Friday, March 25, 2011

Is Unschooling Bad for Us?

After all this time, we still quite regularly encounter people who worry about the children's welfare. Some of these people are passersby; some are long-time friends and family. The well-meant comments my kids have mentioned to me range from "Don't you ever get tired of being with your Mum?" to "You're homeschooled. You don't know anything!" to long explanations of common-knowledge things that they assume my kids must not know. To me, people usually quietly mention deep concerns about my children's "socialization" or "keeping up with their peers" or their ability to "make it as adults" or "in the real world". Or they assume my kids are geniuses, or have learning disabilities. Or they just roll their eyes.

The fact is, my kids are just kids. I am not sure exactly what grade level they function at, and I'm happy about that. I ensure that they have some regular activity that helps them develop basic life-skills, and this includes a bit of workbook practise (but I allow them to skip whichever pages seem silly or boring). Generally, I allow them to choose their own activities. Sometimes they read all day; sometimes they draw, craft, play lego, or do dramatic play all day long. When they get involved with something they generally keep at it for many hours. I'm not sure if the extra-long attention span is a result of not having a TV or of being allowed to take as long as they want, but I do think it's a good thing. It can indeed be difficult to schedule social time, because so many of their friends are in school so often, but therefore most afternoons are spent visiting with friends, and it's certainly not an issue.

I can't see the future. I don't know if my kids will "make it in the real world", but, just as I have confidence that they will succeed when allowed to follow their hearts, I have confidence that if the "real world" doesn't turn out to be what they want, they'll shape it to fit their dreams.

Anyway, I came across this video, which is a nicely thought-out adult unschooler's response to some of the criticism we face:

...and this one...


  1. Well, now both my kids have chosen to go to school next year, and it's really interesting to see them embrace this as a learning experience. What they are discovering is that they know different things than those who are assessing them know. And they have both embraced filling in the stuff they haven't learned yet, which for my son is writing and composition and for my daughter is abstract mathematics.

    They have been working with teachers, tutors and mentors to work on these things and although it isn't always easy for them, to a person, their mentors talk about them as the best students they have ever had, because they are intrinsically motivated to be learning so they can create the experiences they want to have in the fall.

    I suppose one could look at admission assessment results and say "omigod, your homeschooling has wrecked you for math..." but what we are seeing instead are kids that look at their results and say "cool...I can learn that." And off they go.

    It's not bad for you. You will learn different and you will learn different things, and when you show up in other people's learning environments you will be aware that they know things that you don't know, but far from feeling put down because of that, you will embrace the challenge. With my daughter, she saw these as holes to be filled if she wanted to go to the schools that she wanted. So she's working away at filling them. The boy says what he is doing is hard, but he wouldn't trade it in. He wants to go to IPS and that's that. he knowsn what he has to do to have that door opened to him. He has the option to quit, but that's not on the cards for him.

    It's inspiring. I love it and couldn't be more prouder.

  2. Thanks, Chris. I talked to him a bit about IPS, and he certainly was excited. You guys are such an inspiration to us. My kids also consider IPS, sometimes, now that Adrian is teaching there, so we'll see how that works out in the next couple of years, and what they think about it when the time comes!


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