Monday, October 3, 2011

My Thoughts on Unschooling

I'm rather undecided about Unschooling. On one hand, I think that Unschooling would have been a great option for me. Most of what I learned, during my childhood, was not learned in school. I think that, had people just provided the materials I wanted, made sure I had plenty of opportunities, and got out of my way, I would have recieved a much better education.

On the other hand, I don't think that most kids would get a well-rounded education with Unschooling. Unschooling is child-led. That means that the child only has to learn what the child wants to learn. Well, what about the subjects that are important but that the child has no interest in learning? Of course, the biggest argument used is that the child will find out what needs to be learned for the path they want to take & will then learn the necessary subjects. My issue with that is that most people don't decide what they are going to do with their life at a young age. So, if the child doesn't decide what they want to do until they are 15 or 16, that only leaves them 2 years to make sure they have studied every subject required to get into the college they want or that would be needed for whatever path they plan to persue. That's a rather short time to learn everything you need for that next step of your journey. If the parent was guiding the child's education, they could have made sure that the important areas were covered throughout the child's education, meaning no last minute cramming.

On still another hand, I think that Unschooling can be used to some degree, with success, regardless of the child. I think that unschooling should be used until (and possibly through) Kindergarten. Until then, there is no reason to force a child to learn specific things. Let their natural curiosity take the lead & you may be surprised how much they learn. I also think that Unschooling, for certain subjects, would be alright in the lower grades. It won't harm a child to not have a formal education in Social Studies, Science, Art, and Music for the first few years. Their natural curiosity will help them form a solid base to build on. By 4th grade, however, they should be receiving a formal education in all subjects. Or, you could go the other way. Start a formal education in 1st, build a strong foundation, then consider unschooling for high school. If a child has the motivation, a sense of who they are & what they want, and a strong, solid foudation of knowledge, Unschooling could be a good option for high school.

On yet another hand (yeah, I know, I've got a few extra hands here), I can see the possibility of total lack of education if the child doesn't have the intrinsic motivation and/or the parent is not willing or capable of providing the opportunities and materials needed. This would be especially possible in a state that has very relaxed homeschool laws, where they don't have to report or test. In those states, it would be only too easy for a family to say that they are unschoolers, but not put any effort into providing an education of any kind (and with no reporting or testing, who would know). Now, I love the freedom of the homeschool laws in my state & would hate to have to waste time on paperwork for the state or have to force my kids to take standardized tests, especially if the laws changed due to dishonest people who were abusing those freedoms.

Of course, there's also the issue of the differing definitions of Unschooling. Some define it as following the child's lead. If the child wants to use a textbook for a subject, they can. Others say that true Unschooling uses no textbooks, worksheets, or other 'schooly' materials. This is the definition that I dislike the most. These are the ones I feel are most at risk of an inferior education. To refuse the child to use textbooks or workbooks, is unintelligent at best. To not prepare them for the tests and work that will be required in college is doing them a disservice. It is also a disservice to allow them to live an entirely egocentric life, where they don't have to do anything they don't want to do or follow any kind of schedule.

As I said, I'm undecided on Unschooling. Basically, I see some benefits of using it at certain times or in certain situations. However, I see way too much possibility of inferior education, children unprepared for life as an adult, and educational neglect under the guise of being an Unschooling family. It's kind of like organized religion - there are some good ideas at the core, but then people got hold of it & screwed it up.