Custom Search

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Kimi & Shaun - On Top of the World!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"But you're missing the point!"

I'm reading (and listening to) more fallout from our TV appearances, and I find myself saying "you're missing this point!" way too much. So, once again I try to go at it from the other side. What's the point? How do I say it more clearly so that others will hear it more clearly?

First, I hear a couple of times that unschooling (and homeschooling) parents are the ones who are more likely to be more involved in their kids' education, rather than less, just by the simple act of making a specific, and uncommon, choice on their education (and I even hear some of the critics agree with that point!). Next, I hear that "no kid will chose to learn algebra" or "how will they learn history" or "they need to get the fundamentals" before making their own choices. Then I hear that kids "don't know what they don't know, and need to be exposed to a lot of things" so that they know what they like and should focus on.

Too many people seem to make the following assumptions:

1. 'Kids make choices' means 'Parents do nothing.'
2. 'No arbitrary rules' means 'Free for all.'
3. 'No school teachers' means 'No learning.'

All of these assumptions must be accompanied by the assumption that the parents do not care about their kids.

So, since I'm a math/logic guy at heart, I ask that at least for a moment we accept the following assumptions:

1. Parents who unschool care about their children's education.
2. Parents who unschool want their kids to succeed.
3. Parents who unschool live in the real world, and are aware of all the concerns about unschooling and are aware of the rules and norms of society.
4. Parents who unschool spend a lot of effort and energy on their kids' education.

Let us then postulate that:

1. Unschooling parents want their kids to be exposed to as much as possible (assumptions #1 #3, and #4). Unschooled kids who are exposed to a lot must see some part of the world, and by extension, have to learn about it.
2. Unschooling parents demonstrate behaviors they want their kids to emulate (assumptions #2, #3, and #4).
3. Unschooling parents will seek out what they believe is the best for their kids, and will take advantage of all forms of learning, including classes, books, lectures, programs, other experts, and whatever else they need to get their kid whatever s/he needs (assumptions #1-4).
4. Unschooling kids who are using many forms of learning, and who are exposed to many things in the real word must live by the rules of society (and the museum, and the movie theater, and the bookstore, and the library, and so on...) (assumptions #1-4).

Is this a stretch? Is the acceptance of my assumptions an unreasonable request? If not, are the results of those assumptions too much to swallow? If not, then is it at least likely (maybe as much as the school system) that the kids will in fact learn the basics, see a lot, get the opportunity to find their passions (even though they may change over time), and that they will be ready to enter the real world as productive adults?


  1. Well said. There are no parents in the world who are less likely to just leave their kids alone. Unschooling is a lot of work! It is the most joyful and fulfilling work imaginable, but it certainly isn't for the faint of heart or lazy.

  2. What a great follow up to the all the discussions I have seen following the TV appearance :).

  3. Well said. Don't let the negative opinions of people who don't know the first thing about unschooling get you down or make you shy about sharing your adventures. There are plenty of people who understand and support your family.

  4. 1. Parents who unschool care about their children's education.
    Okay, we can assume this.

    2. Parents who unschool want their kids to succeed.

    3. Parents who unschool live in the real world, and are aware of all the concerns about unschooling and are aware of the rules and norms of society.
    Sorry, I can't assume that one. If someone takes their child out of formal schooling, the first question I need to ask is "Do they understand all the concerns are they aware of all the rules, norms, and fundamental education necessary for a decent job?”

    Moreover, from my very personal experience with people both homeschooling and unschooling, I can attest to the fact that many don’t.

    4. Parents who unschool spend a lot of effort and energy on their kids' education.
    Again, I can’t agree with this assumption. If someone I know were to tell me they were unschooling their kid, my second question would be how much time and energy are you willing to invest.

    Here’s a link I found the other day.

    Read it. It’s very motivational. Then re-read it, and see that it’s completely self centered about how the mother feels and how much stress she has and how she’s worried and doesn’t want to worry. Letting go was hard for her. I read this post, and no, I absolutely can’t assume this woman lives in the real world and no, I can’t assume she’s interested in putting a lot of time and energy into unschooling her kids. Frankly, she doesn’t want to work too hard at it.

  5. Anonymous: I just want to make sure I clarify a couple of things.

    a) I think if you're saying that not all unschoolers exhibit the traits I described, I won't argue with you - but my point was that *if* those traits were present, *then* unschooling can result in kids becoming successful adults.

    b) Where you say "all the rules, norms, and fundamental education necessary for a decent job" just be aware that you seem to be asserting that schools in fact know all this; that is a leap of faith considering the negative press and results of education. It also presumes a definition of 'decent job' which is subjective.

    c) I read the blog - I guess I would say that I'm not prepared to make the assessment out of that one blog as to why and how she got where she got. There isn't a statement of how she got out of schooling her kids. Also, where the writer talks about loosening up control and performance, it's a jump to go to the conclusion of less effort. I know we lost the need for control and performance a while ago, but that has caused us *more* work, not *less* work.

    Please let me know what you think of my response. Thanks for writing in!

  6. First, and kinda off topic, but I did try putting my name in the first time. I don't know why it came up as anonymous. :(

    A) Yes. If the parents do a good job, unschooling can work wonderfully. If.

    B) Schools are not perfect. Schools can do a bad job. Lincoln didn’t go to schools and he ended up president. Then again, Obama did go to school, public schools, and he also ended up president.

    C) I will simply disagree with you here. The post was pretty clear. The parent was choosing the path based on what provides them the least stress, not on what provides their kids the best education. That is a horrible reason to start unschooling.

    But, back to the main point of your post (which by the way, I liked, I rarely comment on posts or provide real meaty replies unless I like the post). You established three assumptions that you claim people make.
    1. 'Kids make choices' means 'Parents do nothing.'
    2. 'No arbitrary rules' means 'Free for all.'
    3. 'No school teachers' means 'No learning.'

    I would agree that those are unfair assumptions, but they are not unfair concerns. When I hear someone say the kids make the choices, it is not unreasonable for me to question if they are learning the boring basics. Then, to rebut those three assumptions, you provided 4 assumptions of your own.

    I do have to take quarrel with the final two assumptions. They are not always true (which you then agreed to). Often times parents choose homeschooling for bad reasons. They do care about their kids, but they have unreasonable expectations about their kids, the world, and their own ability to teach. If you agree that 2 of your 4 assumptions aren’t fair assumptions, then your rebuttal of the 3 assumptions must be laid aside, and you need a new argument for why those 3 assumptions aren’t fair concerns.

  7. Thanks for the reply (and you kind words about my post).

    What I was trying to address in the original post is the reaction that if you unschool, then your kids will *not* learn the basics, will *not* learn to follow rules, and will *not* be exposed to enough variety in their lives.

    I understand the concerns raised by those hearing about unschooling for the first time. I don't appreciate the assumption that goes along with them (that the parents do not care about their kids), but I'm not saying the 3 concerns aren't valid. The 4 assumptions I presented were to point a way to get to the conclusion that unschooling can (and does) lead to educated and useful adults. I wasn't saying that all my assumptions are true for all unschoolers - just as they are not true for all schooling or homeschooling families.

    As for my last 2 assumptions:

    "3. Parents who unschool live in the real world, and are aware of all the concerns about unschooling and are aware of the rules and norms of society."

    Unless you are talking about a family living 'off the grid' out in the wilderness (or other fringe folks - they exist in schooling, traditional homeschooling, and unschooling worlds, and they cause harm to their families in equal, if not identical, ways), the family is in fact living in the real world. They go to the mall, the grocery store, the movies, watch TV, read newspapers and magazines, have neighbors, etc. They and their kids have to live by the rules of society if they go out. If they are unschooling, and their friends/family/neighbors know it, then I can state pretty unequivicably that they do know about the concerns - they hear them all the time. Most of the unschooling families I know talk about these issues and look for ways to deal with them.

    "4. Parents who unschool spend a lot of effort and energy on their kids' education."

    While I'm sure you can find examples to the contrary, this is all unschooling families that I talk to. I don't have any scientific evidence of this. It's hard not to do this without risking consequences of losing the right to unschool.

    You say "Often times parents choose homeschooling for bad reasons " - that doesn't match my experience in dealing with unschooling parents around the country. I realize this might be a concern for folks, but that doesn't mean it's true. Deciding to unschool is a tough decision - it's way, way easier to just send the kids to school every day. Think about it - what is easier than sending them away for 7 hours every day for 12 years?

    So, I don't agree that 2 of my 4 assumptions aren't fair - on the contrary, my experience is that they are spot on for nearly all unschoolers. I would never claim that they are 100% true. I don't offer those assumptions as rebuttal for the 3 concerns - I offer them as a logical way to address those concerns, which has primarily been to state that it's not possible for a good outcome from unschooling (please check out some of the messages that were in response to the GMA and Joy Behar segments, as well as the comments from the journalists in question).

    Again, thanks for your comments, and I welcome any additional comments you have regarding this latest response.

  8. Also, I reread the blog, and read a little of the background of the blogger. I completely agree that the subject of the blog entry you found was about reducing stress - but, again, that's not why they got into unschooling in the first place. It's a lesson that she is sharing about how the parent can grow and learn thru the experience. When you read the bio about what is being done with the family, you can get a better sense that reducing stress on the parent does not translate into a less busy lifestyle - just a less stressful lifestyle. I have always encouraged classmates, colleagues, and friends to reduce the stress in their lives - regardless of the cause. I've got a little bit of a sore spot right now about someone reading (or seeing) just a small glimpse of a person's life and extrapolating too much (which is what happened to us on the first GMA segment) - so I would encourage you to read more of the entries from this blog to try to get a better sense of what this mom is really all about.