choice on the part of the parents and child.
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#14 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by callmemama
On to your questions:
1. I have no doubt my 6yo unschooler will learn the basics and much much more. He loves reading. I have always read aloud to him. His comprehension and attention span is well above grade level. He reads "some" and I have every confidence that one day he will really take off with it like the day we took the training wheels off his bike (over a year ago) and he rode away, filled with excitement and pride in his accomplishment! My child also enjoys math and understands its importance in "life": keeping score, measuring things, purchasing things. He plays chess well enough to teach others to play. He understands the things he learns; its not rote memorization.
You sound like you have an extremely intelligent and well-motivated child and that this method works well for you and your family. What happens, however, if you have a child who basically wants to play Doom all day and has no interest in reading, math, history, et cetera?
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#15 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Yooper
Hmmmm.



First, I am not at all worried about the "essential skills". I cannot imagine any child not wanting to know how to read.
I can. I teach English.
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And if they really really do not want to learn, no teacher or workbook-waving parent is going to make it happen.
True.
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I have learned more biology from following my interests in nutrition, childbirth, and childrearing than I did in two years worth of high school and college classes. In fact, I had to go back and relearn that stuff since it all tumbled out of my brain the minute after the final. When I needed to know it, I devoured it. When I was forced to, it was torture. I am all over geography, politics, and history trying to figure out how our presdient is f-ing up the entire world while I forgot it the day after the report was due in high school.
What you're saying resonates for me because that's basically how I taught myself most of the biology I actually know, all of the forensics I know, and all of the obstetrics I know.
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#16 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Pen
I just remembered what my son remembers most about what he learned in school. He learned to tell time becaue that's what he did all day....stare at the clock! - see, school is not all bad.

And, BTW, it doesn't bother me that you are asking questions. That's how we all learn, right? If fact, those are the questions I asked before I decided and those are also the questions I get from friends and family ... and total strangers, too : .
Well, and I'm genuinely not trying to come off as an here, just skeptical.
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#17 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:33 PM
 
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I just wish I had the idea to unschool when my oldest ds was little. I nearly destroyed his desire to learn by trying to enforce "basic skills". He was the one who told me without the support of message boards, e-lists, parent groups, and various books/magazines (obviously I still need these things since I am here) that I was involved with that he learns the best if he has his own reasons for doing so. How many times did I see that in print? Didn't hit me until ds told me.

I have 2 that have learned to read on their own and have acquired a working knowledge of math by living life. I have 2 more that are benefitting from my experience with the older ones. It's amazing to see these things develop in my 7 yo when he does not start compartmentalizing subjects/skills the way my oldest did when I interferred with his learning too much.

As far as language, I picked up on French quite easily after age 12. I have no doubt my kids could pick up on a language if they are interested. I have my dd (3yo) in immersion Mandarin class because she is Chinese and this is her birthright. At this point, she doesn't have an opinion on whether or not she wants/needs a 2nd language, she just sees this as an extension of our adoptive playgroup, I believe. It is fun for her. If it were not we wouldn't be there. I think unless parents or someone else close to the family is bilingual, accomplishing what the OP is describing (fluency w/native accent) takes a tremendous amount of effort. Without the kids being interested, or without them living it(bilingual home) it may just end up being another thing kids hating because it was forced on them.

My dd's Mandarin teacher came to the US 10 or so years ago (as an adult) and learned English by living here. She has a beautiful accent and somehow manages to live and communicate in this country.
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#18 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
isn't going to teach quadratic equations
What's a quadratic equation? I know I learned it in algebra, I recognize the term, but I don't remember what it is. Oh well. I still went to college, graduated summa cum laude, married the love of my life, and aquired three fab children. (I never learned how to spell aquired, though. Is it aquired or acquired? Somehow that never affected my choice of careers.)

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I'd genuinely worry that by choosing an US method, I'd basically "opt out" of any heavy-duty academic, scientific, or medical field for my child, pre-empting those choices even before she was fully able to make them herself, KWIM?
Yep, I know exactly what you mean. I used to worry about that, too, when people challenged me on wanting to homeschool my kids (back when I thought homeschooling meant schooling at home) until I started really thinking about what it was that I remembered from my elementary and high school experiences. I remember a lot of geography, history, and psychology. I remember a lot from my public speaking class. I don't remember much from biology, chemistry, algebra, or metalworking. I grew up to be someone who is massively interested in the humanities and not very interested in science and math. My sister, who went to the same school I did, grew up to be massively interested in science and math and not very interested in the humanities. She has a PhD in immunology and is a research scientist. I have a bachelor's in social work and am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom with adopted children. Which of us is more successful? (That's a rhetorical question, btw!)

I don't think we have to cram our young kids full of knowledge in case they might need it one day. I think we need to show our kids how to love life and find what they need when they need it.



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#19 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:39 PM
 
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Anyway, the thing is, in some cases it could be years' worth of material, right?
Years' worth if taught starting at age 5 in a top-down fashion. A few weeks' worth if learned by a motivated unschooler who is truly ready ... intellectually, emotionally, motivationally. Twenty instructional hours over a few weeks for the entire K-6 curriculum for motivation pre-teens. See http://www.mountainlaurelsudbury.org/Rithmetic.asp. I used to be skeptical about this but I know unschooled kids who did no formal math for the first 12, 15, 17 years of their lives and managed to get to college-level proficiency with no difficulty.

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And I'm not sure I agree with you about your doubt regarding the "windows" theory, given that in math specifically, I missed a decent chunk of math at a fundamental grade (first) and was not able to "catch up" later, which pretty much left me up the proverbial fecal creek.
Well of course. You were being subjected to a top-down curriculum that assumed you had learned things you hadn't. Explanations went over your head and no one noticed much of the time; compared to your classmates you were struggling with things they took for granted. The method of teaching new skills and concepts relied on assumptions that you had certain skills and concepts in hand that you didn't. In fairly short order you were feeling frustrated and anxious about math, something which will shut down receptiveness to learning like nothing else. Unschooling would never proceed in such a fashion.

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#20 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:41 PM
 
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In my opinion, it's naive to say that accents don't hinder communication, and it's just as naive to say that poor grammar and articulation don't likewise hinder communication.
Fair enough, but how many of us who learn another language are actually going to be called upon to live in an environment where that language and our ability to use it are our sole means of communication? And if that were the case, I'd imagine (like my daughter, home six weeks now) that we'd pretty quickly learn to communicate well. It's not like we'd be stuck forever at a certain level of language attainment.

To me, the whole point of learning another language (when it's not necessary for survival but just for fun or enrichment or whatever) is to open the window to another culture and worldview. So if I never learned how to pronounce the Flemish /w/, that's a lesser concern to me. Besides, I kinda like it when people smile at my messed up /w/.

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#21 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
I can. I teach English.
To kids who were schooled, right? Maybe the school environment is (at least partially) responsible for their lack of desire to learn?

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#22 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:48 PM
 
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I guess really it depends on how you feel about learning. I strongly believe children will want to learn (on their own) the basics. Most kids have a strong desire to figure out the world in which they are a part of. It also depends on what value you place on things like calculus, physics ect.... and your child learning said things. I am very confident in the fact that if my children want to learn those things they will and if not no biggie. It also depends on what you think being successful in life is. Academics are not on my short list of what is truly valuable in this world ( I'm sure others feel the opposite).

You are speaking of my child when you talk about a late reader, my dd is newly 9 and is an early reader. I see no reason why she needs to be pushed to learn to read before she is truly ready. What is gained by that really? When she's 30 will it truly matter that she didn't read when a lot people think a child should be reading? I don't see it as some kind of race and my dd is losing because other children her age are ahead in reading. She only loses when she is forced to learn things she isn't ready to learn.
Why is early reading seen as some kind of ideal anyway?

*excuse any typos, I don't have the energy or desire find and correct them.

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#23 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:49 PM
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Also, communication is a two way street. It is not one person's responsibility.
ETA: in response to the comments about accents.
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#24 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:51 PM
 
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I'd genuinely worry that by choosing an US method, I'd basically "opt out" of any heavy-duty academic, scientific, or medical field for my child, pre-empting those choices even before she was fully able to make them herself, KWIM?
Of the two grown unschoolers I know personally, one is in medical school and the other has just finished an overseas exchange year at university in Budapest whilst studying green architecture and urban planning a highly academic New England college. This latter student is the one I mentioned in my previous post who started her formal math studies the summer she was 17 (actually, it was 18, now that I recall) and entered college architecture studies, including first-year university math, the following fall.

My unschooled 12yo is half way through Singapore secondary math. She is well into high school level Latin study as well as continuing with French and planning to start Japanese in the fall. She writes at a solid late-high school level and is in the midst of a couple of college-level lecture series from the Teaching Company. She reads voraciously, everything from world history to grammar to psychology to contemporary adult fiction. She's also an advanced violinist and pianist.

Unschooling doesn't seem to have closed any academic doors for the kids I know.

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#25 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:54 PM
 
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Fair enough, but how many of us who learn another language are actually going to be called upon to live in an environment where that language and our ability to use it are our sole means of communication? And if that were the case, I'd imagine (like my daughter, home six weeks now) that we'd pretty quickly learn to communicate well. It's not like we'd be stuck forever at a certain level of language attainment.

To me, the whole point of learning another language (when it's not necessary for survival but just for fun or enrichment or whatever) is to open the window to another culture and worldview.
There are people who were born, raised, and (ostensibly) educated in this country who are unable to communicate effectively because they were left to their own devices. There are people attempting to communicate over the internet, on these very boards, who are so impaired that they cannot effectively communicate through text, despite an apparent desire to do so. I think that's absolutely tragic, and I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :

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#26 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 12:57 PM
 
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There are people who were born, raised, and (ostensibly) educated in this country who are unable to communicate effectively because they were left to their own devices. There are people attempting to communicate over the internet, on these very boards, who are so impaired that they cannot effectively communicate through text, despite an apparent desire to do so. I think that's absolutely tragic, and I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :
I'm curious whether you have any data upon which to base your conclusion. Can you provide anything empirical?
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I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :
Well, that's pretty insulting isn't it. But it doesn't really bother me because it's obvious that we don't view the world the same or value the same things. Of course I don't think I'd come here and trash how you are schooling your children even if I strongly disagree with your method.

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#28 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 01:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by eilonwy
As to accented English, well, there have been times when poor articulation, speech and grammar have made it difficult for me, personally, to understand someone. If this wasn't an issue at all, that whole "Ebonics" mess never would have happened; In my opinion, it's naive to say that accents don't hinder communication, and it's just as naive to say that poor grammar and articulation don't likewise hinder communication.
So are we to teach children how to understand every possible accent they may encounter? I do have a hard time understanding the accented English of the native Chinese people I have met. I guess my parents did not realize that I would be around people with these accents and we missed the window of opportunity.

Likewise with articulation and grammar....my kids pick it up by hearing/reading it. It is not specifically taught to them. Their grammar may not be perfect, probably because ours is not, and we went to school to learn it.
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#29 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 01:03 PM
 
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because on more than one post over time here on MDC, I'll read a situation like, "My son/daughter is 6/7/8/9 years old and since we've unschooled during our homeschool years, she or he can't read/do math and we now have to enter him/her in the public/private school due to XYZ circumstances."
Did you notice the ages you wrote there? From everything I've ever read (including from professional educators) there is a range in which most kids are ready to read. If that child who learns to read at 9 was in school, they wouldn't be magically reading. They'd be in remedial class painfully sounding out C-A-T while the teacher pointed out how well they were "reading". It's not that these kids won't ever learn to read, it's that they are learning on their own time frame, naturally, instead of having it pushed on them earlier than they are ready for.

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1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?
Well, answering specifically for reading and math, my daughter learned to read at 6. That's pretty much average (I've read that 6/7 is average for girls and 7/8 more for boys). Problem already solved and I didn't need to sit her down with 100 EZ Lessons (or anything else) at 3, 4 and 5. Though if I had, it would sure look like she was reading because of my teaching, eh?

As for math, we've got that covered too. She can count, add, subtract, knows basic fractions and has the beginnings of multiplication. All without forced teaching. The other day she showed me a problem that her 8 year old friend (a radical unschooler - much more unschooly than we are) showed her. It looked like algebra to me.

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2. If your answer is something along the lines of, "I want my child to decide for him- or herself what's important," what about the fact that she or he may decide they need a particular skill long after the optimal "window" for learning it is gone? For example, research very clearly demonstrates that optimal foreign language learning takes place before about age 12, and that after that approximate age, you can pretty much count on never speaking without an accent and (probably) never being truly fluent.
Overall I think the optimal window thing is not true. The ONLY thing that I've heard it for is, as you said, accents and like others have said I don't see an issue with that. I've sometimes heard people say that there's an optimal window for reading in which case, pretty much none of the unschooled kids I know should be reading right now. I'll tell them to stop

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3. What if they decide at, say, age 17 that they want to go to college, but the unschooling method has left them very much unprepared to do that in terms of basic skills?
It depends on whether you buy into the idea that learning only happens in childhood. Like I said, my daughter already can read and do basic math, but let's say she does get to college age not knowing algebra. Well, she can do what her public educated, gifted but non-mathematically minded mom did and take remedial algebra in college. Or she can do what I've heard of other unschooling kids doing and bone up on algebra, spew it out on the entry test and then promptly forget it (a time honored tradition in the schools )

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4. What if your circumstances change, as in the example I posted above, and you now are faced with the fact that your child is considered "behind" when he or she gets into school?
If my kids have to go to school their lives will suck so much I can't imagine being behind or not making a difference. My son would probably be fine. My daughter is very active, very smart, asks "too many questions" (including questioning authority regularly - not to be obnoxious but because she really wants to understand WHY) and is too social to sit next to a child and not talk to them. If she went to school today I'm pretty sure she'd be ahead of the curve in academics but she'd be labeled ADHD and turn into an underachiever pretty quickly.

I unschool for many reasons but one is that I actually think it's the better academic choice. I really think it's in my kid's best interests to learn to think for themselves and grow up believing that they have the power to do and learn whatever they want instead of waiting for someone else to direct them.

Eilonwy, you really think the people in this country who can't communicate are radical unschoolers? Do you actually know any IRL unschoolers, radical or not?
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#30 of 591 Old 07-13-2006, 01:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by eilonwy
There are people who were born, raised, and (ostensibly) educated in this country who are unable to communicate effectively because they were left to their own devices. There are people attempting to communicate over the internet, on these very boards, who are so impaired that they cannot effectively communicate through text, despite an apparent desire to do so. I think that's absolutely tragic, and I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :
Interesting. Did I mention how I learned Flemish? By chatting with people on the internet. I met my Flemish bf on the internet, then moved to Belgium to live with him. I knew how to read and write in Flemish pretty well from chatting with him and his friends (and using an English/Flemish dictionary) for about 8 months. I got to Belgium, learned I needed to correct a few mistakes I had assumed in pronunciation, and lived life as an (accented, yes) Flemish speaker. I unschooled my Flemish and it got me far enough to be able to live as a Flemish speaker.

It probably depends less on the educational "method" by which a child learns and more on the support a child receives from family and friends as to how well a child learns.

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