I am no longer a supporter of unschooling :( (BIG vent, dont read if ur going to be offended) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I feel I have done my children a disservice by unschooling them.

I have been unschooling my children for 8 years now. I have a 12 yo and an 8yo. This year, for various reasons, we decided the 8yo would start school (3rd grade). She was so VASTLY behind the other kids in every subject it was embaressing, overwhelming for her, a NIGHTMARE for both her and us. It was so bad we had to pull her out. The only part she had no trouble with was socializing lol.

Never will I unschool again! I dont want any flames for this because I have a right to my exerience and opinion.

I am very upset with myself. I feel I have been duped and lied to by the unschooling community honestly.

I still firmly support and believe in homeschooling, but no longer can I support unschooling for my family.

Marilyn,psych RN. Homeschooling mom to Taylor (12) and Lauryn (8)
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#2 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:18 PM
 
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Sorry it didn't work for your family.
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#3 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:19 PM
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I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with unschooling. I have to say, though, that if you want to ensure that your child will be at "grade level" at all times then unschooling probably wasn't the right choice for you. It sounds like you weren't aware of this, and frankly I'm surprised, because I think it's fairly well known by the unschoolers I know. Especially during the early grades, unschooling may well mean that your child is learning completely different things than schooled kids are learning, and so it's not at all surprising to me that her entry to school was, as you put it, a nightmare. That sounds really, really awful for both of you.

FWIW, a number of people I know who have successfully transitioned from unschooling to schooling with younger kids have done some intensive tutoring beforehand, using the summer before school entry. If you plan to give school another try I would suggest doing this - maybe try it during the fall semester and give school another shot in spring? All of the kids I'm aware have gone on to make a good adjustment, after some initial glitches.

 
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#4 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:23 PM
 
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I can see your concern. It seems to me that radical unschooling isn't compatible with entering public school, or going back and forth between the two systems, because they are so radically different. They use entirely different benchmarks and goals to determine "success."

There are different ways to unschool, and different places to fall on the spectrum of unschooling, I think, that might make it compatible with entering the public school system at some point. But that really only works if you know that's a possibility going in.

I'm sorry you had such a rough entry into the school system and with how unschooling turned out for you. And I appreciate your willingness to have a frank conversation about how this didn't work for you. I think you're right in that sometimes we get so caught up in a system -- be it unschooling, Montessori, whatever -- that it can be hard to really dig into those times and circumstances when it's not going to be the best choice.
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#5 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dar, I have been unschooling for 8 years now. I am aware of those things you mentioned. I was NOT prepared for my child to feel inferior, stupid, and be as utterly behind as she was/is. We tutored over the summer, it still wasn't enough (especially in math....you cant catch up 3-4 yrs worth over a summer ya know?).

I love my children and only want the very best for them! I feel like I have failed my children....I guess that is my main point.

Marilyn,psych RN. Homeschooling mom to Taylor (12) and Lauryn (8)
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#6 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:25 PM
 
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I'm sorry you feel unsupported. I thought the comments have been very much on the supportive side, with some reflection and potential for some good discussion.
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#7 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sorry everyone. I just feel very hurt and upset with MYSELF right now. I hope everyone can understand....

I feel like I have failed my children. I feel like the unschooling community (which I have been very involved in) has failed me.

I realllly dont want anyone to take my experience and feelings as a *personal* attack on their choices. I am only sharing my experience and feelings.

Marilyn,psych RN. Homeschooling mom to Taylor (12) and Lauryn (8)
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#8 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:42 PM
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Dearest OP,
IMO, there is nothing worse than thinking you are making the best decision for your child, only to find out it was potentially harmful. Thank you for sharing your experience and I hope you are able to find peace with the situation.
Big mama hugs!!
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#9 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:46 PM
 
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marilynmama,

You poor thing. I feel for you and your daughter. I love the idea of unschooling, but was afraid of your experience. You never know in life what will happen. If I were to pass unexpectly tomorrow, my children would have to enter public school. I also want them to be able to easily transition into their new situation. Your poor little girl.

For now, since I have a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and Pre-Kinder (4yr) we keep up with standards in LA and Math. The other subjects are unschooled when possible. I do look at the standards for history, science, social studies, technology, music, and art. I try to unschool the subjects in a fun way that doesn't seem like school. We do lapbooks, unit studies, field trips, and anything possible to make it not like school.

If you are interested, we really love Saxon Math. It is a nice slow pace and give assessments every 5 lessons to see if your child is retaining the information. We are using Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading along with Progressive Reading (free on-line). I just found Hubbards Cupboard (free also) for downloading sight word books. Teaching sight words is so important if you want to keep them up to grade level with public school.

Once nice thing to look into would be homeschooling through a local charter school. What state do you live in?

I would love to talk with you more. PM me if you are interested.
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#10 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:48 PM
 
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I'm sorry you and your daughter had such a bad experience. I am surprised that the school wasn't more helpful with the transition. It seems like that would have been part of their job once she was enrolled, especially if she was struggling. Certainly there are kids who transfer in and are behind sometimes-- they don't force those kids to move back to old school right? There should have been some kind of intervention or pullout available to help her get up to speed, IMO.
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#11 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:51 PM
 
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I agree that full unschooling is not compatible with returning to school.

Once she felt that high school was a foreseeable option, dd (now 14) requested more structure and we spent about 2 years on that. She got into one of the top high schools here in NYC. Ds (9) is following suit.

Some unschooled children choose to spend parts of their day reading, writing essays (or poetry, or music), and completing math programs. The majority do not, though, and are in for a rude awakening if they return to school.

If you still have plans for your children to go to school, I would think high school is a good place to start. The middle school drama crap tends to be way less, the school is new for all the kids, and you'll have plenty of time to catch her (them) up to the academics. A good place to start is the worldbook typical course of study, that lays out a general what-kids-learn-when. Then you can tweak things to fit your lives and their interests.

Good luck. I'm so sorry things didn't work out this time. But I know they will next time!

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#12 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:52 PM
 
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It is a horrible feeling. My kids went back into public school after being largely unschooled (abt 75%, I would say) and dd (11 at the time) had some math catch up, ds1 (9 at the time) had some language arts, tho ds2 (kindy) was way beyond his grade level... I felt like it was totally my fault also... but there is a lot that their peers know little to nothing about that they do... They were both caught up by mid year and are doing fantastically now but I felt terrible until I remembered (well they reminded me ) how much other stuff they know too...

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#13 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 12:55 PM
 
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I just wanted to give you a big I'm really sorry you went through this, try not to be so hard on yourself. I'm not an unschooler myself, but I'm sure that your dd has some different strengths that you have gifted her with over the last years that many of her ps peers would not have experienced. Just because your dd was not prepared to enter public school does NOT mean you guys didn't have any success, and certainly doesn't mean you are a failure, try to find the positives in your journey thus far and go from there. I wish you much luck and peace in your homeschooling endeavors.

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#14 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the support I really just needed to vent and say what was on my mind and share our experience.

She was so far behind the other children that the only choices the school had was to put her into 2nd grade (and the school was full, we would have had to transport her wayyy across town into a crappy school. I was not willing to do that or traumatize her even more with yet another school).

It was not possible for her to "catch up" to her peers. And this is only 3rd grade! I cant even imagine how bad this would have been for my 7th grader...

Unschooling is just NOT compatible with PS in my opinion, at least not for us. I hope someone can learn from my experience. Things happen in life, things happened in my life that I was not prepared for and we felt we had no choice but to enroll her in school. I *thought* she was prepared and I was prepared for an initial adjustment, but not to this extent. Not at all. It wasn't fair to her and that is my fault.

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#15 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 01:09 PM
 
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Since the point of unschooling isn't to be at grade level and learn exactly the same thing as all other same age children, I'm not surprised your dd had a hard time. If that is your goal and keeping up with her peers is important to dd, then a different type of homeschooling would likely be a better choice.

I'm impressed by how nicely kids with different abilities interact in our circle of homeschoolers (some unschoolers, some not). They may ask who can do what just so they can help each other. The readers read to those who are not yet reading without any attitude of superiority. Kids unselfconsciously say "I don't know how to do that yet." One kid will type while another tells him what to type. They might seek input from someone else on how to spell. It's a beautiful thing in a supportive environment.

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#16 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 01:11 PM
 
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I forgot to add that we did end up bumping my ds1 down a grade within the first few days... The principal made the transition amazingly easy and humiliation free (it was so great, that is why I forgot to add it ). He was able to stay at the same school though so that helped.

However, this is very good insight to share. I think that people should consider the future when considering unschooling because it can absolutely be a difficult transition if school outside the home becomes an possibility.

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#17 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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I'm sorry that unschooling didn't result in your kids being educated in the way you expected it to. But I have to say that it's better for you to discover this now when you can take a different tack then years down the line. What kind of education have you decided on for your daughter now?
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#18 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 02:16 PM
 
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Awwww

OP I really agree that there is nothing harder than discovering that a decision you made, in, you felt, your child's best interests, was actually possibly, with hindsight ,very wrong.

Can I add a few things to the mix? (and bear in mind here that I wouldn't class myself as an unschooler)

First off, the social skills. This is a tremendously important thing, you know. If she has good social skills she is already laughing. You've done her a great good right there.

Second, I do think that with kids you never know what seeds will fruit til they are older. The mere fact of being a few years behind academically may not matter that much in the long run. She may well have other skills, other things that will come to light.

Or it may just be that she has developed really solidly in those years through mainly (I assume) play. Is third grade around age 7? In that case, my eldest has possibly just finished third grade. He has just left a kindergarten program where they do NO formal academics pre 7. Six months ago, I don't think he could read anything really. Now he's learning fast. Maths too-he's testing a few years ahead atm (we have a computer maths thing which gives maths "age" as a by product, I don't test my kids all the time!). Ditto science-again ahead. I think that the years and years he has had of just playing have NOT been wasted, they've been building these foundations which now seem to be putting him a little ahead even.The only formal work he did prior to leaving kindergarten, at nearly 7, was music lessons (Suzuki). I think there is a magic age around 7 where they suddenly switch to almost a different way of processing information, and THEN maths/English etc become just much easier to teach. Not just me, friends say this too.

Like I say-not an unschooler. But with a lot of sympathy. We may yet find that our lite-academic program is totally wrong when one of our kids wishes they just played all their childhood. Or that our low-tv stance stops one of ours from being a TV editor or something.

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#19 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 02:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Dar View Post
FWIW, a number of people I know who have successfully transitioned from unschooling to schooling with younger kids have done some intensive tutoring beforehand, using the summer before school entry.
Yes, my son, for instance, wasn't what you'd call an "unschooler" at the time, but he had two years of Waldorf kindergarten, during which not a letter or number was ever introduced, and I was easily able, with a little bit of tutoring, to transition him during the summer for entry into a 1st grade class at another school in which the 1st graders would be coming in reading 3 letter words from what they'd learned in kindergarten. It would have been very hard on him to show up without that summer tutoring, but he eased right in. After that year, we went to homeschooling, which morphed into unschooling, and he had no problem entering classes at the community college during his teens with no tutoring.
EDIT: I just read further and see that Marilyn did some tutoring before the school experience. Sorry that didn't work out! - Lillian
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#20 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 02:56 PM
 
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marilynmama, I understand completely. I too unschooled, much of the time we were "radical unschoolers", for many years. My unschooler is 19 now & I'll beat myself up with the mama guilt for the rest of my life probably. I don't really like talking about this online because I feel like I come across as bashing my own DD, plus I don't want her to read this someday (in fact, I'll delete this posting in a few days). She's extremely wonderful & I adore her & hanging out with her. I absolutely feel I did her a disservice by not educating her properly. She's very naive about history, politics, economics, geography, etc. She's been able to transition into college, starting with remedial classes. And she will have a perfectly lovely life, it's just that knowledge-wise, she light years behind where an educated young person could/should/would be. I feel she's at a disadvantage & it's definitely my fault. My 7th grader is more knowledgeable in certain areas than she is.

I've apologized to her, we laugh & joke & I call her my guinea pig (since she was my first child), but truly, I feel guilt & remorse. I so, so wish I'd never fallen for all that "let your child follow their joy" trendy unschooling mumbo jumbo. It sounds ideal, but I don't feel it "works".

Please, please don't take offense anyone. I don't mean a bit of personal offense. This is simply one person's opinion. We are all entitled to them. (in other words, feel free to disagree, just don't let me know by flaming me! )

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#21 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 02:59 PM
 
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Um, why are you upset that by choosing unschooling your kids didn't learn exactly the same things that institutional education kids did? I'm not sure why you would ever expect that they would learn all the same subjects at the same pace.
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#22 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 03:01 PM
 
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OP

I also regret trying unschooling. We only did for about 2 years and only radical for a short while, but during that time it totally changed our family life-and not for the better. The kids were less happy, our routines and dynamic changed and we are still trying to come back to how it was "before". Not that I am anti-unschooling for everyone, but it did not work out for my family. It's kinda nice to know I'm not alone when everyone seems to assume you're a bad parent or did it wrong if it didn't work for you.

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#23 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 03:01 PM
 
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I'm not an unschooler, but we tried homeschooling and it just didn't work for us. Then when we tried putting DD in public school kindergarten she was not socially ready to be there and had to be pulled out, so we had to try again this year, and she's doing OK now. I tried homeschooling her a bit during the intervening year and basically failed miserably on the second attempt as well.

Don't beat yourself up! I still feel guilty about that bad couple of weeks DD had, but she's caught up and developmentally ready to be there now and you'll get there with your kids too. Every approach doesn't work for every family, and if you discover that you took a wrong turn for your kids, all you can do is go the other way and move forward from there.
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#24 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 03:06 PM
 
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Oh and I forgot to say that in the OPs situation, there is no way you could have predicted whatever life change that happened ( which you mentioned in your post) that made it so your kids had to be put into institutional school. None of us knows the future.
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#25 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 03:09 PM
 
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I am not a homeschooler (as you would define it) or an unshooling parent BUT I have to say you are taking a lot of blame for what isn't a fault IMO. I have children who are in 1st, 5th and 6th grades and I am disgusted with their schooling, and they are all in "good" schools! They each come home with work that is above their grade level or work that hasn't been learnt in class yet so I end up teaching them almost every evening. I know my children are the youngest in their grades, but I hear the same from other parents. What I mean to say is that your dd being a grade behind expected school grade is not such a surprise. It's a reflection on the schools ever increasing demands to do well and produce over acheivers and be at such and such level rather than to educate the children so they actually understand and remember what they have been taught.
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#26 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 03:10 PM
 
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I so, so wish I'd never fallen for all that "let your child follow their joy" trendy unschooling mumbo jumbo. It sounds ideal, but I don't feel it "works".

Please, please don't take offense anyone. I don't mean a bit of personal offense. This is simply one person's opinion. We are all entitled to them. (in other words, feel free to disagree, just don't let me know by flaming me! )
I've never been a card-carrying "Unschooler," but just a proponent of the wisdom I've found and lived within that accumulated body of thought and experience. But I found that it did work, and worked for not only my son but other now grown friends of his. I get together with some of the other parents from time to time, and we marvel over what wonderful lives our kids are living, although all our experiences were very different all along the way. Unschooling doesn't work for everyone; other types of homeschooling don't work for everyone; and schools don't work for everyone - but there are plenty of wonderful success stories among all those lifestyles. Lillian

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#27 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 03:17 PM
 
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What I mean to say is that your dd being a grade behind expected school grade is not such a surprise. It's a reflection on the schools ever increasing demands to do well and produce over acheivers and be at such and such level rather than to educate the children so they actually understand and remember what they have been taught.
Thank you for offering this observation! I'd been thinking it but was reluctant to say it. Seems to me that catching up to 3rd grade level really shouldn't amount to much at all. When my generation was in school, we didn't start letters, numbers, or reading till 1st grade, didn't begin multiplication till 4th grade, and we all steadily progressed in plenty of time for high school math. It's getting crazy out there... Lillian
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#28 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 03:55 PM
 
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Don't beat yourself up so much. You learned that this isn't working early enough that you can turn around completely to meet your goals for your children's education. I am sure they will do well with a mama who is able to make changes for their benefit even when it means acknowledging she was incorrect about something.



I had a very idealized view of unschooling at first. I'm glad dh balanced me out. Now, we believe strongly that children learn and retain so much more when they are interested and engaged in what they're learning. Especially things like language arts, music, logic/rhetoric/critical thinking, the arts--it is easy to pour these things into children just through daily living and htey soak it up like sponges. However, our philosophy of life and learning just does not mesh with radical unschooling. What we are doing is making sure our children are at or above grade level through formal schooling, and enriching their lives with kid-directed learning the rest of the day. It works very well.
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#29 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 04:07 PM
 
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hugs mama. there is nothing done that can't be remedied. the good news is your little girl is only in 3rd grade & getting her to the place you feel she'll have her confidence back is totally doable. i'm sorry you went through that & i'm so sorry it brought down her self esteem. i hope this year is a good one for your family.

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#30 of 455 Old 09-12-2010, 05:00 PM
 
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Um, why are you upset that by choosing unschooling your kids didn't learn exactly the same things that institutional education kids did? I'm not sure why you would ever expect that they would learn all the same subjects at the same pace.
I'm not entirely clear about this, either, as it seems to be the consensus here that educating kids such that they will be able to transition to traditional school with the same skill set as their peers there is not a goal of unschooling.

However, clearly the OP had this expectation and also clearly it came from the unschooling community she now feels so betrayed by. So there has been a disconnect somewhere.
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