Unschooling
Learner

Computer

The issue of the effectiveness of ´uncertificated´ parents vs ´highly trained professionals´ is sometimes also raised as a bogey to be feared. But the existing evidence suggests that the academic achievements of the homeschooled population exceed those of their public school peers. Even the National Assessment of Education Progress data published last year by the American Federation of Teachers showed a curious lack of results associated with high levels of pedagogy even within the school system itself.



Why then should there be any more than superficial oversight by the bearers of ´high levels of training´?


Ballet Friends

Most amazing and unfounded among the fears usually raised is the concern about interpersonal skills, the socialization question. Florida researchers surveyed and observed a wide spectrum of young people in the state, public, private and homeschooled... and noted among their conclusions the fact that homeschooled children were more likely to be hospitable to a new child and to welcome them into their group activities.

In reality, it´s the negative socialization in schools, which recent events have made many more parents aware of, that is the genuine concern. Some claim that the unpleasantness of school contains important lessons that prepare the student for the unpleasantness of reality. If that were the operative dynamic then we should see it operating for children who are abused whereas in reality abused children tend to have the wrong inclinations as adults and must struggle to end the cycle of abuse. Intuitively, the likelihood of school´s negative socialization, in fact, perpetuating and spreading exactly those negative behaviors we find alarming is more within the realm of realistic possibility.


Girl with Violin

If school is so beneficial to the personalities of those subjected to it, why do the recent studies of teenage girls show such horrible influences? Reviving Ophelia and Schoolgirls in the areas of emotional wellbeing and the AAUW´s study of girls´ academic and career expectations. By contrast, Sense of Self by Susannah Schaeffer, for example, documents the absence of such influences among homeschooled teenage girls.

Girl Dancing

If a few school students learned important lessons during their stay in the system, it does not follow that school is desireable. Rather their progress is testimony to learning in spite of the system. In fact the relation between messy school and messy America may not be preparatory preview but cause.

And homeschooling the desireable antidote...

So what are homeschooling´s ingredients, how is it done?


Learner

Freedom to learn is the way to learn to handle freedom.



There are many variations on homeschooling strategies, from those who attempt to mimic the school at the kitchen table, to the unschoolers whose education mimics their child´s interests and their family's chosen lifestyle. And though we owe a debt to Shakers and Mennonites for resisting compulsory education and preserving access to freedom, the current wave of unschoolers do not choose this path for religious reasons.

Our experience is in unschooling which is a family- as well as an individual-affirming option. The guiding principle is the child´s expressed curiosity. Helping them reach their goals creates a family environment where the animosity between generations is absent and siblings are friends. The example of our children´s enthusiasm for learning has ignited many parents on their own quests for self-actualization, all within the aura of mutual-support and comraderie-in-learning within the home.


Boy with Ball & Book

Our links outside the home are many and varied. We are library addicts. We tap the web. We make serious use of community resources, from special instruction in esoteric music and sports, to learning languages from native speakers, to participating in contests of interest, to joining groups like the civil air patrol or theater groups. We enroll in intriguing courses offered by a wide array of providers. We band together with other unschoolers to share ideas and resources locally. These networks are especially valuable and finding or forming a suitable one is high on the agenda for most of us. These links are frequently lifetime sustainable.

Here are a variety of groups and publications for you to explore, roughly organized by stage.

Growing Without Schooling was a wonderful newsletter with a 24 year history of letters from unschoolers of all ages sharing experiences and solutions forming an incredibly instructive diary, with a log of updates on political changes for homeschoolers worldwide, interviews with authors and experts, reviews and recommendations. Although GWS has ceased publication, back issues on any topic you might be pursuing are available through FUN-Books whose toll free phone is (888) 386-7020, or email is FUN@FUN-Books.com and the GWS staff still continue their work at the website.

By sharing experiences, unschoolers have discovered many useful benchmarks to reassure those exploring their new freedom. One key result estimates that it will take one month of apparent ´downtime´ for each year of exposure to school, in order to regain our inherent equilibrium and be ready to begin creating our own education.

Although there are other homeschooling magazines, our favorite and the only unschooling magazine is Life Learning Magazine published bi-monthly and available in both print and pdf format. Even after 25 years, the insight, information, ideas, support and encouragement are inspired. Life directed learning is endlessly fascinating and challenging.


Baby Exploring
Teaching Your Own by John Holt

The Continuum Hypothesis by Jeanne Liedloff

Lil Girl Swimming
Clonlara is an alternative school in Ann Arbor, MI. They operate the HomeBased Education Program to provide administrative assistance for those with special problems, from hostile local officials to other forms of intimidation. Their staff of certified teachers are adept at guidance and knowledgeable in how to meet state requirements, including arranging portfolio evaluations and standardized testing. The school then serves as your final record keeper, providing standard forms, transcripts and diploma.

You can make contact with one of the support groups in your area, as well as receive information on state regulations from the National Homeschool Association.

In contrast, for insight into the inherent flaws, and for practical evidence of how the institutions purporting to educate children are actually pursuing a personally destructive agenda, read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, twice winner of NY state´s Teacher of the Year Award.

Computer Bike

The TeenAge Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn illustrates the many options older homeschoolers might consider. Comparing the experiences of teenagers with the adults adjusting to self-employment in Unjobbing suggests that unschooling is ideal preparation for creating your own work instead of working for others.

The Question is College by Herbert Kohl discusses college and alternative programs, as well as how to choose and reach the work and lifestyle your learner determines as most satisfying.

A recent posting on the history of the American fixation with traditional college educations highlighted the political agenda of the Great Society Era and its role in steering vast numbers to pursue this increasingly expensive and frequently irrelevant investment. For information on the future value of this expenditure see Economic ShellGames at LSR, the Last Straw Revolution.

And ultimately, independent researchers navigate the resources of the academic world as members of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars relatively free from the political games and industrial alliances.

There are lots of listservs, websites and resources you can tap on the web, find what´s new, those with special expertise if you have special needs. Line up all the help you´d like. There are lots of us and you´ll find us helpful.






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Boy Holding Baby