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Monday, April 19, 2010

Truth be told, I envy unschoolers. But...

If you don't know what unschooling is, check out this Good Morning America story from this morning. 

 Imagine... no expensive textbooks, no prodding and pleading to get chores done, no constant harassing for that essay you asked them to write over a week ago.  Oh, the dreams of a homeschooling mother.  But at what cost?

The Biegler children have the freedom of unschooling, and allow their children to do as they please without putting rules on restrictions on their lives... this includes not learning if they don't wish to learn.  Believe it or not, I do see some value in it.

For example, my son is quite knowledgeable about internet design.  My husband is an IT exec, and so this may have spurred his interest in computers in general.  I have had to write in CSS Style pages and HTML for a few writing assignments, and he asked me to teach it to him.  That is the only formal instruction he has had in web design. He learned Javascript and the other things that I can't even begin to understand on his own, by surfing the internet and reading web design manuals.  He did this in his spare time and on his own, and he is quite good at it.

My son also has a friend who didn't like writing or grammar until he started blogging.  I look over his blogs from time to time to give him grammar tips, and look for errors.  For the last month or so, I have found no problems at all with his blog.  How did he get so good at writing?  Probably because he did it because he wanted to and no one made him.

Truth be told, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have unschooled largely through the 4th grade or so. 

So I get and truly support this type of homeschooling in many ways.  There is so much value to seeing a kid learn and produce on his own.  But..... BBUUTTTTTT......

I fear for the extra work that  long term unschooling places on the parents.  I have teens.  I know what they do.  They will let dirty laundry and funky smells fester until you have to call the Calvary.  They will eat everything in the house, and leave the evidence piled on the table... and the floor... and the ceiling.  They will call a filthy room clean, just because there are no clothes on the floor.  They don't see dirt... and they don't like responsiblity.  OH, and they can sleep for days on end if you don't drag them out of their beds. 

So my fear is that in such an unschooling situation, the kids to what they please, and mom get the word MAID stamped on her forehead.  Because with no chores, then who's going to cook... every meal?  Whose going to set the table?  Who's going to wash the dishes?  Who's going to clean the kitchen? Who's going to take out the garbage?  Who's going to walk the dogs that they begged for?  Who's going to clean the cat litter?  Who's going to vacuum.  Who's going to ash and fold the laundry?  MOM... that's who.  Oh, and DAD.... you're going to have to cut the grass.  I am not saying that this is what kids are for... to do the household chores... but if they are eating the food, and messing the kitchen, and missing the toilet... well, then, they need to help clean it up.

I can guarantee that if there are two people in the home doing as they please and not cleaning up behind themselves, and one person out working, then there is another person at home feeling abused and disrespected.

So as much as I love the idea of unschooling, I am going to have to relegate that type of parenting to only a few hours a day when the children can be creative, without interruption.  I am very respectful of my kids free time, and they really do make the most of it... but at the same time, I demand they be respectful of our home, which means participating in doing the work it takes to keep the home up, and also being respectful of the people who brought them into this world, by doing chores and following household rules.

And then there's the rest of the academics.  I have no comment on how unschoolers educate... I have seen it work for many children... but I don't feel comfortable leaving college entry to chance.  In my home it is a standard that must be met.  They are going for at least 1 year and if at that point they don't want to continue.. fine, but don't expect to come back to my house and keep living like a teenager.  When you are an adult... you are on your own.

I don't believe in unschooler bashing, so I don't hope to open up my comments section for an unschooling bash... so be nice.  But for my house, we will continue to be eclectic homeschooling, which means a little classical, a bit of arts, and some time to grow on their own.


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Naan Pocen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Naan Pocen said...

I would think unschooling children doesn't necessarily mean NOT teaching responsibility.....or does it?

Ahermitt said...

Good Point Naan... unschooling doesn't mean do discipline... The family in the example I provided from Good Morning America do not discipline. I apologize if I gave the impression that all unschoolers operate this way.

Catherine said...

I was considering unschooling, but it really is more work for the parents to help kids follow their interests. That being said, I think families who successfully unschool still have clearly defined parenting roles, so the kids still have to do things like chores and clean up after themselves. If we unschooled, we would not "unparent".

Tammy Takahashi said...

Don't confuse radical unschooling (which is a lifestyle) with unschooling (which is very close to, if not overlapping with, eclectic homeschooling).

It not that I disagree with many of your points, I just think it's an important distinction to make to avoid misunderstandings.

This is the kind of thing that can lead to misunderstanding: "So my fear is that in such an unschooling situation, the kids to what they please, and mom get the word MAID stamped on her forehead. "
It seems to me that most of your displeasure with radical unschooling is related to the parenting side of it.

Although, your point about not leaving college to chance does fall in the realm of what an *un*radical, "run of the mill", unschooler might do differently.

In my opinion, so long as people are happy, then great. As long as the kids are happy and everyone is enthusiastic about their lives, that's what matters. I've seen both enthusiastic and numb kids in every spectrum, in every kind of family. How people homeschool/educate doesn't matter as much as how they live and interact with the world. Unschooling/school at home/montessor/waldorf/eclectic - none of these are the variable that determines overall adult success.

And an interesting story - I had a maid all my life growing up and I never made my bed. Now, I do all the laundry and cleaning and make my bed. Hubby, on the other hand, didn't have a maid, did lots of housework, and always made his bed as a kid. Now, he doesn't have any interest in keeping the house clean or making his bed. Are we unusual, I don't know. But it does question the idea that A->B always -> C.