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    Originally Posted by Madoosa
    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.
    Well said! smile

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    Originally Posted by Madoosa
    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.

    No, they don't, apart from in a superficial way. A child may learn what half and 3/4 mean from baking, but he won't learn about the positions of fractions on a number line, how to add fractions with unlike denominators, and how they relate to each other. Nor will he learn how to think about complex mathematical ideas or how to write a persuasive essay. These skills come only with significant instruction and feedback from someone who's very good at them, and a lot of focused work on the student's part.

    Claiming that you can teach these skills through baking or living is, IMO, creating a situation in which other people can be deprived of options because they haven't learned basic skills. Some unschooled kids seem to get lucky and get PhDs (in that industrial system criticized by unschoolers). Others end up shoveling horse manure because they still can't really read at age 19. Those two brothers were in the same family. If unschooling works so well, there shouldn't have been such huge gaps in outcomes.

    Unschooling also strikes me as being similar to approaches to teaching girls circa 1700: girls don't need a real education; that's for boys. So we teach them to read and write at home, and how to do the chores they'll need to do someday. That's a lot more outmoded than today's approaches in schools. Unless an unschooling parent is an expert in math, writing, literature, genetics, economics, and so on, it seems unlikely that the child will get a serious education. The superficial version seems like a more likely outcome, with some kids getting lucky.

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    Originally Posted by Madoosa
    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.
    But isn't what you are describing homeschooling? Do I not understand the definition of unschooling? Is there really a neat line demarcating homeschooling from unschooling? And what one person defines as unschooling might be similar to what another calls homeschooling. What works for one child, might not work for another. And a system that works well for 4-6 years olds, might not be the best plan for teenagers.

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    No. I don't think there is a strict line between relaxed or eclectic homeschooling and unschooling. The difference comes from following a set curriculum more closely, being more directive, not letting child have much input, or taking seriously the child's interests or supporting them -- which is more often associated with (strict or authoritarian) homeschoolers.

    I think the term unschooling can be - how you define it. For some, this may include relaxed or eclectic homeschooling. For others, it may mean something else. It doesn't necessarily mean that there are no rules, boundaries, or parameters though. It doesn't necessarily mean you're not authoritative or permissive.

    There's also the term or expression radical unschoolers. This is referred to those who extend the concept of unschooling to other aspects of life -- letting the kids decide on bedtimes, mealtimes, what they eat, access to the computer/tv, etc. The parents here are often permissive or uninvolved and do not usually set demands/rules on their children, though they presumably do still expect table manners.

    Perhaps a radical unschooler or someone with a stricter definition of unschooling or interpretation of it would disqualify a parent nurturing a child's interests, including algebra, with making online opportunities available. But do you care? And why get so hung up on it?

    Another point is that what works is for 4-6-yr-olds or with eg/pg kids is likely to change over time, and often over the course of a very short time. Nothing is set is stone here. Everything is subject to change.

    Algebra or higher math, in particular, is very difficult to teach without veering into more structured learning and that's just the nature of the beast, I think. But there's so many textbooks, videos, and online courses today that the world is your oyster.

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    Exactly, Bluemagic.

    And truly, what works and seems fine (no assessment) for 3-8yo children, is not a good idea for children who need college-level resources and instruction to keep learning.

    There's a point at which you have to admit that taking a college vector calculus course is probably BETTER and more effective than, say... spending four years coming up with it all one's self, even if one were completely capable. Newton only did it that way because nobody else had already DONE so, see... wink

    But lacking the kinds of credentialling that matter to the gatekeeping machinery, well, that becomes a HUGE problem at that point.

    That particular point is a lot sooner chronologically for most parents reading here than it is for those with NT kids who unschool/homeschool.

    A twelve year old unschooler who has never sat any exams at all and wants access to the local Uni's molecular biology course-- ask yourself what some of the hurdles would be, there, and then compare that with either traditional (eclectic or school-at-home) homeschool, or with some more official kind of schooling, in which that child is a "tenth" grade student.

    That's why I am pretty insistent that this is not such a bad idea at 3-8yo if it works for the child in question-- and it DID NOT work for my DD, by the way-- she didn't even learn to read purely osmotically the way my radically unschooling friends thought she "should" have. They would have said that she just "wasn't ready" yet. We sort of believed that, but intervened because she was using whole language methods to start learning, and I knew what problems that can lead to because of having ECE, developmental psych experts, and elementary educators in the family to ask it of... so was she "ready" to learn??

    Less than 20 hours of decoding instruction, using a single set of phonetically controlled readers would argue an emphatic YES, particularly when one takes into account the meteoric progress she made within days and weeks. But my radical unschooling friends were HORRIFIED that we forced our daughter to participate in this activity. And oh-yes-we-did force her. She wasn't entirely "willing" and "eager." She was quite oppositional even at four, looking back on it, and extrinsic rewards were very little inducement. She regarded opposing parental suggestions as a LOVELY game. Her response to any "suggestion" then-- and now-- is a narrowing of the eyes and a brief flash of "YOU're not the boss of ME!!"

    I guess when I think back on it, we were really crappy unschoolers right from the beginning, because we intervened like that, or corrected her "understanding" of things that she had WRONG, like a sense of multiplication being "repeating addition." We provided resources, and she would choose to lay on the floor rather than use them-- even if it had been a "passionate interest" only hours or days before.

    Deliberate GUIDING and lack of any assessment only works with some kids-- kids who are happy to make mistakes and be wrong, and still willing to demonstrate the extent of their ability on a regular basis, and those who accept input from others around them. Some kids like to be comfortable, or are so strongly oppositional that they won't do ANYTHING that someone else "provides" for them, and for those kids, unschooling is unequivocally a BAD idea. I don't often make that kind of statement about something, but in this instance, I'm making an exception.

    Unschooling works tolerably well for kids who are extraverted, non-oppositional, self-motivated, and willing to make themselves uncomfortable in the pursuit of a goal.

    Some kids aren't like that.

    Even in those families for whom it works well, though, "school" starts to look at LOT more typical at middle school, for the simple reason that you have to set kids up so that they CAN choose to go to college or not.

    I am NOT getting the impression that Madoosa's family is anything like the radical unschoolers that we know that make me cringe. For them, they truly "trust" that their kids will come to THEM whenever they need anything in particular, and believe in "life as education" to such a degree that they refuse to provide educational resources at all. They truly believe that providing an internet connection and a gaming console (if that's what the child asks for) is dandy as "education." Or offering a child 8-10yo a twenty dollar bill and sending them into the thrift store alone to purchase a winter wardrobe. THAT is the kind of thinking that makes me cringe.

    Every homeschooling (and virtual schooling) family that we know regards learning as a whole-life activity. School curricula are very definitely about this kind of pedagogy now, too-- it's ALL about the kind of thing that unschooling families tout at learning opportunities-- games, cooking, etc. The notion that there would be firewalls between "learning" and everything else... that's just nonsense, honestly. I know no parents who think that way. Not one.





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    though they presumably do still expect table manners


    HA. You don't know the families we know, clearly. eek


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    Actually, I do. I was trying to be polite.

    I think the points about nurturing talent/gifts and putting your child in a situation where their college ready does happen rather quickly and are valid points. However, it doesn't mean every gifted parent should be bearing calculus in mind for their 3-8-yr-olds or that every gifted child is destined for a STEM career. That's hardly the case.

    Remember, too, the situation with what college can offer/provide is rapidly changing and nothing is a guarantee today (no school, no training, no job, no pension, no benefits, etc.). There's tons of people who have PhDs and are unemployed, saddled with debt, and are unhappy with their lot. Life is short.

    I totally agree with Sir Ken Robinson; we need more divergent, creative thinking which isn't usually nurtured or supported by our educational institutions, standardized testing, or society in general. Others, such as Csikszentmihalyi, have said that the key is to create a nurturing environment where their child's interests can be taken seriously and be assisted with opportunities, resources, and/or a mentor.

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    Is there a term for a sort of cooperative homeschooling, where a child provides input and a parent sets limits? For example:

    the child chooses the theme or goal
    the parent provides a menu of activities on that theme that cover what the parent thinks is appropriate to learn, that hopefully will be enjoyable; as the child matures, the parent explains their reasoning without giving up authority
    the child chooses items off the menu, working on them in the order and for the length of time they would like
    the parent chooses the next menu based on what has and has not been covered adequately
    the child has the option to change the theme when they're ready (within reason - not mid-day!)
    the parent has the option to direct the child to the menu if work isn't getting done naturally

    I do see the issue with credentialing at middle school level and above, but for elementary, this seems like it would work. Says the parent who is terrified of the whole concept.

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    Originally Posted by cdfox
    Actually, I do. I was trying to be polite.

    I think the points about nurturing talent/gifts and putting your child in a situation where their college ready does happen rather quickly and are valid points. However, it doesn't mean every gifted parent should be bearing calculus in mind for their 3-8-yr-olds or that every gifted child is destined for a STEM career. That's hardly the case.

    Remember, too, the situation with what college can offer/provide is rapidly changing and nothing is a guarantee today (no school, no training, no job, no pension, no benefits, etc.). There's tons of people who have PhDs and are unemployed, saddled with debt, and are unhappy with their lot. Life is short.

    True-- but you do, IMO, have to be willing to go to outsiders for what may seem to be quite regimented formal instruction when your own ability to act as a guide is at an end. I can't teach my daughter art very well, and I'd be a lousy piano teacher.

    I'm pretty good with history and the sciences. Tolerable with literature up to about second-year college level, but not so much with composition. Math, I'm not confident enough beyond Algebra II (aside from stats) to actually teach the material well, or to critically offer guidance to an autodidact.

    In my observations of radical unschoolers, though, none of them see that as any kind of problem whatsoever, because they don't really believe in manipulating the process at all. The ones that do tend to think of their method as something more like "eclectic" or "unschooly" rather than pure John Holt and free-range education.


    I think that you're right, cdfox, about this:

    Quote
    Others, such as Csikszentmihalyi, have said that the key is to create a nurturing environment where their child's interests can be taken seriously and be assisted with opportunities, resources, and/or a mentor.

    I agree with that as well. I'm not sure that Robinson is necessarily correct to tar ALL educational institutions as little more than factories, though.

    I think that appropriate formalized, directed schoolwork shouldn't take up more than 20% of a child's waking hours. Period. Whatever pacing the child achieves within that framework seems fine to me. I think, anyway-- though it's hard to put myself in the shoes of a student with an FSIQ of 90, who has to work HARD and needs a lot of repetition to master academic concepts and skills.

    Anyway. Once that 20% of the day is done, I'm a HUGE fan of child-led discovery and of encouraging children to follow their passions (within the guidelines of the law, safety, etc.). Whatever that looks like, I mean. So I definitely get the positives behind unschooling as a philosophy of parenting with an eye toward nurturing creativity, initiative, and intrinsic motivation.

    I just don't think that it's so great as a rigid philosophy that HAS to work as a primary educational strategy. Yes, it's educational to do stuff in that way-- and likely beneficial in ways that formal learning of topics OTHERS set for us is not-- but I don't see why being a dilettante is necessarily a great idea, either, and I've known quite a few unschooled kids who wind up there, too.


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    Generally, unschooling might work for the preschool and the early elementary age children. Beyond that age, there are things that have to be taught in order for the child to go on to college (hopefully, wishing one's child would become a college graduate is not against unschooling). The consequences of not learning to read or write or to know the multiplication tables cold etc are not as bad in elementary grade age they are at a higher age.

    I have read a lot of unschooling blogs and articles out of curiosity - but, in my opinion, playing in the beach is not going to teach the physics of Force, Thrust, Acceleration and Motion and watching how a tree's branches grow is not going to teach calulus or geometry. And listening to a concert is not going to teach music skills or to drill them to perfection. (I highly recommend all these activities, but I like to call them "enrichment" and fun). I have seen a lot of people claim that they let their children learn only from their surroundings (by osmosis) as they explore and observe and they call it unschooling.

    It will not work in the teen years or beyond - what a child needs is directed learning (it could be in the areas that they like), strong study skills (which have to be taught in my experience), executive functioning and a method to ensure that they do not have any gaps in their knowledge.
    Unschooling will definitely not work in my family for sure.

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