Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is College for Unschoolers even Possible?

Unschooling. Oh, how I've come to love saying 'Unschooling' and even better then the sound of the word, is the actual living of a Radical Unschooling life! I've come to love the shock effect when people ask me which school my son attends and I reply, "Oh, he doesn't go to school. We unschool."

I've grown so use to the blank stare, the confused expressions, the need to translate the term 'unschooling' into something that they can wrap their head around. Oh sure, it would be much easier to simply say we homeschool. After all, unschooling is considered one form of homeschooling, but for those who have actually looked into the different forms, they will tell you that unschooling is nothing like doing school at home.

With unschooling, there are no tests, no grades, no curriculum, no grade levels, no need to read till the child desires to do so. The same concept applies to writing, math, science, social studies, English, get the point. There is absolutely no rules towards much of anything. Nope! Nada. Children are left to move at their own natural pace, be it a slow one, an average one, a fast one, or completely unique to the child. The later tends to be the more accurate way most seem to go in the unschooling world.

No, the previous paragraph doesn't mean we neglect our children. Please don't even bother following that thought path as from my observations, I would say that the oposite is true. Unschooling parents are very involved with their children and helping them learn everything! This is a hard concept to grasp so I like to describe it as how a loving mom helps her baby grow. She supplies interesting experiences, and learning opportunities. She points out a bird, and will draw her child's attention to it while saying 'bird' (or for some of us, 'Look at the Blue Jay'). Nobody ever questions all the wonderful ways new parents help their baby grow into a curious toddler then on to a smart young child...then that same curious and smart child reaches the age of five and most parents will bundle them up and send them away for most of their day. For unschoolers? Well, unschoolers aren't in such a hurry, unschoolers tend to be able to wait to bundle up their children till the child is ready to leave the nest on their own.

For some, college will be a choice they choose to pursue, but after what I've written above, many readers are probably wondering,"Just how can an unschooler get into college?" Well? The answer is, EASY!

I currently have two children in college. One started at age 17 and the other at age 16. My 11yo is also elgible but he would rather wait till he is taller. He figures he might go at age 15. Do I worry how they will do? Absolutely not. They all are and will do well. There are many reasons they will do well. The most important one being that they are there by their own choice. Having a choice and being responsible for yourself is very empowering. Unschoolers tend to be very empowered individuals.

They have faith in themselves that they can learn anything they want to learn. Most unschoolers are very knowledgable as they have been learning and living and exploring for years! College isn't just a first taste of freedom so failing doesn't tend to happen. So as I was looking for good links to back up my story here, I came across files and files of great information on how to get your unschooler into college. There is advise on how to prepare for the SAT or ACT. There is advise on how to translate an unschooling life into 'schoolese' therefore creating a transcript outlining a life of learning. But as I reveiwed these links, which I will include at the bottom for you to puruse, I thought what is it that you are REALLY asking?

Sure, sure, local community colleges let everyone in. The actual knowledge level doesn't matter. What if your child wishes to go to a high end college? Say Princeton University? Well, I know what I've read, but you don't want to hear second hand rumor. Lets go to Princetown and see what they want. If you click here, you will be taken to their Applying for Admission page.

Here is a snippet from that page: "As you prepare your application, help us to appreciate your talents, academic accomplishments and personal achievements. We'll ask for your transcript and recommendations, and we will want to know more than just the statistics in your file. Tell us your story. Show us what’s special about you. Tell us how you would seize the academic and non-academic opportunities at Princeton and contribute to the Princeton community. Above all, please write in a style that reflects your own voice."

Hmmmm.....sounds like the unique life learning of an Unschooler would fit rather well for what they are looking for.

Here are more links for those that would like ideas on how to prepare transcripts and other information on how to help an Unschooler get into college:

Sandra Dodd has a wonderful collection of articles on this topic. Click here.

Joyce Fetteroll also has a wonderful information page here.


appleleaf said...

Thanks for another very encouraging and thought-provoking post. In fact this one I might print off to show all those people who refer to whose lips drop when we tell them what we're doing.

Monica said...

I think it's really funny that people would doubt an unschoolers ability to go to college. As if you need years of practice to sit, listen and participate in discussions, right?

Ruby in Montreal said...

I like your take on this subject, and especially the resources from Princeton. We do tend sometimes to get all caught up in how to create a transcript or make an official looking report card.

There was a wonderful story I read some time back, about a mother who was told how to create a high school diploma that made it seem her child had attended some sort of exclusive school, rather than going through the effort of explaining that he had been homeschooled & was just as well prepared for college as any other student. She got tons of advice about buying foil seals at craft shops and so on, but what she really was looking for was someone who understood that her son was an educated young man.

I'm glad that Princeton "gets it"!


Anonymous said...

most things I read assume that the unschooled teen who desires college is academically able to handle it. I am not.
I love my life, but Im not a musical prodigy, I don't really have a passionate hobby, My math is at about a middle school level if that,I don't like ot read and I can't write well. my only option seems ot be community college with years of remdial classes to "catch up"
sometimes I feel like I was shortchanged.i don't always feel like that, but sometimes I do.

Vicki said...

Dear Anonymous,

Oh, how I would like to spend some time talking with you!

Right now, you are speaking from where my own thoughts have been. Life currently has me at a place to expound SO MUCH on this issue you raise.

If you don't mind, and I apologize at the onslaught, but I would like to use your post as the lead in on my rant. You raise excellent points that not only apply to you, but to me and many others as well.

Hang in there for a few and I will try and answer your post with a lengthy thought provoking answer which it sounds like, we both need.

=) Never give up.

Magical words 'I love my life,'