How can I explain Unschooling to a critic? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 05:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My mom doesn't really "get" unschooling. I'm not really a strict unschooler- we're very relaxed and leaning towards unschooling. My Mom's idea of homeschooling is "school at home." She was an education major at college, is a strong supporter of the public school system, yada yada yada.

For a while I tried to explain what I was doing. Then I just put my foot down and basically said "I'm the Mommy and I'll raise my kids as I see fit." So Mom vented her concerns about DD2 to her therapist, and her therapist called CPS on me. : Please let's not get this derailed with CPS debate- I already know my rights and I'm handling the situation.

What I need now is some good, concise, yet thorough information about unschooling. My Mom doesn't have a whole lot of time for reading, so I don't want to just bring home everything the library has on homeschooling. I'd like to get one book, preferably written in the educationalese she's used to, that explains the fundamentals of unschooling. Even though we're not strict unschoolers, it's the unschooly part of my educational philosophy that she's having trouble with. Web links aren't a good choice right now because she's having some computer trouble.

So what book(s) should I get for her?

ETA: I no longer need book suggestions as I first posted this several months ago.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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#2 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 05:29 PM
 
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"The Unprocessed Child" is a really good book about unschooling. The authors daughter was totally and completely unschooled, not "taught" a single schooly subject and is now all grownup and in (or was when the book was being written) in college and thriving. Not sure if thats what you're looking for or not.

Who was it that has books about relaxed homeschooling, Mary something. I heard her at a conference once and she's really good. I'll go look it up. Edited to add, its Mary Hood, Ph.D! HTH!!

Sandra Dodd used to be a school teacher, right? Its online, but maybe you could print something off for your mom to read?

Hopefully someone much more knowledgeably than me will chime in soon and help more.
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#3 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 06:16 PM
 
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Web links aren't a good choice right now because she's having some computer trouble.
If she wasn't so stuck in the mindset that you have to go to school in order to learn, she would be able to teach herself out how to fix her own computer :

sorry I had to pick that out, I know it isn't helpful, but I got a chuckle.
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#4 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 06:54 PM
 
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We get it from both sides. My Dad (and his wife to a lesser degree) do not "get" unschooling, and the in-laws on Dh's side are just nasty about it. My Dad has at least been mostly polite in his total disagreement. LOL

I bought my Dad "The Unschooling Handbook" by Mary Griffiths and I think it helped a little bit. He's still not comfortable with it, but I think it helped for him to see that lots and lots of people learn this way. I wasn't the lone nutjob. I doubt he will ever be totally thrilled with unschooling. He recently asked me if Ds (almost 16) could get into an alternative high school right quick so that college wouldn't be such a shock to him. I said "No." and that was that. I am happy to answer questions, but I am completely unaplogetic about our decision to unschool.

The in-laws are mostly out of state so they are less of an issue.

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#5 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 07:07 PM
 
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Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto
Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery by David Albert
The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith
Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee

None of these exactly fit the bill of what you're looking for, but John Taylor Gatto is a former school teacher (NY state teacher of the year), Albert is a publisher and very thoughtful professional (his day job has something to do with public programs), Mary Griffith's book is a quick read and the essential "basics of unschooling" book, and Alison McKee was a school teacher who went on to unschool her own children.

A really good book to give to relatives is David Guterson's Why Homeschooling Makes Sense. He's a novelist (Snow Falling on Cedars) who worked as an english teacher at a very prestigious prep school, and the book is his attempt to explain to non-homeschoolers why he thinks that hsing was the only option for his own kids, even when they had access to one of the best school in the country. It's written as a book to give to doubtful relatives and inlaws.

Ivan Illich's books might be interesting to you, in order to be able to speak to her from a specific philosophical background.

There are lots of websites about translating unschooling into "educationalese". My sister is a teacher (resource/special ed), and when we first started hsing, I used these kind of sites a lot to quell her concerns, I'd translate what fun, interesting things we'd done, into a rubrick she could relate to. I didn't tell her that I hadn't planned or organized these kinds of things. It's funny that once she was convinced that I knew what I was doing (and this goes for every other teacher I've ever talked to about hsing), she lost all interest in anything we were doing. Teachers are not interested in process, only results.

Six years (almost seven, now) into the hsing process, no one close to me ever questions me about it. It's just so patently obvious to anyone who knew ds when he was in ps that hsing is the best possible option for him. Just to warn you, I've never been able to get any of my relatives to read any of the books I found for them, it was only the results that swayed them.

Good luck with your mom,
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#6 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 07:29 PM
 
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Standard disclaimer: I'm not homeschooling yet. BUT I have read most of these books. I just wanted to say that I really did not care for "Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves." I felt like the whole book was a repetition of "if I had tried to force them to learn anything, I would have stifled all their creativity!!" Since she didn't do that, how would she know?

As someone who has not actually tried unschooling, I found Grace Llewellyn and Mary Griffiths more convincing, and John Holt too radical. I didn't necessarily disagree with him, but I think his ideas would be a big turnoff to someone like your mother.
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#7 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 08:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
My mom doesn't really "get" unschooling. I'm not really a strict unschooler- we're very relaxed and leaning towards unschooling. My Mom's idea of homeschooling is "school at home." She was an education major at college, is a strong supporter of the public school system, yada yada yada.

For a while I tried to explain what I was doing. Then I just put my foot down and basically said "I'm the Mommy and I'll raise my kids as I see fit." So Mom vented her concerns about DD2 to her therapist, and her therapist called CPS on me. : Please let's not get this derailed with CPS debate- I already know my rights and I'm handling the situation.

What I need now is some good, concise, yet thorough information about unschooling. My Mom doesn't have a whole lot of time for reading, so I don't want to just bring home everything the library has on homeschooling. I'd like to get one book, preferably written in the educationalese she's used to, that explains the fundamentals of unschooling. Even though we're not strict unschoolers, it's the unschooly part of my educational philosophy that she's having trouble with. Web links aren't a good choice right now because she's having some computer trouble.

So what book(s) should I get for her?
I'm so sorry, Ruth....no good advice just sending you

Here's me I married then we had dd15 , dd11 , ds10 , and then and now we and I blog!
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#8 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 09:14 PM
 
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subbing b/c it looks like we are leaning toward unschooling and I might need some ammo too!!

Liz~A wife and homeschooling mother to two gifts from God!
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#9 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 10:28 PM
 
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I appreciate your challenge. My favourite book is Rue Kream's Parenting a Free Child, but probably not good for a critic as you describe.

If you want more "academic" approaches which might be more legitimate in her eyes... then i agree Gatto is good for a critique on school. Besides that with my family (who have similar concerns) i have focussed on articles like What Home Educating Parents Can Teach the World About the Nature of Learning. Its easy to read and charts the journey of an academic investigating learning... so good for "outsiders to unschooling" as it reads more objectively.

short of that it might be about asking your mum more about what is actually bothering her... what her fears are exactly so you can address them specifically?

all the best
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#10 of 57 Old 05-02-2007, 11:31 PM
 
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hey ruthla,
i homeschool, but i don't unschool. when i first heard of it a few years back it sounded insane to me (just being honest), so my advice may be useful since i was more like your mom. my initial reaction to unschooling was not based on my own research of this method, but it was just ignorance in thinking only one way of homeschooling is best and i'm doing it. yes, totally annoying i know. when it was later explained to me by a very dear and patient friend ....that unschooling does not separate life from education, and that subjects are not divided into an hour here and there....this made a lot of sense to me. unschooling is taking a day of gardening with your daughter and it can be used as an educational experience incorporating many different subjects and lessons (well maybe i do unschool a little then!!) you may never convince your mom that unschooling is the best education for your child, but you may successfully convince her that it is a legitimate option. i'm so sorry that you are going through this. similarly, i don't vaccinate my children, and although it's totally a different realm than homeschooling, it is actually identical to your situation when it comes to my family. it really sux. hang in there mama!

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#11 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 12:43 AM
 
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I'm not sure WHAT I've been doing over the past 2 years, but I have not been using a curriculum and have not been "Doing School". Yet DD who will be 6 in July can read at a 4th grade level, spell at a first grade level and is learning math using a first grade book and real things around the house. Hmm, use a real yard stixck to measure how tall sister is? How novel

I almost feel guilty for not spending hours of "teaching" time with her, but whenever she does ask a question I go into extreme detail and she remembers it.

DH wanted me to have a set school time (GA requires 4 hours a day starting in first grade) everyday. I tried it and it was a DISASTER!! I hated it, DD hated it. So I stopped and things got so much better. Now, when DD says I'd like to do some math, or I'd like to learn about the human body or volcanoes, that's what we do.

So, is that unschooling?

Sandy
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#12 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 12:54 AM
 
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To me unschooling is about being self-modivated! This a simple way of putting it. John Holt describes school as being "controlled, coerced, and competitive"

When you want something, you will do everything in your power to get it, and knowledge is one of those things.

Being self-modivated is a great human power, and unschooling is just a way for children to learn this great power sooner!

Unschooling is like going to a buffet and picking what you like best and then you know you will love it!

This helped me explain to family!
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#13 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 01:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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short of that it might be about asking your mum more about what is actually bothering her... what her fears are exactly so you can address them specifically?
Her fears are that DD2 isn't learning XYZ and when she asks me specifically what I'm teaching her or what DD is learning, I'm not able to answer her. Even when we have a day where DD asks lots of questions, or gets involved in some activity where she really learns something tangible, Mom gets on my case for not keeping up at that pace.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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#14 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 05:53 AM
 
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Even when we have a day where DD asks lots of questions, or gets involved in some activity where she really learns something tangible, Mom gets on my case for not keeping up at that pace.
We ran into that with my Dad too some years ago. He mentioned "weren't you doing some study on the Revolutionary War period with the kids?" (Dd had sent him an email of her drawing of Molly Pitcher. ) I said that had been into that, but the moment had passed for now. I had to explain that the kids were the ones that wanted to learn more about it at the time and that I had been more than happy to learn along with them. (Love some of that stuff.) After a few weeks the interest had passed and that was that. I think those moments of intense interest in something "academic" made him feel all fuzzy inside, and then we stopped and he felt we were just drifting. And we were just drifting, and we loved it!

I've always found the "What are they learning?" question to be particularly frustrating and difficult to answer. They are learning many things, but whether or not my Dad (and others) will see any real world value in a lot of those things is doubtful. For example, let's say that we watched a movie with what looked like Uma Thurman in it only we weren't sure if it was her or not so we looked her up on IMDB.com which confirmed it was indeed her, and then that led us to an article about her, and that led us to a website about her father (a respected Buddhist teacher), and that led us to a map about some region in India, and that led us to Google Earth. I see all sorts of learning going on there, personally. Other people may not because it doesn't seem important enough or school/work like enough.

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#15 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 07:37 AM
 
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My advice is to stop saying you're unschooling. In fact, just a few weeks ago I'll bet you did an intense unit study on Passover, complete with primary texts (Haggadah), and hands-on multi-sensory learning (mmm... haroset). And lately you've been exploring math through counting the omer (historical reference to agricultural practices) - today is the 30th day of the omer which is 4 weeks and two days (division! remainders!). May I even venture to say that you will be soon be undertaking an intense study on the cultural, religious, and historical significance of the Biblical figure of Ruth.


It's all in the advertising.
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#16 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My advice is to stop saying you're unschooling. In fact, just a few weeks ago I'll bet you did an intense unit study on Passover, complete with primary texts (Haggadah), and hands-on multi-sensory learning (mmm... haroset). And lately you've been exploring math through counting the omer (historical reference to agricultural practices) - today is the 30th day of the omer which is 4 weeks and two days (division! remainders!). May I even venture to say that you will be soon be undertaking an intense study on the cultural, religious, and historical significance of the Biblical figure of Ruth.


It's all in the advertising.
Yeah, but then I have to be able to put this kind of spin on things the moment Bubbie asks me about it. It's not like she's asking for a weekly report on what we've learned all week.

DD2 is 11yo and very bright. The amount of math involved in Omer counting is simply NOT challenging for her! Now, on 3-14, a bunch of people on TAO were posting about it being Pi Day, DD2 looked over my shoulder and asked about pi, and we pulled out the math textbook and learned all about pi and then made pizza for dinner.

The fact remains that I don't use a formal curriculum and I have no desire to do so. I'm not a strict unschooler in that I do direct her learning to some degree- I take out historical fiction from the library when she'd prefer to only read fantasy. I encourage her to join in with the local homeschool group's activities, even the more "schooly" ones.

It's the unschooly part of my philosophy that my Mom is so uncomfortable with- the confidence that DD2 will learn all she needs to know without my having to establish a curriculum ahead of time or keep careful notes on what exactly she's learning when. Of course I'm there to answer her questions when I know the answers, and to research them with her when I don't. I'm not leaving her to "sink or swim," but I'm also not pressuring her to do any kind of schoolwork when she doesn't want to- either because she lacks interest in the subject or because she's just not in the mood at that moment. I basically trust my child in a way that my Mom doesn't think she should be trusted.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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#17 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 10:24 PM
 
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To me, unschooling is all about the teachable moment. I am a teacher and I find that my (school) kids learn far more when we take a few minutes to talk about someone's tangent then when I spend 30 minutes on a lesson. Of course, the tangent usually has nothing to do with my curriculum

I guess that is why I hope to unschool my kids when we are financially able to stop teaching.
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#18 of 57 Old 05-03-2007, 11:51 PM
 
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Yeah, but then I have to be able to put this kind of spin on things the moment Bubbie asks me about it. It's not like she's asking for a weekly report on what we've learned all week....
The fact remains that I don't use a formal curriculum and I have no desire to do so. I'm not a strict unschooler in that I do direct her learning to some degree- I take out historical fiction from the library when she'd prefer to only read fantasy. I encourage her to join in with the local homeschool group's activities, even the more "schooly" ones.
my ds is 6 and i'm already getting The Questions, and he's already getting Quizzed by family... AUGGHHHHHHH!!
i honestly don't know why i thought i'd be immune to this.
anyway here is what i would do. i would stop justifying and explaining. unfortunately it got out of hand with you and went to DSS...will you be able to stop the investigation, or have it be unfounded/invalid? i guess what i mean is they won't make your kids go to school, will they?
anyway. what i would do is, if my DM kept on bugging me, i'd print out a couple of pages from the 'net explaining it. i would say something like "here are a couple of starter pages to read. i have done lots of research into this method of education. i'm not just doing it on the fly. when you have done as much research and homework, i will be happy to discuss it with you. here are a couple of websites and some book recommendations.".

now, i know you already said your DM won't read books. most of them won't. i've had my mom wondering about me being Wiccan but she won't read books on Wicca. she wondered about me being vegetarian but she wouldn't read books on vegetarianism, not even the "when your child is vegetarian"-type ones. she didn't take kindly to me giving her a small vegetarian cookbook in her Christmas stocking-- she took it as me trying to convert her, instead of what i really intended, which was a gentle push to not have pasta, sauce, and cheese in various incarnations every night of 5-night visits each time we came.

anyway i have heard that "do your homework and then talk to me" speech works wonders, mostly because they won't read the materials we give them, and they start to realize we have really done our research. i hope it's true when my turn comes.

my other suggestion would be (hey, maybe it'll be fun, or interesting at the least) to actually log a week of your family's activities and then translate them into educationalese so that your mom can see what y'all have been up to.

i used to have one of those webisites for translation to educationalese-- anyone have one of those links handy? it'd be a fun exercise, for me, anyway, just to see what it is we actually DO do, when i'm feeling like all we do is do chores and watch videos

so anyway that's my two cents. times pi. LOL.
honestly i don't know why people get their panties in a twist about other people's business....my DM keeps jabbing my son about sleeping in his own bed. EVERY time she talks to him she finds a way to wiggle that in. GRRR.

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#19 of 57 Old 05-04-2007, 01:48 AM
 
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Here is my attempt at an explanation: school is like taking mass transit, and home/unschooling is like going in your own personal vehicle. In order for public transit to work, they need schedules and routes and tickets and a code of behavior. If you travel in your own vehicle, it would be absurd to feel obligated to follow the schedule and route of a public bus. The perk of having your own vehicle is to be able to go where and when you want, typically quite a bit faster than public transit could take you. In the same way, it's absurd to expect homeschoolers to follow the public school curricula or methods. Public school has tests and worksheets because its a practical way for a small number of teachers to monitor the learning of a large number of kids and communicate it to their parents.

(For the record, I actually am actually a big fan of mass transit, its just an analogy)

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#20 of 57 Old 05-04-2007, 09:21 AM
 
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God, what a pain! I'm so sorry about CPS.

I'd suggest doing a massive research mission and devote a day just to looking for stuff on the internet you think might get through to her, and printing it off and making up a packet. Expecting her to read a whole book might be too much? I would *not* get anything that specifically talks about "unschooling". I don't use the word around family, myself.

I think John Holt's How Children Fail is excellent for calling into question basic assumptions of educational theory (Pookel, I'm curious, which book did you find too "radical"? I definitely wouldn't start her off with "Escape From Childhood". ) I second John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down too (the best parts of it can be printed off the internet.) I have some links here: http://fourlittlebirds.blogsome.com/favorite-links/ that might be helpful.
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#21 of 57 Old 05-04-2007, 10:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Here is my attempt at an explanation: school is like taking mass transit, and home/unschooling is like going in your own personal vehicle. In order for public transit to work, they need schedules and routes and tickets and a code of behavior. If you travel in your own vehicle, it would be absurd to feel obligated to follow the schedule and route of a public bus. The perk of having your own vehicle is to be able to go where and when you want, typically quite a bit faster than public transit could take you. In the same way, it's absurd to expect homeschoolers to follow the public school curricula or methods. Public school has tests and worksheets because its a practical way for a small number of teachers to monitor the learning of a large number of kids and communicate it to their parents.

(For the record, I actually am actually a big fan of mass transit, its just an analogy)

ZM
OK, well, if public school is like mass transit, and private school is like a chartered bus, then "school at home" is like driving while following directions to the letter, then unschooling is like driving around without a goal, turning to to go somewhere that looks interesting, sometimes aiming to go one place but then taking a detour along the way and having a completely different trip that day.

My mom still isn't going to understand that it's ok to not make it to the planned destination every time. Or that we sometimes go along a major highway but we're not always going to keep up that pace and direction, and some days we leave the car parked and go for a walk instead.

ACK!!! I feel even more confused now than I was when I first posted this! I've gotten so many different answers, and I don't want to give her a stack of books!

Then again, maybe I should give her a stack of books so she can see I've done my research and I'm not just making all this stuff up. I'm just so frustrated, becuse I have sent her links in the past (before her computer suddenly stopped working with internet) and apparently she never read through them- or she didn't absorb anything she read.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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#22 of 57 Old 05-04-2007, 02:03 PM
 
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Then again, maybe I should give her a stack of books so she can see I've done my research and I'm not just making all this stuff up.
Actually that sounds like a very good idea. Even if she never opens them, a big stack of physical evidence would have to make some impression on her.

I am sorry you are going through this.
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#23 of 57 Old 05-04-2007, 03:57 PM
 
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That's why it was a good move for my to give my Dad the Unschooling Handbook. He had a chance to see that I wasn't just making "unschooling" up.

I say that you don't give her a stack of books, but rather just one or two and maybe mention that you know of some more titles if she's interested. Then leave it and see what happens.

"The true measure of a man is how he treats a man who can do him absolutely no good."
peace.gif  Embrace the learning that is happening within the things that are actually happening!    
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#24 of 57 Old 05-04-2007, 04:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I say that you don't give her a stack of books, but rather just one or two and maybe mention that you know of some more titles if she's interested. Then leave it and see what happens.
OK, but which one or two? I've gotten about 20 different suggestions on this thread so far!

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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#25 of 57 Old 05-05-2007, 01:23 PM
 
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Ha, I'll throw out another one. I'm reading Instead of Education, ways to help people do things better by John Holt and even before I saw your thread, I thought it seemed like a good one to leave with critics. I'm really sorry about CPS, what a betrayal of trust and family loyalty.
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#26 of 57 Old 05-05-2007, 02:26 PM
 
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Another vote for Dumbing Us Down. Gatto was Teacher of the Year in NYC and the book is based on his acceptance speech. Maybe your mom would take it better from a highly regarded teacher.

You've probably heard of Homeschooling for Excellence, by the Colfax family. Well, recently, I read their other book, Hard Times in Paradise, and they talk more extensively about how they homeschooled their kids while building a homestead, which was essentially unschooling. They talk about how their kids learned geometry by building a house, how their first son didn't learn to read until age 9 when he wanted to learn about Native Americans and his parents handed him a stack of books. This kid who didn't learn to read until age 9 was admitted to Harvard, and so were two of his younger brothers. One of the brothers read at age 6, one at age 4. The parents stress the beauty of being able to meet each child's needs. The goal is not to get your kids to Harvard, of course, but for people like your mom, maybe it gives a little cred to unschooling.
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#27 of 57 Old 05-05-2007, 02:34 PM
 
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Her fears are that DD2 isn't learning XYZ and when she asks me specifically what I'm teaching her or what DD is learning, I'm not able to answer her. Even when we have a day where DD asks lots of questions, or gets involved in some activity where she really learns something tangible, Mom gets on my case for not keeping up at that pace.
I don't have any advice for you, as I am just starting out in the whole homeschool/unschoolthing as dd is only 4-BUT, I wanted to say I think you are doing a great job I hope everything gets worked out. I do know my dad and brother are totally against even the idea of homeschooling, so I am taking notes here as well.

Due with number 5 in August. We do all that crunchy stuff.
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#28 of 57 Old 05-05-2007, 04:32 PM
 
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I don't try to explain myself. There is nothing to defend. Trust yourself, not that other people agree with you.

I'd tell CPS what they want to hear. And live your life joyfully.

Pat

I have a blog.
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#29 of 57 Old 05-05-2007, 04:38 PM
 
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I don't try to explain myself. There is nothing to defend. Trust yourself, not that other people agree with you.

I'd tell CPS what they want to hear. And live your life joyfully.

Pat
Yea that too. I am happy to discuss unschooling with my Dad (who is a doubter), but I'm not going to let myself feel like I am on trial.

As for which books? I'd go with the Unschooling Handbook and maybe Dumbing Us Down. (I haven't read the Dumbing Us Down, but Ive heard good stuff.)

"The true measure of a man is how he treats a man who can do him absolutely no good."
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#30 of 57 Old 05-05-2007, 04:42 PM
 
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Here is a sample "Unschooling Curriculum" which you could adapt to your families' interests. http://sandradodd.com/unschoolingcurriculum

Or this one "The World Is Our Classroom": http://sandradodd.com/acme2

Or, Unschooling Non-Curriculum Math: http://www.madrone.com/Home-ed/hs10.htm

Or buy a curriculum like OakMeadow and use what speaks to you to appease the naysayers about "unschooling".

But, I'd certainly stop advertising that you are "unschooling".


Pat

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