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    Can anyone explain to me what unschooling is? I've heard the term and understand vaguely what it means. Has anyone here had success with it?

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    Originally Posted by Portia
    Unschooling is a child led interest. You do not use a formal curriculum. As things come up, you address them. As your child's play evolves, you supply a supportive environment.

    I never thought I would like unschooling as it does not fit my personality. But

    Next year, we are incorporating a lot of the different styles we tried last year to make our own. For example, we liked the travel/vacation time more frequently than a typical school year dictates. We also liked having classes - not so much for the structure, but for the social/team building aspects to it. We also liked working at our own pace for some things and then having time to explore. Right now, DS has fit a LOT into his schedule, so I expect we will change it up again around Nov. But to me, he is learning that he is able to voice his needs and interests which are then pursued. He is learning HE has a lot of say in his education. But he is also learning that some things he has to learn whether he really wants to do the work or not.

    As an aside, although we did a lot of interesting things this year, we did not produce a lot of output. Someone asked me for a work sample the other day and I had to think hard because so much was experiences this year. It's not exactly like he could bring in his sand castle from when he was learning about slurries. But to me, that is important stuff.

    Don't discount the power of the digital photograph and a paragraph written about the photo as a work sample. Put some of your favorite photos onto a slideshow on a cd and you have a special keepsake documenting your year.


    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary
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    I'm not sure what unschooling is.

    I do know that I don't want my children to be uneducated.

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    As others indicate, "unschooling" can mean pretty much anything from overt neglect through various forms of benign neglect or child-led topic selection, all the way through eclectic homeschooling.

    Most of my hard-core unschooling friends lean a little too far toward the former for our personal tastes and pedagogical philosophy, but it clearly works for some parents and some children.

    They tend to believe (as a philosophy) that anything that a child has a need to learn, that child will be most receptive and learn that thing/skill fastest when s/he sees a need to do so. That is, motivation is inherently intrinsic, and anything which lacks that intrinsic motivation is not really learning in the first place.

    (I don't say that I completely agree with this as a governing philosophy for educating children, by the way, but it is what my friends who unschool truly believe.)

    That said, I tend to think rather strongly that there are some foundation skills that don't seem all that useful in and of themselves, and which few children are intrinsically motivated to master... but which make higher learning later pretty easy by comparison with those who DID NOT master them.



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    To get a deeper understanding of the child led unschooling, I'd suggest reading The Unschooling Handbook.

    At some age you can work with your kids on functional decomposition of goals, such that they can see that trite skill X is an important underpinning of brass ring objective Y.

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    Thank you, everyone. These are such helpful answers. I was briefly toying with the idea, since ds12 is grade-skipped, using the year after 8th grade as a year to decompress and work on his developing his skills and interests such as coding, working on a novel and digging more into history and chemistry. He hasn't expressed this is what he'd want, though. Part of my desire to offer this comes from the worry that grade-skipped kids are at a disadvantage when it comes to SAT or ACT. Most of it comes from my resentment of the fact that after a ton of busy-work type homework, he's left with virtually no time or energy to pursue his interests other than a tech club after school and a soccer league twice a year.
    I do suspect the lack of structure might be trouble for us.

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    Originally Posted by solaris
    I introduced certain life skills and work attitude and independence early so he has healthy life and learning habits in that regard.

    This is so much what I want for my kid.

    Quote
    A more strong-willed kid might need a different approach.

    Aaaaaaand, that would be us.

    I want to homeschool her at some point, probably middle school. I'm expecting a lo-o-ong process of building up her self-control and decision-making. I hope I will have the patience to start small and help her along.

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    Unschooling at the base level is giving your child the ability to learn the things they are driven to learn. For gifted kids it looks a WHOLE lot different than what it would look like to others.

    Many of our unschooling friends look askance at me when I describe what we do as unschooling. My kids choose maths, chemistry, Shakespeare, genetics etc as their fields of interest. I find ways to help them reach their objectives by finding resources that will assist them.

    I introduce things that I like, as does the husband. Some they will like and some they won't and that's fine.

    I do insist that if they ask to do a specific class/sign up activity that they accept responsibility for fulfilling any commitments that will derive from that. eg, if you choose violin and your teacher asks for daily practice, you need to understand you are committing to that.

    What does our day look like? My boys like lists, so we make up lists of "things I'd like to do today". These include music practice, maths, German, Dreambox, attend Soccer practice, ride my bicycle, play LEGO, e-mail granny, bake a cake... whatever THEY wish to achieve this day, shaped around any activities we have on that day. (to me this is teaching a host of life skills)

    Sometimes they tick them off, sometimes not. Sometimes we do all those thing, more than not we don't. And that's okay too. They are becoming answerable to themselves for their own goal reaching. And that, to me, translates to being independent learners.

    We travel as often as possible, go on outings etc. We use online resources a lot, and we access other people for answers and discussions.

    I see the freedom and potential it brings, and I see how much MORE self control and self discipline is evolving in Aiden the longer we do this.

    I don't want to nag and beg and shout and threaten. He has his goals and he is becoming more and more aware of what he needs to do to achieve these. I believe that unschooling really is the best deal for a headstrong perfectionist who likes to learn in secret and jump around and around between topics, depth of learning and technical advancement of learning too.

    At the end of each day I see my boys happy AND learning AND feeling more self confident in their abilities to chose for themselves.

    So from me it gets a BIG YES!


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    Madoosa,

    Your unschooling sounds amazing. I particularly sat up when you wrote about how it works for your headstrong perfectionist (I have one of those!).

    What are the consequences for not reaching goals? Are they internal only?

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    The headstrong perfectionist line caught my attention, too!

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    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    That said, I tend to think rather strongly that there are some foundation skills that don't seem all that useful in and of themselves, and which few children are intrinsically motivated to master... but which make higher learning later pretty easy by comparison with those who DID NOT master them.

    Could you elaborate on what skills you mean? I *want* to be an unschooler, but I do "push" (as in "require DS to work on") reading, math and Japanese (his father's language). I think that other things like history or art and so on can be more unschooled rather than the basics. But our core group of friends are primarily unschoolers, so I always feel like such a brute.

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    And to answer the question...

    For us, we have a few things that we ask DS5 to do, like practice writing, or read or do some math. Then I try to stay pretty active, as he learns best interacting with others and being out in the world (since he's not really a reader yet). It's exhausting.

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    Is there a term for un-after-schooling? Cos I think that's what we're doing smile

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    I'd make sure that your kid has deadlines at least for some things before he/she starts college classes. I work at a small college and many of the faculty roll their eyes when they hear about a home-schooled kid because there is a good chance that the student will be unable to follow instructions for assignments that are listed in the syllabus and/or turn things in on time. As your child approaches readiness for college, I would advise creating specific assignments with deadlines, including some that your child will learn from but would not have chosen independently.

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    Some may say this book is the ultimate unschooling guide: http://www.amazon.com/The-Teenage-Liberation-Handbook-Education/dp/0962959170, by Grace Llewellyn. Other resources include http://www.freechild.org/unschooling.htm

    Parents choosing an unschooled approach to their child's education may wish to keep accurate records of lessons and activities, extracurriculars and roles (especially active participant and leadership roles). A supporting portfolio may also be helpful.

    When considering application to high schools or colleges, there are books such as http://www.amazon.com/What-Schools-Other-Parents-toKnow/dp/0452289521, and http://www.amazon.com/What-Colleges-Dont-Other-Parents/dp/0452288541 offering advice on essays and "packaging".

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    Originally Posted by lilmisssunshine
    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    That said, I tend to think rather strongly that there are some foundation skills that don't seem all that useful in and of themselves, and which few children are intrinsically motivated to master... but which make higher learning later pretty easy by comparison with those who DID NOT master them.

    Could you elaborate on what skills you mean? I *want* to be an unschooler, but I do "push" (as in "require DS to work on") reading, math and Japanese (his father's language). I think that other things like history or art and so on can be more unschooled rather than the basics. But our core group of friends are primarily unschoolers, so I always feel like such a brute.

    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.



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    I haven't seen any studies on children who were raised with un-schooling and their success in the "real world".

    If someone can point to a study showing that this method is NOT detrimental to future success, I may consider it a legitimate course of study. But my gut reaction is one of, "This is semi-neglectful."

    Would you consider un-schooling your child from K-12? Really?? What if you are not highly educated and able to identify any "gaps"?

    What of social issues, especially in the teen years?

    Where are the testimonials of wholly un-schooled children who have made a success of themselves (able to self-sustain)?

    This is interesting:
    Astra Taylor on the Unschooling Life


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    Val Offline
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    I'm not closed to the idea of uncschooling, but am near to it. I see the value in children learning to take responsibility for their own learning. However, I strongly suspect that children aren't generally up to the task, for the simple reason that a child, no matter how gifted, lacks experience and can't see the big picture(s) that an adult can see. Picking a class? Great. An entire curriculum? I'm not so sure about that.

    Part of the big picture of a good education involves going into depth in areas that the student doesn't necessarily want to learn about (as HK noted about her daughter). Sometimes learning isn't easy, takes a lot of work and sustained focus, and requires the assistance of a knowledgable teacher. Some less-than-glamorous work is essential for important skills that are developed later. Will an unschooled child pick the essential drudgery? I don't know. Some might, but if suspect that the vast majority won't.

    Overall, my concern about uncschooling is that it can become an exercise in meandering, rather than a focused and guided approach to learning. If a child is allowed to pick and choose for too long, bad habits may form because the student has never really learned to do things --- over the long term --- that are "boring," like learning grammar and how to write well.

    Don't think I'm advocating for mediocre brick and mortar or online schools here. Both types of school have significant problems, too. And yes, parents can raise their kids mostly as they see fit. I'm really trying to point out some possible unforeseen outcomes of uncschooling.

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    I can see a lot of merit in it, done right. I'm sure as with anything there are many shades of grey - children in the education system could potentially be more 'neglected' than a motivated unschooler with an enthusiastic parent. I also think formal education is much more competitive in the US as compared with a lot of other countries.

    Originally Posted by Ametrine
    What of social issues, especially in the teen years?

    Where are the testimonials of wholly un-schooled children who have made a success of themselves (able to self-sustain)?


    Here's an unschooler with a PhD in IT who works at Google: http://www.ivillage.com.au/unschooling-sounds-great-except-one-thing/

    I would think the social issues would be the same as home-schooling

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    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    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.
    What did you do?

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    Originally Posted by AvoCado
    Here's an unschooler with a PhD in IT who works at Google: http://www.ivillage.com.au/unschooling-sounds-great-except-one-thing/

    That's nice for him. But what about his brother, who still struggles with reading at age 19, and the other sibs who didn't pick it up until they were 11 to 14?

    Quote
    When I learned that children naturally have a love of learning and they want to find out things for themselves I simply allowed for that,” she told 60 Minutes.

    Where was that love of learning in adolescents who still couldn't read, or in adults who couldn't write and self-admitted that they didn't learn until forced to? Some schools may be bad, but they aren't THAT bad.

    This is what bugs me about movements like this. The parents make an emotional decision with zero real evidence supporting it, and then stick to it in the face of extremely compelling evidence showing that it's not working.

    Then, as noted in the first quote above, the success story is highlighted while ignoring the functional illiterate who "works with horses."

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    For what it's worth, I have heard a number of anecdotes of unschoolers who didn't learn to read until they were 10 or 12, and then became extremely prolific and advanced readers very quickly. Anecdotes are not "real" data, though, and I'm not aware of evidence one way or the other on this.

    That said, I'm not a big fan of it the way it was done by others in my extended family. I don't really want to go into the details here, but I feel like there is some wasted potential.

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    I would say that we naturally un-schooled until our DS began Preschool. Then we un-schooled after the day ended. We did that after Kindergarten let out for the summer, too. I intend to do the same this summer.

    Un-schooling during the summer months is natural and right, imo. My son can explore his interests to the fullest and in so doing, he ends up ahead of the class when the formal school year begins; at least so far.

    But that is his/our experience. I can't say what other children experience in the months when the school isn't "babysitting" them. I'm speaking of children who don't have the "luxury" of a parent at home to be a springboard for their explorations. I really wonder what they learn in those months, if anything, since so many schools spend the first 4-6 (?) weeks going over what they supposedly learned the year before.

    Wouldn't most here say their children "self-un-school" during summer; even if they send them to a daycare facility where they struggle to continue to extend themselves?


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    DD6 is "unschooling" herself in riding her bike like a maniac and making forts in the bushes with her friends.

    I'm going to be non-un-schooling her over the summer. Just a little bit each day, but she will probably burn through most of 2nd grade math. Which she would not, if I left it up to her.

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    Originally Posted by Val
    Originally Posted by AvoCado
    Here's an unschooler with a PhD in IT who works at Google: http://www.ivillage.com.au/unschooling-sounds-great-except-one-thing/

    That's nice for him. But what about his brother, who still struggles with reading at age 19, and the other sibs who didn't pick it up until they were 11 to 14?

    Where was that love of learning in adolescents who still couldn't read, or in adults who couldn't write and self-admitted that they didn't learn until forced to? Some schools may be bad, but they aren't THAT bad.

    This is what bugs me about movements like this. The parents make an emotional decision with zero real evidence supporting it, and then stick to it in the face of extremely compelling evidence showing that it's not working.

    Then, as noted in the first quote above, the success story is highlighted while ignoring the functional illiterate who "works with horses."


    Maybe they all have LD and wouldn't have learned to read until that age anyway, school or no. The "functional illiterate who works with horses" is still working, still able to self-sustain, as the PP put it. Why do they have to learn to your standard of what learning is? (Playing devil's advocate here, for sure!)

    Originally Posted by MegMeg
    DD6 is "unschooling" herself in riding her bike like a maniac and making forts in the bushes with her friends.

    I'm going to be non-un-schooling her over the summer. Just a little bit each day, but she will probably burn through most of 2nd grade math. Which she would not, if I left it up to her.


    Would it be so bad, if she didn't?

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    Originally Posted by MegMeg
    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    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.
    What did you do?

    Honestly? We abandoned child-led schooling. It was not working-- and it was very definitely worsening the gaps in skills that had already made it very very difficult to find appropriate materials with which to educate her. So I guess if we had truly believed in unschooling (at least the extreme form that some of my IRL friends and acquaintances use) we'd have not seen that as a significant problem. But for us, it seemed very important that our DD learn to follow someone ELSE's tune, rather than calling it herself, which seems to come quite naturally to her. So for her, it was an important lesson-- perhaps THE most important one of her young life-- and unschooling/completely child-led inquiry wasn't getting her there.

    It was also closing her out of more appropriate opportunities because of _______ (fill-in-the-missing-skill). So sure, she could participate in a literature activity, but could not write a coherent sentence like other third or fourth graders. Ergo, she wasn't a child who should be included in a setting where that is an expectation.


    Without the writing skills that she was super-reluctant to develop, there's no way that she could have attended college at 12 or 13, though she'd otherwise have needed that kind of instructional setting in OTHER ways.

    Don't know if that makes sense-- what I'm saying is that for HG+ kids in particular, there is a real danger in letting them play exclusively to their own strengths. As Val indicated, it involves them not understanding how to play to their weaknesses when called upon to do so. Their strengths are so impressive that it's easy to shush that little voice that is whispering that maybe they should work on _____ (whatever they are avoiding).

    There doesn't have to be pathology behind why a kid doesn't want to learn to write (or read, or memorize math facts, or, or, or)-- sometimes it just is less pleasant than the other many (endless, really) options at hand.

    If parents insist, a headstrong child may well turn it into a power struggle-- which is what happened when we tried to do that as eclectic/child-led homeschoolers. DD very definitely felt that we were NOT the boss of her, and said so in every way imaginable. blush

    Honestly, I wanted to believe that an intrinsically motivated, high potential child with extraordinary reading ability COULD be homeschooled using exclusively child-led methods. I did. But those gaps and what they indicated for her when she was 4-6y older than she was at the time? Yeah-- I could see the writing on the wall, and I simply couldn't ignore that. My friends who are hard-core believers claim that it would have been fine-- but I've seen some college students for whom that is profoundly untrue. frown




    Last edited by HowlerKarma; 05/25/14 07:12 PM.

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    It seems there is some muddying in terms of what unschooling can be in a similar way that attachment and permissive parenting get confounded. Anarchy vs. mentored would be part of that pivotal point. A parent engaged in their kid's self-motivated learning can nudge and support and contribute and debate process and resources.

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    That's just it, though-- what DO you do with a child who simply refuses to exercise a particularly important mode of learning or expression?

    Is that okay? Well, the hard-core unschoolers that I know would say that it is. I disagree.


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    HK - I'm right there with you about un-schooling certain personality types. What I was really asking was, what did you do to make parent-led homeschooling work in the face of such resistance? Or did you end up out-sourcing?

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    I will say, I was writing my post without seing the next two.

    At least philosophically, I think you have to engage in their long term goals and identify how certain skills map into those. Born curious and wired to be intrinsically motivated doesn't embue wisdom or pedagogical master skills. The more difficult or diffuse the payoff, the bigger the challenge it seems.

    It is an easy conversation to nudge DS into keeping his math well rounded, but it is a long slow conversation to get him to accept typing as a needed bridge to things he wants to do. And a few more hills yet to get acknowledgement to shift into regular practice. But I won't punish, restrict, argue, etc. to get him to practice typing.

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    Originally Posted by AvoCado
    Would it be so bad, if she didn't?
    Yes and no.

    If we don't, there will be negative consequences for her. For example, she is passionately in love with Beast Academy grades 3 and 4, but isn't ready for them because she lacks the basic skills. The sooner I teach her to fly, the sooner she can explore those mountains she's gazing at so longingly. So that's one thing.

    Also, I've mentioned before that teaching self-discipline is going to be a tricky job with this child. Ten or fifteen minutes of math a day is an ideal beginner's task for that, opening up opportunities for conversations about noticing progress, about how it feels to choose to sit down and do it early rather than later, etc. For many kids, self-discipline to accomplish what they want in life is a long learning process, not something they can be dropped in the deep end of.

    But then, also, no. If circumstances prevented us from schooling this summer, I would just thank my lucky stars that she is alive and healthy. So it depends what you mean by "so bad."

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    Don't just stand there. Undo something.

    Can anyone tell I absolutely hate the term "unschooling". It's a completely useless piece of terminology. It just means you're doing something instead of something else. It could mean anything.

    I hope everyone stops using the term, and instead uses more meaningful terminolgy that actually describes an activity.

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    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    That's just it, though-- what DO you do with a child who simply refuses to exercise a particularly important mode of learning or expression?

    Is that okay? Well, the hard-core unschoolers that I know would say that it is. I disagree.

    Yes, that's the problem. I suppose that saying, "NO, I. will. not. learn. about. verbs." is fine for an unschooled eight-year-old, because there are no consequences involved.

    What bothers me is that putting a child in the driver's seat sends a clear message saying, you're different from others, and if it makes you uncomfortable, just do something else. <3 <3 What happens when the child is 18 and can't get through remedial English at the community college, either because it's too hard or he's never had to exercise self-discipline? Worse, what happens if he carries this attitude into a job? I've met people who never had to learn self-discipline. It's not pretty at age 20, and it's Medusa-like in its ugliness at age 50. Not to mention the lost opportunities.

    I have trouble with basing something as critical as a child's education on an idea that "children are natural learners, so we can just let them lead." Absorbing information may indeed come naturally, but this fact doesn't mean, "And therefore kids can acquire a meaningful education with minimal guidance and no expectations."

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    Originally Posted by Val
    I have trouble with basing something as critical as a child's education on an idea that "children are natural learners, so we can just let them lead." Absorbing information may indeed come naturally, but this fact doesn't mean, "And therefore kids can acquire a meaningful education with minimal guidance and no expectations."

    Exactly. This is akin to children's noted ability to select a nutritionally complete diet from a menu of healthy choices offered by the parent. The parent chooses the "what", the child decides "how much" and "when", subject to the parental constraints set. When the child avoids vegetables, the parent makes them 90% of the available offering (or secretes them in other foods!) wink

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    DD has an acquaintance who has some developmental challenges. This young lady is in a regular classroom (though she started school a year late) and works extremely hard for each and every grade. I often comment to DD that I'm impressed with that kind of dedication to learning. But if this young lady were left alone to follow her interests, with an attitude of "you'll learn it when you need to" I expect she may not have a successful future.

    DD on the other hand has never really had to work. If I let her do whatever she was interested in she'd coast forever without learning how to apply herself. It's hard enough finding stuff that actually makes her work and is still developmentally appropriate.

    CAN this methodology work for some kids? Sure. Public school works for some kids too. I however would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to my child's future (making sure they know what they need in order to make their way in the world).

    This is not a zero sum game -- the choices aren't a) destroy my child's love of learning and crush their independent spirit or b) let them completely self education based solely on their own interests (and set their own bedtime too!). There's really a very large grey area here.

    Extremism in education is part of what holds the PG kids back. The attitude that there's one right way (whether that way is common core or unschooling) that works for every child.

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    Another example of unschooling success.

    The reason I believe that unschooling can be so successful for high-ability kids is because I see it every day. We have an unschooling group of kids here who meet up twice a week to "play" together. Some are highly creative, some are highly mathematical. Majority of them have never been in school. They range in age from 3 up to 12.

    I think the thing that attracts me the most to the concept is this: If you have a child who is a budding author. WHY should they learn calculus and trig? Daily maths as they will need it will be learnt through what they do. And if you have a child who is heavily passionate about science, how much knowledge do they need on the parts of speech? Sure I am over simplifying here, but you get the point.

    Gifted kids fill gaps FAST - we all know this. We have all seen that when our kids are intrinsically motivated - self invested in something they learn it accurately and lightning fast. This methodology works to that ability. So when they see their own gap, they will want to and they do then fill it - whatever it takes!

    Unschooling allows kids to truly be anything they dream of. Not what society or their parents see as what they should do. They can be exposed to so much more, understand how they would affect the world, society at large and they can fill their own dreams without anything stopping them.

    If my child is absorbed in reading, I don't want to stop them right then to come do maths. Their head will be back in that book for the entire "lesson" - so I'm wasting my time, his time, and both our energy for something that will most likely need to be repeated at some stage again.

    But if I leave him to finish his book, he will come searching maths and then will immerse fully into that.

    Like HK said - headstrong can (And do) refuse point blank to do anything. You gotta be sneaky like a ninja, it needs to be THEIR choice so they immerse fully.

    This means parents must be inventive, totally focused on how to ensure their kids learn those things that need to be imparted. It's not for the lazy parents I assure you. It takes a lot more dedication from me than after-schooling and homeschooling ever did.

    And I see it working. Aiden is happier, much more willing to immerse into things. And because I am not afraid to let him jump around as he will, he eagerly fills any gaps that come up. I am humbled by his focus and commitment to getting to where he wants to go. He has already chosen formalised school leaving through the Cambridge route. Chances are good he will do this around age 12/13. he will be able to skip most of the spiraled course work and exams because he will be quite used to starting with the bigger picture and filling gaps as he needs to.

    Nathan is only 5 but with his abilities we know that this is how he will best be served. No other educational institution in the country will even consider allowing a 5 year old to work at a 3rd - 4th grade level, and it's harder and harder to find appropriate reading material. So he gets to "play" with what interests him. One could argue that since he technically is still too young for school this is fine for now - I can only see this expanding as he gets older.

    Other terms for unschooling are democratic schooling, child-led learning, free learning.

    It can really look like anything - the core idea is that nothing is forced upon one person by another. That there is autonomy in directing your own life. And that kids who get to practice this will be adept at is by the time they are ready to make their way in the world. So if you child chooses to attend grade 8 for example, they are unschooling. If your child asks for a specific maths curriculum, they are still unschooling. If they need time to dream under the tree and that time extends to 4 days - it's okay too because you know they WILL eventually move on when that need is filled.

    For me, the hardest part was stopping myself from being in the traditionally educated mindset of drills, skills and grade levels. It was much harder for ME to trust my children's curiosity than it was for them to trust themselves.


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    Gifted kids fill gaps FAST - we all know this. We have all seen that when our kids are intrinsically motivated - self invested in something they learn it accurately and lightning fast. This methodology works to that ability. So when they see their own gap, they will want to and they do then fill it - whatever it takes!

    I'm glad that this is so clearly working well for you. Honest.

    But I disagree with the latter statement-- it is directly counter to our experience with our DD. I have to disagree with the idea that completely ignoring some aspects of basic education is a good idea for anyone, too. Sure, not everyone is motivated to learn about economics at the college level, but everyone ought to possess basic competence at understanding personal finance. Whether they want to or not. Every person ought to understand what factors in a national psyche lead to things like genocides, and how their own national political system operates. That's part of basic civics. Everyone ought to be able to construct a professional cover letter by the time they are 16 to 20 years of age.

    We first noted the problem when DD was about five years old-- but it started following an exponential curve, frankly, and by the time she was 6.5, we HAD to do something else-- and honestly, because we had done a child-led model of homeschooling, even switching to more parent-determined modes of eclectic homeschooling couldn't work at that point.

    She knew that she was supposed to be driving the bus, and that I wasn't allowed to ask or tell her what to do. At all.

    So she was completely okay with not picking up a writing implement. Ever.

    Completely okay with using keyboarding ergonomics SO dreadful that they were interfering with her ability to play the piano (via repetitive stress on musculature and joints)...


    At six, I wasn't "wily" enough, I guess, to get her to do things the right way-- or to tackle those challenges at all. She was completely okay with just writing them off as "I'm just not good at that."

    smirk Hint: I'm pretty devious and wily, so honestly-- if I couldn't manage it, nobody else could. I've got DD's number and always have... most people don't have a clue how she has outmaneuvered them, and wind up scratching their heads in puzzled bewilderment while she happily waves and goes around. LOL.

    I guess what I'm saying is that for MY kid, child-led homeschooling created a many-headed hydra, and opened the door to a fixed mindset. SHE chose that mindset-- over our gentle admonitions and objections. But we've all been paying for it for the past decade since. It was a disaster.

    I don't dislike child-led learning, and I do think that it works for some children. I do. But it is a bad, bad idea for some of them, as well. SOME kids really do need to learn that doing what others want is a good idea sometimes, because the world just plain works that way-- there is a tradeoff involved in defying/ignoring authority that way.


    I mostly think that child-led learning is a great thing for young HG children. In regular small doses, also a good thing for older ones. We basically still encourage our DD14 to spend her free time this way. BUT-- only after her "must do" list is complete. She has to meet the obligations before she gets to do as she pleases. There are things to learn from others-- and sometimes you don't KNOW what you don't know until you're learning it.

    Those are important lessons for her.


    When my DD was five or six, though... I'd have had many of the same things to say that Madoosa does. It wasn't until later that it became apparent to us just WHY this was such a bad idea for the long term. Stubborn and autonomous kids can become far, far more oppositional to any outside direction whatsoever using unschooling methods. It escalates.



    This is a good snapshot of different long-term perspectives re: what I'd term "radical unschooling" and regrets therein. It gets particularly interesting when you look at posts made by parents with kids 15+yo.

    Regrets

    While that particular conversation is re: math, in my own experience it can be about nearly any fundamental skill set that such a child decides is their hill to die on with a gently guiding parent. It gets even more tangled with HG+ learners because of their sometimes radical asynchronous developmental arcs. There IS no developmental roadmap to follow in the first place, and frequently the common meshing of developmental milestones that are used as readiness indicators with NT children are completely skewed with our kids.

    Bottom line-- no, not all kids KNOW what they need to learn, and when. That's what they have adults in their lives for. IMO, of course.

    Last edited by HowlerKarma; 05/26/14 10:18 AM.

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    While unschooling is great for some kids, I agree with others that this is mainly a good practice for some young kids. When kids are young, it is tough to see that what works now - be it in academics, sports, music, etc., - may not work when kids are older. I was just looking at a sports forum and a proud father had posted a "skills video" of his daughter. She looked pretty good for a 12 year old, but there were clearly issues with some of her fundamental skills. She can get away with that lack of proper form/skills at this age, but later on it will bite her in the behind. I think it can be much the same with unschooling.

    I also think the possibility of unschooling older kids varies from country to country. I think that unschooling HS age kids in the US is not a good idea - that is, if the kids want to go to college. I did a search on unschooled kids going to college (in the US), and most unschooling parents had joined some sort of group that could provide a transcript for their kid. So, while much of the experience might have been unschooling, to be a qualified applicant for a sort of decent school in the US, I don't think these kids were purely unschooled.

    In countries where HS graduation and college entrance depends upon a national exam (and not much else), the unschooling approach may work. Ace the exam and attend the college of your choice.

    With my eldest, unschooling would have been a disaster. She has her areas of interest and would have avoided everything else. Heck, she tried to do that to some degree even in regular school. Middle kid is more self motivated and quite even in her abilities (across all subjects), so it might have worked when she was younger. Youngest has asked about homeschooling from time to time, but she is fine in school and likes the social aspect.

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    The thing about toddlers choosing themselves a healthy diet, given free choice, relies on them not being given things with added sugar; if they are, they eat those and balance goes out of the window. Pretty sure computer games are the equivalent, for schooling - the idea that it's OK to let your kids be all night gamers instead of getting an education strikes me as, well, irresponsible.


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    Originally Posted by Madoosa
    WHY should they learn calculus and trig? . . . And if you have a child who is heavily passionate about science, how much knowledge do they need on the parts of speech?
    Two answers, plus a corollary.

    1) We need educated citizens. There is no substitute for having broad knowledge of how the world works in many domains, in order to be able to evaluate the issues of the day.

    2) Different fields of knowledge affect each other in surprising ways. You can't really be a well-rounded practitioner of any field without a basic working knowledge of lots of other fields.

    and: 3) Autodidacts can be really annoying.

    Quote
    Admittedly the man who has educated himself is in a better position than the man not educated at all. But his work is sure to bear the mark of his limitation. If one studies the work of the self-educated . . . what one notices at once is the spottiness and therefore awkwardness of their knowledge. One forgives the fault, but the fact remains that it distracts and makes the work less than it might have been. One finds, for instance, naively excited and lengthy discussions of ideas that are commonplace or have long been discredited.
    - John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

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    This point from HowlerKarma's mdc thread sums up my opinion about the problems with unschooling:

    Originally Posted by Tigresse 12/19 at 9:29 am
    But unschooling promotes the notion that if a child is not specifically asking or at least willing to pursue certain subjects/tasks, then it is the *parent* that has the issue, it is the *parent* not trusting/respecting, it is the *parent's* baggage. The parent is too much in the "school" mindset. It's OK to verbalize concerns to the child, but the end decision rests with the child. I did do this.

    This is putting ideology in place of thinking, and it's just, well, abdicating your duty to raise a child who becomes a responsible adult. What's saddest about it is that the child is the one who has to suffer the consequences created by the adults he trusts. I see that this woman had seen her mistakes, and was trying to help others avoid them, which I respect. It's not easy to admit you were wrong. smile

    I can see that semi-unschooling (child gets to choose from a menu written by a parent, for example) might be a good experience for a very young HG+ child who's already way ahead of the curve, and can spend time following a non-traditional path. But I'm very dubious about the idea that children can just naturally figure out what they need to know and will just naturally learn to do things they don't like or are hard for them.

    Besides, if kids are such natural learners who will do what they need to do, why do adults need mentors and bosses and coaches and other leaders? Does our natural ability to figure out what we need and then just go do it disappear when we turn 18?


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    Here's another twist on all this. Another name for unschooling is adulthood. The goal of all parenting is to help the adult-in-training reach the point where they can make responsible informed choices. Even if that means choosing to take a class and learn from someone with more expertise.

    But most children just aren't ready for that kind of responsibility at a young age. It's a terrible burden to place on their under-developed executive functions, and it will set up many kids to fail on their own terms.

    On the other hand, some parents err too far in the other direction and never let their older children experiment with decision-making and falling on their butts occasionally.

    Easing a child towards adult competence is really tricky. And the right formula will be different for every child.

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    That's a pretty good summmation of how I eventually wound up feeling about child-directed learning, MegMeg.

    If the theory were sound as a hypothesis, then children shouldn't NEED parents to do any kind of intervention by force-- ever. Particularly not for things like basic physiological needs. That is clearly untrue. Children WON'T "naturally" gravitate to the proper medical care, nutrition, and sleep. Not many of them. Some of them fight parentally-imposed limits on those activities rather, er-- vigorously-- even. Nor do we expect toddlers to have the life experience to live with the natural consequences of all of their desires, either. So why it is that children should be expected to do so with their formal educational choices is a mystery to me as a parent. I come at this as the parent to a child with a life-altering medical condition that requires daily management. She is lucky in some ways that (unlike Type 1 diabetes) her condition offers pretty much immediate corrective feedback... though unlucky in that errors, even minor ones, can have seriously severe consequences-- potentially fatal ones, even. I know that raising a child with T1D is fraught with struggles to impose skills on children who may truly not be very willing to embrace them-- and their lives and longevity and health decades in the future rest on a clear cause-and-effect pathway that involves compliance. So while education clearly is more multifaceted and complex in terms of if-then outcomes, it's VERY clear that children lack the life-experience and metacognition to make such choices for themselves in the long term.

    I didn't let my daughter mouth found objects as a baby. Nor did I attempt to "reason" with her about this activity. It was not developmentally appropriate for me to do so. I tend to suspect the same thing about much of the faith in child-directed learning. It's lovely when it works out, but I'm not sure that it's even a very good theory.

    As one moves up Maslow's hierarchy, it's not at all clear to me why THOSE things should be more self-evident to children, if the lower level items (rest, clothing, shelter, health) aren't.

    Kids really aren't set up well to understand the consequences of their decisions. It seems mean-spirited of me to not impose my understanding of them at least occasionally, when my judgment is clearly superior to my child's.

    The thing about unschooling as a philosophy is that it denies that particular notion-- that my judgment IS superior to my five year old's, I mean. It truly espouses the notion that her beliefs are just as valid as mine-- about her education. Well, that seems suspect to me.

    KWIM?



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    I'd like to add a note for unschoolers who may feel attacked on this thread. I realize that many of the comments here could be interpreted that way, but they aren't. From what I've read, people are trying to point out potential problems that may not be evident to an enthusiastic unschooling parent. This is certainly the case with what I've written.

    I realize that it's possible to find stories of successfully unschooled kids, but the opposite is also true. I googled "unschooling failures" and got a lot of hits, including some very sad stories. My advice: if you're going to unschool, read what the critics and failed unschoolers have to say so you can make an informed decision.

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    Exactly-- and know when you think your personal point of 'intervention' is, and what your larger, overarching goals actually are. Think about the developmental arc carefully-- and know what "outside resources" look like for you personally.

    Also know that in the case of HG+ kiddos, that picture can get a lot more complex in a hurry. You may be mostly on your own.

    This is why I posted that particular thread from Mothering-- much of the discussion was very thoughtful-- and it came from people who have considerable experience with unschooling.



    This is another very thoughtful and respectful general thread about whether or not this kind of educational philosophy is a good fit-- and what it looks like for parents who consider that fit issue carefully.


    Secular Homeschooling: I have realized something...


    The opening post is SO thoughtful and summarizes the crux of the matter very very well, IMO:

    Quote
    Recently, I've been doing some research about high school because I have to make some decisions in the next year. I have been quizzing as many local families as I can about what their teenagers are doing, what worked, what they used, etc...

    I happen to know a lot of unschooly families, and you know what I figured out? In order to truly embrace unschooling, you have to be 100% okay with virtually ANY outcome. If your kid starts his own business at 17, that's awesome! If they work part-time at a snowboard shop at 19, that's awesome, too! If they do nothing in particular until they're 18 and then decide they want to become engineers, that's cool! If they realize they have have absolutely no math courses done, and now they have to spend two years doing that, well that's no problem. To the committed unschoolers, any path the kids choose to take is just fine because they are on their own journey and they will figure out what they need as they go along and be motivated to learn it then.

    Listening to all the stories has made me realize that I am NOT OKAY with some of these potential outcomes. It is NOT COOL (to me) if you're 16 and can't write a paragraph. It is NOT OKAY (with me) to be starting grade 10 math when you're 17.

    I've always been mainly supportive of unschooling. I can see how it works for many families, and many people would probably describe my style as fairly "unschooly." However, I have suddenly and dramatically realized that I have definite expectations of my kids. In a nutshell, they need to be in a position to enter a post-secondary program at approximately age 18. If they decide not to go because they would rather travel or volunteer or start a business, that's fine by me. No problem. However, there is no way that they will be UNABLE to attend because they have to go back and get basic stuff done.

    Phew. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I suppose I'd better let the kids know what's expected, eh?


    Here is how I see that realization be particularly critical for those of us raising HG+ youngsters-- we're already trying to help sail fairly difficult-to-captain vessels, as it were, due to the peculiar needs, asynchronous quirks, and abilities of our HG+ kids. Their potential, however, means that we have perhaps got more reason than most parents to be wary of being "okay" with some outcomes.

    Is it TRULY okay if a PG child never gets a high school diploma or any college education?

    For some parents, I guess the answer is "sure, if that's what s/he wants," but for me, I'd be worried that I'd inadvertently allowed some doors to be CLOSED to that child as a result of MY choices for the education of that child.

    That would bother me. As soon as I could see that being a real possibility (that gaps were going to widen irretrievably into chasms that my daughter, with her personality, was going to simply cry and walk away from)... I realized that prudence for us was going to dictate using whatever means necessary to get her to tolerate instruction-- and even direction-- from others.

    I don't actually view unschooling as negative, though. Just... not always right for all children, at all ages, or for all families.





    Last edited by HowlerKarma; 05/26/14 01:43 PM.

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    Everyone has made valid points.

    I don't see it as assuming that the child's judgement is superior - rather that in trusting children to explore their limits and interests, we get to help them in the way that works the best for them. And yes, for HG+ kids, sometimes we need to direct that - because we can see what they need when they cannot even verbalise it themselves. As they get older they do well having more and more freedom to flex those self-directing muscles and I think this is what (to me) unschooling is. It's not that I will make my child study everything *I* think is essential for him to know, and it's not that I will allow my child to study everything that some random bunch of people sitting in a office somewhere decide should be in a national curriculum. I believe that he should be allowed to study the things he is curious and passionate about, and that it is my PARENTAL responsibility to teach/guide him in the things that will make him a good citizen (like basic economics, politics, religious view, tolerance, kindness, integrity, honesty, manners etc)

    That's not the responsibility of education at all - that is the responsibility of parents. Regardless of how their children are schooled (or un.. lol )

    I agree that as in all types of educational models there are radicals and to me that always seems suspect, because there is no "system" that is a one size fits all, works exactly the same for every person - simply because we are, well, people. So we are unpredictable, unique, quirky etc.

    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.

    Val - unschooling is not letting kids do it all and figure it all out on their own - it's 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.

    Sir Ken Robinson has some excellent TED talks on why the current education system doesn't work as it ought to. They really were the tipping point for me into realising that there is nothing here in South Africa that will prepare my children for the world they will work and live in in 15 - 20 years' time.

    And that this means I need to teach them how to find answers instead of what all the answers are. (in a nutshell)

    For anyone interested, here are some links to his talks:
    Changing the Education Paradigm:


    Do schools kill creativity? : http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

    How to escape Education's Death Valley: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley

    And my current favourite: bring on the learning revolution, where he makes strong points for natural learning, where kids natural talents can flourish: http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution


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    Originally Posted by NotSoGifted
    With my eldest, unschooling would have been a disaster. She has her areas of interest and would have avoided everything else. Heck, she tried to do that to some degree even in regular school. Middle kid is more self motivated and quite even in her abilities (across all subjects), so it might have worked when she was younger. Youngest has asked about homeschooling from time to time, but she is fine in school and likes the social aspect.
    This is my son and why I never really considered homeschooling/unschooling for my son. Even through the system, my son has missed some area's that are currently causing him problems in high school.

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    Just to bring a lighter note to this topic -- fictional anecdata!

    The Bennett sisters in Pride & Prejudice were unschooled. "Such of us as wished to learn, never wanted means . . . Those who chose to be idle certainly might."

    It succeeded with Jane and Lizzie, failed with Kitty and Lydia, and backfired with Mary (who became an annoying autodidact).

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    Originally Posted by MegMeg
    Just to bring a lighter note to this topic -- fictional anecdata!

    The Bennett sisters in Pride & Prejudice were unschooled. "Such of us as wished to learn, never wanted means . . . Those who chose to be idle certainly might."

    It succeeded with Jane and Lizzie, failed with Kitty and Lydia, and backfired with Mary (who became an annoying autodidact).

    hehe that is cool laugh


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    For the original poster, you may want to read this to see what unschooling looks like: http://www.jennifermcgrail.com/unschooling/

    She sums it up better than I most likely did


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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.

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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.


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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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    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.

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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'...

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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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    This thread has been veru interesting, and I've gone off and read some of the links and everything. We have been kindof unschooling for a few months, and it has been nice, but I have doubts about the whole believing thing HK points to. The John Holt extreme way. We have one kid in the neighborgood being raised that way, with no bedtime or anything "imposed" on her. Truth be told she's a precocious sweet child but... I am certainly not handing the reins over to my kid. The post on mothering about regrets was interesting.

    Anyway, I guess I should call what we do relaxed homeschooling. Because also, I make my kid go to supplementary classes on weekends and stuff. And my husband and I have agreed that math needs to be learned more methodically.

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    Originally Posted by LRS
    We have one kid in the neighborgood being raised that way, with no bedtime or anything "imposed" on her. Truth be told she's a precocious sweet child but... I am certainly not handing the reins over to my kid. The post on mothering about regrets was interesting.

    That's not unschooling, that's permissive parenting.

    That doesn't usually end well, either, for much the same reasons.

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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.
    This comment has totally thrown me for a loop. I cannot fathom what you are referring to here. There's nothing in this thread that fits your description. Could you please explain what you mean.

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    It's been a while but IIRC, what I've read by Holt and others basically point to unschooling being the opposite of typical school i.e. rote learning style activities, top down presentation, children having little say in the matter, lack of opportunities for self discovery etc.

    Well.... that may have been "the opposite" in Holt's day back in the late 1960's to mid 1970's, but really, anyone that still thinks those things probably hasn't been in a classroom lately, because there has been a push for "student-led inquiry" over the past decade that has virtually eliminated top-down instruction. I must say that I think that has mostly been a disaster, since most children are not good autodidacts, but anyway. LOL. Truthfully, the apocolyptic visions of how classrooms are wastelands for learning haven't really been true in the way that Holt and his like-minded peers maintain for, ohhhhh, about thirty years now. Oh, there are problems. Certainly-- we spend lots of time discussing them here. But schools do NOT deserve the demonization delivered by some unschooling proponents, any more than Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall or Monty Python skits adequately represent the British educational experience these days.

    John Holt's philosophy is pretty extreme.

    Examples:

    ... the human animal is a learning animal; we like to learn; we are good at it; we don't need to be shown how or made to do it. What kills the processes are the people interfering with it or trying to regulate it or control it.


    I don’t see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were...


    For more of this kind of gem, please see the interview with Holt himself:

    http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/marlene_bumgarner.html


    If you glance down the article list at Natural Child's Learning Topics, most follow one of three main ideas:

    a) unschooling may not look like it's working, and that's when you need to have more faith in the process, b) learning disabilities don't exist until Schools incorrectly force labels on children, and/or c) schools are The Epitome of Evil.

    I strongly recommend a look at those articles-- they really give one a sense of what the radical unschooling community is about, underneath the positive spin about motivation.


    Holt maintained that ALL children learn best away from adult direction of learning activities, ultimately, and subscribed to the notion that "natural" learning was superior to "artificial" learning in every way. NO skills did Holt regard as "essential" education. That's right-- nothing was important enough to make sure that kids learn it unless they choose to do so themselves.

    I'll also add that I have very little respect for Holt and Hull's work as social scientists-- because it was essentially an extended self-congratulatory exercise in anecdata and ultimately became the basis of Holt's evolution as an ideologue. He did NOT want counterexamples to interfere with his pet theory. A look through the Growing Without Schooling archives (or at Patrick Farenga's reconstituted materials) demonstrates ample devotion to that pet hypothesis, as do the links I posted above. I don't say that it's necessarily incorrect with respect to motivation and learning efficacy (though my personal opinion is that it likely is on a statistical basis)-- merely that it is entirely untested, unsupported by anything but anecdote, and therefore should not be such a broad assumption, but open for debate. IS it detrimental to say to a child "No, I know that you disagree with me, but you should spend some of your time and energy right now learning _______"?

    He was a tireless school reformer, which is probably to his enormous credit. He was also a child-rights activist, and an extreme one, even by the standards of most of the parents on this site. (NO voting age? NO employment age?) That latter quality ties in to Holt's firm belief that no adult has the "right" to interfere with a child's self-selected, self-determined educational arc.


    Illich and Gatto are similarly radical in their philosophy about education and pedagogy, by the way. It's not that they don't all make some excellent points about the WAYS in which schools can be harmful to children... but I disagree with the idea that schooling MUST be harmful to children, simply by virtue of the mechanism of adult guidance and evaluation of the process of learning.

    I say that as someone who began homeschooling fully embracing much of Gatto's work, by the way.



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