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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: SoftballMominVA

It's ok. It's kind of a confusing thread:')

81 posted on 11/27/2006 5:14:34 PM PST by CindyDawg
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To: Jemian
Where in the world did that "d" come from?

Yet another botched joke, I guess.


82 posted on 11/27/2006 6:16:21 PM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: ktupper
There kids no how to read,

I'm glad you caught your no how mistake. However your correction was one error short of perfect. It should be their kids, not there kids.

By the way, I went to public school also. But I had a father who stood over me each night until I had my homework done correctly.
83 posted on 11/27/2006 6:32:10 PM PST by redheadtoo
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To: Izzy Dunne

I've decided that "d" signifies a rather wise pronoun.

84 posted on 11/27/2006 7:41:40 PM PST by Jemian (PAM of JT ~~ If life were "fair", we'd all go to hell. I'm glad there is grace.)
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To: kiriath_jearim
“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,

Probably much faster and with more psychological stability than those "structured" kids will to a world that is, despite your assertion, not particularly structured. I think the sausage-factory citizens are worried about the abilities of the "unstructured."

85 posted on 11/27/2006 7:49:41 PM PST by Pelayo
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To: Pelayo
I really don't think we should be fighting among ourselves about who is the best speller. Home schoolers and unschoolers bickering about who does a better job is just doing the enemy's work for them IMO.
86 posted on 11/27/2006 7:55:29 PM PST by CindyDawg
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To: CindyDawg

We're working on adverbs and adjectives these days with our boy. So I'm overly sensitive to this one. Close is an adverb that modifies "do" so it is "closely", not the adjective form "close."

We have problems in our house with "got." Both my wife (mississippi) and I (colorado) would say "I got a light-saber" for example (to use an example that would immediately commmand my boy's attention). It should be "I have a light saber". It's hard to tell him to do as I say and not as we, well, say :)

The difference is, he needs to know the difference for formal writing even though, noone around here will even notice the 'I got' formulation in speech as being incorrect. I don't want to pass on dad and mom's incorrect grammar any more than necessary.

87 posted on 11/27/2006 11:19:03 PM PST by ModelBreaker
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To: kiriath_jearim

Some former "friends" sent their kid to a private school that had a philosophy like this. My son was the same age as this kid and was an outstanding student. My son's parents were not lazy and he learned well. He is now in his second year at Ohio State and is still doing quite well. Meanwhile, Aaron was never disciplined and was taught to read with the idea, "when Aaron is ready to learn to read, he will let us know." Now Aaron is a lost moron from highly educated parents, living an alternative lifestyle, with chains hanging from his pants, baggy pants and a "wondeful" personaility. Of course he feels wronged by the world, when in reality, it was his lazy and selfish parents. /rantoff

88 posted on 11/27/2006 11:36:09 PM PST by tang-soo (Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks - Read Daniel Chapter 9)
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To: Blue_Ridge_Mtn_Geek
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.

Home schoolers in the audience made the point that they use an approved curriculum and Dr. Phil was not at all negative about that approach. His point was that children as young as their children (all under the age of 10) don't really have the ability to predict the consequences of their actions and perhaps may not make the best choices of what to learn. I think this couple were pretty extreme examples of "unschoolers". They kept saying that they were giving their children the choice to go to public school or not, yet the childre had never been to public school to see what it was like. At their age, if you had given me the choice to go to school or to stay at home with my parents all day, I would have opted to stay at home also.

Another couple was on the show that disagreed about home schooling. The father was dead set against it, but the mother wanted to home school their children because she was deathly afraid that something would happen to them in public school due to the recent school shootings. She was going to use the more traditional home school curriculum and was going to make every effort to provide opportunities for socialization through other outlets. The main thing about this segment was that the husband and wife need to be in agreement about how their children will be educated.

I sent my children to public school because I was and still am a full time community college instructor and did not have the time (or the patience) for home schooling. I was not completely satisfied with their public school experience, particularly in the "whole language" method that they were using to teach reading at the time my girls (they are twins) were in school. Now, they both have associate degrees from the community college where I teach and one will complete her BS degree next spring. The other one is still working on her BA degree in elementary education while she is employed as a teaching assistant in a local elementary school. As an instructor, I have had the pleasure of having several home schoolers in my classes and without exception they were some of the best students that I ever had.

It is just my opinion that, although young children need the opportunity to express themselves, they also need some structure in order to become a productive member of society. In a job setting, an employee can not just show up whenever the spirit moves him and do whatever he wants to do. Even if he is self-employed or works from home, he must have some structure to his schedule so that he actually does "work" from home. In fact, my friends that work from home are actually much more disciplined than I am.

I am just glad that there are so many approaches (including charter schools and private schools) to the complicated subject of educating our children so that parents have more choices when deciding what is best for them and their families.
89 posted on 11/28/2006 3:23:08 AM PST by srmorton (Choose life!)
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To: CindyDawg

Actually, I'm not a she, I'm a he. Fortunately my wife does most of the formal teaching in our home. Unlike me, English and Grammar are strengths of hers. Along with teaching the kids, she proofreads my papers for graduate school. Come to think of it, she helped me in college 20 years ago too. :)

I'm not offended by the people who point out the errors in my posts. I'm thankful. If they are home school moms they're used to correcting writing and it probably is automatic. Good for them. "A fool rejects his father's discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible." [Proverbs 15:5] I just wish they could find the one pesky logic bug that still exists in one of the dozens of stored procedures that make up the dispatch manager module I wrote last year for a campaign management system. I would hire them in a heartbeat.

Back to the topic of unschooling. As I said, we use a formal curriculum in our home, but unschooling happens all the time too. People get put off by the name, but unschooling is simply teaching and learning in a different context. My son made me aware of another example at the dinner table last night.

My kids play a game called Rollercoaster Tycoon on the computer. The gist of the game is to build a profitable amusement park. I have never played it, but I did understand the purpose behind it. My kids didn't realize this object and they just liked playing it to build fun looking parks and see how fast they could get the rollercoasters going. A few weeks ago I told them that the purpose isn't just to build fun amusement parks and watch the rides, but it is to actually have the park run profitably.

Completely unrelated to Rollercoaster Tycoon, I have been making my children aware of the many advertising and marketing methods that companies use to separate you from your hard earned money. We talked about how foolish it is to think a product will give us what God has already given us in Christ. We also discussed some of the more sophisticated methods (for a 10 year old) like loss leaders.

So my son has these two distinct conversations marinating in his mind for the last couple of weeks. Last night at the dinner table he tells me about his really profitable amusement park. He had done two different things in the park. He created a very simple and inexpensive ride to run and gave away free coupons for it (a loss leader.) He also created a really fun rollercoaster ride and gave away half off coupons for it. He then puts it in a remote part of the park and the customers can either walk to it or "overpay" for a convenient tram that drops them right next to the ride. He makes a small profit on the rollercoaster and a huge profit on the tram. Ingenious! It is clear now that my son is beginning to understand advertising and marketing and will be a much savier business owner and/or consumer as he grows older.

That is what my understanding of unschooling is and it happens all the time. It's simply training and learning in an unstructured environment.

90 posted on 11/28/2006 4:06:28 AM PST by ktupper
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To: redheadtoo

Good for you! I rejoice with you. That is awesome as long as it wasn't done to the point of exasperation. I wasn't fortunate enough to have such loving discipline (training) growing up.

Amazing, but I just posted this quote from Proverbs in a previous post:

"A fool rejects his father's discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible." [Pro 15:5]

91 posted on 11/28/2006 4:12:42 AM PST by ktupper
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To: ModelBreaker
Yes but I don't want people reading home schooling threads and seeing things about advanced equations and sentence structuring and feel that they aren't educated enough to home school their kids. Any parent can do it . All it takes is motivation and the ability to read. What you don't know or need to refresh up on, can be learned as you go. There are many programs available that guide you as you teach. Posts aren't usually taken apart and edited like this on other threads. It's like writing a darn term paper around here sometimes (grin)
92 posted on 11/28/2006 4:28:58 AM PST by CindyDawg
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To: kiriath_jearim
My 11-year-old started pulling cake mixes out of the kitchen cabinets a few weeks ago (with permission) and decided to try her hand at baking. She's now baking something every other night. Sunday she made pizza pockets. She's done it all on her own. I haven't progressed beyond hamburgers and spaghetti...

Her younger sister isn't interested though. She's more into dolls and sports.

Kids need time to do their own thing. God has given each of them special gifts, and sometimes we need to sit back and watch the gifts unfold. This is a great benefit of homeschooling.

As far as formal academics go, we're using a pre-packaged Catholic curriculum. The girls do most of the work on their own. Mom doesn't get downstairs until about 10 or 11. The kids are done between 1 and 3. And they're both 1-2 years ahead of their peers in academics, and lightyears ahead of their peers in their religious instruction.

93 posted on 11/28/2006 4:54:33 AM PST by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: Mr. K
When does she think they are going to come home with a sudden interest in integral calculus, or valence shell electron pair repulsion theory?

Why? Are they supposed to? I learned these things in college. I've never used either one, and I'd be hard pressed to remember anything about them. Was it good for me? Maybe in some way that I'm not aware of. I think I would have been better off learning something that's universally useful, like logic.

94 posted on 11/28/2006 4:57:45 AM PST by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: kiriath_jearim

After 14 years of homeschooling we've learned that we need to spend more time teaching our kids how to write. But I guess that has nothing to do with this post.

95 posted on 11/28/2006 4:59:27 AM PST by DungeonMaster (Rudy 08...If ya can't beat em, join em.)
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To: kiriath_jearim

Apparently the NY Times is again allying itself to the Democrat party to ban homeschooling, and using examples of the worst homeschoolers to do so. When is this piece of crap newspaper going to go bankrupt already?

96 posted on 11/28/2006 5:03:49 AM PST by winner3000
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To: CindyDawg
We teach basics (as they do in high school) Kids will build on their interest.

Of course. But this is schooling, not education. Schooling is a method of habituating children to being told when, what and how to think.

The Land of Frankenstein

The particular utopia American believers chose to bring to the schoolhouse was Prussian. The seed that became American schooling, twentieth-century style, was planted in 1806 when Napoleon’s amateur soldiers bested the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is renting soldiers and employing diplomatic extortion under threat of your soldiery, losing a battle like that is pretty serious. Something had to be done.

The most important immediate reaction to Jena was an immortal speech, the "Address to the German Nation" by the philosopher Fichte—one of the influential documents of modern history leading directly to the first workable compulsion schools in the West. Other times, other lands talked about schooling, but all failed to deliver. Simple forced training for brief intervals and for narrow purposes was the best that had ever been managed. This time would be different.

In no uncertain terms Fichte told Prussia the party was over. Children would have to be disciplined through a new form of universal conditioning. They could no longer be trusted to their parents. Look what Napoleon had done by banishing sentiment in the interests of nationalism. Through forced schooling, everyone would learn that "work makes free," and working for the State, even laying down one’s life to its commands, was the greatest freedom of all. Here in the genius of semantic redefinition1 lay the power to cloud men’s minds, a power later packaged and sold by public relations pioneers Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee in the seedtime of American forced schooling.

Prior to Fichte’s challenge any number of compulsion-school proclamations had rolled off printing presses here and there, including Martin Luther’s plan to tie church and state together this way and, of course, the "Old Deluder Satan" law of 1642 in Massachusetts and its 1645 extension. The problem was these earlier ventures were virtually unenforceable, roundly ignored by those who smelled mischief lurking behind fancy promises of free education. People who wanted their kids schooled had them schooled even then; people who didn’t didn’t. That was more or less true for most of us right into the twentieth century: as late as1920, only 32 percent of American kids went past elementary school. If that sounds impossible, consider the practice in Switzerland today where only 23 percent of the student population goes to high school, though Switzerland has the world’s highest per capita income in the world.

Prussia was prepared to use bayonets on its own people as readily as it wielded them against others, so it’s not all that surprising the human race got its first effective secular compulsion schooling out of Prussia in 1819, the same year Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, set in the darkness of far-off Germany, was published in England. Schule came after more than a decade of deliberations, commissions, testimony, and debate. For a brief, hopeful moment, Humboldt’s brilliant arguments for a high-level no-holds-barred, free-swinging, universal, intellectual course of study for all, full of variety, free debate, rich experience, and personalized curricula almost won the day. What a different world we would have today if Humboldt had won the Prussian debate, but the forces backing Baron vom Stein won instead. And that has made all the difference.

The Prussian mind, which carried the day, held a clear idea of what centralized schooling should deliver: 1) Obedient soldiers to the army;2 2) Obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms; 3) Well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function; 4) Well-subordinated clerks for industry; 5) Citizens who thought alike on most issues; 6) National uniformity in thought, word, and deed.

The area of individual volition for commoners was severely foreclosed by Prussian psychological training procedures drawn from the experience of animal husbandry and equestrian training, and also taken from past military experience. Much later, in our own time, the techniques of these assorted crafts and sullen arts became "discoveries" in the pedagogical pseudoscience of psychological behaviorism.

Prussian schools delivered everything they promised. Every important matter could now be confidently worked out in advance by leading families and institutional heads because well-schooled masses would concur with a minimum of opposition. This tightly schooled consensus in Prussia eventually combined the kaleidoscopic German principalities into a united Germany, after a thousand years as a nation in fragments. What a surprise the world would soon get from this successful experiment in national centralization! Under Prussian state socialism private industry surged, vaulting resource-poor Prussia up among world leaders. Military success remained Prussia’s touchstone. Even before the school law went into full effect as an enhancer of state priorities, the army corps under Blücher was the principal reason for Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, its superb discipline allowing for a surprisingly successful return to combat after what seemed to be a crushing defeat at the Little Corporal’s hands just days before.3 Unschooled, the Prussians were awesome; conditioned in the classroom promised to make them even more formidable.

The immense prestige earned from this triumph reverberated through an America not so lucky in its own recent fortunes of war, a country humiliated by a shabby showing against the British in the War of 1812. Even thirty years after Waterloo, so highly was Prussia regarded in America and Britain, the English-speaking adversaries selected the Prussian king to arbitrate our northwest border with Canada. Hence the Pennsylvania town "King of Prussia." Thirty-three years after Prussia made state schooling work, we borrowed the structure, style, and intention of those Germans for our own first compulsion schools.

Traditional American school purpose—piety, good manners, basic intellectual tools, self-reliance, etc.—was scrapped to make way for something different. Our historical destination of personal independence gave way slowly to Prussian-purpose schooling, not because the American way lost in any competition of ideas, but because for the new commercial and manufacturing hierarchs, such a course made better economic sense.

This private advance toward nationalized schooling in America was partially organized, although little has ever been written about it; Orestes Brownson’s journal identifies a covert national apparatus (to which Brownson briefly belonged) already in place in the decade after the War of 1812, one whose stated purpose was to "Germanize" America, beginning in those troubled neighborhoods where the urban poor huddled, and where disorganized new immigrants made easy targets, according to Brownson. Enmity on the part of old-stock middle-class and working-class populations toward newer immigrants gave these unfortunates no appeal against the school sentence to which Massachusetts assigned them. They were in for a complete makeover, like it or not.

Much of the story, as it was being written by 1844, lies just under the surface of Mann’s florid prose in his Seventh Annual Report to the Boston School Committee. On a visit to Prussia the year before, he had been much impressed (so he said) with the ease by which Prussian calculations could determine precisely how many thinkers, problem-solvers, and working stiffs the State would require over the coming decade, then how it offered the precise categories of training required to develop the percentages of human resource needed. All this was much fairer to Mann than England’s repulsive episcopal system—schooling based on social class; Prussia, he thought, was republican in the desirable, manly, Roman sense. Massachusetts must take the same direction.

The Underground History of American Education

97 posted on 11/28/2006 5:07:10 AM PST by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: Marie Antoinette

In case you wanted to read this...

98 posted on 11/28/2006 6:39:42 AM PST by Big Giant Head (I should change my tagline to "Big Giant Pancake on my Head")
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To: ktupper

"There kids no how to read"

I'm going to assume - no, I'm going to hope and pray - that you mean this as a joke.

If it is not a joke, please stop homeschooling immediately, for your children's sake.

99 posted on 11/28/2006 6:44:37 AM PST by linda_22003
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To: CindyDawg

"there are a lot of very smart freepers who get those two mixed up sometimes."

If they are "very smart", there is absolutely no reason to do so.

100 posted on 11/28/2006 6:45:50 AM PST by linda_22003
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