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Home Schoolers [Unschoolers] Content to Take Children’s Lead
NY Times ^ | 11/26/06 | SUSAN SAULNY

Posted on 11/27/2006 11:31:32 AM PST by kiriath_jearim

CHICAGO, Nov. 23 — On weekdays, during what are normal school hours for most students, the Billings children do what they want. One recent afternoon, time passed loudly, and without order or lessons, in their home in a North Side neighborhood here.

Hayden Billings, 4, put a box over his head and had fun marching into things. His sister Gaby, 9, told stories about medieval warrior women, while Sydney, 6, drank hot chocolate and played with Dylan, the baby of the family.

In a traditional school setting, such free time would probably be called recess. But for Juli Walter, the children’s mother, it is “child-led learning,” something she considers the best in home schooling.

“I learned early on that when I do things I’m interested in,” Ms. Walter said, “I learn so much more.”

As the number of children who are home-schooled grows — an estimated 1.1 million nationwide — some parents like Ms. Walter are opting for what is perhaps the most extreme application of the movement’s ideas. They are “unschooling” their children, a philosophy that is broadly defined by its rejection of the basic foundations of conventional education, including not only the schoolhouse but also classes, curriculums and textbooks.

In some ways it is as ancient a pedagogy as time itself, and in its modern American incarnation, is among the oldest home-schooling methods. But it is also the most elusive, a cause of growing concern among some education officials and social scientists.

“It is not clear to me how they will transition to a structured world and meet the most basic requirements for reading, writing and math,” said Luis Huerta, a professor of public policy and education at Teachers College of Columbia University, whose national research includes a focus on home schooling.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government
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To: CindyDawg

The adverb form is correct. Even in Texas. ;)

101 posted on 11/28/2006 6:48:46 AM PST by linda_22003
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To: ModelBreaker

"Both my wife (mississippi) and I (colorado) would say "I got a light-saber" for example"

That's correct, if you just went out and procured it. If it's something you already own.... not so much.

102 posted on 11/28/2006 6:52:12 AM PST by linda_22003
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To: The Ghost of FReepers Past

Perhaps "Child Empowered Schooling" or "Freeschooling" would do the PR trick.

This was not for my kids, although we allow the kids to do some "joy based schooling", their elective courses, where the kids pick a sunject and go with it. But that takes place only after their curriculum work is done.

103 posted on 11/28/2006 6:52:25 AM PST by L,TOWM (Liberals, The Other White Meat [This is some nasty...])
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To: linda_22003

You are quite a bit late to the party. Don't feel bad, I don't expect you to read a full discussion before responding.

Free Republic really needs a "modify post" feature so uneducated morons like me who don't take time to proofread and shouldn't homeschool their kids and like to write runon sentences won't waste the time of other folks. This would be a great feature so we don't bog down an otherwise important discussion with posts about how poor my writing is. :) LOL

I am thoroughly rebuked now. I think you are the seventh person that has pointed it out after I made my mea culpa.

104 posted on 11/28/2006 7:15:53 AM PST by ktupper
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To: Mr. K

Dear Mr. K,

We homeschool and use a packaged curriculum.

Fortunately, the school day usually is over by lunch, or maybe a little later. After that, they follow their own devices (at least on days when they're not in some extracurricular activity).

My nine year-old's interests include astronomy, and he's pretty fascinated with Mars. At his age, he isn't quite advanced enough for integral calculus, but his desire to plan out the colonization of the red planet has caused him to become fairly adept at basic arithmetic. In our homeschool, making the basic functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division second nature has been an important goal. He's never liked all the math drills we require to achieve this goal.

However, his own pursuit of the red planet has caused him to master this stuff on his own time. As well, he's begun to teach himself a little geometry, and is solving for "x."

In terms of science, he has a pretty good layman's understanding, at this point, of any number of physics concepts, especially if they pertain in any way to his plans. In that one must have some sort of propulsion system to get to Mars, he's taken his own time to study different systems and energy sources for them. He has a basic understanding of nuclear fission reactors and nuclear fusion reactors. He has a basic understanding of chemistry (at this point, he's sort of "accidentally" memorized about half the periodic table - he's looking up elements so much, that they're sticking in his head without any particular effort to memorize them).

Like I said, he's a little young, so I'm reasonably sure that he hasn't mastered valence shell electron pair repulsion theory.

But give him time.

At times, his own explorations generate science questions that require me to go back and re-acquaint myself with the material, so that I can adequately answer his questions.

My older son, 12, has taught himself a couple of dialects of Elvish (from Tolkien's work), and he's pretty much an authority on all things Middle-Earth. The Elvish may not do much for him, but in teaching himself another language, he developed a certain skill for learning languages, and is now teaching himself Latin. His interests include medieval literature, heraldry, and mythology. He is an excellent writer and artist. None of this is in his curriculum.

In our case, this all happens in addition to our regular curriculum, but I could see it easily replacing a regular curriculum. The interests my two sons have cause them to do more learning on their own than they actually do during their formal schooling time.

In fact, something that I've observed with both of them is that sometimes the formal educational stuff actually interferes with their own self-pursued learning. My older son dislikes the writing assignments given him in his curriculum (frankly, I sometimes think that the curriculum was written with young girls in mind - many of the assignments are at best awkward for boys). This has carried over into his personal pursuits, because he does less creative writing now than he once did. The formal curriculum has turned writing into a bit of drudgery.

Unschooling can be an excellent way of educating one's children.


105 posted on 11/28/2006 7:15:54 AM PST by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: ktupper

Yes, I should have continued to read the thread; I will use my total astonishment as an excuse for not doing so.

106 posted on 11/28/2006 7:17:17 AM PST by linda_22003
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To: linda_22003

LOL. Was it that astonishing? I wasn't surprised at all. Certainly I should have proofread at least a little, but my habit is to just click that "I have already previewed" checkbox and click "Post".

I type fairly quickly, and it actually seems to be disconnected from the thinking process in some respects. In other words, I say the word in my mind and my fingers just naturally type it. The finger muscules seem to have a memory of their own. It's that old muscle memory theory.

Thus, since I type "no" and "there" far more frequently then I type "know" and "their" I find it completely natural and logical for my fingers to type "no" when my mind thinks "no" or "know" and my fingers to type "there" when my mind thinks "there", "their", or "they're". You should see the basic grammar errors I have to correct when I proofread the first draft of papers I type. It just goes to show you how strange a language English is.

What I find interesting is the amount of people that assume I don't know the difference between "no" and "know" and "there" and "their". I guess I'm not as dumb as I look. LOL ;)

107 posted on 11/28/2006 7:33:19 AM PST by ktupper
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To: ktupper

We can't see you, of course, so we have no idea how dumb you look. :) My mother (who was both a professional teacher and a non-stop teacher at home) drummed into me that most people only see how we present ourselves through the written word - and that was long before Mr. Gore invented the Internet. It's even more true these days.

What Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son 260 years ago is still true; "Style is the dress of thoughts. A well-dressed thought like a well-dressed man appears to great advantage." In today's language, I take that to mean that I shouldn't click the "already previewed" button too fast, as I also have a tendency to do! :)

108 posted on 11/28/2006 7:53:10 AM PST by linda_22003
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To: sitetest

What in my post suggested I was against home- schooling? you sound like the perfect home schooler parent, doing it the right way.

I was mainly addressing the way the media picked an idiot parent to make it sound like all home-schooling is bad.

109 posted on 11/28/2006 8:39:05 AM PST by Mr. K (Some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don't help...)
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To: hsmomx3

I've been thinking that too.

110 posted on 11/28/2006 8:45:39 AM PST by SpookBrat
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To: Mr. K

Dear Mr. K,

"What in my post suggested I was against home- schooling?"

I didn't mean to suggest that you were against homeschooling. My apologies for not being clearer.

You do, however, seem to be against unschooling.

For that reason, I gave examples from how we do things. Although we aren't unschoolers, per se, we reserve a large part of our son's time for unschooling-like activities.

The fact is, much of what my sons learn is through unschooling, and ALL of what my sons master is through unschooling. Without the unschooling aspect of their education, my sons wouldn't achieve true mastery of much of anything that we taught them.

Folks who make the commitment to do unschooling well can provide an outstanding education to their children.

"you sound like the perfect home schooler parent, doing it the right way."

Thanks very much for the compliment. ;-)

We make more than our share of mistakes.

However, children are literally born to learn. Parents are literally born to teach their children. And children are hard-wired to learn from their parents best.

These strong innate capacities overcome many errors, many mistakes.


111 posted on 11/28/2006 9:03:43 AM PST by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: The Ghost of FReepers Past

These kids were depressed. If you'd plopped them in desks in a crowded classroom and said "sit", they would have done just that, for as many hours as it took until someone said "stand up". The little girl would have sobbed a little now and then, but she also did that when she came to the office on "Take your daughters to work" day -- chose a spot under her dad's desk to sit by herself quietly, and after a while was heard sobbing, without ever trying to talk to her dad or anyone else to get attention, or trying to go do something, or asking if she could go do something, or even moaning the time-honored "I'm bored". It was kind of scary, especially since her behavior had been much more normal when I saw her about a year and a half earlier, during the only year she attended school (public kindergarten).

Parents with mental illness of any kind pose a challenge to the idea (which I basically agree with) that any parent should be free to choose homeschooling without interference. In cases like this one, I think it was less a matter of reasoned choice, than of the mother being too depressed to get the kids out of bed, dressed, and out the door in the morning (I don't think she was getting herself out of bed very regularly). I hope these children were eventually sent back to school, where at least they could get some exposure to other children and adults. I suspect they were, since after the father went on mental disability leave, he must have been required to see a psychiatrist and/or other mental health professional regularly to continue to qualify for benefits, and such a professional would certainly have been concerned about the children.

112 posted on 11/28/2006 10:26:28 AM PST by GovernmentShrinker
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To: linda_22003

Sure nuff? Well ain't that sumptin? I'z just glad we'z don't have to be purfic to teach them thier children , hear at home.

113 posted on 11/28/2006 11:20:11 AM PST by CindyDawg
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To: CindyDawg

Wow, it's really true.... you ARE from Texas! ;-D

114 posted on 11/28/2006 11:24:37 AM PST by linda_22003
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To: tatsinfla

Just fyi, when you write in all caps, people think you're shouting. :)

115 posted on 11/28/2006 11:28:40 AM PST by proud American in Canada (Thy Will Be Done.)
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To: linda_22003
I'm also confident and think expecting perfection will give you ulcers. I lightened up a long time ago (chuckling)
116 posted on 11/28/2006 11:31:23 AM PST by CindyDawg
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To: srmorton

'I saw the show and it was not "manipulative" at all IMO. The father of the children had hated school as a child and was a HS dropout. The only answer the mother gave to any of Dr. Phil's concerns was "whatever the children want". In her case, I got the impression that the inmates were definitely running the asylum.'

Using a couple like this as "representative" of the Unschooling approach to home education is like taking a pedophile teacher as "representative" of public school teachers. If you find such a selection of your "representative" unmanipulative, fine, but I think the good Dr.'s thumb is firmly on the scale.

117 posted on 11/28/2006 2:42:13 PM PST by Blue_Ridge_Mtn_Geek
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To: Blue_Ridge_Mtn_Geek
I guess I did not think it was manipulative because for me it was informative. Before that show, I did not know that there was such a thing as "unschooling" as opposed to home schooling. I think the average parent would not be as successful with this approach as they would with the traditional home school method. It seems to me that some children could end up running pretty wild without some sort of plan. The success of this method would totally depend on the parents and the children involved. I'm not saying that it could not or does not work in some cases.
118 posted on 11/28/2006 7:33:53 PM PST by srmorton (Choose life!)
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