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    Val Offline
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    Originally Posted by ashley
    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.

    I agree, though I'm not sure it would even work past a much younger age that would vary with each kid.

    Kids do learn by osmosis to a certain degree --- language, for example, isn't expressly taught (though it's presumably also hard-wired by evolution, like walking). HG+ kids can learn more by osmosis than most other kids, but there comes a point when that process breaks down. IMO, one area at high risk for osmosis failure is when the child has to produce something, like a written sentence, a set of written sentences answering questions, or a coherent argument in a short expository paper. And then there is learning how to do something when you don't want to do it. Unschooling, by definition, is child-driven, and it doesn't seem to me that it will teach a child how to do what his boss wants him to do.

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    Wow. I'm so amazed and impressed by all who answered. Such intelligent and thoughtful responses--whatever the position.

    My poking into this idea was inspired by a deep frustration for my ds12. This year he skipped a grade, so navigating socially took a bit of energy. He's very happy with the move and academically it wasn't an issue. What I'm frustrated with was all the busy-work type homework. Clearly one of his teachers believes you throw more work at high-achievers and high ability kids "to slow them down." This teacher gave enough homework for a team of teachers. Some of it I wished I hadn't seen come home such as a word search of World War II terms. Word search. For 7th graders. Bah.
    My point is that by the time ds was finished with his homework, there was no energy or desire to work on his novel, do his chemistry experiments, or whatever else is intriguing him. He was simply a fried egg. I was toying with the idea of using the year between 8th grade and high school for a year of exploration. The issue then is psychological; I'm not sure placing him back in his old grade again would be a good move.
    In the end, after reading many of these comments and thinking about what styles of teaching and learning really suit my child, I've decided against it.

    Last edited by KADmom; 05/27/14 12:55 PM.
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    This would work if you assume that there is minimal value in the accumulated knowledge and cultural artifacts of generations, and that every child is able to rediscover/re-invent calculus, classical physics, the alphabetic system, formal writing conventions, etc. on their own. Possibly if your first name is Leonardo, or your last name is Leibnitz.

    I think child-inspired learning makes more sense, as in, using their interests as starting points that lead into areas of knowledge that they might not have chosen on their own, but for which they have a better sense of the relevance, when connected to their interests and ambitions.

    Besides, if you're homeschooling, getting through a core curriculum in under three hours a day would not be unusual, which leaves plenty of time for child-led exploration anyway.

    I've also noticed, more cynically, that most of the families I know who claim to unschool have weeks that are just as overscheduled as the prep school families. They just spend a lot more time driving around to different specialized classes and tutors, instead of dropping them off at the one-stop private school.


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    KADmom, I don't know if this is an idea that helps or not, but we definitely have started (beginning at about 8-9yo) to develop task-discrimination skills in DD-- that is, any task assigned by someone else (or even a self-selected one, in some instances) has to be triaged for relative importance, because as you're noting, there are only so many hours in each day.

    So a word search? At that grade level? Yeah-right. That ranks a big fat "worthy of Meh-to-good-enough" on the effort scale. This is a fairly novel idea for a perfectionist, I should add; the notion that there are definitely tasks for which "my best" is really not required. Like, at all. She judges the basic integrity and authentic value of each assignment, and treats it accordingly. If it has something to TEACH her, or if it is important to the class grade, or something, well, then fine-- treat it with respect and care. But total garbage intended to act as "filler?" Not-so-much.

    This has freed up a LOT more time around here.

    Initially, we used a 'budget' of daily schoolwork time to force her to prioritize tasks this way, but now she does it on her own.

    It's very sad to me that there are schools that do that kind of "differentiation" but I've seen it as well. The only reason it stopped eating my DD alive was that we gave her explicit instructions to start blowing off the clearly STUPID things.



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    Actually, I did something similar with my #1, for basically the same reason. We chose not to unschool, but to homeschool. I was seeing a child who loved school and learning becoming burnt out in the effort to finish every single piece of paper assigned, no matter how pointless, leaving no time or energy for any of the other things that normally brought joy and inspiration.

    Socially, we heard some wistful remarks in the first year of homeschooling, but net, we saw a different, much happier, and more relaxed, child. And it's not like there were no friends who stayed in touch, or new friends made through the homeschooling community.

    I know others who have gone through a similar process (not always for exactly the same reasons), who often had to allow for some deschooling time, to lose the stress of the b&m school environment. You could always pull him out for deschooling for a few months of eighth grade, and then homeschool for the second half of the year, and re-examine ninth-grade placement near the end of that year. It doesn't have to be either/or.


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    It seems there is a straw man leg of this thread arguing against a radical free-range osmotic thing and by proxy dismissing the whole principle of child-led learning.

    I don't know if there is a realistic unschooling path for average parents or average kids, which isn't quite what the focus of the discussion ought to be here.

    Can a gifted child have an interest in a specific area and be supported by their parents in pursuing information and training and support in that area? Why not multiple areas, why not within a guided scope of a bigger picture of life goals.

    Will a typical teacher be as aware of a highly gifted kid's learning methodology and approach than that child combined with their parent? Experiences here says it's a coin toss or less.

    As to the other side of the skill equation, will an expert in a particular field be inherently more competent at teaching that skill? No, pedagogical skills are different than field expertise. It might be better for someone to support their own learning through various sources than to waste time listening to the back of an instructor mumbling in broken English to a chalkboard.

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    Quote
    My point is that by the time ds was finished with his homework, there was no energy or desire to work on his novel, do his chemistry experiments, or whatever else is intriguing him. He was simply a fried egg. I was toying with the idea of using the year between 8th grade and high school for a year of exploration. The issue then is psychological; I'm not sure placing him back in his old grade again would be a good move.

    KADMom,
    You have just described the Cthulhu-like horror that I feel is hovering out there just outside the light of my imagination. I am truly dreading the time that when DD has so much busywork that she won't have time to engage in meaningful after schooling.

    Thanks for starting this thread because I am mentally stocking up on some of the ideas and suggestions that the various replies have brought up. One of the best things about this site is affirmation that I am not the only one having these concerns.

    And to think that I had naively expected child rearing to simply be a matter of 'just add water and watch it grow'...

    Last edited by madeinuk; 05/28/14 03:18 AM.

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    Originally Posted by Zen Scanner
    It seems there is a straw man leg of this thread arguing against a radical free-range osmotic thing and by proxy dismissing the whole principle of child-led learning.

    I don't know if there is a realistic unschooling path for average parents or average kids, which isn't quite what the focus of the discussion ought to be here.

    Can a gifted child have an interest in a specific area and be supported by their parents in pursuing information and training and support in that area? Why not multiple areas, why not within a guided scope of a bigger picture of life goals.

    Will a typical teacher be as aware of a highly gifted kid's learning methodology and approach than that child combined with their parent? Experiences here says it's a coin toss or less.

    As to the other side of the skill equation, will an expert in a particular field be inherently more competent at teaching that skill? No, pedagogical skills are different than field expertise. It might be better for someone to support their own learning through various sources than to waste time listening to the back of an instructor mumbling in broken English to a chalkboard.

    smile Very well said! I enjoyed reading this

    As was mentioned - the way our family does unschooling makes other unschoolers cringe. It makes school going families cringe too laugh

    haha

    That's okay with me - I like to think we are creating the best of what works for my boys. And right now that is we support them in working on what they choose to work on. I will admit that the bit in me that was so very well schooled is happy that they choose maths, programming, genetics, writing skills etc as fun things to work on.

    I just want to reiterate that unschooling is really about ensuring you find the fit that works for your child in terms of what they would enjoy to persue and will help them be their best.

    AS for how it will translate moving into middle school "levels", I am not too worried. As I said earlier in the thread - unschooled kids can and do choose to attend school for a year here or there, or more focused courses - when it fits with their passions and goals. And then they do any other supportive classes/work that will enable them to meet their goals.

    I like that idea. I hope that the end result will be different to my kids hearing as I did that "you are quite suited to do anything you could want to do." I hope they will just naturally follow their passions so that they can enjoy adulthood in a chosen career that fulfills them and brings them daily joy.

    If that is as an engineer or genetic researcher great. If it's in finding real solutions to third world problems, great. If its in working with animals, people, children or technology - that's great too.

    I hope that I would be secure enough to support them in any direction their lives would take them - as long as they are really happy at the end of the day. (And I am talking about the joy of living, not the "thrill" of temporary happiness found at the end of an illegal pharmaceutical solution)


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    Originally Posted by Val
    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.

    someone has to shovel the horse manure. If all kids ended up wanting to be business managers or degreed professionals we would end up.. oh wait, there is currently a big shortage world wide of artisan skills. The most sought after skills in countries that see the highest numbers of immigrants (Canada, New Zealand, Australia etc) are all desperately seeking tilers, plumbers, bricklayers, construction workers, electricians etc.

    At the heart of unschooling is the premise that each child will be happy in what they have chosen to do with their lives. And if they are not happy, they will have the ability to make the changes necessary to get to where they want to be.

    The idea that everyone has to get a degree kind of devalues the degree surely?

    and again you miss the point - unschooling doesnt mean that the child learns everything on their own, or that the parents teach everything in isolation either. It just means finding the resources to support the child's desired learning and interests. If that's a school or a tutor or a mentor or an online class or a business owner or a workshop or class then that fits the bill.

    To this degree I recon each of us here have at some point and in some way unschooled - our kids largely love learning so by advocating for your child to be in that algebra class that they so desperately want to do then you are doing child-led learning. The difference is that you are not forcing your child to be in that class, they are choosing to do it and so are totally open to and enthusiastic about being there and doing any and all work that is required in that class. smile


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    Originally Posted by Zen Scanner
    It seems there is a straw man leg of this thread arguing against a radical free-range osmotic thing and by proxy dismissing the whole principle of child-led learning.

    I don't know if there is a realistic unschooling path for average parents or average kids, which isn't quite what the focus of the discussion ought to be here.

    Can a gifted child have an interest in a specific area and be supported by their parents in pursuing information and training and support in that area? Why not multiple areas, why not within a guided scope of a bigger picture of life goals.

    Will a typical teacher be as aware of a highly gifted kid's learning methodology and approach than that child combined with their parent? Experiences here says it's a coin toss or less.


    I had a really lengthy response to this-- but let me summarize by stating that I don't think this is a straw man. BUT-- I also think that those saying that radical unschooling is a bad idea are also stating that there is no mechanistic reason why in LIMITED ways, it's not a good thing for most kids, and particularly for HG children.

    We're just saying that as a "plan" it really isn't a good idea beyond those limits, whatever they happen to be for particular children.

    The true believer types of unschoolers (I call them the John Holt fanclub, myself wink ) are all about trusting the process, even when it seems to run counter to all that is known about child development. I think that's irrational-- might even be magical thinking at work, truthfully.

    Quote
    As to the other side of the skill equation, will an expert in a particular field be inherently more competent at teaching that skill? No, pedagogical skills are different than field expertise. It might be better for someone to support their own learning through various sources than to waste time listening to the back of an instructor mumbling in broken English to a chalkboard.
    Okay, but this, too, is a straw man. "Good pedagogical skills" are insufficient to make someone a good teacher, and NEVER is this more apparent than in watching a "good" (but borderline subject incompetent) teacher manage HG+ students. Many "good" teachers have the failing of not knowing when they are crossing that boundary of being out of their league, too.

    Unschooling at its heart proposes that children should develop without "interference" from their parents, and mostly without anyone "imposing" anything at all upon them. That is the philosophy.

    I don't think that necessarily is the same thing as "child-led" learning, though it would obviously fit under that larger umbrella.

    There are real problems with "child-led" learning as a construct. It assumes a level of agency and autodidactism that I think is simply not present even in most PG children. Not as children, anyway. It's an issue of critical thinking skills, which are simply not fully developed enough to make children (and a good many adults, come to that) capable of evaluating the validity or bias of a source of information. One need only look at the myriad foaming condemnation of Common Core to see what I'm talking about there. How to know WHAT to believe-- that is the question. Information is easy. Look, watching Vi Hart do her thing is lovely, but it's not doing me personally as much good as sitting down with a paper and pencil myself. More enjoyable?? Absolutely. If I were ten, I'd be quite comfortable watching and not DOING, and calling that my "math education." Which would be profoundly wrong, by the way.

    The system as it is certainly doesn't do some things very well. It certainly isn't right for some children. But I'm not sure that is the same thing (at all) as saying that the children themselves know better how to meet their needs than the adults who are raising them. That is the underlying philosophy of unschooling, however, which is distinct from "homeschooling" in that way.

    I agree with mindful, parent-led, respectful homeschooling that incorporates a child's innate strengths and interests. Absolutely.

    I also do NOT agree with letting the child determine the full arc of his/her educational experiences, because it deprives such children of the benefit of adult experience and judgment. It's not "controlling" in an unhealthy way for a parent to state that there are boundaries for a child's own well being or safety.

    NOT all children will demonstrate where they need help with basic skills like literacy or numeracy-- and unschooling in it's philosophy says that it is wrong of parents to ASK for such demonstrations, instead saying that one must "trust" the child and the process, that it will all be just fine.

    Any 2e parent can tell you that this is a dangerous way to think about things-- because those weaknesses can be mitigated best when they are identified EARLY on.

    We've wondered repeatedly if our early willingness to trust that DD would (eventually) pick up written expression resulted in deficits, or if it was a MARKER of them.

    That puzzle was created by child-led homeschooling, and if we'd continued to do that, she might still not write or keyboard. In fact, it's what I suspect-- that she'd have used voice-to-text, and nothing else. The "why" is still not clear, and because the basic assumption is that "whatever the child does is fine for him/her" then that precludes concern and evaluation, doesn't it?




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