Anyone else bothered by Well Trained Mind's take on unschoolers? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 05:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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First, let me say that we are not unschoolers & actually agree with the majority of stuff in WTM.

However, I find their writings about unschoolers really unprofessional. It bothers me that throughout much of the book they insist on putting "unschooling" in brackets like <---- . What is the purpose of that exactly? Because, in their opinion it's not a truly valid way to educate?

I also really disliked the section towards the back of the book (revised edition...not sure if it's in the original) about support groups. I get how if you're into classical ed & your local group is mostly unschoolers you may also want to look for additional forms of support, but that section came across very "flee for your life" from the unschoolers to me.

I don't know. We live in a pretty rural area & there is really only 1 homeschool group. We're a bit of a mix of styles and philosophies. One of our best homeschooling friends is an unschooler. You know what? It works for *their* family. It really doesn't matter if it works for mine or not, because they are NOT us. We're respectful of their unschooling & they're respectful of our WTM/CM type schooling.

I just don't get why they needed to be so down on unschooling. Why does everything have to be some big battle between groups? Heaven forbid we should all just respect what works for each other & get along.

Oh, and raise open-minded kids while we're at it too!
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#2 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 06:04 PM
 
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Yeah, she doesn't think much of unschoolers. We're eclectic, personally, with leanings toward TJED, and have found that every homeschooling 'style' has there own prejudices. I just take what I like and leave the rest.

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#3 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 06:46 PM
 
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I actually just finished the WTM for the first time and I have to agree with you on that one! Ironically, I felt comforted by the idea that yes, children are capable of learning amazing amounts...then, at the same time, I think the idea that children are VERY individual and have different learning styles was all but forgotten.

This is coming from a homeschooled mother of two. My parents were "classical" in their approach in some ways. We had to learn logic and reasoning. But also unschooled in some ways because the four of us learned different skill sets and pursued different creative outlets according to our likes and abilities. And sometimes they just told us to "go play".

If my younger brother had been forced to learn latin, he may have gone completely ballistic! He's in computer networking now, and makes a heck of a lot more than I do! And here I genuinely enjoyed reading Homer! Go figure! Sometimes your kid's just gotta find his own way, you know?

It's just one book in a long line of books with many, many, many differing ideas and ideologies. Live and let live, right?
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#4 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 08:07 PM
 
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It seems to me that the authors of The Well-Trained Mind genuinely believe that their educational ideas are superior to other methods. They really think that unschooling doesn't provide children with a good education, and they aren't afraid to say so.

I'm not terribly fond of The Well-Trained Mind. For example, I really disliked the advice it had about requiring kids to learn to read at a young age. There was a line that went something like this, "Now if you've spent a month teaching your kid to read using these methods every day, and they still aren't getting it, back off and try again later." This was in the same section that talked about insisting that they do it with you every day even if they didn't want to. So really, they're suggesting that you spend an entire month doing something with your child that they don't want to do before deciding that gee, maybe they just aren't ready yet? How exactly does this foster a lifelong love of learning?

I'm not afraid to say that I disagree with the WTM authors on this issue. Why shouldn't they say they think unschooling is an inappropriate educational method? It's just their opinion.

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#5 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by skueppers View Post
I'm not afraid to say that I disagree with the WTM authors on this issue. Why shouldn't they say they think unschooling is an inappropriate educational method? It's just their opinion.
I don't mind saying that I disagree with them either, and I don't mind that they don't care for unschooling as a form of homeschooling. I was actually OK with it through most of the book. It was towards the end when I hit the part about support groups that they lost me. I mean, they pretty much come right out and say not to be friends with people who unschool!

I don't know, to me that passes a simple, "We don't feel this form of schooling is valid." argument and into a personal attack on people who choose to unschool. Like there is something so wrong with them that you should avoid contact at all costs.

Don't get me wrong, I get how if you're into the classical ed thing & happen to be surrounded by unschoolers in your local community you may want to reach out a bit farther to find some friends/support that are more like you. But I don't see why that has to mean not being friends with unschoolers are well. Which was the message I took away from those 2 pages in the book.
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#6 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 09:15 PM
 
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I didn't get that from the book, the idea that she's saying not to be friends with unschoolers. Just that they probably shouldn't form the majority of your homeschool support group, because they may not be able to support what your idea of education is.

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#7 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 09:20 PM
 
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Yep.

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#8 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 09:33 PM
 
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That's not the impression that I've gotten- not to be friends. It's more seeking out a group that will support you and sometimes that means people with similar goals. Some of my very good friends unschool, but I know that when I'm having a motivation problem they are not the ones to call. Their advice wo't mesh at all with my ideas. And that's OK.
I think that's all she meant.

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#9 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 09:53 PM
 
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I didn't get that from the book, the idea that she's saying not to be friends with unschoolers. Just that they probably shouldn't form the majority of your homeschool support group, because they may not be able to support what your idea of education is.
I just re-read that section of the book (I have the first edition), and I think the issue the OP probably had with it is that it went on at some length about unschooling being "diametrically opposed" to classical education. It did seem like a bit of a rant about what's wrong with unschooling, rather than an explanation of why an unschooling-heavy support group might not be ideal.

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#10 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 10:37 PM
 
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Oh, yeah, she totally doesn't think they're compatible at all. She very clearly holds unschooling in contempt. But, to be fair, I've heard the exact same attitude from hardline unschoolers about TWTM. For me, I've found good in every style. I guess that's why we're eclectic

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#11 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 10:48 PM
 
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I am using a lot of TWTM ideas...but I have to say I do not like the comments about unschoolers. I also feel slightly annoyed hearing about what worked for them as parents with the clear opinion it will work for the rest of us too.

For example, teaching reading instead of giving 4yo a nap (do you want to go take a nap or learn to read?) OK my 4yo needed sleep no question about it.

Take what you like and leave the rest! Following the interests of my kids is what lead me to music studies, picture studies, memory work, and reading lots and lots of stories.
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#12 of 35 Old 08-22-2009, 10:54 PM
 
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I like some of the ideas in The Well-Trained Mind, but if you think about it, their very most basic premise is the exact opposite of unschooling. You simply CANNOT believe them both. That doesn't mean that classical education has to be in opposition to unschooling (the Thomas Jefferson Education philospohy does a good job of almost melding these two concepts) however, TWTM certainly does oppose unschooling because it holds the philosophy that children require training in order to be well-educated. IF children require training to be well-educated, then unschooling cannot work. But if children require freedom to be well-educated (unschooling) then TWTM cannot work. You see? They cannot both be true. It's not possible. They can both be partially true, though, which would be my take on it.

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#13 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 12:36 AM
 
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I don't have kids yet but I love the unschooling approach and still also really like parts of TWTM. Go figure.

It's funny you posted this because very recently, Iwas skimming through TWTM book and taking ideas from it of ideas on how to introduce subjects etc when I got to the unschooling section.

I definitely agree that what she had to say about "unschoolers" (of course it has to be in quotes) was very disdainful. I don't remember the exact quote but it was something like "now, be careful in looking for support groups. You may encounter groups overrun with 'unschoolers'. We are diametrically opposed to unschooling. Stay away from groups like that."

I definitely like her focus on classical education but the way she presents it I think would suck all the love of learning out a child. It is SO much daily work, some of it busy work. And she insists that children NEED to learn these things early. I think it is very possible to give your child a classical education in a more relaxed, unschooly way.
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#14 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 03:10 AM
 
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I was also taken aback by the perceived negative tone regarding unschoolers, and even associating with them.
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#15 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 10:09 AM
 
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Some of my very good friends unschool, but I know that when I'm having a motivation problem they are not the ones to call. Their advice won't mesh at all with my ideas.
Yeah, that.

I have a friend who waffles between WTM and unschooling. Her version of unschooling is doing nothing, which I don't think unschoolers actually do. I think unschoolers are just very active in pursuing their kids interests, and she uses it as an excuse to drag her kids to her pet activities all the time rather than actually doing some formal learning with them.

She claims they will only do something for a day or two when she starts it, but in my opinion, either you're not making it fun enough to them or they haven't learned to follow directions (which is a life skill, by the way). I work very hard to make learning fun for my son, but there are still days when he doesn't want to do something, but we plod through it anyway because that is part of school. Once we get started and he realizes he doesn't have a choice, he participates and we get through it fairly quickly. But being able to do that is a life skill, not something kids just do naturally. Heck, if I always did what I felt like doing, the house probably wouldn't ever get cleaned nor would there be any meals prepared for my family (that's what I mean by life skill).

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#16 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 10:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the replies so far! Glad to know it's not just me that came away with that impression.

I totally get the whole concept that if you're needing to vent to someone, or looking for ideas and you classically ed an unschooling friend may not be the best person to go to. Very much like you wouldn't take homeschooling problems to family & friends who were against you homeschooling. That's just common sense.

What I don't get is the subtle judgement that came across of unschooling families. Frankly, what other families do is of little concern to me. It's not really my business. If anything we welcome friends who school different ways. I've learned stuff from everyone I know who homeschools, regardless of their style.

I also agree with the PP that, while we like much of the WTM, I've found her to be heavy on book/busy work in the early grades. Our DD1 would go insane if I expected her to do that much book work at this point -- she's at least partially a kinestetic learner. It really doesn't seem to lend itself to kids who aren't primarily visual/auditory learners.

Again, though, we take what we like & leave the rest right?
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#17 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 11:19 AM
 
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I just want unschoolers to know that not all of us using WTM look down on them or how they are living and learning.

Personally, I believe in unschooling to an extent-- and WTM to an extent.
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#18 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 11:39 AM
 
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I just want unschoolers to know that not all of us using WTM look down on them or how they are living and learning.

Personally, I believe in unschooling to an extent-- and WTM to an extent.
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Mary-Beth, you said it very well.

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#19 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 01:29 PM
 
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Pageta, I just want to note that you may be absolutely right about what's going on with your friend, but there might be more to it than meets the eye. It's just that some of what you describe is actually part of the big philosophical differences between unschooling and more traditional schooling. With unschooling, it's not a question of deciding to do something and then making it fun or making it a requirement - a parent might make suggestions or lead a fun activity, but leave it up to the children whether they want to continue it. My son grew up with a very strong sense of personal responsibility - he's always been a very hard worker when something needs to be done - but those life skills and values didn't grow out of having to do schoolwork assignments. And when he was in community classes and college classes, he just naturally followed all assignments - and did so to a greater extent than most of the students in the classes who had been attending school all their lives.

To others not living in our home, it had often appeared as if we were doing nothing - but there was a lot of learning going on in ways that weren't so recognizable. In fact, a neighbor my son grew up with wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for one of his college applications and mentioned that even though they'd had very different paths of education, and he'd sometimes felt rather "puffed up" about his own, he was often a little deflated to find that my son seemed to know more than he did about a number of things he had studied in school but my son had never formally studied. That boy's mom, on the other hand, had never approved - she had a much stricter and more traditional idea of what learning was supposed to look like. And again, a lot of that had to do with the fact that our process wasn't visible to someone outside our lives - couldn't be described by saying we did formal studies at certain times using certain curricula. But my son had two scholarship offers before he'd even had a chance to complete a third application, so there were professional educators who did appreciate the outcome rather than being so concerned about the process.

I obviously don't know anything about your friend, but I can say from personal experience that not everything is visible from the outside, even when those involved talk about it. Lillian
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#20 of 35 Old 08-23-2009, 01:45 PM
 
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I'm a huge fan of TWTM and plan to adhere closely to it starting in first grade. I suspect that my kids are a little bit like the Wise and Bauer kids were as young ones, which is why I so often say "yeees!" when they start talking about what kids are like, how to motivate them, how to train their minds and fill up their heads with the useful and beautiful, etc.

That said, I think that there are many places in both TWTM and SOTW where the reality of history starts to get conflated with nostalgia for the good ol' days when, discipline produced (the appearance of) obedience and self-control from an early age, Judeo-Christian legend was taught as fact in history and literature, and specifically Protestant indoctrination was a feature nearly all our schools - public, private and home. (I think their conception about what was so lovely in the educational practices of 18th-and-19th-century America are partly based in fact, and partly a collective daydream from the minds of the many, many people who feel that contemporary secular culture is fundamentally screwed up.)

For that family, a big part of the homeschooling lifestyle has been setting a clear theological agenda that is considered unassailable truth. One can see how unschooling does not facilitate this goal. If you think that hard-core Protestant religious indoctrination is fundamental to producing a good person, then of course you are going to be uneasy at some level about a child-led approach. (Which is not to say that very devout people never unschool in any subject area, obviously - there are plenty of them here! But if your kid NEEDS The Bible As History in your view, then it's your moral responsibility to make sure that they get it! I think that same mindset naturally carries over into math, Great Books, Latin, Hebrew, Jewish Studies - all the subjects I think MY kids need to be exposed to early and often in order to reach their full potential, and the reason I'm a schedule-making curriculum-setting classical homeschooler.)
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#21 of 35 Old 08-30-2009, 01:15 PM
 
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Eh, don't get too bent out of shape about it. Consider the author's perspective and intended audience. Take what you like and leave the rest.

I've read unschooling stuff that very harshly criticizes more structured forms of homeschooling. But I don't let it bother me. I incorporate the ideas that make sense to me, and forget about the rest.
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#22 of 35 Old 08-30-2009, 03:20 PM
 
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Smithie, I never thought about it in terms of Protestant religious indoctrination but I should have. Of course the hardcore WTMers have a hard time with child-led learning. Duh.
Thank you!

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#23 of 35 Old 08-30-2009, 05:59 PM
 
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Eh, don't get too bent out of shape about it. Consider the author's perspective and intended audience. Take what you like and leave the rest.

I've read unschooling stuff that very harshly criticizes more structured forms of homeschooling. But I don't let it bother me. I incorporate the ideas that make sense to me, and forget about the rest.
Yup. This is the reason I tend to steer clear on unschoolers online for the most part. Many are wonderful, interesting people, but I can't stand the militancy of the vocal few. Life's too short to deal with the drama.

I, like others, have gotten a lot of good information from TWTM (and the wonderful WTM forum). I definitely make a point to actively glean whatever I read, tossing the unhelpful stuff along the way.
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#24 of 35 Old 08-30-2009, 07:02 PM
 
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I just want unschoolers to know that not all of us using WTM look down on them or how they are living and learning.

Personally, I believe in unschooling to an extent-- and WTM to an extent.

I know

I would consider us USerish - but I do like a lot of what WTM has to say.

I have a timeline on the walll (WTM suggestion). I thought the idea was cool, so I put it up.

I like the stages - although not so firmly defined. TBH much of my own schooling was stuck in stage 1 - (funnel info into) - I did not do anything similar to level 2 or 3 until post secondary education. WTM serves as reminders to me to encourage deeper thought, connestions and sources.

I must admit I did not get to the last few pages and what she says about USers- that darn book is large and I only read parts of it, lol.
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#25 of 35 Old 08-31-2009, 08:41 AM
 
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For example, teaching reading instead of giving 4yo a nap (do you want to go take a nap or learn to read?) OK my 4yo needed sleep no question about it.
I don't know. My almost-four year old hates the idea of nap/quiet time, so that would have been a great way to get him to read.

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#26 of 35 Old 08-31-2009, 10:59 AM
 
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Huh. I must have completely glossed over any negative references to unschooling.

My purpose for reading WTM was more of how to incorporate history, science and the arts into something cohesive. I know I looked at a daily schedule and completely rejected that as being useful to us, so I guess I mentally eliminated more than I realize. And that's just fine with me!

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#27 of 35 Old 08-31-2009, 03:10 PM
 
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I've read unschooling stuff that very harshly criticizes more structured forms of homeschooling. But I don't let it bother me. I incorporate the ideas that make sense to me, and forget about the rest.
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Yup. This is the reason I tend to steer clear on unschoolers online for the most part. Many are wonderful, interesting people, but I can't stand the militancy of the vocal few. Life's too short to deal with the drama.
This. I've read quite a few books on unschooling, and rare is the text that doesn't actively bash more structured forms of schooling, directly or otherwise. I did think that the anti-unschooling sentiment in The Well-Trained Mind was a bit over the top, but I had issues with all of the indoctrination discussion (it's pretty heavy in the Grammar section) so that's not terribly surprising.

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#28 of 35 Old 08-31-2009, 04:07 PM
 
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This. I've read quite a few books on unschooling, and rare is the text that doesn't actively bash more structured forms of schooling, directly or otherwise. I did think that the anti-unschooling sentiment in The Well-Trained Mind was a bit over the top, but I had issues with all of the indoctrination discussion (it's pretty heavy in the Grammar section) so that's not terribly surprising.
Really? Between you and yippittyskippetty I am feeling a bit...sad.

I think most people on the USing forum - and most people I know with USing tendancies (I know no hard core USers in real life) are pretty darn cool!

That being said - the USing forum does tend to have its share of spirited and intense debates - and sometimes when debates get intense people come across as more militant than they really are. Who knows? It is just a hypothesis.

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#29 of 35 Old 08-31-2009, 09:04 PM
 
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Really? Between you and yippittyskippetty I am feeling a bit...sad.

I think most people on the USing forum - and most people I know with USing tendancies (I know no hard core USers in real life) are pretty darn cool!

That being said - the USing forum does tend to have its share of spirited and intense debates - and sometimes when debates get intense people come across as more militant than they really are. Who knows? It is just a hypothesis.
I have a different hypothesis, mostly developed several years ago. It's my opinion, and it does indeed extend beyond this forum. I've met a few unschoolers in real life and I'll grant you that most of them come off as somewhat less... strident... but that they all have that air of superiority until they've actually sat down and had a conversation with me. These days I find it impossible to begin communication, though, because I'm not breastfeeding my 19-month-old (at least). It probably sounds only peripherally related, but unschoolers I've met are also the most strident lactivists. Maybe that's just a local issue, though.

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#30 of 35 Old 09-01-2009, 09:54 AM
 
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Yeah, I'm going to have to side with jplain and yippityskippity. I've read a lot of stuff, both online and in books (and IRL experiences) and the criticism from unschoolers towards schoolers with more structure can be just as harsh. Sometimes even mean. But these are my experiences.

So, I take it with a grain of salt, you have to consider the source. We are all free to form our own views and I haven't let one book make or break my perception of how others teach
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