in defense of unschooling

Good Morning America recently aired this piece, about the unschooling movement.  Apparently it's raised quite a ruckus. A local radio show discussed the piece, and most of the callers deemed the topic of unschooling crazy.

Which isn't quite fair.

It's like looking at David Koresh and saying "Christians are nuts."

It's like shaking your head at Tiger Woods various misdeeds and muttering "golfers,"  or watching Howard the Duck and proclaiming, "movies suck."

Imagine going into Fleet Farm  (relax -  I said imagine), and meeting up with the guy who's got a lower lip full of Red Man chew, four missing teeth, a pair of filthy Dickie overalls, and hair that has not been combed since a week ago last Thursday.  His wife who has traded the overalls for a pair of hot purple stretch pants and an oversized Tweety-Bird t-shirt, has similar attributes.  Is that "Minnesota fashion"?

Hell no. Nobody I know dresses like that.  Yet Good Morning America felt justified in taking one microcosm of unschoolers and turning them into poster children for the entire community.  And maybe, just maybe it should have occurred to the reporters and network, that this family was not the finest example they could find.

I mean, Balloon boy was homeschooled too  - but lordy!

To be fair, I am not an unschooler.  I am a teacher at a private school who has homeschooled both children, and currently has one child in public school and one who is homeschooled. But I do have friends who unschool, and on occasion we have used this philosophy in our family's educational model.

I speak only about the unschoolers I know personally,  but most of them do not have cable TV, x-boxes, or more than one computer in the house.  They do have schedules and rules about their home lives - there are expectations for the children.   For most unschoolers it is merely the educational aspect of their lives that is less regimented.  And most people I know use a mix of both philosophies when choosing to home educate.  I know we did.

When Punk was 6 years old, he was a die-hard dinosaur freak.  We're talking obsessed.  It scared me a little.  I was afraid that he would grow up and become one of those people that snorted while laughing at some rare-paleontological joke that only he and his 17 cats understood. The kid knew bone structures, and where to find fossils. He knew every era of every creepy nasty thing that ever walked the earth.  Did I teach him that? Nooooooooooo.  But he was interested, so I took him to the library, we went fossil hunting, discussed theories, and for 5 months, that was the only science we did - period.   The result, was that when we went on a real expedition, with a real paleontologist, Punk was able to discuss things on a college level.  Even the pros were impressed with his theories.

 That is the kind of thing unschooling can accomplish - the chance to delve into things, and follow your bliss.  (because let's be honest - wouldn't we all be happier that way?)

Unschooling is not about gorging yourself on Captain Crunch and the latest online version of Dungeons and Dragons. It's not about do-nothing lives and lazy parents (on the contrary, it can take intense amounts of work to help your child follow their dreams).  Shame on GMA for airing such a one-sided story, and shame on everybody who was so quick to judge.  Don't believe the hype.


yes, yes! well said! personally, I think those that do not homeschool have no idea what we do and it freaks them out that we do it - and our kids thrive. Now if they can't figure out the traditionalist homeschoolers, they surely won't know what to make of the radical unschoolers.