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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Okay this is a bit of a back-handed brag about my kid, but I think it says a lot about unschooling and educational autonomy too. Last night I had a conversation with my ds (who was celebrating his 19th birthday!), and today I encountered an article that just kind of crystallized some stuff for me.

Peter Gray has an article in Psychology Today called Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problems for Colleges. In it he writes:

We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have. Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.
It seems to me that unschooling offers a tremendously potent antidote to this prevailing cultural trend. Unschooled children, while like other homeschoolers benefit from the availability of their parents pretty much 24/7, are put in the drivers seat for their own educations. They are allowed to depart from the expected, to meander up dead ends or into uncharted territory, to linger or lurk, to change plans, to make their own mistakes and learn from them without adults pedantically prodding them along.

Which brings to mind my ds, who has a bunch of minor-ish issues (very slow visual processing speed, major perfectionism, dysgraphia, social anxiety, extreme introversion) that make him less confident and capable, more in need of support, the one of my four who seems most fragile and least resilient. And yet I can see that he is nevertheless an incredibly resilient college kid in comparison with most young adults his age.

He lives in an apartment half an hour from campus. He looks after all his groceries, cooking, laundry, cleaning, budgeting, getting about on public transit, paying rent, tuition, course registration, etc. etc.

Last semester he -- along with 60% of his section and 40% of all enrolled students -- bombed Discrete Math. Well he actually squeaked through, but without the grade needed to continue through the honours path that would allow him to move ahead into a computer programming Minor. So? No biggie; he just shrugged it off and vowed to learn from the experience. This year, he's taking the course again rather than opting for the non-honours math stream (because he's so incredibly talented at programming, it would be a crime to have him drop that as a Minor), doing very well so far and really making sure he isn't falling through any cracks.

And he's taking the monumental Advanced Spatial Design course which is challenging him to really stretch outside his comfort zone. He had to create a "Humans of New York" style photographic profile in magazine spread form. So he walked into a tattoo parlour in the big city, introduced himself, explained what he wanted to do, and got a tour and enthusiastic permission to shoot over the course of two days. I was just blown away that he did this, that he mustered the courage to walk in and ask. "Yeah, it was super hard," he admitted, "but I was so tired that I was a little giddy, and it had to be done, and nobody was going to help me with it so I just did it. And it turned out awesome!"

And so I realized that in the grand scheme of things, he is pretty darn self-reliant and resilient. Even though he is my least mature, least confident kid, the one who has wanted the most support and been the slowest to reach for independence, he is still doing pretty well. And I can't help but wonder how stunted his growth would have been if he'd been coddled through his childhood and teen years with arms-length supervision, daily homework checks, ongoing reassurance that he wouldn't be allowed to stray from the path of success, and being actively "managed" by parents and teachers.

Miranda
 

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That's the best sort of brag. I love reading things like this, it helps me imagine my own very small kids (who I still have to remind to brush their teeth and go to the bathroom), as competent independent people one day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's funny you know, when people first discover we're homeschooling, they assume it's the worst sort of helicoptering: we parents won't let the little darlings out of our sight, they're too precious to be entrusted to strangers, we want complete control over their lives and educations. But in fact we're off the other end of the spectrum: we don't think anyone -- teachers or curriculum writers or parents -- should be controlling and managing our kids.

When my older kids started school as teens, the teachers at the school expected me to be very involved, micromanaging, advocating. Ha! They were in for a shock! I was so much more hands-off than all the other parents. They'd never had a high school parent say "show my child his report card if you want, but don't send me a copy, thanks."

Miranda
 

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Miranda, can I copy and paste your last comment on my fb page? I get this sentiment so often, when people know us nominally. I would love others to think about what they assume is "independence" that school offers. And it is such an empowering statement. I would appreciate it! Let me know.

Sarah

(I've been on here long enough, I figure it's about time to sign the proper name).
 

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Sounds like your son is doing awesome. And that tattoo parlor thing sounds cool. And it is so true that the default position is that people think all homeschool parents are hoverers and overprotective. I overheard a discussion between two unschooling parents About how they didn't understand why people were having a problem that their child needed to carry a knife while hiking through the woods. Can't imagine that conversation happening inthe school yard
Anna
 

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I realize I'm not a total unschooler, and my oldest only homeschooled for a short time, but thats exactly how we have been as middle school parents too Miranda. He is totally taking the school thing on his own shoulders and rising to the challenge. Our recently returned to school kid also independently rides his bike, walks or the bus to school, whichever he prefers. Our neighbors (our sons friends) now let their middle schooled kids have more freedom getting to/from school as a result, and though they didn't say it, they implied they were very surprised to see how hands off we are with our oldest. They joked about themselves that they were in fact the helicopter parents!
 
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