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View Full Version : I just have to get this off my chest.



Avalon
04-27-2012, 03:28 PM
This is probably the safest place to do it, and I'm hoping I don't start a firestorm, lol!

Sometimes I just don't GET unschooling!!!! I have many unschooling friends, and most of the time I feel like I genuinely understand them. I even have a lot in common with them. However, everyone once in a while I hear things that make me want to shriek. One friend is worried about her 12yo who won't read. He can read somewhat, but more or less refuses to try. She always thought that he would eventually become interested or find that spark or whatever, and would just naturally begin, but that hasn't happened yet. It is starting to really interfere with his opportunities, because he won't sign up for classes or activities or part-time jobs where he might need to read, or where other kids will realize that he can't.

I have another friend whose teenage son is seriously struggling with writing. She's never forced him to write, but has encouraged him in different ways over the years to try it. Now she's thinking that she's possibly missed a window of opportunity. He's feeling like he's too far behind to actually pick it up, which could obviously affect his opportunities for post-secondary.

These families are truly great. They do so much with their kids, they are involved in the community in so many ways, they run home-based businesses, their kids are super active and engaged, and anyone can clearly see that they're all thriving, mostly. These moms bend over backwards to come up with "natural" ways for their kids to learn, to find the most "fun" curricula or program, to help their kids spontaneously develop a passion for writing or reading.

I just find it so baffling. WHY can't they just decide that something is a priority and then settle down and focus on it? I know, it's about "choice" and "child-led" and never "forcing a child to learn" and so on, but these kids were forced to learn how to do laundry, how to cook a meal, how to look after their siblings, how to clean up their toys, how to speak respectfully. These are considered "life skills" so are essential. WHY can't they be ever-so-gently required to learn the INDESCRIBABLY useful "life skills" of reading and writing? This is pretty much where the whole unschooling philosophy falls apart for me.

The irony is that my "school-at-home" type of friends would definitely put me in the "unschoolers" camp, and my unschooling friends would put me in the "schooly" camp, because my kids are required to do certain things, and I own quite a bit of curriculum, which many of them refuse to purchase.

Okay, vent over. Please don't flame me too much.

baker
04-27-2012, 04:29 PM
I think if you unschool or do school-at-home, you need to teach your kids basic communication skills - that includes reading and writing.
Scary!

laundrycrisis
04-27-2012, 04:51 PM
If you get flamed, I will stand beside you in the fire. I don't get it either. I really tried to get it. I spent about two years trying to go along with it (when DS1 was younger). I read literally stacks of books, joined (and mostly lurked) several groups and forums dedicated to unschooling, and joined in on some IRL activities with those who claim this label. And tried this approach at home. And there were some unschooling ideas I had myself totally convinced of for a while. I am not at all uninformed about it.

After spending enough time around those who wear the badge, I started to see some alarming problems. And the way these problems were viewed by the adults alarmed me even more. It started to appear to me that the adults were entrenched in a philosophy that had become dogma, that was followed "by the letter" even when it clearly wasn't working as an overall situation. I decided to distance myself from it all and follow another course.

Since then, I have met others who take the label but take it much more lightly, and what they are doing is nothing like the dark side I saw before. I realize I made contact with some extremists, and they do not represent all unschoolers. Many who call themselves unschoolers are much more reasonable. But because I personally saw the philosophy taken to truly bizarre and dysfunctional extremes, with some really bad outcomes, I still cringe when I hear it.

I also have a chip on my shoulder toward those who suggest I should unschool or "relax" with my kid who has learning challenges with the basic 3Rs skills. IMO it is an astoundingly bad idea to ease up on basic skills with a kid who is already behind, has to work ten times harder than other kids to learn them, and loses ground by taking even two days off. There is no magic spell that will suddenly descend on him and make all this easier - he has to put in the time and the hard work and I would not be doing him any favors by delaying this. Some kids really do make it to 18 without good basic skills in reading, writing and math. This does happen. I know that my particular kid needs structured work on the basics, 5 days a week minimum. It is hard for me to remain civil when an unschooler speaks to me as if I am making some beginner mistake by requiring structured work. We each know our own kids best. I get that the unschooling "style" works best for some kids. When it is applied as a "style", I can see that it works very well for some kids. But when it's hard-line dogma, and the parent refuses to change course even when it's not working, it's ridiculous.

Stella M
04-27-2012, 06:03 PM
You kinda have to do it to get it, kwim ? I think unschooling is the one style of home education that has the potential to be great or abysmally awful...and I think a lot of the times it works, the student's temperament has a lot to do with it.

I guess ( speaking as a dabbler, and not an expert by any means ), unschooling really is a lifestyle, not just an educational style. I know two families who are doing incredibly well at it. Their students, however, are also very internally motivated and very bright - they also see a family unit modelling learning for pleasure and neccessity.

cupcakes0104
04-27-2012, 06:40 PM
I think unschooling is the one style of home education that has the potential to be great or abysmally awful...and I think a lot of the times it works, the student's temperament has a lot to do with it.

I agree. It has the potential to be great. And, I agree, basic skills can't be overlooked. I don't consider myself to be an unschooler but we are eclectic. We do our book work through the basics at home, preferably in the morning. The kids have plenty of time to explore on their own in the afternoon and we do every field trip under the moon that potentially fits into our schedule. But the basic skills have to be there.

The only thing I would add to what Stella M says is that in addition to the student's temperament, the parent's style also comes into play. I know a family where the Mom is really hung up on "having fun" and, well, math isn't fun for her oldest. Now that he is high school age, she is freaking out because she hasn't made him do it all these years. The longer you wait, the harder it can be to form a habit of working on the basics.

Stella M
04-27-2012, 06:54 PM
I don't disagree with that for myself :) I guess the thing about unschooling is that sometimes you are taking a really long term view.

So a kid not reading much at 12...the thinking would be when he has an internal motivation to read ie he decides he really wants to run a small business and he wants to find out about how best to do it by reading the stories of successful business people, he'll read.

Personally, I think it can be a risk. Some kids will behave that way, some kids won't. It all comes back to knowing your child and the approach the works best for them. Even then, you can be wrong :) I always thought my dd12 needed more and more unschooling, more and more freedom to choose what she wanted to learn...after sending her to school ( well, really she sent herself :) ) it turns out I WAS WRONG...she likes a highly structured environment and clear education instruction and expectations.

I often think that taking the middle path - covering the skills but leaving room for children to explore according to their needs - is a safe bet.

dragonfly
04-27-2012, 07:25 PM
I'm not an unschooler, but I sort of get the idea of it. In some ways, I like the idea, but I know that I couldn't do it because, as Stella said, it's probably more of a lifestyle. The adults have to be willing and able to make pretty much everything a learning experience. I just don't have that level of commitment! :) But I've known of some who do, and it seems to work for them, so...that's great.

However, if I DID unschool, and had a child who was lagging in some area, I don't think my philosophy would be to wait until they were ready, or when they suddenly get inspired to read or write, or whatever. I'd see my role as parent/teacher would be to figure out how to inspire the child(ren) to want to do those things. (Hope this makes sense)

For example, when ds was younger, I wanted him to read more. I tried getting him books that I thought would interest him, with limited success. He would read in class, and did fine, but never really read on his own. Soooo....I told him he could stay up later in bed if he was reading something. Ta-da, suddenly he's reading on his own every day! At first, it was mostly Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes, but he progressed to real books when he finished those. Now, 4-5 years later, his reading has greatly improved, he reads faster and with better comprehension. I know that this is because he had practice every day.

MarkInMD
04-27-2012, 07:39 PM
If a kid is adequately self-motivated, unschooling would probably be a great way for them to pursue passions and make them truly expert in the things they like. If not, then yeah, you're going to miss some opportunities. Personally I don't think full-on unschooling would work around here, although we do some with Hurricane when it comes to science topics.

Stella M
04-27-2012, 07:50 PM
The other thing is, for me anyway, unschooling was such hard work. I couldn't continue with it for that reason. If I only had my eldest, maybe.

I don't regret the time we did spend unschooling though, or the elements of unschooling I've preserved ( I know a purist would dispute being able to preserve 'elements ). I think it can foster a certain broadness of view.

Gabriela
04-27-2012, 08:06 PM
This is just the thread I needed right now that I've been beating myself up about being such a school-at-homer. Hope it goes on.
It's easy for me to fall into being red-or-blue about things and forget that there can be a balanced purple.

I love the idea of unschooling, but I'm not a big risk-taker, and unlike OP, I don't know any unschoolers in person, so it's still a pretty abstract concept to me.

farrarwilliams
04-27-2012, 08:25 PM
Seconding what Stella said... I think it's about that long term view. I've heard some genuine horror stories where kids are basically begging for help and the parents are making them go it alone, which I do not accept as "unschooling" but as a whole other deal. But the stories that you're sharing, Avalon... I mean, yeah, it would concern me if that was my kid. And I think unschooling is a continuum and I personally would be much more comfortable on the end where you might push a little to help a child get over that hump with basic skills. But if they really are as involved, active and otherwise engaged with their kids' educational lives, it will sort itself unless there are serious learning issues that are being masked (and maybe even then). It's all about trust.

dbmamaz
04-27-2012, 08:49 PM
i had some really negative experiences w unschoolers my first year. I've managed to avoid them more recently. Yes, compared to the homeschoolers I see at classes and such, I am pretty unschooly . . . no grades, pick a subject, pick something to do to cover it, which may or may not be curriculum, let them do the level they are comfortable with rather than whatever they SHOULD be doing . .. but there ALWAYS has to be some math and english . . . these are areas which are really hard to just pick up later if you want to have any competence.

I know there are unschooler parents who do a great job of working all topics in to things that work for their kid, but the ones I knew were proud of the fact that they spent their days knitting and watching tv, that their kids learned to cook because the mom wouldnt cook for them, that the kids slept all day so they didnt even see them . . .one of them was afraid of one of her kids. and yet the most judgmental parents I met seemed to be radical unschoolers.

My husband's refrain is that he doesnt care what they do as long as their kids arent eligible for welfare (which is pretty funny coming from a Canadian). One of my radical unschooler friends, her two grown kids are still living at home, where she just started an alpaca farm . . . with the intention of being self-supporting, but her husband had gotten a job and they were STILL living paycheck to paycheck . . . just with pet alpacas now.

Thats why I call myself relaxed eclectic. I really dont want to be confused with what some of these people are doing (or not doing)

Deb417
04-27-2012, 08:50 PM
You kinda have to do it to get it, kwim ? I think unschooling is the one style of home education that has the potential to be great or abysmally awful...and I think a lot of the times it works, the student's temperament has a lot to do with it.

I guess ( speaking as a dabbler, and not an expert by any means ), unschooling really is a lifestyle, not just an educational style. I know two families who are doing incredibly well at it. Their students, however, are also very internally motivated and very bright - they also see a family unit modelling learning for pleasure and neccessity.
This, 100%. I have one child who would probably do fine with it, the other two? FORGET ABOUT IT. And not for nothing, I would unravel. I couldn't possibly stand that lifestyle, I'm far too structured a person, my temperament too uptight.

Now I'm an adult, so I can try to modify my expectations, and I do, believe me. I'm not a school-at-home person either, I want my kids to work at their own pace, and I don't really "force" anything, I try to meet them where they are and gently nudge, but am constantly looking for new approaches if something isn't working--I don't assume it's they who need to change.

But I have seen it work for internally-motivated kids, and I have seen it work with some subjects even in MY kids. My eldest would read all day if I let her, and basically taught herself--late, but she did it, not I. Meanwhile, if I didn't "teach" my middle child phonics, she wouldn't be reading at all, and even now that she *can* do it, she needs encouragement, lots of it, so she gets it. And my eldest needs me to literally SIT ON HER to do anything resembling writing, so I've started doing dictation with her, and we work from that (copy work, spelling, grammar, editing), and it's working OK, but left to her own devices, fugheddaboudit. And thing is, she's thrilled to be telling her stories now. If I'd just walked away and left her alone, we would never have that, SHE would never have that, and if nothing else, it's a marvelous artifact of her childhood thoughts, right?

Anyway, my point I guess is, I feel you. I don't "get" it b/c I'm not designed to "get" it, and neither are my kids. I think the key isn't so much that unschooling is bad or good or whatever, but that all HS parents need to be very mindful of what their kids need, what they need, and how the twain should mesh to meet the developmental and educational goals of the child and the parents (and, if relevant--as it is in my state where testing is mandatory--the state). 12 year-old not reading? I'd be very concerned.

It'sallgood
04-27-2012, 09:00 PM
Seems to me the whole reason for homeschooling is to provide individualized education. If the child is motivated to learn the basics to move onto the fun stuff, great, give them a bit of rope, and keep an eye out to be sure they are getting what they need to know. But if they need a bit of a push, it's up to us to help provide some external motivation until the inner drive kicks in. We can make it fun, yes, but it still needs get done.
I guess the thing is to put the child before the ideology. That's why we do it, no?

farrarwilliams
04-27-2012, 09:37 PM
Seems to me the whole reason for homeschooling is to provide individualized education. If the child is motivated to learn the basics to move onto the fun stuff, great, give them a bit of rope, and keep an eye out to be sure they are getting what they need to know. But if they need a bit of a push, it's up to us to help provide some external motivation until the inner drive kicks in. We can make it fun, yes, but it still needs get done.
I guess the thing is to put the child before the ideology. That's why we do it, no?

See, according to an unschooling outlook, external motivation will ruin the chance of that inner drive EVER kicking in. In that paradigm, you are putting the child first by not pushing them.

I have problems with the ways in which a few unschoolers carry out that philosophy... and I think big problems can come if kids have learning disabilities that need intensive interventions... and that's when the child does have to come before the ideology. But otherwise, I think they are putting the kid first...

Avalon
04-28-2012, 12:22 AM
Seconding what Stella said... I think it's about that long term view. I've heard some genuine horror stories where kids are basically begging for help and the parents are making them go it alone, which I do not accept as "unschooling" but as a whole other deal. But the stories that you're sharing, Avalon... I mean, yeah, it would concern me if that was my kid. And I think unschooling is a continuum and I personally would be much more comfortable on the end where you might push a little to help a child get over that hump with basic skills. But if they really are as involved, active and otherwise engaged with their kids' educational lives, it will sort itself unless there are serious learning issues that are being masked (and maybe even then). It's all about trust.

I'm pretty sure that overall, these kids are going to sort themselves out. The parents care and are willing to help, they're just going about it in the most bizarre fashion, from my point of view. To me, it's a simple matter of: 1. sit down, 2. open a book, 3. read it together, 4. repeat, daily, indefinitely. The kids don't need to be motivated or excited, they just need to sit there and they are bound to learn. (obviously, some kids do need interventions, but I don't think that's the case here.)

I just needed to vent here. Honestly, we have our own little problems, but I am everlastingly thankful that I put in the hours to "force" my kids to write and calculate. (Reading has never been a problem around here.) Looking back, every minute of struggle was worth it. In fact, I'm feeling renewed enthusiasm for daily writing!

Avalon
04-28-2012, 12:39 AM
The other thing is, for me anyway, unschooling was such hard work. I couldn't continue with it for that reason. If I only had my eldest, maybe.


Yes! I see unschooling as a lot of hard work. You really need to be tuned in to your kid and noticing what captures his/her attention in order to then follow up on that interest and nurture it. You want to provide a little more stuff if they like it, and back off if they don't. If they are passionate about a topic, you can do a lot of legwork to get them materials or contacts to feed that fire. I also find that trying to invent "natural" reasons why the kids will just "need" to learn something and therefore be motivated is tricky and time-consuming.

My eldest is a natural born-to-unschool kind of kid. She has all kinds of passions and areas of interest that she vigorously pursues. My son, on the other hand, is strictly interested in Lego, and while I agree that you can do a lot of learning with Lego, it's never going to make a complete education. He also needs more direction than his sister. He needs me to tell him what to do, and he is most cheerful if he wakes up in the morning with a clear to-do list and he knows exactly when his "free time" (aka Lego time) will begin.

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that there is plenty of time in the day for a little bit of structured learning and a lot of freedom to pursue your own interests. I think of covering the basics as providing them with the tools they need to educate themselves.

albeto
04-28-2012, 05:13 PM
unschooling really is a lifestyle, not just an educational style.

I agree with this completely. I don't formally educate my kids in any way. They learn naturally, organically, through play (the link in my siggie offers an idea of how I understand this to work). The way in which a child plays contributes to what they learn, and kids play even into their teens (20's 30's - we all still "play" in our own ways). The idea of incorporating a different "lifestyle" is really embracing a different paradigm, a different philosophy about learning, education, maturity. Some of us take this to a radical (root) extent and incorporate this to all areas of learning, not just academic subjects.

The idea that reading is good for him so the mother makes that choice for him to learn it on her schedule, is the conventional educational ideal, one that is being rejected. The unschooling parent's role is to help the child learn the various skills needed to obtain the child's desired goals. Teaching a child to read is a different skill than sharing with a child the benefits of knowing how to read. They require different approaches.

theWeedyRoad
04-28-2012, 06:27 PM
I love the idea.


But enter my kids...

Without a certain amount of pushing, a few tears, and a lot of me saying, "I know it's hard, but you CAN do it," both would have given up on the things they most despised when we started this journey.. and with the intense hatred each had developed, it's doubtful either would have ever tried again. Dd still wouldn't be reading (and would still be dying inside thinking she couldn't). Ds would choose never to write ever, and wouldn't pick up a book- and therefore wouldn't realize he actually enjoys both just a bit.

Many times my ds said he didn't want to read. Many times my dd was ready to give up. Many times both cried over their frustrations. But imho, I taught them how to prevail even when they thought they couldn't- how to trust themselves, that neither was dumb or flawed. Giving them space wasn't enough, I had to help them meet the challenges head on.


I read a book on unschooling years ago (long before we started) and loved the info. But the blurbs from the parents scared me- No way could I just shrug my shoulders if my 12yo couldnt' read. I know- it's about readiness. But seems to me, sometimes something else might be an issue, and kids deserve the help.

So for my kids... no way. Maybe if they hadn't gone to ps (although I've never seen anywhere that ps'd kids can't be unschooled), maybe if I chilled out, maybe if maybe if.

But for us... I love the idea. I just don't like the practicalities of the method with the little people I'm raising.

Nothing against unschooling- I can see how it can work. Just not for us.. not with these kids, and not with me.

Christy
04-28-2012, 08:20 PM
See, according to an unschooling outlook, external motivation will ruin the chance of that inner drive EVER kicking in. In that paradigm, you are putting the child first by not pushing them.



What drives me most crazy about unschooling philosophy is that assumption that external motivation wrecks everything. I've heard people talk as though forcing my children to practice reading will forever scar them or saying that I like a picture a child has drawn will make him eternally seek outside approval and ruin him forever.... when I was more in the "unschooling scene" I felt the pressure on myself too great.

I mean, I know that external motivation should not be a person's driving force, but at the same time some external motivation can help a child acquire certain skills (like reading, or piano playing) that are more fun once you have the hang of it than in those early stages.

I definately think there are children who will learn no matter what their parents do and who will excell in an unschooling setting. But I don't think every child is like that and I don't believe some sort of magic-unschooling-fairy makes everything work out if the parent is only careful enough to not accidently slip up and ruin the child's self-motivation and love of learning forever.

Christy
04-28-2012, 08:28 PM
Many times my ds said he didn't want to read. Many times my dd was ready to give up. Many times both cried over their frustrations. But imho, I taught them how to prevail even when they thought they couldn't- how to trust themselves, that neither was dumb or flawed. Giving them space wasn't enough, I had to help them meet the challenges head on.

Yes! I love that! Sometimes a little pressure can help a child. Sometimes the message of "yes, this is hard but you can and will do this" (and then effective assistence) is more empowering than "I guess despite everyone else your age knowing how to do this, if it doesn't come easily too you, it's just 'not your time' to learn it."

There's a point where something is way out of a child's reach, and there's no use in pushing, but there's another point where it is almost within reach but still scary and hard.... I think a skilled parent learns to find that point and know when to push and when not too, and that it is more important to be able to find that place and help the child than to try to uphold an ideology that says the best thing a parent can do is stay out of the way.

(And I know that not all unschoolers think that the main thing is to stay out of the child's way. Many unschooling parents devote lots of time and energy to helping their children learn. But some do talk as though the biggest thing was just to stay out of the way.)

farrarwilliams
04-28-2012, 11:56 PM
I mean, I know that external motivation should not be a person's driving force, but at the same time some external motivation can help a child acquire certain skills (like reading, or piano playing) that are more fun once you have the hang of it than in those early stages.

Oh, I agree. I think external motivation is part of life so I don't have a problem with it on any fundamental level - which is why I'm not an unschooler, I suppose. I do have a problem with the ways in which school (and occasionally parents) unnaturally tries to build it into everything, sometimes to seemingly purposefully strip away intrinsic motivation. But I'm an all things in moderation kinda person.

Susan
04-29-2012, 03:01 AM
All I can say is that I have a 24 year old who says, "Mom, you shouldn't have let me quit dance lessons when I was six just because I said I didn't want to do it anymore." He says he was just a kid and I should have said that I know what's best for him because I'm the grownup. But I didn't want to push him.

There are some things that kids NEED. Like clean teeth and clean ears. And to know how to read. All the intrinsic motivation in the world doesn't change that. It's like letting a two year old play in the street until 1:00 in the morning, and saying, "she'll come in and go to bed when she's tired."

As some of my new homeschooling parent friends like to say, "Unschooling is not unparenting."

My philosophy today, which may change tomorrow is, "Yes, we are unschoolers, except when it comes to the core subjects." There has to be a balance between child led-learning, recognizing what the child's unique strengths are, and at the same time knowing that sometimes a person needs to have the discipline to knuckle down and focus on their less-than-favorite things. I know that happens to me at tax season.

I guess I worry that a too-radical unschooling approach would teach my son that he never has to do anything that doesn't particularly interest him, and that's just not life. Of course I have no idea what I'm talking about - I'm still a newbie.

Stella M
04-29-2012, 03:12 AM
I don't think it does teach kids that - idk - it does work...for example, I never made my ds clean his teeth. I explained to him why it's a good idea and stuff, and showed him etc...and yeah, he didn't clean his teeth much for a while but then he got into it. Unschooling can sound a bit fruitcakey when you describe it; it's one of those things you probably learn about best by doing.

ljswriter
04-29-2012, 03:36 AM
I just mentioned this issue on another board. We unschooled my DD from age 3 to almost 7, and we absolutely loved it. When she was turning 7, we joined a charter in hopes of offering her additional opportunities. They claimed to support unschooling. Not strictly true, since I had to slap a grade level on her, teach standards and require reading/writing/math.

In any case, one problem I noticed with unschooling was that she rarely spontaneously selected (or agreed to my suggestions of) activities involving the 3R's. As the unschool philosophy of "trust the process" suggests, many unschooled children will learn these just fine sooner or later. So it's no big deal, right? Trouble is, I never clued into WHY she balked at these. It wasn't until the charter that I saw the real issue--she's a strongly suspected dys-lexic/calculic/graphic. What are the chances a child such as this will happily dive into 3R's, whether at age 5 or 15? Not likely. Who wants to struggle that hard?

Had I kept unschooling, who knows how long I'd have "trusted the process" before realizing she wasn't going to outgrow her dislike of these subjects. I'm wondering whether this is what has happened to Avalon's friends. Early intervention is strongly recommended for these LD's, and I already feel it took me too long to figure it out. Sure, older kids can still be helped, but it may well be a much harder, more frustrating road.

Don't get me wrong--I'm all for unschooling. But trusting the process won't necessarily help a child jump barriers that require intensive intervention, and I'm not convinced that waiting until they get around to asking for help is the optimal approach I could do as a parent. I haven't seen any studies on unschooled kids with LD's, so maybe my experience is different. But I'm glad we wound up with the charter program. Very glad indeed.

Munchie33
04-29-2012, 05:36 AM
I know a lot of PS kids who, if they were taken out of school right now and given the option of unschooling, would take it and sit and play computer games all day. Some kids just lack the motivation. Sometimes you need to give them a push so they can see how enjoyable something can be and find their own motivation. They aren't always going to find it on their own. They're only children, for goodness' sake. They need a bit of help here and there.

Plus basic life skills need to be learnt before the kid is able to follow his motivations in a lot of cases. That's why we're the parents, and not them. They don't always know what's good for themselves in terms of behaviour, health, or education. It's our job to help them find the right way. Child-led is a wonderful idea, but it needs to be tempered with common sense. You need to make sure you've covered the basics or you're not doing them any favours. By teaching reading, say, then you open up a whole host of other things they can find motivation in. But if they don't learn to read and you don't help them, then you are robbing them of these things, in effect.

An important life skill is being able to do something you don't want to. If a kid hates maths, that's all fine and well, but there will be times in life where it just has to be done. There are some things that kids will never learn to like, and that's perfectly normal. But having them only do things they want to is unrealistic. There needs to be a little extra in there to even out the education and make it more workable for the future. There are things in life everyday that we just have to grin and bear.

Unschooling is a great idea, but if it's taken to the extreme there are obvious flaws, especially with some kids. There needs to be a bit of common sense involved. There needs to be a parent who is willing to ensure that they learn to read or write, even if they don't like it, because it will open up more for them in the future. Because the child isn't the education expert and doesn't realise this a lot of the time, even if told. And because it gives an unrealistic view of life, which is what education is supposed to set them up for.

Stella M
04-29-2012, 08:06 AM
Even though I don't unschool I feel so protective of it! Radical unschooling maybe not. But plain unschooling - natural learning -yes. The LD's point is good. For kids without LD's...I think there's an element of respecting the fact that most kids aren't stupid...they are going to see the advantages of learning to read at some stage...I don't really see how it gives kids an unrealistic view of life...jmfo.

Pefa
04-29-2012, 09:42 AM
I don't have much to add to this, we have been more or less unschooling for a year or two now - more from life circumstances than philosophical reasons. I think BOO's becoming aware of gaps (I keep thinking didn't we cover that? then realizing yes, but BOO tuned out while B1 trotted out chapter and verse to support his argument show his understanding of some aspect of civics or history). We're doing some stuff to address them, but I'm not going to stress it.

In my book, any system that puts system before problem is problematic. To an extent we are all unschoolers - FD makes it clear that she has no interest in history and beyond a very basic timeline no knowledge either. On the other hand, medical stuff? She's all over that. Beyond a basic wow this is cool, I'm not interested in astronomy (not something I'll admit publicly to my my astronomer brother or father outlaw - I like outlaw better than ex-inlaw) We learn and retain what we're interested in. But part of life is learning strategies to persevere, to tackle tasks we'd rather not, and to get through the boring parts of life to get to the good stuff.

If I had to make a generalization about where unschoolers go off the rails, it's that they read Summerhill or something like that and think that there's no formal education at all when really there are classes offered and it's just that kids don't have to go. But the whole milieu is one that encourages learning - formal and informal - which engages kids who don't have as much internal motivation.

Susan
04-29-2012, 12:28 PM
Esp. what Munchie13 says resonates, but I really love all of this thread. My son was public schooled until the middle of sixth grade, and so that colors my opinion. Hate to trash public school but it seemed to nearly snuff out much of his intrinsic motivation. He has some intrinsic motivation left and I'm trying to nurture that. At the same time I've been working on showing him why these core subjects matter, even if they don't seem to on the surface. Like spelling. He always had struggled with spelling in school. He didn't seem to understand why spelling mattered. So I started talking about how hard it would be to read our favorite books if every author spelled all the words differently. He does understand how rules protect people, and he had no idea until recently that there were spelling rules. He likes the idea. So I'm looking at how does this child tick, and since he tends to like rules when they improve thngs, I'm going to use that. And he wants to "be smart." He's always wanted that.

I read on a yahoo list about a twenty-something young person who was unschooled and hadn't learned any math. Now she was afraid to apply for a job because she couldn't do basic math. Then I read somewhere else (I think this was on some curriculum description.) that it's possible to learn all of k-12 math with 20 hours of instruction. I don't know if that's true but I bet if a person really applied himself he could get through basic math facts in a matter of months. So I guess that if a child only learns how to learn, it's possible for someone to wait until they really want or need to know something before they address it, even if they are 20 years of age or older. But it sounds like a grand experiment to me and not something I'm willing to take too far with my son.

The woman who taught the new homeschooler's workshop in my local community is a unschooler. She says that her job is to open doors. Her oldest is set to go to college. If I remember correctly she encouraged him to set goals for himself. So he needs to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and then figure out what he needs to go to the college he wants to go to. So that would mean he didn't learn the core subjects because his mother made him but because he wanted specific results. If I had started with my son younger, I might be able to take the unschooling approach the way this mom described it.

We still haven't made a final decision about what type of homeschoolers we are, but I think what may work for us is eclectic with an eye on the core standards. This way he is prepared if our circumstances change and he does have to go back to public school one day.

I do like the idea of a balance. We don't have to foist our own agendas on our children and give them absolutely no autonomy. We certainly don't have to spank them for not doing their math homework, like I heard some homeschoolers do. But I also think that we can nurture child's intrinsic motivation and their developing sense of self, and still have a huge guiding positive influence on them.

albeto
04-30-2012, 12:11 AM
The idea about "trusting the process" is one really has to be familiar with what "the process" is. It's not a matter of letting the child have 12 years of Saturday. If you think about it, Saturdays and Sundays are for "de-stressing" from the week of requirements and demands. Unschooling is a way to get these educational skills in an organic manner, It's not about leaving these skills up for an immature child to choose to accept or reject. The way to do that is complex. It takes effort, and knowledge, and patience, and skill. I think parents can learn this skill, just like kids can learn skills, but we are products of our environment and the pressure to perform (produce educated kids) can be hard to incorporate into this kind of philosophy. It's why it takes a whole paradigm reboot.

Now I'm just babbling. Long day. Long week.

dbmamaz
04-30-2012, 09:59 AM
I do think part of the issue is that, while unschooling does not equal unparenting, there are people unparenting and CALLING it unschooling. i also really, really dont think its for everyone. and of course, if it was the only option, my kids would be in school.

TeachingStars
05-01-2012, 08:14 AM
I do think part of the issue is that, while unschooling does not equal unparenting, there are people unparenting and CALLING it unschooling. i also really, really dont think its for everyone. and of course, if it was the only option, my kids would be in school.

Agreed. At a local unschooler park day I had one mom sneer condescendingly when, after playing for awhile my dd5 asked if she could grab her book out of the car and read and she proceeded to sit on a park bench and read her Magic Tree House book. This snarky mom decided to start a conversation at a table near us about how horrible those "homeschoolers" are who rob children of their childhood's by teaching them to read at such a young age when they should really be "children" instead.

I was so aggravated - and darn my non-confrontational nature, I never stood up for myself or chimed in. But I wonder... would it have been more appropriate it my dd5 asked for a Nintendo DSS to play. Would that have been okay? If anything I have noticed my dd's creativity and imagination soaring more now that she reads. She takes what she learns and incorporates it into how she plays.

I don't know- this group was also the same one who during a picnic admit they allow their children to dictate what they want to eat and when.

I guess, as with anything, there are the moderates and the extremes. Same with homeschoolers. There are those that add undue stress and enforce ridiculously high expectations.

I suppose the thing to keep in mind is that for people who claim the label, "radical" means just that. And there is a reason why it isn't mainstream.

Susan
05-01-2012, 11:54 AM
Agreed. At a local unschooler park day I had one mom sneer condescendingly when, after playing for awhile my dd5 asked if she could grab her book out of the car and read and she proceeded to sit on a park bench and read her Magic Tree House book. This snarky mom decided to start a conversation at a table near us about how horrible those "homeschoolers" are who rob children of their childhood's by teaching them to read at such a young age when they should really be "children" instead.



That awful person was just nursing her self doubt. Apparently some parents don't understand that the point of playing is learning, growth and development. Ask any pediatric occupational or physical therapist. When you are a child, anything you do can be fun if you do it right. A child who can read just has one more tool at her disposal with which to explore. I've always LOVED to read. And I love puzzles like Sudoku. Since HSing my son, I'm finding that I LOVE doing math worksheets right beside him. I tell him it's like puzzles! I can never figure out why only playing video games, or jumping rope or jacks is fun, but learning isn't supposed to be. When we play we are learning or refining some type of skill. For kids this is their "work."

albeto
05-01-2012, 12:35 PM
I suppose the thing to keep in mind is that for people who claim the label, "radical" means just that. And there is a reason why it isn't mainstream.

Radical simply refers to getting to the root of the thing. Unschooling is an ideology that suggests formal academic skills can be learned in a natural, informal way. Radical unschooling extends this to all skills, including social and life skills. Just like some adults are unfavorable "representatives" of parents, some adults are unfavorable "representatives" of radical unschoolers. I think it's an easy group to stereotype because the unattractive people really do stick out, it's an unknown group, and we don't know many people to soften the stereotype. Interestingly, we don't tend to label any other group by the few that rub us the wrong way with the ease with which we label unschoolers. For example, I've never heard anyone suggest a public school parent "unparents" their child, regardless of how very little support the child might receive from the parent.

For as undiplomatic as that woman was with regard to talking about reading at a young age, she's got a point. Robbing children of their childhood is a lamentable thing. Please understand I'm not trying to imply you did, I'd suspect very much that's not at all the case. Personally, I have three children, two I couldn't hold back from reading (although the learned in school, I suspect they would have picked it up at about that age anyway), and one who can't be bothered unless it's the English subtitles on a Japanese anime. Reading doesn't necessarily rob a child of anything if the child desires to gain this skill (and lots of young children do - it would be a shame to restrict that, imo). But her unfortunate "lecture" shouldn't be the image of unschooling because it's much more than that.

theWeedyRoad
05-01-2012, 12:42 PM
For example, I've never heard anyone suggest a public school parent "unparents" their child, regardless of how very little support the child might receive from the parent.



Parents of ps kids get plenty of flack from schools- even if they are doing a great job.

And my mother constantly tells me how 'laid back' dh and I are... even though honestly, it isn't true at all. We just aren't yellers, and I see no need to harshly correct a child when that kid has no idea what he's done wrong. Our rules are few, maybe, but we are strict imho. It's all just weird.

On a side note, Albeto- in your other post you commented that you were rambling. Just wanted to note how much I was enjoying your voice in this discussion, and I didn't find your post rambly at all.

Susan
05-01-2012, 01:57 PM
For as undiplomatic as that woman was with regard to talking about reading at a young age, she's got a point. Robbing children of their childhood is a lamentable thing.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit for a while now. I've had the experience of looking a 17 year old in the eye and realizing that an age had passed. Does anybody want to talk about this? What IS an optimal childhood? How does early learning contribute to childhood? Our kids only get one childhood. Does anyone want to share their opinion on this? What would you want to do to help your child have the best childhood possible? Anyone want to wander over to "In Other Words" to pursue the thought?

If unkind parents want to accuse HSers of robbing their kids of their childhood, perhaps we could explore exactly what that means.

Amanadoo
05-01-2012, 02:09 PM
Well in that case, it was HSer on HSer judginess. Which stings just a tinge more than the other kind.

I have given a lot of thought to this "childhood" business in the past and I landed on exactly the thing that is less work for me. It goes like this: Whhhoooooooooooo caaaresss?

The kids just stick close. They can't help but have childhoods, because they are children. And in addition to being children, I don't pack them off to work in a mill or something. And I haven't put them in any situations where they'd have to grapple with adult issues that are far beyond their maturity level.

Raping a little girl is stealing her childhood. Kidnapping kids and making them kill people is stealing their childhood. Keeping them inside glued to the tube all day for years on end, on purpose, is stealing their childhood. Sending them up river to sew soccer balls robs them of their childhood.

Sitting on a bench reading a super fun story on a nice day definitively does NOT rob anyone of their childhood. Kids with chores...even relatively difficult tasks like farm chores does not rob them of their childhood.

I think it's repugnant that that woman made those remarks about a little girl reading a book.

Stella M
05-01-2012, 05:40 PM
RU needs better PR. Mom judging mom doesn't do the philosophy any favours.

lakshmi
05-01-2012, 07:37 PM
Susan, I am not seeing much to discuss about optimal childhood.

It is basically being alive, learning stuff and feeling good emotionally, physically and mentally.

And even then, some people say that having a disease, like cancer, robs children of their childhood. But to me being a child is having a childhood. Some are better than others. But as for optimum. Not possible to have an optimal childhood because as a parent we can never choose what is best for our children. Only they can, and often only after looking back.

What my mother might have thought was optimum might be something that I detested.

AmyButler
05-01-2012, 09:20 PM
Interestingly, we don't tend to label any other group by the few that rub us the wrong way with the ease with which we label unschoolers.

Yeah, we do. Just let a parent mention their child is gifted, or even worse, mention the problems with parenting a gifted child. The ridicule abounds and the assumption is that they are lying, and the assumption is made very clear.

I think unschooling is a very interesting concept, but I think the child would have to have the right personality (and so would the parent) to make it work. I don't think I would survive it.

lakshmi
05-01-2012, 09:52 PM
And the point goes to Albeto.

Point proven!

albeto
05-01-2012, 10:12 PM
And the point goes to Albeto.

Point proven!

What point? I hope it was a good point!

A couple days ago my 12 yo ds and I were biking to the store when he asked me about some warning in the car in English and French (he's decided that by pronouncing the French word with a stereotypical American accent is most fun). I said very simply, "Canada." He said, "Spanish maybe, but why French?" I realized he never learned American history so I asked him how much history of the Americas does he know. His answer?

"Five?"

"Five?!?"

By now we were both laughing really hard and he asks,

"Is the right answer '42'?"

lakshmi
05-01-2012, 10:36 PM
Sounds like your 12 yo was reading Hitchhikers Guide!!!

42 is always the right answer.

And yes it was a good point.

modmom
06-11-2012, 11:00 AM
What point? I hope it was a good point!

A couple days ago my 12 yo ds and I were biking to the store when he asked me about some warning in the car in English and French (he's decided that by pronouncing the French word with a stereotypical American accent is most fun). I said very simply, "Canada." He said, "Spanish maybe, but why French?" I realized he never learned American history so I asked him how much history of the Americas does he know. His answer?

"Five?"

"Five?!?"

By now we were both laughing really hard and he asks,

"Is the right answer '42'?"


HAHAHAHAHAHA! That is hilarious. :)

crunchynerd
07-12-2012, 09:28 AM
You sound somewhat like us... we're unschoolers to school-at-homers or curriculum buyers, yet to radical unschoolers, we're definitely not unschoolers, because our kids ARE required to do chores, pick up after themselves, and so on. And I am teaching my daughter cursive, and I do initiate math. Never telling a child they have to do something, or that they aren't allowed to do something, and never training them in anything, isn't our goal as a family. So we're either eclectic homeschoolers, or non-radical unschoolers, depending on whom you ask. It makes me want to just opt out of those terms entirely in favor of something that hasn't become a hot-button descriptor, or else just avoid saying "We're ____ers" and just say "no, my kids don't go to school" and let the cards fall where they may.

It's so fun and comforting to belong to a group or category, and those of us who grew up schooled, have it as almost a knee-jerk need, to cluster together as entering freshmen to homeschooling, and find out which clique or category we shall find safety in. Kind of funny, when I think about it. We all want to find our tribe, but it may not always be a reachable goal, at least for the IRL playing field.

crunchynerd
07-12-2012, 09:51 AM
Good points, dbmamaz! Me neither! And I have to agree with some of your experiences, as matching some of mine. Homeschooler makes some people assume we're religious or school-at-homers. Uschooler has the issue with being assumed to be Radical (as in, no rules, no parental guidance of any kind). What else is there? Nonschooler? Outschooler? Life Learner? Autodidact? I've heard those, but not sure what they connote, and worse yet, most people who aren't part of it, have never heard of it so then lengthy explanations tend to follow. Home Educators might do it.

It's a hairy issue. On the one hand, I see the terms as somewhat irrelevant, but on the other, labels are useful because you don't want to necessarily have to engage in a longwinded explanation each time the subject comes up.

crunchynerd
07-12-2012, 09:57 AM
Seems to me the whole reason for homeschooling is to provide individualized education. If the child is motivated to learn the basics to move onto the fun stuff, great, give them a bit of rope, and keep an eye out to be sure they are getting what they need to know. But if they need a bit of a push, it's up to us to help provide some external motivation until the inner drive kicks in. We can make it fun, yes, but it still needs get done.
I guess the thing is to put the child before the ideology. That's why we do it, no?

Like! Absolutely. And I think you hit on something important. Ideology. Parenting seems built to get us to realize that our plans, notions, and ideologies, need to flex and grow, with, around, and about, our kids.

crunchynerd
07-12-2012, 10:07 AM
That was beautiful! And helpful! My DD has letter/number reversal issues, so we're seeing what we can do to help, including cursive and slant-writing.

peacesmom
09-03-2012, 12:01 AM
Sorry that I am responding to this so late in the game but I have always been confused about Unschooling in that how can a parent Unschool and still pass the sniff test for the state? From what I have learned about Unschooling it is child led and there are no grades and sometimes no documentation. If it is child led and the five basics (or so) aren't being taught for each grade how are they allowed to continue to educate at home? I live in MD and my monitor gives me a very wide berth but checks to make sure that the curriculum that I choose is appropriate for my child's learning and offers suggestions. I do know that for some states there is still no reporting or little reporting but I am sure there are Unschoolers in other places than those states.

dbmamaz
09-03-2012, 12:33 PM
I knew unschoolers in my state who would order standardized tests and do them together with their kids, helping them figure out the answers, using it as instruction instead of as a test. and then they would post freely about it on the web. :confused:

Journey of Life mama
09-03-2012, 02:17 PM
When asked, we just say, "We don't GO to school. We are free-learners, anywhere we go, we are curious and learn something." That SOMETHING can spawn many different curiosities and create so many different paths to explore. AND sometimes, that something is just that--a moment that we live and enjoy or not. There are many things available around the house for the kids, there are also things that they know they will need--reading, writing, math etc... if they want to learn other things. My 4 year old is starting to figure out reading--not only on his own, but with us reading to him, playing games with letters and sounds, computer games, simple words he sees around the house etc.. My 12 year old IS a musician and a writer--it is her passion and she gets it beyond belief--she read at an early age and now that she is learning and understanding more and more that she is in control and has a voice in her education, she is taking off. It is a lifestyle that for us, we had to try and adapt constantly. I feel we are parenting better and raising more self-sufficient kids who love to learn and still have the curiosity and desire to grow. We haven't always not gone to school--but for more than half her "schooling" at this point. Daughter attended Montessori school and I am certified Montessori--and to me, it is free learning and following the child. It works for us but it is always changing and adapting to what we need at the moment. I think some people get unschooling mixed up with just let them do whatever they want--I think that it is much more than that and I think that the parent does play a very important role. You have to encourage, be motivated and have the drive yourself. Sometimes you have to be in the moment too and stop to be with them...yet others are moments where they may need to wait or explore on their own. I think that it is hard for home learners to label themselves--because it is SO different for every family. To label ourselves as this or that puts us right back into the box that school is--it is limiting. That very limiting effect is what drives many people to choose something beyond a traditional school education. In the end most parents want what they feel is best for their children. It is so hard to not judge what others do and compare--I think that is part of our nature, but more so, I think ps drills that comparison and what is right/best for everyone as a whole and not as individuals. We can come together as a group and a whole, but not so much if we can not bring our individual talents and experiences with us. Everyone's journey is different and we seem to focus on that much more than anything else. Focusing on the difference just divides us more. Where we live is pretty non-secular, so I have a very hard time trying to find anything but differences with other families....I tend to just try and put that energy toward having scientifically literate, and self sufficient kids of my own. I know unschoolers whose lives and educational experiences are very different from ours and their way would definitely not work for us--just as our way wouldn't work for them--but I can still learn something from them and so can my kids--hopefully!
Sorry for the rant and if none of it made any sense!

peacesmom
09-03-2012, 08:08 PM
Journey thanks for the explanation! Do you have to report in your state and if you do how do you explain what you do?

Journey of Life mama
09-04-2012, 07:28 AM
We are required to test our kids, but other than that, no, we do not have to report. However, we keep a daily record of everything that we do and keep a portfolio as well. To me, and what I teach my oldest, is that this is a way of organizing and keeping track of areas of study. It is fun to go back and look at what she has done throughout the years. We have both tried to blog about it, but that hasn't really happened yet! There are times when we have used curriculum because that is what she asked for and that is what best fit the need at the moment, but we never followed it "by the book" iykwim. We shape, mold and form things to fit the need at the time. I do look at what our state requires and make a note of the things we have covered. Our journey in learning outside "school" has been changing and re-shaping since the day it began! In the beginning, we tried the "school at home" with a school room and all and it felt awkward and un-natural to us so, we changed and have been finding our path as the years pass. I feel like finally, we have worked a lot of the kinks out and are flowing more smoothly--still changing because that is life! I think a big part of it for us, is that she has been down many roads--Montessori, a few years in an "ok" public school, and all of the paths we have taken and she can see the differences and take what worked for her and make it better. Maybe that is why we can't really throw a label on it!

blasphemoushomemaker
09-15-2012, 04:38 AM
I know mostly unschoolers and not a single one of them would say that means that they are hands off or un-involved. Unschooling doesn't mean No Schooling.

My 6 year old hasn't been interested in learning to read. I could push it because I think it's good for him to do something he doesn't want to do. Or I can turn it into something he wants to do. Instead of The Fat Cat I wrote him a short book called Batman's Cat. Took me 20 minutes and both the 4 and 6 year olds loved it. We practiced pronouncing the letters and now my son reads it on his own. Then I made him basic sentence strips based on TV shows he likes. It was really fun to come up with basic sentences that talk about werewolves (a word he recognizes by sight now because he super loves werewolves) that have hats and "Thor jumps on top of King Kong." He loves sounding out these sentences with us.

Unschooling means different things to different people but I don't know anyone who thinks it means neglecting learning altogether. To my group of friends here in Bellingham it means working around the children's interests. My kids aren't huge fans of adding 2 and 5 on paper but they sure become interested in math when we're dividing candy or spending their allowance and need to know if we have enough.

Montessori, Waldorf, even textbooks can be part of unschooling when they aren't forced. I have a friend whose daughter can't get enough of workbooks. Another teaches her daughter to spell words by writing letters in chalk on the ground and they jump from letter to letter. Anything and everything can be part of unschooling.

Isabel
09-17-2012, 03:00 AM
Short answer: it's OK, you don't have to 'get it'.

Slightly longer answer: We all have things we don't get, and that's fine. (For example, I don't get why some parents think that "The Magic of Childhood" is dependent on belief in Santa. I actually think the whole going-to-extraordinary-lengths-to-preserve-belief-in-Santa-for-as-long-as-possible thing is slightly demented.) If your friend is concerned because her 12yo has no interest in reading, you could make some suggestions for how she could handle that. If she is receptive, you could then suggest specific resources he might use. If you are friends with the 12yo, you could even speak with him separately and offer help with reading (if you are able/inclined) or help him choose people and/or resources. If neither of them is interested, there isn't any more you can do. Let it go. Nobody is forcing you to do unschooling (or this particular person's version of it). There's no rule that we all need to have an opinion or a judgment on everything. There are probably some things that you and your family do that make no sense at all to some other people.

hblyon
09-25-2012, 01:22 PM
I too, wanted badly to unschool but, my son really likes to have time set aside for work and doesn't like to choose what we are studying but, he does choose the order that we do stuff for the day. We are very relaxed about everything though, still, we could never let him go without reading,writing and basic math.

jazz
09-25-2012, 04:04 PM
We have unschooling friends and their kids are fantastic and skills do seem to come naturally. We are not unschoolers, although we do a ridiculous number of classes, a lot of unstructured time, and a small amount of more structured reading, writing, math, and spelling. I've seen my kids suddenly pick up something they never got before at all... and I've seen them not get things that I've been trying to teach forever.

But... I don't consider us unschoolers because I do have goals for the year, use curriculum, and require work on things that the kids are struggling with in regards to basic skills. Sometimes I find more "fun" ways (IE-DD was struggling with time telling. I found an iPhone game, she played it all summer and loves it, and now she's great at it.) but if I've set that they will learn to read, or to tell time, or multiplication tables this year, we work at it regularly until a basic proficiency at least is reached.

I don't have an unschoolers confidence that they'll pick it up otherwise. Some because my kids have learning disabilities, and some because I'm just a planner by personality.

Iamka
09-28-2012, 12:10 PM
This has been a very interesting thread to read.

I have opted for a curriculum w/teacher support & records for our first year--mostly out of fear of making some sort of legal gaffe-- but I sense that in many ways that I lean towards unschooling, and I think we will probably "officially" end up fitting the label in the future.

However, both DS and myself tend to be autodidacts and compulsive readers. DS literally never stops asking questions and seeking answers unless he is captivated by a book, Legos, etc. Even if he is in front of a TV or a computer, he's still talking and sharing what he is experiencing. (Sometimes, I just want him to zone out....lol)

As others have mentioned, I'm not sure I would be comfortable starting off with unschooling and trusting that a child would learn to read, write, develop math skills organically. (ETA: I feel this way even though both DS did pick up alot of things quickly and seemingly on his own.)

A teen or young adult who does not read or know basic math, but has the ability to do so, makes me uncomfortable as well, regardless of unschool vs. PS vs homeschool as the base of their education.

Magpie
10-05-2012, 08:34 PM
Having tried unschooling very briefly wh my ds7 (aspie), I can tell you I dont like it for us. If given his choice he will (and I confess has a few times) spent his entire day on the computer, GAMING. While this may teach him to be a saavy computer whiz, his handwriting is abismal at best and he loathes anything that has to do with it. So, our new deal is, he has to practice his basics (handwriting/LA, mathematics. He also has chores and household responsabilities. He excels at reading.) Everyday. 7 days a week! He will still balk and grovel and protest but I hope it will become a routine for him. Practice makes perfect if you ask me. I try to use unit studies, and notebooking and lapbooking to integrate writing and reading into subjects he enjoys like space and animal studies. So, in that way I guess he does lead the way, he picks what interests him, and I layout the lessons around that. But it doesn't get him out of the basic skills everyone should know!

dbmamaz
10-05-2012, 09:08 PM
I think aspies are particularly unsuited to radical unschooling. Hey listen to Temple Grandin's talks - she's certainly against the idea. It always annoys the crap out of me when radical unschoolers imply that, if a kid wants to play video games all day, thats fine, thats their interest and they will grow with it, maybe go in to programming. Um, maybe, or maybe they will never learn any practical skills. PLUS . . .we do school for about 5 hours a day, they sleep about 10 hours, take an hour for dinner, that leaves them about 8 hours a day for gaming . . when we dont have other activities outside of the house. How can 8 hours not be enough? (they wake up early and have 3 hours before school, 3 hours between school and dinner, 2 hours between dinner and bed)

jessica14
10-06-2012, 09:17 AM
From reading I've done and people I've met, I've concluded that there is a difference between unschooling and radical unschooling. I think that if I had to put a label on it, I would say we are eclectic homeschoolers. We do workbooks for basic, age appropriate skills. However, there is plenty of time for computer,TV, group outings, museums, reading, arts and crafts, etc.

My issue is with radical unschoolers, primarily Sandra Dodd and her followers. They throw out all kinds of logical thinking, saying medical research is essentially bogus, and in the end harms children ie: bad teeth are hereditary and brushing will not change that, obesity is hereditary and not linked to poor eating, diabetes is hereditary and not linked to eating, etc. I think its really dangerous to believe this way. I am in no way perfect with my eating and brushing, but I will not throw out common sense because my child's "need" is to have a chocolate bar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. According to them (and I do know others feel this way) Aspbergers and ADHD do not exist and if we just left them alone, they would be fine. Nobody ever had Dyslexia(though I do know this is controversial as well). Kids will know what their bodies need (food, sleep, knowledge). No, that's why they are children and they have parents (this had nothing to do with following one's own interests. That's a great thing). Its just everything all together.

I also get quite offended that teachers are nothing more than glorified babysitters and never taught anyone anything. I taught for many years and know many fine homeschooling parents who are teaching their children. I refuse to believe that I did nothing for anyone for the past two decades (full-time, subbing, homeschooling).

I think that Sandra Dodd needs to stop holding up her own children as shining examples of the success of radical unschooling as her daughter does essentially nothing and is 21. Success is different for everyone, but the success of this young woman was measured by "Guess what? She JUST placed out of remedial college reading!" That's really no shining example of what she did with her own kids. I do believe Unschooling is flexible, is not for everyone, and can work for some children. It's the extreme that I don't like.

Stella M
10-06-2012, 04:39 PM
Where I think unschooling is most useful is as a means for a parent to question their assumptions about the 'shoulds' around education.

I think it's important for parents to question their authority and test it, even if they decide it's in their child's best interest to then impose their authority. An examined life and all that.

Beyond that, it seems to suit some families/children. More power to them. Where I see natural learning work is in families with bright, self-motivated, independent learners who are usually not dealing with a truckload of learning issues alongside.

Crabby Lioness
10-11-2012, 01:03 PM
I tried unschooling. It lasted until my 3yo stood on my lap, looked me in the eye, and screamed as loud as she could, "Teach me to read!"

You can't get a more child-directed directive than that.

Greenmagick
10-11-2012, 04:42 PM
I tried unschooling. It lasted until my 3yo stood on my lap, looked me in the eye, and screamed as loud as she could, "Teach me to read!"

You can't get a more child-directed directive than that.

THis stood out to me....we are unschoolers. When not with homeschoolers I will say child led but really, its unschooling. When my children come up to me and say "teach me" whatever, I do and its still unschooling. Not saying there is a reason you SHOULD be unschooling or anything, just dont get why your child asking to learn to read is your example of why you couldnt?

jessica14
10-11-2012, 07:43 PM
THis stood out to me....we are unschoolers. When not with homeschoolers I will say child led but really, its unschooling. When my children come up to me and say "teach me" whatever, I do and its still unschooling. Not saying there is a reason you SHOULD be unschooling or anything, just dont get why your child asking to learn to read is your example of why you couldnt?

I am not an unschooler, but from what I've read, some children will ask their parents to learn how to read and the parents tell them no because they are "not ready" and when they are "ready," they will figure it out themselves. I think the child-directed part is unschooling, but some will argue that it isn't because no one can "teach" you anything. I think its more of a radical unschooling philosophy.

blasphemoushomemaker
10-14-2012, 05:35 PM
That's not unschooling the way John Holt described it. I've seen people who say unschooling means you pretty much never have a lesson or make suggestions. I disagree completely. The point is that the child has a choice, the child is interested, the child is free to say no, and the child is free to spend months and months on it if need be. If you want to know what "unschooling" is, read John Holt. That to me sounds like parents are setting their kids up for frustration and failure.

dbmamaz
10-14-2012, 06:23 PM
the word unschooling was first used by John Holt, but a sizeable and vocal group has taken over the word and they wield it like a weapon, demanding conformity to a specific hands-off ideal where the only proper childhood is one in which parents play only a minimal role.

Those of us who have extreme, visceral, negative response to the phrase have been beaten over the head with it enough times to flinch at the sound.

farrarwilliams
10-14-2012, 06:45 PM
Yeah, I think unschooling is a continuum and that it's moved beyond the philosophy Holt created.

I think it's hard to be an "unschooler" these days without feeling like the "radical unschoolers" were judging you.

laundrycrisis
10-14-2012, 06:59 PM
Those of us who have extreme, visceral, negative response to the phrase have been beaten over the head with it enough times to flinch at the sound.

Yup. I admit - I flinch. Not at the casual ones, who do it because it is a style that works for their child, and would just as eagerly do something different if the child needed something different in order to learn - but at the radical, and the ones who are so sure it is the only reasonable way to proceed, who embrace the whole "consensual" dogma and are critical of anyone who "coerces" their own child/ren, who give zealous lectures to new homeschoolers, or anyone they find who admits to requiring their child/ren to sit down with a pencil, paper and a book once in a while. Too many close encounters.

To me, there is a huge difference between those who choose unschooling as their choice of style, recognizing that other styles also have value, and those who promote it as the pinnacle of home educating wisdom.

crunchynerd
10-14-2012, 07:13 PM
I don't mind admitting that if someone tells me so-and-so is their guru, I know to split. Water seeks its own level, and it's good that there's room in the world for all types, but acolytes of anything, aren't my type.

crunchynerd
10-14-2012, 07:22 PM
As for radical unschooling overtaking the term unschooling, I have seen that too. Those of us who would call ourselves unschoolers, are these days, becoming cautious, lest we be perceived as unparenters...the ones who don't prepare meals for 4 year olds, let them live on popsicles all day in the belief that the 4 year old is the "noble savage" who knows best, etc. Ideology is a powerful force, and can blind a person to practical reality.

Stella M
10-14-2012, 09:34 PM
As I've mentioned here before, that's why I like the term 'natural learning' so much for Holt-style unschooling.

Crabby Lioness
10-15-2012, 10:40 AM
THis stood out to me....we are unschoolers. When not with homeschoolers I will say child led but really, its unschooling. When my children come up to me and say "teach me" whatever, I do and its still unschooling. Not saying there is a reason you SHOULD be unschooling or anything, just dont get why your child asking to learn to read is your example of why you couldnt?

That's what "unschooling" and "child led" meant back when we got started. You didn't just actively stand back and let the child do everything, you aggressively stood back and let the child do everything. Which was completely counter to how you had helped the child learn everything else up until that point (eating, dressing, potty training). It made no sense.

To quote from my 2005 blog post about it: (http://lionesshomeschool.blogspot.com/2005/09/our-journey-to-homeschooling-part-3.html)

Then Brighteyes turned three.

She was already memorizing words and baby books, but the process was slow. She knew there was more to reading than that. I tried to hang back, watch, let her figure things out for herself and just give her help when needed.

My actions made her furious. In her eyes, teaching her was part of my job description. I had showed her how to hold a spoon, dress herself and comb her hair. I was not getting out of showing her how to read. When I tried, she got in my face and screamed, "TEACH ME NOW!"

You can't get a more explicit child-directed directive than that.

Then we went through a phase where she was constantly barraging me with requests to drop everything and "Teach me X right now!", "Teach me Y right now!", "Teach me Z RIGHT NOW!" about a dozen times a day no matter what I was doing. "Um, we do lessons in the morning and arts and music after tea-time," I pleaded in self-defense, before realizing to my horror that I had just reinvented the much-dreaded "schedule". But I can't handle dropping everything and changing direction several times a day. I don't have time to follow her around constantly ready to help when needed, and I don't think it would do her ego any good. So I set aside specific blocks of time when I'm available to answer my children's questions and help them with their projects. At other times of the day I may be able to help or not, but those times are reserved for their needs. Setting aside a specific time of day when the girls are promised my undivided attention for academic learning and another period for my undivided attention for arts-and-crafts projects makes everybody a lot calmer.

albeto
10-19-2012, 02:17 PM
I'd like to comment a bit about those of us who do take the unschooling philosophy to the extreme ("radical"). We don't do formal or informal education in our home any more. There is no units, no direction, no 3R's to get through each day. I don't require household chores of my kids, either. To the best of my ability, I don't require my kids to do things against their desires if that requirement would be met with refusal that would then inspire coercion or manipulation on my part (with the exception of safety). So for example, when I prepare supper I don't force or guilt kids to eat with us. I don't punish anyone for not eating with the rest of us. I do encourage it, but if there is a stronger desire to avoid the meal, I won't push it. I will try my best to have healthy foods on hand for alternatives because let's face it, popsicles all day doesn't really satisfy, and it's not a healthy habit for a child to establish.

The point of taking this ideology to the extreme ("radically" altering traditional education/parenting), is to provide an alternative solution towards a desired goal, not to ignore problems and avoid goals altogether. If a healthy child is the goal, there exists many solutions, some of which are not traditional, conventional, or popular. Some are not effective, some are effective but have adverse side effects, the extent of which may not be fully realized for years to come. I don't believe the goal of radical unschooling is to provide an environment for the child to grow up like some modern day Pippi Longstocking with no access to mature mentors.

I guess I just feel like radical unschoolers are still a group that is socially acceptable to stereotype and allow anecdotal experience to be accepted as general information. Sarah Dodd is one of a handfull of outspoken unschool advocates, but I've not come across any advice that advocates a kind of parental neglect. The advice, taken in bits and pieces, may sound like that, but when an entire conversation is taken to its natural end, and taken in conjunction with other conversations, I get the impression that parental responsibility is esteemed and encouraged. Although I will admit, I don't really keep up with what's going on in that community, so my impression is not based on current exposure.

If I may be completely hypocritical and share anecdotal stories to support my proposal, I don't know too many unschoolers, but those I do are quite radical about it in that they have made a conscious effort to identify their ultimate goal and provide a radically alternative environment for education and parenting. This environment allows the child a free range of opportunities to reach said goals. We have goals like being responsible, respectful, and effective. Responsibility, for example, requires critical thinking skills, it requires concrete knowledge, it requires social skills and a particular work ethic. It also requires the ability to recognize how to be organized in home and work, which means paying attention to the details and doing that which may not be "fun" but is necessary (e.g., housework). These are admittedly very broad goals, but having these ideals as goals guides our response to any particular behavior (from learning biology to brushing teeth). Just letting go and letting the child do whatever he wants with no boundaries doesn't help one reach these goals. I don't know any radical unschoolers who aren't genuinely inspired to raise courteous, pleasant, interesting children, and contribute directly to that end. We love our children dearly and don't want them to face adulthood unprepared for the many challenges that will come their way, as opposed to the acceptable stereotype of radical unschooling.

Stella M
10-19-2012, 03:46 PM
Nice post albeto.

That level of thoughtfulness has been my experience with some, (but not all) radical unschoolers.

jessica14
10-20-2012, 07:08 PM
Thanks for a thoughtful post alberto. I do read the Always Learning Yahoo group with regularity and what strikes me is that one person's safety is another person's coercion and arbitrary rules. Recent examples have included that food allergies are not real for the most part and go ahead and give your child peanuts (just have an epipen on hand), ADHD and Asberger's are not real and those children should not attend therapies of any kind, a two year old should be allowed to play in a parking lot and if you don't let him, you obviously don't love him. I have learned a lot from Sandra Dodd and am more relaxed about a lot of things, including food and sleep issues. But I do find some of the advice on safety no practical and dangerous.

laundrycrisis
10-20-2012, 07:59 PM
My impressions of RUers are not based on any stereotype. They are based 100% on my own personal experiences. Perhaps someday I will meet an RU in real life who will give me a more positive impression.

Our kids and I have had some intensely bad experiences with some RU folks...in fact so bad that on multiple occasions, our kids have been afraid to participate in activities for homeschoolers, because they were verbally and physically abused by other homeschooled kids, whose actions were either ignored or even defended by their parent, using RU as the justification. Frankly, that's just unparenting and using RU as the excuse for it. But the parents were so wrapped up in their version of the RU philosophy that they really believed they were doing the right thing for all the kids involved. On less severe occasions, I have been deeply embarrassed to be at a group activity in public with other homeschoolers, due to a "difference in philosophy" with other parents regarding what is acceptable behavior in a public place - again, these problems occur with the RU folks. The least negative experiences have been the ones in which nothing bad happened to our kids, and there was no hugely embarrassing behavior, but I endured pro-RU lectures from multiple parents delivered in a ganging-up evangelical sort of style. I am not an argumentative person as long as my own freedom is not being messed with; I have unschooling friends; and I do not go around giving lectures about why I don't choose unschooling. I really am fine with people doing what works for them, as long as they are not infringing on other people. I would not lecture them, and I have not lectured them on any of these occasions. I just tried to get out of their way and then get away from them.

I wish that my experiences with the out-there RUers I have known had not been so negative. I really don't like having a negative conditioned response to RU.

albeto
10-21-2012, 03:03 PM
Thanks for a thoughtful post alberto. I do read the Always Learning Yahoo group with regularity and what strikes me is that one person's safety is another person's coercion and arbitrary rules. Recent examples have included that food allergies are not real for the most part and go ahead and give your child peanuts (just have an epipen on hand), ADHD and Asberger's are not real and those children should not attend therapies of any kind, a two year old should be allowed to play in a parking lot and if you don't let him, you obviously don't love him. I have learned a lot from Sandra Dodd and am more relaxed about a lot of things, including food and sleep issues. But I do find some of the advice on safety no practical and dangerous.

Can you share a link to these examples? I haven't kept up with that group in some time.

Stella M
10-21-2012, 04:36 PM
Most unschooling friends I deal with one on one and that always helps in regard to thoughtful discussion.

I have dealt with the Sandra Dodds of this world and that is never a happy experience. To be challenging is one thing, to be downright rude another.

I think most unschoolers run up against any issues inherent in the ideal after a time - for most people, experience is softening.

jessica14
10-22-2012, 07:41 PM
Can you share a link to these examples? I haven't kept up with that group in some time.
Here is a link to the allergy on. The Mom's son was diagnosed with a severe nut allergy and when eliminated from the diet helped. This limited choice and she was rudely dealt with (I felt) because he never actually had a severe reaction. Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlwaysLearning/message/66146)

This is the one about the mom telling her two year old never to play in the parking lot and the responses about how she should let her and damaging the trust between them. My favorite is when Sandra tells her that she should put her daughter up for adoption if she doesn't like her (Mom was tired and sometimes at her wits end, a very normal thing) Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlwaysLearning/message/64756?var=1&l=1)

There are others but the archives are vast, Like Stella, I do find some people quite rude when people who are doing a really good parenting job and trying to be radical unschoolers are hammered because they are not perfect or they try to do what's best for their family,

albeto
10-22-2012, 08:34 PM
Here is a link to the allergy on. The Mom's son was diagnosed with a severe nut allergy and when eliminated from the diet helped. This limited choice and she was rudely dealt with (I felt) because he never actually had a severe reaction. Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlwaysLearning/message/66146)

There's a lot of replies in that particular thread. To be honest, I did not read the replies because of that.


This is the one about the mom telling her two year old never to play in the parking lot and the responses about how she should let her and damaging the trust between them. My favorite is when Sandra tells her that she should put her daughter up for adoption if she doesn't like her (Mom was tired and sometimes at her wits end, a very normal thing) Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlwaysLearning/message/64756?var=1&l=1)

I saw that comment. I didn't interpret that literally, but rather as a wake-up call to realizing the mother's attitude towards parenting.


There are others but the archives are vast, Like Stella, I do find some people quite rude when people who are doing a really good parenting job and trying to be radical unschoolers are hammered because they are not perfect or they try to do what's best for their family,

Okay, I gotcha. Thanks for the clarification. I guess I wouldn't agree in part because any community has rude members, just as any group has really sweet mem bers, and I don't think it's justified to accept a negative stereotype on one group's rude members but not others. That kind of double standard stands out to me. Also, the philosophy itself is neutral, even if it is shared in such a way that many people feel is insensitive. I think there's a purpose in being blunt, though. I know when I first approached that same group a few comments caught my breath away, but upon further reflection, I realized they had simply cut to the chase rather than gently lead me according to my own emotional comfort zone. I get it - there's only so much time to make a point, and besides we all have different comfort zones. Some people simply speak more abruptly, and what seems rude to some people is refreshingly honest to others. Reading the comment about putting a child up for adoption made me react in such a way as to immediately feel defensive about my kids. I suspect that's the point. If you really do feel defensive about your kids, and you really don't want to loose them, then you learn to be careful when relating with them so you don't loose them. It's this main point I see as the foundation of Sandra Dodd's corner of unschooling - creating and maintaining a strong, healthy relationship.

farrarwilliams
10-22-2012, 08:51 PM
I hate to put Albeto in a position of being a spokesperson, but I'm curious what your opinion is of stuff like what Jessica linked. When I was first starting out in homeschooling, I had planned to be much more unschoolish, but encountering attitudes like that made me turn around from that a good bit.

I always feel like I understand unschooling as an educational philosophy, especially when parents are actively strewing things, supporting interests a child expresses, and teaching things or leading a child to resources when they specifically ask.

The block I get to is when I see or hear about parents not setting any limits for themselves. I know that people like to bandy about the stereotype that radical unschoolers are "unparenting" or neglectful. My experience has been the opposite. Some parents just seem like complete doormats for their kids - catering to every whim at the expense of their own well-being or the child's long term health. Life is full of natural limits - money, time, laws, relationships, etc. Yet some parents seem to be shielding their kids from those by bending over backwards. I don't mind if my kids don't eat with me. I see that there's a coercion there if I make them. On the other hand, I don't feel obligated to carry all the groceries for them, cook for them without their help, make whatever they want regardless of price and labor, carry it up to their rooms so they don't have to come get it, do their dishes so they don't have to, and so forth. We all have obligations to keep the house running. I will happily negotiate what those are and young children can obviously only do so much. But I'm not a servant. A lot of parents seem like that's the case and a lot of the advice seems to suggest that's what parenting should be like. It just makes me sad.

ETA: And my response was written before Albeto's showed up. I like the idea of creating relationships without coercion that are healthy... I just see for myself that if I did some of the catering that some of the parents seem to do, I would be in a position of having an unhealthy relationship with my kids because I would be full of resentment that my needs and desires weren't always met and respected. If someone said something to me like that adoption comment, I wouldn't re-evaluate my attitude, I would reframe it with a different parenting lens, honestly. One where my own needs could be met and I could grow to love my kids again.

Stella M
10-23-2012, 12:26 AM
Yeah, what Farrar said.

I certainly don't stereotype whole groups based on one 'school', no pun intended. I see a great deal of value in the unschooling discourse.

However, the particular Dodd style of discourse not only seems to me to be ineffective - there is a common thread of ppl turning away from unschooling after exposure to her forums - but also fails to address what Farrar mentions above.

Stella M
10-23-2012, 12:37 AM
I get the different styles thing too, but to be honest, when multiple people are experiencing a particular 'guru's' pronouncement as not just insensitive but lacking in nuance and an understanding of the complex interplay between theory and life, it's a bit of a cop out for that person to simply blame the listener. Again and again. Idk.

I like unschooling. I think there is room within its paradigm for kindness and an acceptance that any dogma must transcend its own inherent inflexibility if it is to survive and grow and transform.

I see flexibility and adaptation as virtues not particularly encouraged by 'that school', at least during the time I was involved with it.

And that's ironic, given that those are two qualities hopefully promoted by the practice of unschooling.

I think of the Tao de Ching - paraphrasing here - the great tree bends and does not break - we need teachers and mentors who show us how to live with that kind of grace and strength, not those who are happy to see you crack and shrug it off as a personal and individual failure.

What I'd love to read is a critique of the interplay between, say, feminism and unschooling, or class and unschooling. That would be super interesting!


Or maybe that's just me :-). Gee, meditation must be really paying off, lol.

albeto
10-23-2012, 01:57 PM
I hate to put Albeto in a position of being a spokesperson, but I'm curious what your opinion is of stuff like what Jessica linked. When I was first starting out in homeschooling, I had planned to be much more unschoolish, but encountering attitudes like that made me turn around from that a good bit.

In my opinion, Sandra Dodd, and those who are the foundation of her yahoo group, tend to focus on relationships as the ultimate function of unschooling. I've been told unschooling isn't about education, and that messed with my head for a long time before I understood what they've been saying. To make a blunt comment about putting your 2 year old up for adoption because she's not convenient is to make the point that a healthy relationship between parent and child doesn't work by protecting the parent's comfort. The parent's convenience isn't supposed to take advantage of the child's lack of control. One reason is because as the child grows up, s/he learns how to take control in whatever measure s/he can. Radical unschooling is removing this unequal power and instead creating a mutually respectful community in which everyone's desires are equally considered, even the two year old's. Now, the parent may know better than the two year old what behavior is most effective, but when the parent manipulates the child to behave in such a way that secures the parent's convenience, then a respectful relationship is not being fostered. Dodd et. al. are all about respectful relationships. They're blunt, and even abrasive in their communication style, but fostering healthy relationships is what I understand to be the foundation of that corner of the unschooling community.

In response to Jessica's links, I interpreted the adoption comment differently, for reasons I just gave. I didn't believe these were meant to be taken literally by anyone. The thread about allergies is awfully long and so I haven't read it. I would read a particular comment if one were pointed out, but until then, I really can't comment on it. I'm unaware of medical advice on that group.


I always feel like I understand unschooling as an educational philosophy, especially when parents are actively strewing things, supporting interests a child expresses, and teaching things or leading a child to resources when they specifically ask.

The block I get to is when I see or hear about parents not setting any limits for themselves. I know that people like to bandy about the stereotype that radical unschoolers are "unparenting" or neglectful. My experience has been the opposite. Some parents just seem like complete doormats for their kids - catering to every whim at the expense of their own well-being or the child's long term health. Life is full of natural limits - money, time, laws, relationships, etc. Yet some parents seem to be shielding their kids from those by bending over backwards. I don't mind if my kids don't eat with me. I see that there's a coercion there if I make them. On the other hand, I don't feel obligated to carry all the groceries for them, cook for them without their help, make whatever they want regardless of price and labor, carry it up to their rooms so they don't have to come get it, do their dishes so they don't have to, and so forth. We all have obligations to keep the house running. I will happily negotiate what those are and young children can obviously only do so much. But I'm not a servant. A lot of parents seem like that's the case and a lot of the advice seems to suggest that's what parenting should be like. It just makes me sad.

I'll explain how it works in my home. Please do keep in mind this is not how I've always parented, this has evolved mostly over the last few years. We've spent countless hours specifically targeting behavior for one of my kid's ABA program (behavior modification for autism). My kids are older now, and I have the opportunity to relax a bit, which works out well because I'm pretty burned out after all.

I don't require my kids to do housework. None of it. They don't bring in the groceries, they don't clean the kitchen, they don't wash the dishes or feed the dogs. Well, they do, but not because they have to or are expected to. The do when requested which, granted, isn't often. They are in the habit of helping bring in things from the car if they're with me. I don't even ask, they just grab what they can. There are a couple reasons for this. One is that it's my home, my responsibility. When the kids were in diapers, I did all the work myself, no questions asked. And I worked more because I had little rug-rats running in all directions. Now that they're older, I have more time to do the housework (granted, I don't work outside the home, things would be different if I did). My kids are naturally picking up on their own responsibilities. For example, the older ones do their own laundry. I never got them on a laundry schedule, I did the family laundry all together until they got old enough decide they wanted their clothes cleaned before I would get around to it. The natural solution was to learn how to do their laundry independently.

But this behavior extends to so many other things. There's no coercion in being independent, no manipulation, no punishment for being immature, no passive-aggressive responses. They make choices based on problems that need to be solved and the best way to solve them. It's just... nicer that way, more effective, more pleasant. They do what they see needs to be done, rather than do what they have been taught is their chore. It means I work more than parents with kids my age, but my kids are making the transition to independence broadly, without a fight, without manipulation, without power-struggles. It's a natural process of maturity, and my home is really quite pleasant. In December I'll have three teenagers in the house. I'm thrilled with who they are, I enjoy spending my time with them.

I don't think of it as being a door-mat, I think of it as not imposing them to contribute to my convenience. One reason I don't mind doing this is because with this free time, my kids are learning all kinds of really important skills. They're learning those skills that "count" as education, like computer programming, geography, engineering, physiology, history, really whatever catches their attention (and they've learned to really pay attention). But they're also learning social skills, something I think is underrated in determining one's success and personal satisfaction. They're learning that independence and interdependence is empowering. There is no score being kept for who does more, like, ever. That just doesn't compute. As a result, they do help. They help me, they help each other, they help friends, and strangers. It's just a natural way to respond to life. They identify a problem and figure out the best way to solve it - not the best way for them, but the best way to solve the problem. And I do this because my home is really fun to be in. We all get along very well, we enjoy each other's company a lot.

I think they realize that solving a problem selfishly isn't necessarily the most effective way. It can, and often does, produce subsequent problems. It's like they'rd discovering from experience Grandma's Rule - Do Something Right The First Time, And You Don't Have To Do It Again. Only, rather than being trained to do this, they learned the value of it by learning to pay attention to details. This means they can generalize this skill broadly in life. They're learning how to predict a possible future problem and how to best prevent it. One of the problems of being trained against one's natural learning, is that it requires manipulation in some measure, and that has the potential to teach secondary and tertiary lessons, ones we may not see manifest until they are life long habits and problematic ones at that. So yeah, I do more housework than my kids, but I see them developing a kind of maturity that sets them apart from their conventionally educated peers. They're more independent, creative, responsible, and respectful. This comes about "naturally" in that they are components of knowing how to identify and solve problems without creating new problems for themselves or others. It also benefits me. It's an investment I'm happy to make.


ETA: And my response was written before Albeto's showed up. I like the idea of creating relationships without coercion that are healthy... I just see for myself that if I did some of the catering that some of the parents seem to do, I would be in a position of having an unhealthy relationship with my kids because I would be full of resentment that my needs and desires weren't always met and respected. If someone said something to me like that adoption comment, I wouldn't re-evaluate my attitude, I would reframe it with a different parenting lens, honestly. One where my own needs could be met and I could grow to love my kids again.

I think this explains best why it really is a rather significant paradigm shift. It's not a matter of being a door-mat, but being a mentor. A mentor doesn't expect others to behave in certain ways, they encourage it. But they also model it, and kids naturally mimic behavior they are most familiar with. Modeling the behavior of being inter-dependent is something my kids have picked up. So, I think I have the same goals as most parents, I'm just going about them differently.

farrarwilliams
10-23-2012, 02:14 PM
This isn't just my home. It's my kids' home too. And my husband's. We share the responsibility. Period. I know what you're saying isn't meant to be this way, but it reminds me of some 1800's housewife advice or something, "Well, if you didn't want to wait on a man, why did you get married?" or "Close your eyes and think of England." I mean, really. I didn't have kids to be their servant. And trying to manipulate someone into feeling guilty about not wanting their 2 yo to run loose where cars drive through by implying they aren't a good enough mother is just cruel in my opinion.

I'm always wanting to get to some place where I feel like I can understand RU, even if I know I'd never practice is. But, honestly, even your careful explanations make me feel like I'm just as far away from it as I am from the people who use spanking as a disciplinary tool. Which is to say, I simply cannot and will not understand it.

I could go on, but I guess I don't see the point. Different philosophies of life.

albeto
10-23-2012, 02:25 PM
However, the particular Dodd style of discourse not only seems to me to be ineffective - there is a common thread of ppl turning away from unschooling after exposure to her forums - but also fails to address what Farrar mentions above.

Sometimes I'd like to see Dodd identify herself as one focus of unschooling, rather than allowing the perception to remain that she is a spokesperson for the philosophy at large. How do you have a spokesperson for an idea? You can have a spokesperson for a policy, but ideas are shared and applied in various circumstances, which naturally makes them evolve. Nevertheless, her communication style is not something that is bothersome to me, I think because I have a thick skin when it comes to dissecting ideas. Dissect them she does! But also maybe it's because I see her point as advocating for the child.



I like unschooling. I think there is room within its paradigm for kindness and an acceptance that any dogma must transcend its own inherent inflexibility if it is to survive and grow and transform.

Quite. There are some gentle approaches to unschooling as well. I think Dodd is most well-known, but I think what she offers is the ability to identify that breakdown in relationships that people are in denial of. Being forced to see what we so strongly deny is never easy. It always sounds offensive, and it is, really, because it offends our emotional security. When we convinced ourselves that we are "right," we justify it in some moral way. Being shown how our ideas and behaviors offend another person (in this case, the child), is often going to be interpreted as at attack on who we are, simply because our self-identity and our sense of moral and ethical values are very intimately intertwined.


I see flexibility and adaptation as virtues not particularly encouraged by 'that school', at least during the time I was involved with it.

And that's ironic, given that those are two qualities hopefully promoted by the practice of unschooling.


Funny, because I see flexibility and adaptation as one of Dodd's rally cries! In her case, she advocates being flexible for the needs of the child, adapt to the child's needs, rather than asking (manipulating) the child to adapt to our conveniences.


I think of the Tao de Ching - paraphrasing here - the great tree bends and does not break - we need teachers and mentors who show us how to live with that kind of grace and strength, not those who are happy to see you crack and shrug it off as a personal and individual failure.

I found this to be my experience after I adopted a radical unschooling paradigm in my home. Learning how to bend does indeed make us stronger, and I've benefited from that using this kind of approach. I happen to think it is respectful and courteous to the child, but also to the parent because it helps the parent see her own weaknesses to address privately, rather than getting that from the child somehow.


What I'd love to read is a critique of the interplay between, say, feminism and unschooling, or class and unschooling. That would be super interesting!


Or maybe that's just me :-). Gee, meditation must be really paying off, lol.

Me too!

albeto
10-23-2012, 02:32 PM
This isn't just my home. It's my kids' home too. And my husband's. We share the responsibility. Period. I know what you're saying isn't meant to be this way, but it reminds me of some 1800's housewife advice or something, "Well, if you didn't want to wait on a man, why did you get married?" or "Close your eyes and think of England." I mean, really. I didn't have kids to be their servant. And trying to manipulate someone into feeling guilty about not wanting their 2 yo to run loose where cars drive through by implying they aren't a good enough mother is just cruel in my opinion.

I'm always wanting to get to some place where I feel like I can understand RU, even if I know I'd never practice is. But, honestly, even your careful explanations make me feel like I'm just as far away from it as I am from the people who use spanking as a disciplinary tool. Which is to say, I simply cannot and will not understand it.

I could go on, but I guess I don't see the point. Different philosophies of life.

I getcha. I would only say that my home really isn't like an 1880's housewife's home. We're not a Rockwellian family either. I don't say this to try and convince you I'm right, or my arguments are valid, just to comment about the impression of being a kind of family where the mother/wife is little more than an honored servant. My kids are pretty fiercely feminist in their thinking, and really don't equate woman with servitude. It's just that we all have different interests and mine is family / home oriented.

I'll have to reread the comment about making a mother feel guilty for not wanting her 2 yo to run loose where cars drive. I focused on the adoption comment so I think I missed what you're talking about.

farrarwilliams
10-23-2012, 03:08 PM
I can't read them because I'm not on that Yahoo group - I was just responding to how Jessica had described it - that the mom wasn't sure how to stop the kid from running free in the parking lot and it apparently culminated in that comment about adopting her out by Sandra Dodd, which... I keep thinking there must be more to it, but then the way you describe it makes me think maybe there isn't.

Stella M
10-23-2012, 03:31 PM
Thinking about this last night, I really do feel like Ru is crying out for an exploration from a maternal/feminist position...there are valid societal reasons why a mother may experience non-coercion of the child as a threat to her person hood. IMO, those reasons need to explored on a meta level, not on the level of an individual and their success or failure at being non-coercive.

It's that lack of context that bothers me in many Ru exchanges, not the challenge to be non-coercive.

Crabby Lioness
10-23-2012, 03:56 PM
Thinking about this last night, I really do feel like Ru is crying out for an exploration from a maternal/feminist position...there are valid societal reasons why a mother may experience non-coercion of the child as a threat to her person hood. IMO, those reasons need to explored on a meta level, not on the level of an individual and their success or failure at being non-coercive.

It's that lack of context that bothers me in many Ru exchanges, not the challenge to be non-coercive.

Feminism is really good at saying "can", but it's not set up to handle questions involving "should". That's outside it's mandate.

I discussed this distinction with my daughters over breakfast after reading an article (http://www.alternet.org/belief/oral-sex-yoga-and-gods-eternal-wrath-inside-new-hipster-megachurch-tells-modern-women-submit) about young women entering college only to spend every night partying, drinking and having sex with different people. Feminism says you "can" do that, but common sense says that's not a good idea. The young women in the article soon tired of partying all the time and (incorrectly IMO) blamed feminism for not stopping them, so they became Fundamentalist Christians instead. I thought they suffered from a lack of understanding "can" vs. "should".

Sorry to wander off-topic, but we seem to be discussing a similar dichotomy. We can homeschool our children with as little or as much formality as we please. The question is how much should we use, what determines that amount, and how do we negotiate the changing circumstances over time?

Stella M
10-23-2012, 04:05 PM
It's also good at asking why. Why is the responsibility for establishing a non-coercive relationship with a child an individual, most often female, responsibility ?

What factors in the culture or society might prevent a mother from being non-coercive, and whose responsibility is it to address those factors ?

If we believe in non-coercion but fail to address the non-individual barriers to a family achieving non-coercive relationships, can we then be justified in challenging a mother as an individual ?

Those are the questions I'm interested in.

albeto
10-23-2012, 04:07 PM
I can't read them because I'm not on that Yahoo group - I was just responding to how Jessica had described it - that the mom wasn't sure how to stop the kid from running free in the parking lot and it apparently culminated in that comment about adopting her out by Sandra Dodd, which... I keep thinking there must be more to it, but then the way you describe it makes me think maybe there isn't.

I've reread the comments concerning the 2yo wanting to play in the parking lot. The parent asked for advice as to how to keep the child from playing there that doesn't include picking her up, kicking and screaming, and dragging her off against her will. Kudos to her for wanting to respect her child in that way. The responses that I'm seeing (and granted, I'm skimming, so not doing a careful reading), challenge the mother to think less than black and white rules for life. Rather than have a Rule #43: Parking Lots Are Off Bounds, think about it through a different lens - the child's lens. What is it about this parking lot that is so attractive? Many of us have grown up playing in parking lots and streets, learning to step out of the way when cars come by. A two year old can learn this with her mother. Mom plays with her in the parking lot, sees or hears a car coming, stops dramatically and says, "Uh oh! Car coming! Let's move to safety!" That doesn't mean leaving a 2yo out to play by herself, but it does mean follow the child's lead (play in that parking lot, for whatever reason is important to her), and teach her the skills she'll need to be safe. I haven't come across any cruel or mean comments, although there was one comment I can see interpreted as being rude (but I wouldn't think so). The parent interprets the child's desire to play in that parking log to be motivated by knowing it is against the mother's rule. The comment was to look for alternatives to willfully pissing her off. No behavior is done without reason, and although we may feel irritated by a certain behavior, it's not necessarily accurate to say that behavior is actually inspired by wanting us to be irritated. That is a rather self-centered approach to parenting, and that's a common obstacle to the kind of respectful, honoring relationship the ladies on this yahoo group advocate.

The reason I commented in this thread was not to convince anyone unschooling is a superior educational philosophy, but to comment on the idea that accepting stereotypes as legitimate information seems to be acceptable towards this group. If someone you knew was relaying a thread they'd read on WTM, painting homeschooling parents in a light of control-freaks who cannot possibly comprehend what it means to be a child and explore the joys of life, I imagine you might think to yourself that's an acceptable stereotype to illustrate homeschoolers like yourself. I think the ideas being promoted, and accepted, in this thread (RU advocates are cruel and insensitive) are in some measure misinformed.

albeto
10-23-2012, 04:13 PM
Thinking about this last night, I really do feel like Ru is crying out for an exploration from a maternal/feminist position...there are valid societal reasons why a mother may experience non-coercion of the child as a threat to her person hood. IMO, those reasons need to explored on a meta level, not on the level of an individual and their success or failure at being non-coercive.

It's that lack of context that bothers me in many Ru exchanges, not the challenge to be non-coercive.

I'm not following. Sorry! I'm coming away from this with the impression that you interpret RU to be antithetical to feminist theology. I've never studied feminist theology, but coming from a strong feminist family (third generation, that I know of anyway), I personally feel RU can be, and is, very compatible with feminism. At least how I understand feminism to be (establishing and defending equal political, economic and social rights, regardless of gender). In my experience, it also taps into my "mamma bear" instinct stronger than conventional parenting. But I'm not sure that's what you are saying.

Stella M
10-23-2012, 04:16 PM
Oh, I don't think that's an accurate representation albeto.

A particular advocate is experienced by many people as insensitive and lacking in nuance. That's different from painting the whole movement with the 'cruel' brush. I think there are a variety of viewpoints in this thread, from outright rejection to a willingness to engage.

Re feminism - and definitely not theology! - I'm saying that feminism encourages us to look at structural issues in our culture that impact on women and the choices they feel able to make. I feel that Ru would be all the richer for considering these systemic factors rather than casting non-coercion as a particular woman or family's 'choice'.

Sorry, I don't think I can explain clearer than that.

albeto
10-23-2012, 04:30 PM
Oh, I don't think that's an accurate representation albeto.

A particular advocate is experienced by many people as insensitive and lacking in nuance. That's different from painting the whole movement with the 'cruel' brush. I think there are a variety of viewpoints in this thread, from outright rejection to a willingness to engage.

Re feminism - and definitely not theology! - I'm saying that feminism encourages us to look at structural issues in our culture that impact on women and the choices they feel able to make. I feel that Ru would be all the richer for considering these systemic factors rather than casting non-coercion as a particular woman or family's 'choice'.

Sorry, I don't think I can explain clearer than that.

Oh derp, I meant "theory"!



Anyway, thanks for explaining. I'm sorry I didn't understand. I tried, but I think my brain has turned to mush already today.

In what way do you think RU d oes not encourage one to look at structural issues in our culture that impact women? I think these ideologies come from their environment (family and community). At one time I participated in a Catholic unschooling group and although there was an emphasis on not coercing a child into compliant behavior, the religious ideology would clearly be a focal point of the child's character development. Having come myself from a background that never considered the idea of women being subservient but on equal par with men in society (individually as well as collectively), my own kids don't experience a home that advocates that either. In that respect, I think RU is neutral, but compatible, if that makes sense.

farrarwilliams
10-23-2012, 04:34 PM
Thinking about this last night, I really do feel like Ru is crying out for an exploration from a maternal/feminist position...there are valid societal reasons why a mother may experience non-coercion of the child as a threat to her person hood. IMO, those reasons need to explored on a meta level, not on the level of an individual and their success or failure at being non-coercive.

It's that lack of context that bothers me in many Ru exchanges, not the challenge to be non-coercive.

Yes! That's what I was trying to get at and said really poorly.

Feminism encourages women to see themselves as individuals first, not as mothers (or wives or daughters or caregivers or in relationship to others). RU seems to encourage parents - in particular mothers - to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of their children.

Stella M
10-23-2012, 04:49 PM
Example - what barriers are there to the responsibility for non-coercive relationships being shared more equally between men and women ?

OK, say,
economic barriers. Women are paid less than men, creating a societal bias towards men remaining primary wage earners and women taking primary responsibility for care.

By addressing equal pay issues, and reducing bias in the system, can we give families more options as to how care-taking is shared ?

If care-taking is better shared, do individual women find their willingness or ability to parent non-coercively improves ?

Is it ethical to focus on individual choice in the absence of acknowledging factors not in an individual's control ?

My personal ru experience was that acknowledgement of structural factors at play was minimal at best. I don't think it.
has to be that way...in other words, Ru isn't necessarily in opposition to feminism.

However, in my own interactions with Sandra and some of those who agree strongly with her approach, dialogue was terminated at the point of exploring any incompatabilities and framed as a personal weakness or shortcoming.

For example, the disconnect between a mother's biological need for sleep or rest and a child's need to be wakeful. This issue was often framed as a lack of creativity or willingness to be non-coercive on the mothers part, rather than leading to an examination of why mothers are left isolated in the community and how resources for sharing the responsibility for non-coercion can be created and the work lifted from the mother and shared by the community.

Crabby Lioness
10-23-2012, 05:14 PM
For example, the disconnect between a mother's biological need for sleep or rest and a child's need to be wakeful. This issue was often framed as a lack of creativity or willingness to be non-coercive on the mothers part, rather than leading to an examination of why mothers are left isolated in the community and how resources for sharing the responsibility for non-coercion can be created and the work lifted from the mother and shared by the community.

Sleep deprivation always lowers creativity. (I shudder to think how many times I've seen this played out in my family.) Any discussion of sleep deprivation that doesn't place that fact front and center is meaningless.

farrarwilliams
10-23-2012, 05:20 PM
Sleep deprivation always lowers creativity. (I shudder to think how many times I've seen this played out in my family.) Any discussion of sleep deprivation that doesn't place that fact front and center is meaningless.

But isn't the greater context why is the mother sleep deprived and everyone else rested? Or why is it the mother's responsibility to take care of this issue and not the whole family's or the father's or an extended family's? In an ideal world, wouldn't there be more support for a sleep deprived mother to get some rest so she can be more creative and address her child's needs better?

Stella M
10-23-2012, 05:26 PM
Yes. In an ideal world :-)

So I guess I would see the responsible practice of ru in two parts - firstly, one's own individual relationships. Also, the acknowledgement of barriers in the wider world to non-coerciveness, and the active working towards community solutions for those barriers.

Just focusing on the individual - which ends up meaning the mother - only seems like half a picture to me.

Stella M
10-23-2012, 05:41 PM
To be fair, my ru experience was some time ago, and maybe the community now addresses the other part of the equation in a way it didn't then. I don't know because I don't keep up with that particular group/s.

albeto
10-23-2012, 08:32 PM
Yes! That's what I was trying to get at and said really poorly.

Feminism encourages women to see themselves as individuals first, not as mothers (or wives or daughters or caregivers or in relationship to others). RU seems to encourage parents - in particular mothers - to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of their children.

I have a better understanding of what you are talking about now, I think. I'm only somewhat familiar with Dodd's yahoo group, having participated here and there. I am more familiar with local unschoolers. I don't know anyone who would steer their wives or daughters towards a limited option of opportunities. I won't try and defend Dodd's advice or group, but just opine that unschoolers in general are likely to be diverse like homeschoolers in general are, thus making it hard to accept anecdotal experiences as indicative of the group in general. I hope I didn't annoy too badly in my posts where I misunderstood.

Stella M
10-23-2012, 08:43 PM
Not at all :)

farrarwilliams
10-23-2012, 10:00 PM
You were definitely not annoying. Very patient with us traditional types. :)

Crabby Lioness
10-24-2012, 01:19 AM
But isn't the greater context why is the mother sleep deprived and everyone else rested? Or why is it the mother's responsibility to take care of this issue and not the whole family's or the father's or an extended family's? In an ideal world, wouldn't there be more support for a sleep deprived mother to get some rest so she can be more creative and address her child's needs better?

Well exactly. First deal with the sleep deprivation. Then deal with preventing it from occurring again. Then when that problem is taken care of all parties will be better able to deal with the other problems.

Stella M
10-24-2012, 01:36 AM
Easier said than done though :( I swear I didn't sleep properly for a decade.

Soulhammer
10-25-2012, 03:41 AM
Is it ethical to focus on individual choice in the absence of acknowledging factors not in an individual's control ?

This.

When I first started exploring unschooling online, I found an almost Ayn Randian refusal to acknowledge that anything other than a lack of personal commitment and individual will could interfere with one's ability to RU.

The thing that made me get off those forums fast was how any attempt to address relatively pragmatic issues like how to deal with custody battles/paying the rent/LDs while RU were met with a "You don't think our answers are reasonable given your situation? Get lost!" So I got lost. Any philosophical standpoint that refuses to acknowledge the way that class, race, or any other demographic category shapes or even actively limits one's options is problematic, IMO.

Soulhammer
10-25-2012, 04:07 AM
Feminism encourages women to see themselves as individuals first, not as mothers (or wives or daughters or caregivers or in relationship to others). RU seems to encourage parents - in particular mothers - to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of their children.

That's one kind of feminism. There is also the feminism that encourages women to see themselves as individuals AND mothers AND caregivers AND wives AND (insert any class/race/group identity here). My point being that I think "feminism" is as slippery a term as "unschooling."

The amount of heat that talk about parenting/mothering and RU generates is always astonishing to me until I realize that those discussions press on tensions around gender and all homeschooling, regardless of method/philosophy. These forums and research on homeschoolers would seem to indicate that women have the privilege/burden of being responsible for much of the formal instruction that happens in homeschools. I love my kids and I know homeschooling is the right thing for them, but I am keenly aware that my decision to homeschool means that in this season of my life I will not be able to pursue my personal development and career with as much vigor.

Haven't figured out what to do with that, since I am not going to stop homeschooling and since I am not going to turn in my feminist card. What I do know is that RU would not allow me to feed my family and be the woman I want to be, given the cards I was dealt and the way I have chosen to play them.

Crabby Lioness
10-26-2012, 12:06 AM
That's one kind of feminism. There is also the feminism that encourages women to see themselves as individuals AND mothers AND caregivers AND wives AND (insert any class/race/group identity here). My point being that I think "feminism" is as slippery a term as "unschooling."

The amount of heat that talk about parenting/mothering and RU generates is always astonishing to me until I realize that those discussions press on tensions around gender and all homeschooling, regardless of method/philosophy. These forums and research on homeschoolers would seem to indicate that women have the privilege/burden of being responsible for much of the formal instruction that happens in homeschools. I love my kids and I know homeschooling is the right thing for them, but I am keenly aware that my decision to homeschool means that in this season of my life I will not be able to pursue my personal development and career with as much vigor.

Haven't figured out what to do with that, since I am not going to stop homeschooling and since I am not going to turn in my feminist card. What I do know is that RU would not allow me to feed my family and be the woman I want to be, given the cards I was dealt and the way I have chosen to play them.

I homeschool feminism. They wouldn't get it in the local schools, that's for sure!

rueyn
10-26-2012, 07:51 AM
I always think of feminism in terms of CHOICE. I.e. that all the strides in that area give women the chance to choose where we want to focus at any given point in our lives. If we want to be mothers and stay at home, fine. If we want to work outside the home, that's okay, too. Any combination of the two with the only defined goal being our happiness and fulfillment - that we get to choose for ourselves instead of the choice being made for us (like it was in the 60's and before).

Going to learn about RU now...had never heard of it before.

Stella M
10-26-2012, 10:57 AM
That's heresy on most of the feminist blogs I read - there is a strong sense that not all choices are equal and it is frequently stated that supporting individual choice is not the ultimate feminist aim.

Crabby Lioness
10-26-2012, 11:35 AM
I always think of feminism in terms of CHOICE. I.e. that all the strides in that area give women the chance to choose where we want to focus at any given point in our lives. If we want to be mothers and stay at home, fine. If we want to work outside the home, that's okay, too. Any combination of the two with the only defined goal being our happiness and fulfillment - that we get to choose for ourselves instead of the choice being made for us (like it was in the 60's and before).

Going to learn about RU now...had never heard of it before.

That's what I learned in the 70s, and what Naomi Wolfe reiterated.

In the three minutes I grabbed to read for myself this month, I read something about this issue. Let me quote from George Lakoff's The Political Mind. Lakoff is a pioneer of cognitive science, the study of how people actually think as opposed to how we like to think we think. We really should talk about him more often. He hooks people up to brain scanners and asks them to discuss various topics. For the past 20 years he's focused on politics. This bit comes in the middle of a chapter on how philosophy changed in the middle of the 20th Century as Existentialism (He doesn't use that word but that's what it comes down to) made inroads against the Enlightenment model because it answered questions the Enlightenment model couldn't even see, let alone handle.

London, March 12, 1956:


Into this fray came Walter Bryce Gallie, then a young Cambridge political scientist, who delivered a fateful paper called "Essentially Contested Concepts." He showed that concepts like "democracy" and "art" are meaningful, but will never have fixed meanings. They have agreed-upon central cases. But because the central cases have a complex structure and involve values, and because different people have different values, those values will necessarily extent the concepts in different directions. As a result, people will always be contesting the meanings of "democracy" and "art" because their values will be different. The conclusion: the meanings of such concepts cannot be absolutely fixed.

*******(cut talk on the inevitable but muddled backlash)*******

In 1992, Alan Schwartz, now a professor in medical decision-making at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, was Berkeley's first cognitive-science major, double-majoring in women's studies. For his thesis, he looked at the concept of feminism from the perspective of cognitive science. Feminism is a hotly-contested concept within the feminist community itself, with versions like liberal feminism, radical feminism, Marxist feminism, biocultural feminism, ecofeminism, women of color feminism, and lesbian feminism.

Schwartz, following Gallie, found that there was a common core: a collection of gender roles giving men advantage in society over women, a view that those gender roles are unfair, and a commitment to changing those roles. But this common core was so underspecified that, by itself, it didn't tell one much. There were different versions of what the gender roles should be changed to, different reasons for changing them, and different methods to be used. In each case, the different versions of feminism could be predicted from the (intersection of the) central core and other value systems: liberalism, Marxism, and so on -- as Gallie suggested. To each feminist activist, the word "feminism" was not, however, the underspecified core, but the rich version to which she subscribed.

Schwartz had substantiated Gallie's analysis, and contributed to a deep understanding of feminism in the process.

(That's way too much transcribing!)

Add in the fact that the same process applies to the term "homeschooling" (we all like it, but we can't agree on what it means beyond the broadest definition of the word) and we really have a roiling brew on our hands.

Stella M
10-26-2012, 11:41 AM
Yep.

That was interesting, thank you. Kind of explains the difficulty in productively discussing these things and why we might have a bias towards those who share similar values - the cognitive effort costs us less.

Crabby Lioness
10-26-2012, 12:21 PM
Yep.

That was interesting, thank you. Kind of explains the difficulty in productively discussing these things and why we might have a bias towards those who share similar values - the cognitive effort costs us less.


Yeah, if you apply his models to homeschooling it explains a lot. Most homeschoolers want to provide their children with the best education to prepare them for the world. But even if you start with the same givens you end up with different approaches.

GIVEN: that

(1) the world is rapidly changing and

(2) your child needs the best possible education to deal with it;

AUTHORITARIAN FRAME: discipline is the key to success. A child must have an education that stresses discipline and a commitment to authority. The schools don't provide enough discipline. Only a truly disciplined person can survive in the midst of that chaos.

PROGRESSIVE FRAME: responsibility is the key to success. Responsibility comes from learning both adaptability and empathy. A child must have an education that stresses both flexibility and the ability to take care of themselves and others in a changing environment. The schools are too rigid and not at all empathetic. Only a truly flexible, empathetic person can flourish in the world of tomorrow.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Mslksdh
10-26-2012, 02:46 PM
Wow and all this time I thought "Unschooling" meant using, a child-led-Emergent-Reggio-style approach to educating ones child.

dbmamaz
10-26-2012, 05:24 PM
Wow and all this time I thought "Unschooling" meant using, a child-led-Emergent-Reggio-style approach to educating ones child.
LOL no, you havent spent enough time in the homeschooling community

jessica14
10-27-2012, 08:01 PM
Lots of responses since I posted the links! First, thank you alberto for explaining some things to us. It's very helpful.

Next, there are parts of RU that have helped me as a parent. So, I haven't thrown out the baby with the bathwater. The parking lot thread had a lot of responses to it. It wasn't just let her in the parking lot or get rid of her. It was more like the mother was stressed and was looking for solutions. Attachment parenting was not really working for her or her husband and there was guilt associated with it. Her husband was wanting more couple time and she was giving all her time to the baby and trying to live by RU principals (I totally get why they are not referred to as rules). She was trying to figure out about the parking lot situation. The adoption comment, in my opinion, was just rude. Not blunt, rude. It was extreme and unnecessary. This young mother was going through what many of us went through with a young child and to say, in essence that she and her husband didn't care enough was rude. As far as the parking lot goes, I understand the need to help a child learn where there are real dangers, but not at two. The child is running to a parking lot, pick them up even if they are screaming.

I think that as much as some people love Sandra Dodd, she pushes a lot of people away. I can see what she is saying, but she is quite disrespectful to people when she tells people that the only way to parent is through respect. Other women on that site like Joyce Fetterol say the same thing in respectful ways.

I personally don't like her "my way or the highway" approach and everyone else is damaging their children. But again, thank you alberto for helping me to understand better where RU are coming from.

Batgirl
10-29-2012, 01:44 PM
Yeah, if you apply his models to homeschooling it explains a lot. Most homeschoolers want to provide their children with the best education to prepare them for the world. But even if you start with the same givens you end up with different approaches.

GIVEN: that

(1) the world is rapidly changing and

(2) your child needs the best possible education to deal with it;

AUTHORITARIAN FRAME: discipline is the key to success. A child must have an education that stresses discipline and a commitment to authority. The schools don't provide enough discipline. Only a truly disciplined person can survive in the midst of that chaos.

PROGRESSIVE FRAME: responsibility is the key to success. Responsibility comes from learning both adaptability and empathy. A child must have an education that stresses both flexibility and the ability to take care of themselves and others in a changing environment. The schools are too rigid and not at all empathetic. Only a truly flexible, empathetic person can flourish in the world of tomorrow.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Sigh. It makes me tired just reading that. Sometimes I think we take way too much on ourselves. Parenting and education are important, but we are all so much more than the way we were taught or raised and our children will be, too They'll take what we give them and turn it into something uniquely theirs whether we like it or not. Oh well. I didn't take my kids out of school more for practical reasons than ideological ones, so that's coloring my perspective here.

Crabby Lioness
10-29-2012, 01:59 PM
Sigh. It makes me tired just reading that. Sometimes I think we take way too much on ourselves. Parenting and education are important, but we are all so much more than the way we were taught or raised and our children will be, too They'll take what we give them and turn it into something uniquely theirs whether we like it or not. Oh well. I didn't take my kids out of school more for practical reasons than ideological ones, so that's coloring my perspective here.

It took me over 20 years to wrap my head around it.

My ideology influences my practical reasons for never putting my children in school. I knew they would suffer there as I and their father had suffered. I did not view suffering as a good learning experience. Thus the practical decision to not put them in was the result of the ideological view that they had nothing to gain from suffering through it.

farrarwilliams
10-29-2012, 02:31 PM
I don't really find those two categories to be that useful though. The Progressive framework would cover pretty much every single homeschooling family I know - from the unschoolers to the box curricula types.

Stella M
10-29-2012, 02:41 PM
It took me over 20 years to wrap my head around it.

My ideology influences my practical reasons for never putting my children in school. I knew they would suffer there as I and their father had suffered. I did not view suffering as a good learning experience. Thus the practical decision to not put them in was the result of the ideological view that they had nothing to gain from suffering through it.


This. I home school for ideological reasons. The practical reasons are absolutely just as valid, but for us, the practical stuff is the icing on the cake.

Heidi M
09-27-2013, 06:50 AM
My ideology influences my practical reasons for never putting my children in school. I knew they would suffer there as I and their father had suffered. I did not view suffering as a good learning experience. Thus the practical decision to not put them in was the result of the ideological view that they had nothing to gain from suffering through it.

I know it has been many moons since this was posted, and my response isn't directly addressing unschooling, but Crabby Lioness's post captures, perfectly, why we decided to homeschool in the first place. I was told by some I was being selfish to deprive my children of school experiences that all kids need and want and would miss...what? I suppose they meant prom and homecoming and commencement and things like that, but I could just never reconcile those moments with the sometimes miseducative (at best) or damaging (at worst) experiences they were going to have. I was scared for them and even though I knew I was making the best choice, I remember questioning if I was, maybe, being selfish. I'm glad we persevered :-)