Home Education Magazine
July-August 2000 - Articles
Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon
Unschooling and Friendships
"I don't know if unschooling works for my three boys. All they ever do is play baseball. They are good kids, but I don't know if they are learning anything." - Karen, Vermont
? Your boys are "good kids." That is more important than memorizing dates or performing mathematical feats. We need a world of people with values, common sense and strong connection to each other. That is what your family life is teaching your children. - Mary Wonici, New Mexico
? There is a lot to be learned from baseball. Keeping up with the statistics is math, reading about the players' backgrounds and the sport itself is language arts and social studies, playing the game is certainly physical education, understanding about force and trajectory is physics, watching the ball whirling against a blue sky is art appreciation. Learning at its best is interwoven with everything else. Believe me, they are learning. - Phillip Berman, Grand Rapids, Michigan
? In our family we have struck a balance between unschooling and schooling. We explain this to our children by telling them that eating a healthy, diverse range of foods is best, but taking multivitamins makes sure we haven't missed an important nutrient. We encourage our children to pursue a wide variety of activities, but explain that doing several pages of traditional academic work is like a vitamin, a boost that takes a short time but provides them with experience in math and written expression. Some days, filled with museum trips or art projects, are nourishing enough, but we also have days that could use the stimulation of a clever math book or journal to write in. We feel more comfortable and it seems our five children recognize that they benefit from this balance. - Lauren, Puerto Rico
? My daughter was nuts about horses. She read about them, drew them, talked about them and nagged us to get her one. So, we learned about horses. I asked her to find out what it would cost us for the first year of ownership. She dug right in, comparing prices of everything from feed to boarding costs to vet bills. She and her dad went over the family budget, helping her determine that she needed to save her babysitting money too. She developed a plan to eventually purchase a horse. She also took riding lessons and volunteered with an equine therapy program, which enables physically challenged children to go horseback riding. She has learned and grown through her pursuit of this interest. - Christy Cash, Litchfield, Ohio
"My thirteen year old daughter enjoys reading and other solitary pursuits. I'm concerned that she feels little need for friendship. Should I push her to go to homeschool group activities?" - Barbara, Maine
? I was like that at her age, but that has naturally changed over time. I think there is often too much stress on "being social." There is nothing wrong with spending time alone. I remember reading about the Smithsonian study on genius, which found that time alone---to think, read and just "be"---is an important factor in the development of an excellent mind. - Shay, VA
? I didn't socialize at all when I was thirteen. My fellow teens seemed immature. If my parents had known how obnoxious the kids in my youth group at church were they would have been shocked. My parents got me out of the house by insisting I do regular community service. I chose to go weekly to an assisted living facility nearby and play chess and board games with some of the people there. I consider many of the seniors to be my friends now. They have been through more difficult experiences than I could have imagined, but still have faith and hope.
Now I'm fifteen. I still go at least once a week to play games, but I also go along on some of their day trips. I help on the bus, push wheelchairs, carry lunch trays and generally have fun. I've gone with them to historical sites and on interesting tours. They tell me that I'm in their prayers. They are in mine too. - Jason, Illinois
? I come from a large and loving family and was happiest at home. I would never take lessons or play at other kid's houses. But at thirteen I wondered if there was something wrong with me, like I would be a hermit forever. I cried and argued when my mom insisted I join a group like scouts. I decided to join a 4-H club even though we don't live on a farm. I was so scared that I took my baby sister in her stroller to the first few meetings just so I wouldn't be alone.
Everyone was nice. I made a lot of friends and every year got more involved. I was a summer camp counselor at 4-H camp, club president and even got involved at the state level. I learned a lot through my projects whether they won first prize or not. If my mom hadn't pushed me I would have missed the best part of my teen years. I'm 18 now and applying for 4-H scholarships to college. I'd tell your daughter that just beyond your fears is a fuller life. - Mandy Fuller
? Accept the fact that your child may be an introvert. That means her energy is easily depleted when forced to be around others for long periods of time. In fact, her energy is renewed by having ample time alone. Especially if you personally are more of an extrovert you may find her personality trait hard to accept. Or you may worry since she's homeschooled that she'll somehow be socially hampered because of her desire to be alone. Rest assured that those of us who prefer our own company for large quantities of time are not social outcasts. We often find great enjoyment in the company of a select few close friends, and even then on a limited basis. We can tolerate large gatherings for short periods, but we find them extremely draining and need time alone to recharge.
We are also quite adept at finding our own place in the world that allows us to be successful at our careers while preserving our time to ourselves. Some of us become freelance writers, solo musicians, cave explorers or research biologists. Many fields are open to folks who actually thrive at being alone.
Please respect your daughter's personality and allow her to choose the time, place and frequency of her social contacts. - Neysa Jensen, Boise, Idaho
© 2000 Home Education Magazine
July-August 2000 Issue
HEM General Information
Subscribe to HEM