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« The Luxury of Freedom | Main | Parenting Without School ~ Stephanie W. »

February 15, 2007



This comment is not about your post, but I I'm not sure where to ask this. First of all, I don't have kids, but I want to have them. Also, homeschooling has always seemed like a good idea ever since I heard of it. I think that school would have been a much better experience if I didn't have to worry about "socializing" during recess, or being distracted by other kids talking in class. I could've just sit there and asked her questions all day long.

I see from your "About Us" section that you unschool. I've heard a lot about unschooling, and about letting your child pick what they want to learn. Please don't yell at me, but how are they supposed to figure out what they like if they never get exposed to it? I've thought about my parents, and what I was like before school, and I'm sure I would've learned how to read, and learned to love music, and I probably would have learned math eventually. I just can't imagine learning to like science without seeing that bag of wet bread turn into green slime in second grade. Also, what if I'd never been "forced" to learn history in the fourth grade. Fourth grade history was like an epiphany to me. It wasn't as if I'd never learned any history, we'd learned about the presidents and stuff in earlier grades, but there was just something about the way it was presented, or the book, or something, that made me love it. Anyway, that's it. Thank you for your time, and I'm sorry for using your journal like this, but like I said, I just didn't know where to ask this.



Thanks for your questions attached to a post at LWOS. I’ll try to answer from my perspective as a long-time mother of four and homeschooling mom . . . you said that you’d have had a better school experience if you hadn’t had to worry about socialization during recess or distractions from other kids in the classroom. Bingo! Those are two of just many reasons that cause folks to start thinking about homeschooling their kids. And one of the wonderful things about homeschooling goes along with your next comment, “I could have just asked her questions all day long.” I assume you meant you could have had your teacher all to yourself and she’d have been your sounding board. Many, many homeschoolers have found that simply being available to their kids as a “question-answerer”, a role-model, and facilitator is the best thing they can do to support their children’s learning.

Don’t worry, we don’t yell at folks here at LWOS! There are no wrong questions, okay? Many of us didn’t understand unschooling when we first started thinking about homeschooling, either. It’s by observing our own children that we realized that they are capable of wanting to learn, without our constant intervention or coercion. It’s because we attended school and were taught to think that all learning happens between arrival and departure from the school building, and because we were taught to think that learning happens between the beginning bell ringing and the ending bell ringing, in 45-50 minute increments, and because we were taught to think that there has to be a teacher for learning to happen that we wonder these things. Personally, I can recount the moment of epiphany for me. I’d been homeschooling my kids (two school-age; 5th and 2nd graders, and one “pre-schooler”) for several months. It was the end of April and we’d begun homeschooling the previous September. However, in March, our long-awaited daughter had arrived from Korea, a needy, grieving 6-month old. Her days and nights were mixed, she wanted her foster mother, and the formula didn’t agree with her. I was sleep-deprived and exhausted from comforting a baby who didn’t sleep more than 15 minutes at a stretch. I was lying on the couch in the middle of our living room with our darling daughter asleep on my tummy, and the two older boys were wearing a path in the carpet between the bookshelves and the basement computer. I finally asked, during a half-awake moment, “What are you boys doing?” They were playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”, an educational computer game, and using the aging encyclopedia on the bookshelf as a supplemental source of information so they could win the game (and incidentally learning all sorts of things). Eureka! Provide the educational environment and they will learn.

You mentioned you thought you might have learned music, reading and maybe math, if you’d been homeschooled, and thought that you might not have learned science or history without schooling. I presume that you feel your home environment would have provided the resources to learn the former, and wouldn’t have inspired you to delve into the latter. However, when folks start to homeschool, they often think about this very issue. While some unschoolers really work hard not to influence their children in any way, kids naturally look to their parents as their first source of information. So if they see you reading, and visiting art museums, and tag along when you do volunteer work, and catch you doing research on the internet, and are taken to the library, and see you taking enrichment or college classes, or teaching classes, or whatever they see you doing, they are going to pick up on that. And many homeschoolers, including unschoolers, provide their kids with opportunities to explore the world around them, so they might visit a science museum and see an experiment like the one you described seeing in science class, or they might find a science book of experiments “just lying around” their house, and decide to have mom or bigger sibling or dear Auntie Jen help them do it. And there are so many ways to learn history besides in fourth grade history class. Some families are involved in re-enacting, others have a family membership to a local historical museum, or enjoy watching documentaries, or history-based movies. Some read aloud as a family, and choose such books as “The Little House” books or biographies of interesting historical figures. Others travel to historic sites and other volunteer as docents at such sites. All of these provide opportunities to spark or build on an interest, and are great ways to help kids get interested in something they might not think of on their own.

By pursuing their interests and exploring the world around them, two of my kids have found their life passions and careers. One was interested in all things mechanical and got his certifications (state and ASE – international) in automotive technology by the time he was seventeen, and later earned his associate’s in applied science in the same field. He was recruited by a former teacher to run the hands-on part of the automotive program at a technology center, and is now teaching for the eighth year in a stand-alone automotive program at a local high school, while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Along the way he has become involved in local (village) government, and is currently the head of the planning commission. He volunteered with Special Olympics for several years, and is a home owner, having renovated a fixer-upper with the help of our family and friends. Most recently, he and one of his brothers fixed up his basement, making a workout space so they can lift weights, ride exercise bikes, and keep fit so they’re ready each year for their ski and snowboard trip to Nevada!

The second oldest of my sons took Management and Marketing classes at the local community college, but then decided to go into the family painting and decorating business, so currently isn’t taking classes. He and our family and friends also helped him build a house, from clearing the land to putting the siding and roof on. He and his wife and puppy now live happily in “The House that All of us Built” while putting the finishing touches on the landscaping and putting up maple trim, which he cut, planed, and finished himself! No fear, unschooling works, although it’s lovely that there are so many “finished products” (ie: grown unschoolers) around these days to be the “proof of the pudding”.

It’s wonderful that you are thinking and learning about homeschooling even before having children! How often I wish that I’d had that opportunity! But we live and learn, much like unschooling children, from the experiences of life, and I’m still learning plenty from continuing to homeschool my youngest child! And I'm happy to see my three graduates living a life of "lifelong learning", which was one of my goals after I'd been homeschooling for a while.


Hi there -
I will offer a different approach to your question.

What guarantees that your children will be exposed to the subjects that might get them excited? Or how about: what if the perspective that is presented is not complete, accurate, or even truthful? What about topics that are rarely, if ever, covered in public schools? How do people ever discover those topics?

I am playing devil's advocate here. Point is that a public education does not offer any guarantees. True - you will get some exposure to 8 - 12 different topic areas (depending on what your particular school system deems a requirement). But how good is that exposure?

There are many, many topics that I did not discover until I was an adult. I am still discovering, both because of my own interests and those of my children.

Point is that there is really no wrong answer here. In all cases - whatever you are exposed to may or may not lead to the next discovery. But the interesting thing is - just because you dont discover it today, does not mean you wont discover it some other time.

For those of us who unschool (myself being one of them), I dont worry about what exposure does not happen. I am more concerned about what they get out of what they _are_ exposed to. . . i.e., is it interesting, does it result in follow-on interests, does it have spin-off applications, does it have relational applications, and so forth.

Just because you are exposed to something today, also, does not mean that it will have meaning or application to you today. So, I might introduce my kids to a particular topic - and it bounces right off. But sometime in the future, we may be doing something - and they remember, "Hey! that is just like when we read about . . .".

I also have found that with my kids, all three of them, doing was more important than reading (or studying). Whenever they had a chance to do something they got more out of the situation than if we spent three weeks reading every book on the topic. I have also found that by doing - we identify many more spin-off opportunities and applications than when we read.

Gardening for example, spins off into studying flowers, insects, pesticides (environmental pollution), growing cycles, weather, etc. If we were to spend three months studing gardens via the classroom model - we would all go bonkers. But creating a garden takes months (and years if you are creating a long term garden), and we pick up and put down books on the topics as we need them. We all stay engaged and many types of subjects are covered.

Whatever you decide, unschooling, traditional studies homeschooling, or public school, chances are your children will be exposed to enough variation such that they can take it upon themselves to discover these and other topics. When you have your first child, notice how one thing will lead to another, as you spend those first few years together, before you have to make the decision about school. Unschooling is a natural continuation to what we all do with our kids BEFORE they are school-age.

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