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Parents across the country are preparing for the end of the school year, wondering what they will do with their children for a few months while they don’t have a structured school experience on which to rely. I for one am trying to find ways to keep my son’s learning up to date while he is out of school. I bought a workbook that uses coloring and games to teach letters, numbers, patterns and other skills. It looks like a fun way to learn.
A few weeks ago “Good Morning America” ran a segment about a movement in the homeschooling front, called unschooling. “Un what?” I thought, when the piece started to air. They promoted it as a kind of no books, no tests, no more teachers’ dirty looks. OK, they didn’t say the part about the dirty looks, but they might as well have.
Even though home schooling has been around for years, it’s still a bit taboo in certain circles. Now, enter, unschooling … it’s a form of homeschooling, but there is no curriculum. No books. No teaching. No structure. Children are encouraged to learn based on what they want to know.
I think homeschooling is just starting to come into its own. I even think the bias toward these families who choose to teach their kids at home is slowing going away since there seem to be so many families who elect to keep their children at home during their school years. We used to wonder: What will happen to them when they get into the real world? How can aÂ parent know everything to teach them? What about sports? Socialization? The hub-ub has quieted as people learned more about homeschooling, saw educated parents successfully teach their children and we’ve have seen success stories (think Tim Tebow).
So, will unschooling have a similar track as the traditional homeschooling? I think it has a much harder road to travel.
Unschooling parents claim that the children will learn by doing what they love to do. They will learn when the need arises. One article I read even went as far to say that kids can learn algebra by painting a room. I’ve painted a lot of rooms and never learned algebra. Admittedly, I took several years of algebra throughout high school and college and still can’t say that I’m any good at it, but I would be in far worse shape if I’d never attempted a traditional math class.
JuJu Chang interviewed an unchooling family for the piece and asked the teenage girl what grade she would be in if she were in a traditional school. The girl said she honestly doesn’t know. When asked if she will go to college and if she thinks she could succeed in college, she says she doesn’t know. She realizes that students in college use books and, that if she wants to go to college, she will open a book and learn.
Another family is profiled in the piece, that seems to have similar “teaching” styles. They say that:
“There is no hierarchy in our house. So, there is no punishment, no judgment, no discipline.”
She goes on to say the “kids just get what they need to breakfast and go wherever it feels comfortable for them to eat” — this is said as the little boy grabs a donut and eats alone on the stairs. Seems like a missed opportunity to me.
What will happen to these kids when they have a boss? Will they have the knowledge, experience and skills needed to thrive in a work environment?
I’m all for different learning styles and teaching kids in more ways than memorizing information for tests, but this style is too unstructured. I don’t think children have the knowledge yet to make the decisions that these families are leaving to them. ABC Parenting Expert, Ann Pleshette Murphy says,
“This to me is putting way too much power in the hands of the kids, something that we know kids can often find anxiety-producing, and it’s also sending a message that they’re the center of the universe, which I do not think is healthy for children,” she said.
School’s out for the summer: no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks. At my house, we’ll add in a lot of fun activities and learning by adventure and experiences. But, we’ll keep the pencils, the workbook and I guess I’ll be the teacher with the dirty looks.
What do you think about unschooling?
Photo credit: lusi