Does anyone think there are any legit & intelligent arguments against Unschooling? - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-09-2008, 05:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is a question for people who are prohsing, even if you are not currently hsing, btw. (I don't mean this to be an argument against hsing). I didn't post this question in the hsing forum, because I wanted to get a sense from a wider range of folks. (When I ask about unschooling, I am thinking unschooling a la Sandra Dodd, just for a baseline reference).

I am asking because yesterday I had an very interesting discussion with a hippie/liberal type person whom I respect who had some thoughtful, but kind and respectful arguments against, but who loves hsing and it's freedoms.

So I just wondered if there were any of you here on MDC who felt similarly.

Mods-- I understand if this is moved to the hsing forum.
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:19 PM
 
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I am very pro-HSing, yet I don't think that unschooling is really appropriate. As a parent, it is up to me to decide what is important for my children to do/know, until they are old enough to decide. I don't think HSing needs to be terribly structured, and sure you can teach in lots of different ways, but IMO unschooling is rather ridiculous.

To use an analogy, my kids love broccoli and asparagus and all sorts of vegetables. If I had never asked them to try them, and let them choose what to eat, they'd probably eat cookies all day. It's not their responsibilty to decide what is healthy to eat yet, just as it's not yet their responsiblity to decide what to learn. We'll save that for their teen years and college.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:00 PM
 
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I read a quote by Charlotte Mason that made me realize what my problems are with unschooling. It was something to the effect of "If we allow children to decide what to learn, then we limit them to what they already know." I agree with this. I try to push my children to master something new and then they can decide if they like it.

I'm mostly an "unschooler" because we really allow our day to flow most of the time, but I don't allow the children to decide not to do math, spelling, reading, science, etc. We do a science class once a week that they love. I tell my children that they are the ones responsible for their own education if we do it at home. They know that if they're not willing to do their one hour of work, then they'll have to put in 8 hours at school. They do have a choice. My children are still very young 8, 6 and 2. I expect for our work to get much harder in the future. I really would like for them to be able to handle college work at about the same time as thier peers who go to school.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:03 PM
 
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You know, I can't think of a single one.


Sorry, I couldn't resist.

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Old 01-09-2008, 06:15 PM
 
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I think it depends on the type of unschooling. If you're helping your kids learn new things, opening up new doors and pushing (gently) their limits, then there's *nothing* that can be said against unschooling.

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Old 01-09-2008, 06:18 PM
 
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I think it depends on the type of unschooling. If you're helping your kids learn new things, opening up new doors and pushing (gently) their limits, then there's *nothing* that can be said against unschooling.
I can agree with this.
We're an unschooling family, and it's going really, really well! I'm amazed at all the things my 5 year old learns every day! He wouldn't be able to learn so much, though, without a facilitator.

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Old 01-09-2008, 06:18 PM
 
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The most poignant thing I have learned, as an unschooler, is that people who have concerns/oppositions to unschooling usually don't fully understand what I do with my kids. They don't grasp the true concept of unschooling in our lives.

My only arguement against it would be the motives of the parent.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ChattyCat View Post

To use an analogy, my kids love broccoli and asparagus and all sorts of vegetables. If I had never asked them to try them, and let them choose what to eat, they'd probably eat cookies all day. It's not their responsibilty to decide what is healthy to eat yet, just as it's not yet their responsiblity to decide what to learn. We'll save that for their teen years and college.
I actually see your way of feeding them as a rather unschooling way of doing things (with a twist, that is). For example, we have lots of books in our home for DC to look at and enjoy. While I don't push them on them or tell/ask them to try them, I model reading them (just by way of reading them), and they are always open to do the same. As for veggies, we always have veggies in our home. They may try what they'd like, but I don't tell them to try them just for the sake of trying them.
In addition, I don't keep cookies in my home. I only keep what I would want my children to eat. Life is learning...everypart of it. What you do, kids learn from. I eat healthily, so they follow suit. That is why we unschool. It works for us.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:27 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lisa49 View Post
I read a quote by Charlotte Mason that made me realize what my problems are with unschooling. It was something to the effect of "If we allow children to decide what to learn, then we limit them to what they already know." I agree with this. I try to push my children to master something new and then they can decide if they like it.

I'm mostly an "unschooler" because we really allow our day to flow most of the time, but I don't allow the children to decide not to do math, spelling, reading, science, etc. We do a science class once a week that they love. I tell my children that they are the ones responsible for their own education if we do it at home. They know that if they're not willing to do their one hour of work, then they'll have to put in 8 hours at school. They do have a choice. My children are still very young 8, 6 and 2. I expect for our work to get much harder in the future. I really would like for them to be able to handle college work at about the same time as thier peers who go to school.
Lisa
I disagree. You see, the whole drive to learn comes from wanting to know and understand what we don't already know. If I already knew about how a plant grows and develops, would I say, "Hey, I want to learn how plants grow.":
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:34 PM
 
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My only arguement against it would be the motives of the parent.
That makes sense. I really love the idea of unschooling for most of the reasons that people do it. I also think it would suit dd well, as she is a gifted and independent learner, and can become overly anxious with too much structure and instruction. She's in preschool now and I work full time, but we've talked as a family about the possibility of home/unschooling.

My concern is that I might fall into the habit of trying to be too much of a teacher. Even now, I find that I really enjoy "teaching" her things and showing her things. I fall into that role naturally and I'm good at teaching. Even if I set out to unschool in an unstructured way, I could see myself just itching to create a schedule or plan that doesn't necessarily need to be there. I hope that makes sense.

It is definitely still my dream to have her become educated outside of the school setting, however/whenever that might happen.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:43 PM
 
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My argument "against" it (and I'm not really against it) is that it's the HARDEST way to homeschool well. Many, many parents seem to think that it's easy, and it's not. You have to be constantly aware of what holes are in the child's education and constantly gently pushing to fill them.

I think you also run into some serious problems with fact-banking, especially once the child is in the upper grades. It's easy to make sure that a first-grader is basically getting enough information, but when you rely on spontaneity and teachable moments for a sixth-grader there are going to be very few moments when the function of a gerund in a sentence, or the capitals of ALL the countries in South America, instead of just her favorite, is a natural topic.

I also worry about the responses that many unschooling parents have to the worries of others. They tend to fall in the area of "Well, she's never going to have to know the function of a gerund in a sentence" or "He's going to function just fine without being able to prove that if a number is odd, its square will also be odd." Those parents are making choices about the eventual professional life of their child without the child's permission. As a professional editor, I make a decent living that absolutely requires that I understand the function of a gerund, and I didn't know I was going to do this as a kid. If you'd asked me at age 15, even 25, whether my paycheck was going to depend on gerunds, I would have laughed. But there it is--because I had a tough grammar course in high school and had to diagram several thousand sentences, I can stay at home with my kids and still contribute to the family income.

So I am very concerned when I see parents rejecting the idea of a necessary fact-bank or of acquiring knowledge that "seems" to have no relevance. Again, that is what makes unschooling so hard. You don't have the fact-bank available in a textbook; the child isn't obligated to master the knowledge. You have to keep the "holes" all in your head and find ways to make it a topic of interest, and that can be really tough.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:44 PM
 
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DS is unschooling so for me the answer is no. But my brother also unschooled after dropping out in grade nine and he went to uni and was at the top of his class. He's one of the smartest and well read people I know.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:49 PM
 
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Those parents are making choices about the eventual professional life of their child without the child's permission.
I haven't found this to be true at all. The parents aren't making choices about the eventual professional life of their child - they're trusting if their child decides to go that route they will have the skills and desire to acquire whatever education or knowledge is needed.

ETA: How is it any different than schools deciding what's needed or not in any eventual profession? How many kids are streamlined and then decide that's not what they wanted and go their own direction finding out and acquiring what they need? I know plenty. How many adults completely change career directions and head back to school or intern or apprentice somewhere in order to obtain the new skills and knowledge needed? I know lots who have done so.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:57 PM
 
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I disagree. You see, the whole drive to learn comes from wanting to know and understand what we don't already know. If I already knew about how a plant grows and develops, would I say, "Hey, I want to learn how plants grow.":
I agree. I've said many times that I want my kids to "learn how to learn" or "know how to know". Knowing how to learn about something you want or need information about seems so much more important to me than requiring someone to learn all the stuff you've decided is important for them.

I wanted to learn about knitting a few years back, and so did my Dd. So we did! No one made me do it or had a program I was forced to follow, and yet now I know how to knit. (Well, technically. I am no master or anything lol) So the argument that if we let kids have control they are limited to only what they already know doesn't wash for me at all. My experience has been the total and complete opposite of that in fact!

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Old 01-09-2008, 07:00 PM
 
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I was unschooled, and fully plan on unschooling DS (as long as finances allow). Having been HS/US'd I suspect I have a farily unique view of it... I was probably among the first generation in the US in many years to have been

While I say I was "unschooled" I suppose we weren't total USers - I did have to do one thing every single day. Math. We used Saxon Math and so every day (mon-fri), I had to do one chapter. I wasn't thrilled but I understood why and am grateful for it now. Saxon Math was the only way I was going to learn math, and so it was what I did. Aside from that though I did whatever I wanted.

As for the function of a gerund - I think I know what a gerund is now, though only because of learnign spanish (I'm guessing its the 'ing' on the end of things, like.. jump-ing?). Despite not having a clue what a gerund is when I entered college, despite not really knowning (then or now) what a noun/verb is, I can write very well. How is that possible? Because of how much I read. Reading is the best teacher of grammar there is - you learn how sentences should look, sound, flow, etc by reading.

Aside from that, I learned most things in time - I became interested in one thing which lead me to an interest in others. My mother was always very good about directing my interest and helping me find books in the library to read. About taking us on field trips to museums, gardens, parks, factories, plays, workshops, etc related to what we (the HSing group), were interested in, or what the moms thought would be 'cool' or 'interesting' or 'neat'. They usually picked pretty good.

In reference to the "you cant learn what you don't know about" - well, I suppose thats true. But I didn't know squat about world war 2 - untill I read biographies and then ather book in the same series-type called "30 seconds over tokyo" and then another called "flying tigers" - between those two books, my interest was sparked. And I proceded, at the age of 11-12 to read everything that our libraries had on the subject. I still have a bookshelf full of books on ww2 and am still fascinated by it. I also became fascinated by airplanes and so learned about flight, aerodynamics, etc. Flight lead me to an interest in astronomy and from there I became interested in physics.

All of that was thanks to unschooling. Thanks to being aloud to read about world war 2 to my hearts content - and then to switch to astronomy - and then to physics. Unschooling works great - moms and dads can help by suggesting something. If your kids interested in bugs let'm read about them to their hearts content. At some point, something else will spark their interest (or not. Maybe they'll become an entomologist
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Old 01-09-2008, 07:10 PM
 
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You have to be constantly aware of what holes are in the child's education and constantly gently pushing to fill them.
I do not see any holes in my kids' education or try to fill anything. I do talk a lot with them though. I wonder and hear about any hopes and goals they have for both right now and the future. I make myself available to them as a source of information, opinion, someone to bounce ideas off of or get feedback from.

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I think you also run into some serious problems with fact-banking, especially once the child is in the upper grades. It's easy to make sure that a first-grader is basically getting enough information, but when you rely on spontaneity and teachable moments for a sixth-grader there are going to be very few moments when the function of a gerund in a sentence, or the capitals of ALL the countries in South America, instead of just her favorite, is a natural topic.
This assumes, though, that those specific things matter to everyone equally. And they just do not. Knowing all the capitals in South America does not matter at all to me or my kids at this moment. It might someday, though, and when and if that day comes we will set out to find the information we need/want.

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Old 01-09-2008, 07:13 PM
 
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I hope after the thread progresses a bit, you'll post the arguments that your friend made against unschooling. I'd be curious to see if it is anything I haven't heard before.

I think that there are ways to sabotage any kind of learning, but that doesn't mean that the philosophy and practical application of that philosophy is inherently flawed, KWIM?

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Old 01-09-2008, 07:39 PM
 
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Nobody can have an education free from gaps though, I went to school, got very good results and have used about 20% of what I was taught in school and had to go and find out huge amounts more knowledge for life in the real world myself.
Thankfully school didn't destroy my love of learning (just made me hate being taught) so I'm well capable of finding out what I need.
My school never taught us anything at all about grammar, it wasn't considered important.
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Old 01-09-2008, 07:55 PM
 
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Community college is always available to make up for any gaps in learning - whether taught in public school, private school, home, or un, you're going to have gaps. I learned more in the semester of college I took then in 10 years of schooling (and I'm not exaggerating). College is a much better system for learning then forced childhood learning.

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Old 01-09-2008, 08:13 PM
 
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I also worry about the responses that many unschooling parents have to the worries of others. They tend to fall in the area of "Well, she's never going to have to know the function of a gerund in a sentence" or "He's going to function just fine without being able to prove that if a number is odd, its square will also be odd." Those parents are making choices about the eventual professional life of their child without the child's permission.
This is the heart of why I don't agree with unschooling. My 10 year old does not have the life experirnce or knowledge to know what GE requiremnts he will need to fill so he can get a degree and a decent job. My kids may not go that route but if they don't ( go to college or uni) it WON'T be because I failed to give them the prereq education that would make that easier.
I went to a conference once where they had a HS teen panel ( older teens) and when asked what they wished their parents had done differently EVERY response started with "I wish my parents had made me learn..."
I think some combinations of kids and parents are able to make unschooling work in a beautiful, enriching inspiring way. Of the RL families I know, though, it pretty much means the kids playing xbox, watching TV, or wrecking their houses while mom does her own thing, and none of them wear untorn clothes or brush their hair.
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Old 01-09-2008, 08:22 PM
 
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The arguments that I've heard against unschooling seem to fall into two catagories:

1) They are based on misunderstandings about what unschooling is, or

2) They are based on beliefs that I don't personally hold.

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Old 01-09-2008, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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"Every time you use an apostrophe to pluralize, a kitten dies"

Each time I read that I laugh so hard I cry, WP. It's my favorite sig line of all time.

I'll come back later and try to share our discussion. But it wasn't a clear 'agains't discussion. It was more that often direct instruction is better for a child, and that all people are different and respond and interpret information differently. It was not so much things I had not considered or heard, but the presentation was not emotional or anti anything. She was totally pro child and respect for the child.
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Old 01-09-2008, 08:29 PM
 
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I think that unschooling works for some people just as school at home works for some people. Each family and each student needs different things. I am against unschooling for our family because it won't work with our personality and our needs as a family. But there are other families that it works great with and for them it is perfect.

I also think that unschooling means different things to different people so someone who is anti unschooling might not have the same image in their head as I do or as another person does.

The "one size fits all" approach taken in the PS system doesn't work for everyone and, IMO, the same is true for an "unschooling works for everyone if you just give it a chance" attitude.
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Old 01-09-2008, 08:37 PM
 
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So I just wondered if there were any of you here on MDC who felt similarly.
not really. i'm too busy trying to figure out what in the world i'm still doing.

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Old 01-09-2008, 08:45 PM
 
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We basically unschool, but here are my concerns (all revolve around the tenet of unschooling that kids shouldn't be expected to learn on any "arbitrary" schedule):
1. A kid may be allowed to get very far behind in some subject, and then when the time comes that they would like to use that skill/information, the idea of catching up may be so intimidating that they will silently abandon the project or interest. Of course the ideal unschooling parent would help and encourage the kid if they know about it, but we can't see inside our kids' heads.

2. Unless the family only socializes with unschooling/unschooling friendly folks, there may be social consequences for a child for being far behind, particularly in the three rs. I understand that some people may feel like this would encourage a kid to work on those areas, but it seems like an unkind thing to set a kid up for.

3. I have an asynchronous kid, so I know from experience that a lot of formal learning assumes that kids have worked through subjects at about the same rate. So if a kid is looking to move into learning subject A formally, the fact that he/she has largely ignored subject B may suddenly keep him/her from doing what he/she wants to do. Again, it could serve as an impetus to to work on subject B, but it doesn't seem like the kindest type of motivation.

My feeling is that we will continue to follow an unschoolish path for the next few years, as long as my kids are at least at grade level in the 3rs and making progress in the other major subjects. But I expect to get more structured later in my kids' education. I am not a philosophically pure unschooler, as you can see, though I do see a lot of value in child led learning.

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Old 01-09-2008, 08:58 PM
 
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nak....

i read, but couldn't respond because ds is needy....but now i can just ditto zelda
dd is currently unschooled, but i have similar concerns and observations (and plans!)

i do think that temperament plays a role. for me, needing to play catch up to do something new (use a computer game, have a pen pal, or take a college course) might be stressful enough to discourage trying at all....
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Old 01-09-2008, 08:58 PM
 
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The arguments that I've heard against unschooling seem to fall into two catagories:

1) They are based on misunderstandings about what unschooling is, or

2) They are based on beliefs that I don't personally hold.
:

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Old 01-09-2008, 09:01 PM
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My teen has never said "I wish you had made me learn..." Just for the record.

I'm with UnschoolingnMa. No hole-filling - no conceptualization of holes, even - and no fact-banking. I think it's far more important to know how to quickly find out the capitals of South American countries than to memorize them - memorizing strikes me as a huge waste of time, unless it's something you're truly interested in doing. If an unschooler of any age needs to know what a gerund is, she can probably find a way to get that information.

To me, unschooling requires a lot of trust in your child's ability to make his own decisions about learning. If it matters to you that your child be learning about the same stuff as other kids, at about the same time, then unschooling isn't a good choice. Some people are really, really uncomfortable with this, and sometimes they pass that on to their kids, and it just tends to go poorly. if you think it's important that your kids share a common set of knowledge with others their age, then you probably shouldn't unschool.

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Old 01-09-2008, 09:36 PM
 
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I am not okay with unschooling for my kids. The experiences I have seen irl with those who claim to be unschoolers is kids who lay around watching tv or playing video games all day, 10 years old and still not able to read, 9 or 10 still unable to perform basic math such as simple addition or subtraction etc. What I have seen is parents claiming to be unschoolers but in truth are just plain lazy. I have a certain standard I expect in my children's education, and it will allow them to do whatever they want with their lives as adults, at that time they can make all the choices they want about what they want to learn. They may choose to go to uni/college or they may choose to go to tradeschool or even go straight into the workforce. I plan on making sure they have every option 100% open to them, not risk that, because I left everything up to them to decide.

Brandy Single momma to A(11), C(10), H(6) and I(2)
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Old 01-09-2008, 09:41 PM
 
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The only argument I have against radical unschooling is that it's not a good fit for every child, but every radical unschooler I have met/talked to seems to think it is.

dm
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