Unschooling has gotten a lot of attention recently in the mainstream media. An academic has made it the focus of her masters thesis in Comparative Media Studies at MIT.
Vanessa Bertozzi has posted several excerpts from her thesis, Unschooling Media: Participatory Practices among Progressive Homeschoolers.
Bertozzi does a good job giving a general description and overview of unschooling on her website. In the pdf files she provides over in the right column, she demonstrates that she has understood many of the and unschoolers.
She points out interesting differences of opinion among unschoolers about potential positive and negative uses of the media, including the internet. Her research seems to be grounded in a thorough review of the basics of unschooling, from Holt and Illich to personal interviews with honest-to-goodness unschoolers. It is a lovely extension of the “thesis of her thesis” that she found honest-to-goodness unschoolers by using the same methods that unschoolers use to find one another, through social networking on the internet.
Unschooling is more multi-dimensional and diverse than Bertozzi’s excerpts show, I’m sure due to her need for a tight focus; still, this peek at her paper demonstrates that her thesis is probably an academic work that is unusual: She “gets” unschooling, she realizes that there are people other than Christian conservatives who are educating their children at home, and she treats unschooling as a legitimate educational methodology with a real and rich history.
The fact that she then takes an interesting look (using a case study approach) at how unschoolers use and view media is almost a bonus in addition to the refreshing perspective on unschooling in general.
And yeah, yeah, yeah, unschoolers don’t like to be studied. But this is a little different, because it’s not unschoolers’ educational or social “outcomes” that are being tracked; rather it’s a look at unschoolers’ interactive practices with media. It’s only been a few months since I participated in an online debate where I cited home/unschoolers’ use of the internet as a type of “professional development” for parents. The non-homeschoolers made fun of me, strongly doubting the serious value of such networking. Bertozzi makes my case far better than I did.
Valerie mentioned this thesis on NewsComm a while back, after Bertozzi’s work was featured on one of her MIT professor’s blogs back in July. Now that I’ve read some actual excerpts, I hope the parts I haven’t read demonstrate a similar understanding and attempt to illuminate unschooling.
Posted by Jeanne Faulconer