Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Educational Freedom

Lately I've been reading many new articles being written about unschooling and I must admit, that many of them are really getting on my nerves. The reason I'm guessing so many articles are being written is partly because some unschoolers are looking for a way to turn it into an income, other non-unschoolers are unhappy with the most prevalent school system so they are looking for other options, and the third, the people who write the news, like controversy. The later is what is really on my nerves.

I'll not be linking the articles as I wouldn't want to line the pockets of those who write dribble that might one day be used to create a law to stop or cause harm to our educational style. I will make an issue with some of what is being written.

1) To read one particular article, they make it sound as if Unschooling means 'non-parenting'.

This is far, far, from the way I had come to understand unschooling and far from how we unschool. Unschooling done properly, means parents are more in tune with their child(ren)'s needs. The parent is always looking for things and means to enhance the child(ren)'s life and learning. Parenting to me means being involved in helping one's child(ren) grow and learn in a safe way.

A dear friend of mine recently posted that her children no longer need her to orchestrate their Story Tellers Group. She has become more of the chauffeur and secretary instead of the director. To me, this means she has been very successful in raising her children! See a few years ago, when her children were younger, they needed their mother's guidance to learn how to tell stories, and guide the group of one-day-to-be story tellers. Now these children have grown and along with becoming quite talented story tellers, they have learned management skills! Personal and group! My friend has done an excellent job at parenting.

2)Another article makes unschooling sound as if unschoolers just open the front door and send their children to go discover the world alone.

This is also very far from the truth! Unschooling parents join their children in exploring. They are there to share experiences with, to help when help is needed or wanted. To provide options and opportunities.

An example of this is my son has been wanting to learn how to modify PC game programs. He read a thread online about how a certain game could have modifications (mods) added that would expand the game to such an extreme, you would be hard pressed to ever reach it's limit. There are over 2,500 mods available just from the main site, so he spent the last bit of time reading and learning all he could learn. When it finally came time to start the downloads, he asked me to come be with him.

Now this may sound strange, but we've had a few bugs and or viruses, that have made him a wee bit gun shy to just download without a second opinion. Also, learning computer programming is rather involved so it's nice to have another person there to discuss things with. So last night he gave me a crash course on mod installments by pulling up the best information for me to read over and cutting out the fluff so it wouldn't take me a month to get through. Between the two of us working together, he was able to install the first few of what I believe will become many modifications. In fact, I was so impressed with his new skill that I plan on picking him up another modifiable game for his birthday tomorrow!

3) Unschoolers neglect math and science and other 'schooly' topics.

Now I can't speak for all, nor would I want to, but unless the schools are producing every student with a near perfect higher math and science understanding, this is a mute point.

In my home, everyone has a higher understanding of math including my only true completely unschooling youngest. He uses math naturally and way beyond the simple cooking examples many people use to show how math works in the real world. I will state that there is one thing I have noticed that tends to be missing, though, and that would be some of the titles to procedures that schools dole out. I mean really, once you are out of school, how many of you use the procedural terms in everyday conversations? (OK, I do know of one person who would, but she's a bit unusual.) So because of this, I've made sure my son owns an excellent reference book to these terms and he knows how to use it should he ever need it. We figure he most likely will never even see these terms unless he someday decides to take a standardized test.

Unschooling isn't about neglecting our children. It also isn't about forcing unwanted and unneeded rules and drudge work on them either. When we first came to unschooling, the more experienced unschooling moms said, don't think of things in categories like reading, writing, math, science as those are forced distinctions and not how the real world works. Unschooling doesn't mean our children won't learn to read, either. Nor does it mean that our children can never have a textbook, or a course should they want one.

What unschooling does mean, is that our children are allowed to thrive! For my son, this meant that I fed his desire to read and kept him stocked with books, books and more books, on every subject he wanted to read about. When he wanted to learn everything he could about cats, I found him everything I could get for him to explore this topic as deep as he wished to go! I had to learn not to look at a book by it's marked level and more for what information it contained. I found him science videos, and let him own cats! All his working knowledge on cats, easily transfers to other mammals. My son now knows more about biology then most high school graduates because when he wanted to learn, he was allowed to.

Unschooling really equals educational freedom to learn all one wants to learn with no limits imposed. At least that's what it means in our home.


Ruralmama said...

Hear, hear! I really like the way you eloquently argued your points. It's funny, because I guess I never really thought of us as "unschoolers", but I'm pretty sure by your definition, we qualify. Which is funny because we do end up doing a lot of bookwork. My kids really like filling in answer sheets and showing daddy "what they learned" that day. Huh.
That was a really interesting thing to learn!

jugglingpaynes said...

This is wonderful Vicki. You should submit it to the Carnival of Unschooled Life.

Storytelling went well. It's fun to hear what each child decides to share. It's amazing to see what kids can do when they have the freedom. :o)

Peace and Laughter!

Vicki said...

Thank you Ladies! I apprecaite your kind comments. I dislike when I hear the news trying to equate Unschooling with neglectful parenting as it's no such thing. Babies learn to walk and talk everyday and adults learn new skills all the time, too. Why shouldn't kids between 5 and 18 do the same?

call*me*kate said...

Well spoken, my dear. I cannot categorize how/what we do here in our home. But it seems to be working ... and I know it's far better than I had growing up with traditional schooling. Try to ignore the news - the media is meant to be annoying, I think. And they do it well.

I remember the cat raising.