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I think they hit the highlights...<br><br><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/content/education/chi-0603120371mar12,1,1721193.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true" target="_blank">Original article</a><br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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For these kids, school is always out<br>
Method of home schooling allows children to learn by pursuing their interests rather than set curriculum<br><br>
By Vincent J. Schodolski, Tribune national correspondent. Tribune staff reporter Mary Ann Fergus in Chicago contributed to this report<br>
Published March 12, 2006<br><br><br>
LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. -- Riley Brown is 12 years old and lives a life many of his peers might envy, or perhaps find incomprehensible.<br><br>
On any given day Riley will probably sleep until he is ready to get out of bed and then spend his time doing whatever interests him. Maybe he'll play his guitar, or go to the park to meet with like-minded friends. Or maybe he will boot up his computer and start "playing around" with HTML codes.<br><br>
His younger brother, Casey, 10, and his sister, Maggie, 5, do more or less the same thing.<br><br>
And their mother, Deanne, could not be happier.<br><br>
"I love unschooling," she said. "It has been the best decision I could have made for me and my family."<br><br>
The Browns are part of an approach to education that is called "unschooling" and allows children to pursue what interests them, rather than trying to make them interested in things that interest others.<br><br>
The concept holds that learning is best done when a child's interests are engaged, and for a family with the talents and the resources to allow this to happen, great success is possible.<br><br>
"Unschooling" is a subset of home schooling, which has seen rapid growth in recent years.<br><br>
According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 1.1 million children were being home-schooled in 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is up from 850,000 in 1999 and represents a 29 percent increase.<br><br>
Education experts estimate that about 10 percent of the home-schooled population is "unschooled," meaning there may be as many as 110,000 young people being educated in this way.<br><br>
A significant part of the growth in home schooling has been among Christian conservatives who shunned public and private schools for reasons that included curriculum, school violence and social trends. These parents often seek highly structured curricula suited to their conservative beliefs.<br><br>
But those who practice unschooling tend to do so because they believe the school system, be it public or private, does not allow children to learn to their full potential.<br><br>
"I think the one reason that stands out from the rest is that I felt that my kids were losing that incredible spark they had before they entered school," Deanne Brown said. "After being in school for a few years I saw their natural curiosity, imagination and love for learning being crushed by rules and conditioning. Learning became a task."<br><br>
Some fear standards skipped<br><br>
Not everyone is convinced that unschooling is a great idea.<br><br>
"I think the downsides would be related to teachers who don't understand putting parameters around children's decision-making," said Jill Fox, an education professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.<br><br>
"It's one thing to allow children to choose to study Amelia Earhart before studying Harriet Tubman, with the clear understanding that both will be studied thoroughly during the school year. It is another thing to allow children to study Muhammad Ali and completely skip over what the state standards or district curriculum require," Fox said.<br><br>
"Teachers -- and parents -- have to keep in mind that children's decision-making skills are not yet fully developed. They don't quite understand cause-and-effect and often don't realize the consequences they may face as a result of their decisions."<br><br>
And unschooling is not for everyone, experts say.<br><br>
"It is not suited either to all kids or all parents," said Tom Hatch, a professor at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City. "It requires students with considerable curiosity and independence, who come up with and get interested in questions and can sustain some interest in them."<br><br>
Several hundred families attended a two-day home-schooling conference that began Friday at an Arlington Heights, Ill., hotel. There they chose between sessions such as one that taught the principles of DNA and another called "Shakespeare Without Fear."<br><br>
Winifred Haun of Oak Park, a mother of three, was among those networking and searching for new ideas at the Home Educators Conference Fund event.<br><br>
Haun started Northside Unschoolers of Chicago five years ago with 15 families and now organizes events, from support groups to Spanish classes, for 100 families throughout Chicago and the suburbs.<br><br>
"People are realizing that school doesn't do what it's advertised to do," said Haun, a former teacher in Chicago who said she felt like "an advanced baby-sitter" for kids who did not want to be in class.<br><br>
Her experiences and further reading led her to unschooling when her oldest, 10-year-old Athena, was not yet school age.<br><br>
These days, Athena is into drawing tropical birds, practicing ballet and reading Harry Potter books. Her sister Iris, 4, has taken to writing names and words she likes, such as "princess." Selene, 19 months, joins her mother and sisters for Girl Scout meetings, trips to museums and a weekly open gym session with other unschoolers.<br><br>
Any family activity can turn into an educational experience. Math is incorporated into everyday life, something father Stephen Parke, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab, calls "cookie arithmetic."<br><br>
The approach is not without its challenges or fears but the couple believe their decision has made their children independent thinkers.<br><br>
"To me, learning to think is much more important, especially in the modern age," Parke said.<br><br>
Experts say parents who choose this path for their children usually are well-educated and believe the present primary and secondary educational system is not structured for a world that prizes free thinking, curiosity, imagination and independence.<br><br>
"I don't think you can apply that to all schools," Hatch said in defense of traditional schools. "It's so hard to predict what opportunities and interests students will have in 20 years, or what the job market will be like in 15 or 20 years."<br><br>
Most trace the origins of unschooling to an approach devised by educator John Holt in the 1970s. He believed children could be natural learners, instead of requiring formal schooling.<br><br>
"A core distinction between these two approaches, it would seem, comes down to beliefs about human nature, or at least the nature of the child and their learning," said Robert Kunzman, an assistant professor at Indiana University. "Do they learn best following their own interests, or by being carefully led upon a preordained path?"<br><br>
Parents involved with unschooling argue that modern resources such as the Internet make exploration easy.<br><br>
Little evidence of effect<br><br>
There is little, if any, empirical evidence of how unschooled children fare in later life, but home-schooled children are being accepted by Ivy League and other prestigious universities.<br><br>
Riley Brown of California is a believer.<br><br>
"I like being able to have a lot of freedom, which gives me a lot of time to explore my interests," he said. "I also like not having to get up at 6:30 in the morning and being able to stay up late."<br><br>
Regine Verougstraete, who moved to the United States from her native Belgium 11 years ago, elected to unschool her two sons after the older one struggled in regular classes.<br><br>
"He had lost the pleasure of learning," she said of now-10-year-old Elliott.<br><br>
Now he and his 7-year-old brother, Teodore, study at home with mom as the mainstay teacher in their home in South Pasadena, Calif.<br><br>
Some critics of home-schooling say that it denies children interaction with others and thus blunts their social skills.<br><br>
Not so, say unschooling parents. Deanne Brown points to regular weekly park meeting with other unschoolers and the fact that all three of her children are engaged in team sports.<br><br>
Rules on unschooling differ among states with some requiring children to take standardized tests to measure progress, others asking only that forms be filed with the state, and some requiring nothing.<br><br>
The question of measuring progress is a thorny one among parents of unschoolers. Most do not grade their children.<br><br>
"We do not take tests, use a curriculum, grades or punishment and reward systems," said Deanne Brown. California does not require such measurements for home-schooled students.<br><br>
"Virginia law requires that home-schoolers provide annual evidence of progress," said Shay Seaborne, who is unschooling her daughters, Caitlin, 15, and Laurel, 12.<br><br>
"I meet this requirement with results from a standardized test, as that is the least intrusive means for our family," she said.<br><br>
For many students the first test of their learning in a standardized way comes when they take the SAT, or ACT exams.<br><br>
Ned Vare and his wife, Luz Shosie, unschooled their son, Cassidy, first in Colorado and later in Connecticut. Cassidy never attended regular schools and when he took the SAT he had a combined verbal and math score of 1390 and went on to get a GED with a nearly perfect score. He is now enrolled at Hunter College in New York.<br><br>
While unschooled children may have regular social contact with peers who are involved in more traditional schooling, there appears to be a gap of understanding about their differing circumstances.<br><br>
"My schooled friends' opening question is usually, `What grade are you in?'" said Riley Brown. "I tell them that I would be in the 7th grade, but it really doesn't matter. I don't usually try to explain because they wouldn't get it if I did."<br><br>
----------<br><br><a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>GoodEats</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">"I think the one reason that stands out from the rest is that I felt that my kids were losing that incredible spark they had before they entered school," Deanne Brown said. "After being in school for a few years I saw their natural curiosity, imagination and love for learning being crushed by rules and conditioning. Learning became a task."</div>
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Although my son's not nearly school age yet, this is the primary reason I want to homeschool too. I want learning to always be a joy!<br><br>
That was a great article; well balance IMO. Thanks for sharing.
 

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We discussed this article at a family dinner today--my sister, (who's a teacher and supports school 100%,) even commented that if they're going to quote educators, they should at least choose someone who sounds intelligent. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol"> (She was referring to the Fox woman.)<br><br>
I've noticed a run on unschooling articles lately--and they all seem to make the same points -- kids sleep in late...parents love the self-directedness...educators are concerned about state standards...YAWN. Isn't anyone tired of this story yet?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's funny, I thought that the Fox quotes swung this from a neutral article to a positive one, just by making the school-side representative look foolish. I'm not really an unschooler. Really, we're just now finishing up our "K" year, so I haven't worked out what really works for us yet. I suspect that, like everything else child-related, what works for us will change and evolve over the next several years. I really have no idea what
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">"I think the downsides would be related to teachers who don't understand putting parameters around children's decision-making,"</td>
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even means. I mean, I understand all the words, but...
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Joan</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">...I've noticed a run on unschooling articles lately--and they all seem to make the same points -- kids sleep in late...parents love the self-directedness...educators are concerned about state standards...YAWN. <b>Isn't anyone tired of this story yet?</b></div>
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I am Joan!<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/nod.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="nod"> Thanks for saying so<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/thumb.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="thumbs up"> , I thought I was the only one!<br><br>
Take Care,<br>
Erika<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/homeschool.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="homeschool">:<br><br>
Hannah<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/candle.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Candle">-Rest in Peace Sweet Girl
 

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This is really funny to me, the argument about state standards. What are state standards based on, anyway? Certainly not what people actually need to know in real life! It's based on who lobbies the most. If the chicken-plucking lobby were more powerful, they would be calling chicken-plucking an essential life skill.<br><br>
I think sometimes people forget that education was set up by fallible humans.
 

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This is really funny to me, the argument about state standards. What are state standards based on, anyway? Certainly not what people actually need to know in real life! It's based on who lobbies the most. If the chicken-plucking lobby were more powerful, they would be calling chicken-plucking an essential life skill.<br><br>
I think sometimes people forget that education was set up by fallible humans.
 

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Brigianna said:
If the chicken-plucking lobby were more powerful, they would be calling chicken-plucking an essential life skill.
<br><br>
Hey now, I personally can't imagine life without chicken-plucking!! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol">
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Brigianna</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">How did that happen?? It was only supposed to post once.</div>
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Yeah, yeah, you're trying to boost your post count.<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"><br><br>
Welcome, Brigianna! You know, I really wish they *had* taught chicken plucking when I was in high school. It would come in far more handy today than AP calculus... and I loved calculus <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol">
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>GoodEats</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I really have no idea what<br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">"I think the downsides would be related to teachers who don't understand putting parameters around children's decision-making,"</td>
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even means. I mean, I understand all the words, but...</div>
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I <i>think</i> she's referring to the <i>parents</i> as teachers, and saying that they don't understand that parameters should be put around children's decision-making. In the context, that's the only thing I can figure. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/headscratch.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="headscratch"><br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>tboroson</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I really wish they *had* taught chicken plucking when I was in high school. It would come in far more handy today than AP calculus...</div>
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No doubt! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol">
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>fourlittlebirds</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I <i>think</i> she's referring to the <i>parents</i> as teachers, and saying that they don't understand that parameters should be put around children's decision-making. In the context, that's the only thing I can figure. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/headscratch.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="headscratch"></div>
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That's the conclusion that we came to also. Of course, I don't buy into the premise that pareameters *should* be put around children's decision-making--it's not that I "don't understand" that parameters should be put around it.<br><br>
Perhaps educators who don't understand unschooling shouldn't be commenting on it? <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/mischievous.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="mischief"><br><br>
Erika, you know, ultimately, I'd rather the media just ignore unschoolers altogether. But a small part of me is irked about these articles because it's Journalism 101 to "find a unique angle" when writing these types of pieces, yk? I just keep thinking, "That's as creative as you can be?" <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/shake.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="shake"> and then I go back to thinking that it'd be better if reporters didn't know we existed. I don't know what I want. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol">
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">It's one thing to allow children to choose to study Amelia Earhart before studying Harriet Tubman, with the clear understanding that both will be studied thoroughly during the school year. It is another thing to allow children to study Muhammad Ali and completely skip over what the state standards or district curriculum require," Fox said.</td>
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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="rolleyes"> God forbid.
 

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I'm kinda happy to hear about unschooling in the media (this is probably the first or second time for me). For a lot of folks, myself included, it would never occur to me that 1) unschooling is indeed done successfully by other folks and 2) there's really a name for letting children learn what they want, when they want, how they want. I e-mailed the article to a few of my friends who are like me trying to put themselves in a position where it's possible to homeschool. It's good to know the possibilities that are out there.<br><br>
I guess if you've been doing it forever, hearing about it in the news is probably Boring and maybe even upsetting. I'm glad the concept is getting to folks who don't necessarily visit MDC so I hope these different ways of educating get more, balanced coverage.
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">I think sometimes people forget that education was set up by fallible humans.</td>
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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/nod.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="nod">
 

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<span></span>
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>oceanbaby</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;"><br>
" 'It's one thing to allow children to choose to study Amelia Earhart before studying Harriet Tubman, with the clear understanding that both will be studied thoroughly during the school year. It is another thing to allow children to study Muhammad Ali and completely skip over what the state standards or district curriculum require,' Fox said."<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="rolleyes"> God forbid.</div>
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<span><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/biglaugh.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="laugh">: Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction too! - Lillian</span>
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Joan</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Erika, you know, ultimately, I'd rather the media just ignore unschoolers altogether. But a small part of me is irked about these articles because it's Journalism 101 to "find a unique angle" when writing these types of pieces, yk? I just keep thinking, "That's as creative as you can be?" <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/shake.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="shake"> and then I go back to thinking that it'd be better if reporters didn't know we existed. I don't know what I want. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol"></div>
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I agree with you Joan. I can't decide if it is better to be ignored or to be reported about.<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/shrug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="shrug"><br>
I just wish that when unschoolers are written about, they would not always say that we all "sleep in" and present all of the children as "geniuses". For us, it's just a great way to live.<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"><br>
And for all of you who are happy to see unschooling being reported about because it is a relatively new idea for you, I am glad that you find the articles helpful<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/thumb.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="thumbs up"><br><br>
Take Care,<br>
Erika<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/homeschool.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="homeschool">:<br><br>
Hannah<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/candle.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Candle">-Rest in Peace Sweet Girl
 

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The coverage of unschoolers might be a little boring and simplistic, but I think it's certainly a step up from the typical portrayal of hs'ers as abusive cultists bent on world domination.<br><br>
And I only *wish* my kids slept in once in a while! (then again I'm on the computer at 5 a.m. so what am I complaining about?)<br><br>
With the way the economy is going I guess chicken-plucking could be a more useful skill than Calculous!<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">Yeah, yeah, you're trying to boost your post count.</td>
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Is there a reward for posting a lot? I could go for that!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Brigianna</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">The coverage of unschoolers might be a little boring and simplistic, but I think it's certainly a step up from the typical portrayal of hs'ers as abusive cultists bent on world domination.<br></div>
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That's what I think, too. There's something about ho-hum articles popping up that I, for one, find a bit comforting. It has a "normalizing" factor that makes me feel a little less like an oddball when people can say "Oh, yes, I read that homeschooling is becoming more popular among the secular set."<br><br>
I'd prefer a spread in the Washington Post or WSJ, rather than a generic blurb, but still, I think it's nice to see homeschool portrayed as a valid choice for normal, regular families.
 
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