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    Val Offline
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    Originally Posted by Madoosa
    unschooling is...helping them find the tools/resources they need to meet those goals. It's the same as for adults. If I'm not good at anything new that I need to do, I find someone who is good at that who can teach me, guide me in my learning of that thing. That is the ideal for children surely? That they do not have a view of "my teacher said" or "my mother said", but that they understand the best places to go to find the resources they need. I truly believe that unschooling is more a way of saying that we need to stop believing in a largely failing system and we need to understand that the way we find information changes more rapidly with every passing year - that therefore the way in which we prepare children to exist in a world that largely is not yet in existence cannot be done by using outmoded methodologies and ideas.

    Honestly, I don't know what you're trying to say here. Well, I do, but I don't think it means much. smile Really: smile I'm going to gently ask if maybe you've been influenced by some good marketing spin.

    I think you're saying that teaching kids how to find information is a major benefit of unschooling. I don't see how typical schools or homeschools fail to do this. The schools I attended and the ones my kids have attended have ALL emphasized this skill.

    Unschoolers often emphasize learning to learn (MANY instances of this phrase found online). Again, this statement strikes me as being content-free, but it sounds deep if you don't look too hard. How do you learn to learn? Learning is more than reading an encyclopedia entry or an internet page. Serious learning involves a lot of hard work that's often outside your comfort zone (I see it as expanding my comfort zone, one uncomfortable minute at a time). It happens in a structured way (see MegMeg's point about annoying autodidacts, who stick with the stuff they like). I don't see unschooling as pushing kids outside of their comfort zones --- unschooling, by definition, doesn't push and tacitly tells kids to stay inside the comfy areas.

    I agree that the US education system is failing in many ways, and accept your word that the South African system has problems. But rejecting everything about either system and opting for an unstructured approach is jumping way ahead in the proof (i.e. making assumptions and drawing a conclusion in the absence of evidence).

    I can't accept your assertion about outmoded methodologies and not knowing what the world will look like in 20 years meaning that, therefore, you must unschool. confused What does this mean? Is it another idea that sounds good until you dig into it? How is teaching kids to read/write, and expecting them to learn fractions outmoded? Sure, the world is changing, but I'd bet money that people who can work outside their comfort zones and who know lots of math will be at an advantage over the ones who don't fit this description in 2030, because this has always been the case (see the mortgage mess for proof of what happens when you don't understand math).

    More importantly, how is letting a 10-year-old set the direction of his education better than giving that responsibility to an adult? Adults who pay attention can make some pretty good predictions (e.g. environmental disaster in what became the Dust Bowl, Paul Krugman and the housing bust, etc.). Contrast with a child, who has no clue about how the world works.* Which one of the two is in a better position to make good decisions about education?

    *Well, children living in very difficult circumstances probably have a decent idea of how hard life can be, but I suspect these kids aren't in the unschooling crowd.

    Last edited by Val; 05/26/14 02:38 PM.
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    Finding information is easy.

    It's understanding it that isn't. And without an external frame of reference, anything that isn't quantitative pretty much requires some kind of critically-thinking expert to provide feedback, else you develop in an echo-chamber.

    I'm just skeptical that most unschooling parents (even those of kids here, who are certainly a different breed entirely from most) are capable of doing that for any particular need or interest.

    I also have grave concerns about the "no rules" approach that is advocated as a lifestyle thing by radical unschoolers. One hears a lot of fuzzy words about "belief" and "faith" and sees a lot in the way of anecdote, but I'm suspicious. I don't think it is "coercive" in a bad sense if I prevent my daughter from burning the house down when I can see the potential outcome and she cannot. We have rules about the soldering station. Just saying. wink

    I rapidly revised my notions that my daughter, as a tiny human, just "knew" what she needed when she arrived in the world. Clearly she didn't always know best, since she could readily have flung herself down the stairs while "exploring gravity." Her intensity means that she is sometimes downright DETERMINED to do things that we can see are horrible ideas, and occasionally she can't even really be reasoned with. Now a teen, she freely admits that she has been grateful to us for insisting (sometimes quite forcefully) that she learn or do particular things (or NOT do some others, for that matter).

    I'm all for natural consequences-- by all means. It's how we parent, mostly. But that caveat is an important one. I do NOT believe in allowing permanent or irreversible consequences with no more intervention than "talking about good choices." Developmentally, children who lack full brain development are impaired decision-makers relative to adults who possess that development. I will take action to prevent some outcomes. Unapologetically. That includes safety issues and those that result in harm to others. It also includes those areas where my teen refuses to actually respect the gradually expanding boundaries-- such as a regular bedtime, etc. Those things exist for a reason, and my rules are NEVER arbitrary. But they are also not always up for debate from my teen, either. Just as traffic laws, for example, may inconvenience me personally, but it will do me little good to rebel.

    That's real life, and it's something that I see too many radical unschooling families ignore rather shockingly. They are choosing for their kids. They are choosing to close the door to shared mainstream experiences, and shared social fabric. They are choosing to make an entire educational arc about what the child is AWARE matters, and that which the child determines is WORTH pursuing (probably with incomplete understanding at best). That is their choice as parents, of course-- but it seems to me that far too few of them acknowledge that they are making it as a choice FOR their children.


    Quote
    I see unschooling as doing things outside the proverbial box. Perhaps it translates differently due to us here having so many fewer options academically, I'm not sure. I do know that I love the idea of democratic schooling, and to me that is unschooling really; where a child is not forced or coerced into learning something that he at that point has no desire to learn about, that he could be guided to that through his other various interests, and that when he needs to take certain steps to reach his goals that he will then understand the process needed to do so.

    Here's the thing. If I had "no desire" to learn about the rules governing driving, nobody would "force" me to do so. Now, that would have consequences, of course, and as an adult (mature brain) I would have NO expectation that I could "catch up" to someone like my DH, who learned at 15 in one of the most challenging urban settings on earth.

    Sure, I could "pick it up" at some point. But I can also see why such an outlook would be profoundly unwise living where and how I do. In an emergency is not the time. At 19 and 20, I lacked that understanding. My first in-laws actually pressured me to learn to drive-- gently, and I (foolishly) ignored them. I finally saw their logic when my spouse required an ambulance that wouldn't have been necessary had I had the ability to drive him to the hospital. sick

    I'd have been much better off with a bit more pressure to learn a bit sooner. I just lacked the brain development to fully comprehend the consequences of that particular (ultimately immature and selfish) decision.

    Should children be "coerced" into learning about human sexuality and contraceptive methods? I think so, yes. Because they NEED to have had a lot of time to process that information, and they need to be able to exercise informed decision-making a lot sooner than they THINK they will need it.



    I've thought a lot about how audodidactism actually develops-- my DH and I both are extremely good autodidacts, in fact, but that process of being a relatively discerning consumer of information? DECADES in the making, mostly, while your brain develops and you develop well-honed critical thinking skills and metacognition.

    I'd love to THINK that could develop without any intervention... but I know with certainty that it could not have with me-- and probably WOULD not have with my DH. I've seen a lot of college students who are in the process of developing it, and a few that thought they possessed it and did not.

    Are there people for whom it can develop intrinsically and without external steering? I'm sure that there are. Perhaps for them, unschooling is a good idea. For most children, I have deep reservations. Recall that we wanted to like this approach. We just saw it failing with our own child.

    I have come to believe that some kids are far better off having that sense of agency/autonomy challenged early and vigorously-- so that they WILL listen and seek assistance from experts. You do have to force some kids to accept that sometimes experts have earned authority for a reason.


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    I think we have a sensible approach. We like freedom. We virtual/home school which gives us freedom. But once our kids reach school age, we expect them to work through a proper curriculum (which should be easy for gifted kids) and then they can do what they want. They still have plenty of freedom and time for their own choices, but the virtual courses ensure they are on track (at an accelerated pace). We just treat the standard academic expectations as a baseline, and it would be unacceptable to lack some core skill that even average peers are expected to have.

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    Exactly. That approach keeps doors OPEN without closing off personal initiative and exploration. It is the thing that we love most about what we've chosen.

    We pursued a more-or-less Gatto/Mason method when we homeschooled-- but it was not structured enough to allow DD no wiggle room to completely escape things she preferred not to learn.

    At four, I figured I could trust her to learn to write a word or two legibly... when she was ready.

    By nearly 7, it was becoming abundantly clear that "never" was her strongly preferred timeline, and she was otherwise into high school level literature, social science and science. BIG problems looming, there.





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    I know this is about unschooling, but I have to say for DS7 I love Montessori. He gets the best of both worlds-choice and rigor. He basically chooses within a framework, which I think most of you are advocating.

    We pulled him from traditional school because it was "too" structured (one of the major reasons), and it was killing his intrinsic motivation. (I think unschoolers are interested in preserving that internal desire to learn).

    DS will transition to a more traditional classroom in the next year, and I think he's ready for it now. Montessori has sure worked for his early grade personality type (motivated, stubborn, hyper focused, and competitive).

    I think Montessori (done right) can be a fabulous choice for many kids, including gifted kids.


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    Quote
    I can't accept your assertion about outmoded methodologies and not knowing what the world will look like in 20 years meaning that, therefore, you must unschool. confused What does this mean? Is it another idea that sounds good until you dig into it? How is teaching kids to read/write, and expecting them to learn fractions outmoded? Sure, the world is changing, but I'd bet money that people who can work outside their comfort zones and who know lots of math will be at an advantage over the ones who don't fit this description in 2030, because this has always been the case (see the mortgage mess for proof of what happens when you don't understand math).

    Kids learn to read and write and do fractions by living. It's a part of life surely? You have to try really hard to NOT expose your children to these things. Unschooling parents (by and large) are not negligent - they read with their kids, play with them, bake and cook with them - most likely how most of our kids here picked up the reading, the ability to form letters and the concept of fractions, measurements etc.

    I think unschooling is really against the concept that a child has to go a special place and be taught these life skills by someone qualified to teach it - meaning that the parents are therefore NOT qualified to do so.

    We don't need standardised tests to see if our children can read, can write, can type, can *insert skill of choice here*. We know if they can or can't, simply because we are living with them. I certainly never needed a teacher to tell me at the age of 4 that my child could (still) count to 20. He'd been comfortably doing that since he could talk really. So why did I need to spend all that time to get a report telling me what I already knew about him?

    Unschooling is all about being outside comfort zones too - the drive to learn new things is present all around us, in a way that really is real world and not the pseudo-world of school. In reality when you learn something to use it, you learn it better - it's not for a grade or a test, you are learning it to use it. right there and then. It just makes it more fun. From my perspective it's not limiting, but taking away the limits that school/preset curriculae set. We are not limited to learning chess only in Kindergarten, we are not having to wait for 11th grade to do genetics. We don't have to finish learing all multiplication facts by rote before tackling fractions. We can read shakespeare at the age of 5. We can also learn how to bricklay, milk a cow etc. So many MORE possibilities than are offered in a traditional school setting.

    The way school exists today is a model based on an industrial need level. We manufacture students by batches - largely based on their date of manufacture (credit to Sir Ken Robinson). We have all experienced the frustration that comes with that thinking. It does not do our children's natural talents any good.

    Do I feel there is value in learning the things that have to be learnt? absolutely - I do not personally know of one unschooling family who do not ensure there is writing, reading, maths and other essential life skills within their children's framework. Our day may not have timetable-esque structure, but it does have structure. We do have rules, we do have requirements, we definitely need boundaries. Unschooling does not negate any of that. Not at all. Those, like I said previously are parental choices, not educational ones.

    Perhaps that is what I mean really. unschooling tries to say that instead of segregating life from learning, they are one and the same thing - we learn as part of our lives, because that is what learning affects: our everyday lives.


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    Off-topic: Can I say that I am really enjoying this thread - the conversation and discussion and points of view here are all amazingly represented and put across.

    Thank you all for participating so passionately smile


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    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    I think it strongly depends upon the kid, honestly-- at least in the specifics, it does.

    What I saw most pointedly when we homeschooled in much the way that Madoosa describes is that my DD (headstrong is an understatement) figured out that she could simply REFUSE to do anything that wasn't easy and pleasant and already at "expert" level. If she wasn't instantly "good at" whatever it was-- she refused to try it ever thereafter, using every passive resistance trick in the book.

    That's okay when they are 3-7yo, but as another poster noted, being entirely autonomous and refusing to, say... learn any new math concepts, or practice written expression... well, that's not so cool.

    Unfortunately, HG+ kids are highly inventive in using their astonishing academic STRENGTHS to mitigate and skirt those areas which are not such extreme strengths.

    This is precisely what my DD did when we homeschooled. Not having anyone but me telling her "you need to learn how to do this thing" was simply not motivation enough to even TRY. We were pretty inventive about finding ways to make learning interesting and fun, btw-- it wasn't that we weren't providing the right kinds of challenges or opportunities, so much as that she so strongly preferred to TALK and to READ that she simply turned her nose up at anything else. In fact, she was quite defiant about the fact that she simply wasn't going to do those things. At all.

    Thanks for the reply. This sounds a lot like my son. I feel like we're constantly doing a dance and I'm trying to figure out, "Is he pitching a fit because it's too easy or too hard?"

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    Originally Posted by lilmisssunshine
    Thanks for the reply. This sounds a lot like my son. I feel like we're constantly doing a dance and I'm trying to figure out, "Is he pitching a fit because it's too easy or too hard?"

    Story of my DS's life!!! To add to that sometimes it is both at the same time (the math problems are WAY too easy but physically writing the answer is too hard). Ugggghhh.

    I've found this thread fascinating. HK - what you write hugely resonates with me and my DS and is a huge reason he is still in school despite the horrible fit for math and science (his strengths). For now it is preferable for us to fill his nights and weekends with his passions which he naturally pursues and the school can battle with him over writing and learning that sometimes you have to do things you don't love. It was a hard lesson for DS to learn that maybe he wasn't the best at everything and maybe he would actually have to work at writing in order to catch up to his classmates. He has a different appreciation for both his strengths and weaknesses after being surrounded by peers. I have no idea what we will do over the next decade for education (which is why I started reading this thread in the first place) but it is great to hear both sides to be aware of some of the potential issues either way.

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    Next year my son will be in fifth grade and I plan to home school 6th-8th but I won't characterize my plan as unschooling. My plan is a combination online classes and classes I teach him.

    With the classes I teach him following his interests more and a lot more projects and experiences...a logical progression following the same basic path his peers are following...pace and flexibility being the key differences.

    I do expect him to go to high school or do a combination of brick and mortar high school and online school.


    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary
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