Home Education Magazine
September-October 2000 Issue
Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon
Unschooling and Field Trip Behavior
"Does anyone have a quick, I mean very quick way to explain what unschooling is? I drone on until those who ask me lose interest."
? "Yes! Schoolhouse Earth." -- Janie Bowman, Olympia, WA
? "Unschooling means learning by the all-encompassing passion method. The kids get the passions, the parents guide them to resources." - Chris Sims, Jericho, VT
? "Babies and young children are quite capable of learning what they need to know without our interference. That magical 'school age' doesn't mean children suddenly become incompetent and we must put them in a school setting, either public, private or home, believing that without our interference, without our bribes, without our coercion, they will no longer learn. Unschooling allows children the privilege of continuing what they have been doing since birth - exploring, asking questions, pondering - learning. Unschooled individuals are not uneducated, merely unschooled." - Joy H. Smith, Rosharon, TX
? "You probably drone on because it is not possible to explain anything with meaning and depth in a few words. A glib answer may just alienate the uninitiated more. Open their eyes to your worldview by describing a typical unschooling day or the way children learn in indigenous cultures around the world." - Laurel
? "I tell people that I am unschooled. When they make judgements about me I explain that when I was in school I felt like I was made to play a single note over and over and over, but now I feel like a composer." - Sara Eisler, age 15
? "People make presumptions based on the words 'home' and 'school' as if my children are chained to the kitchen table. They make presumptions based on 'un' and 'school' as if my children are roaming the streets looking to loot and vandalize. We haven't found the right word to describe how they learn. The world is open to them: people of all ages and interests, every resource imaginable, the freedom to explore and challenge themselves without the confines of a curriculum. Let's hope that we are at least raising children who won't grow up to make presumptions!" - Saleer P., New York, NY
Field Trip Behavior
I belong to a small homeschooling support group which organizes field trips and speakers. The problem is a few children who behave in ways which reflect badly on homeschoolers. They act disrespectfully to adults, argue, even fight during programs. What can I do?
? "You are not taking children on field trips in order to show off homeschooling to the world. You are taking them on field trips to enrich their learning. I do not mean that such behavior should be tolerated. I mean that homeschooled or unschooled children should not be expected to be somehow better than other children. That is an awfully big burden to put on a kid. What we really want the world to see is that our kids are quite normal - just like any other children. They behave well sometimes and misbehave sometimes. To ease your embarrassment a bit, remember that children who attend public or private school often misbehave on field trips too. You don't really need to do anything at all - their behavior is the responsibility of their own parents." - Edie Burkhalter
? "I'd recommend a parent's discussion group or program on the excellent book, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. A study group would be even better, to learn together and try applying this understanding to our own family situation. It is very clear from the research that certain elements of character are more likely to lead to happy and satisfied lives than any academic success. I think some parents really believe that putting limits on their children's behavior would result in unhappy children. But no limits is anarchy. "Start your own support group. You have the responsibility to teach and model to your children proper behavior and consequences at home and in public. Just as you, your children want to be around others who behave well, and you have the responsibility to help them do that. Find other families who share the same morals and values as you, and start your own group. You may have a small group, but at least they will share your beliefs in raising their children. Just as adults do not have to tolerate and stay with other unruly adults, children should not have to stay with other unruly children either." - Homeschool Mom
? "There are always two ways to approach a problem, with love or with fear. You seem to fear that these children give a negative image to homeschooling. What about the homeschooling parents' reactions? Do the adults just glare at other people's children, or do they put a gentle hand on the child's arm and redirect their attention, allow the child the freedom to step away from a situation that is obviously not suited for them or offer help to the child's parent who may be busy with a baby or younger child? Some children are exquisitely sensitive to negative energy generated by other people's tension, anxiety and fear - perhaps they act out to express the feelings that others don't express.
"I taught at a Peace Camp one summer when I was in college. The children decided by consensus the first day what guidelines would be necessary for everyone's safety and happiness. We wrote up and posted the rules with all the kids' signatures. Mostly kids would remind each other when the self-governing process didn't work and get it back on track. We also developed a hand signal which meant 'attention.' Our sign was the old well-known peace sign, but your group could use anything it chooses. We tried not to overuse it, which would have limited its effectiveness. I have used many elements I learned that summer with my own two children. I'd also recommend Teaching Tolerance magazine. Helping children learn the skills necessary to get along in our difficult world, like listening, finding common ground with all people, and empathy, is the only way to have peace in our homes and in our world." - Lauren W., Puerto Rico
(c) 2000 Home Education Magazine
September-October 2000 Issue
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