Education Week News, Bethesda, Maryland, 19 December 2006, Unschooling’ Stresses Curiosity More Than Traditional Academics
As yellow school buses rumble through Nicole Puckett’s Spokane, Wash., neighborhood, her eight children are often asleep in bed. When they wake up, instead of heading to school, they go downstairs to begin another day of “unschooling,” an educational approach that is the subject of much debate among home-schoolers and traditional school advocates.
If it’s one thing I don’t see much of any more on the homeschooling discussion lists I’m on, it’s “debate” about unschooling. Unschoolers seem to do their thing, and everyone else does theirs. Most of the interaction between list-members focuses on resource sharing, and daily logistics, not how everyone else learns at home, although hints do come out in conversation.
The article has a large, pleasant selection of unschooling vignettes, and quotes from unschooling advocates such as Patrick Farenga and Sandra Dodd, as well as homeschooling advocate Brian Ray. Still, the whispering voice of doubt is woven through from top to bottom.
- Risks Involved But critics, including some of those who opt for more-structured home schooling and proponents of “child centered” classrooms in regular schools, say that there are risks involved, and that learning deficits can result from letting children basically learn whatever they want.
- Of course, those from more traditional education circles worry that such free-form education could make it difficult for a child to adjust as an adult to the more structured world of college or work.
- But some educators, even within the home-schooling world, argue that unschooling can leave children with a lopsided education.
- Mr. Kohn said “there’s no question that unschooling leaves behind most of the bad stuff in a lot of schools. The question is whether some good stuff or potential good stuff is missing.”
Then there is just a hint of a sneer.
The term “unschooling” was coined by the late John Holt, one of the godfathers of the home-schooling movement, who wrote a stack of books about alternative ways of educating children.
Nothing you can actually put your finger on, but the scent lingers.
With the progress through society of the professionally-unproctored experiment of not only homeschooling but also unschooling, I have to wonder if the officials see this social experiment in the same light as the professionally overseen experiments in classroom teaching in schools?
Exam question: Is it one thing to have professionals conduct social experiments, but another for the people involved in the actual living to do so? Compare and contrast.
My sister and I, both the subjects of never-professionally-repaired elementary school classroom experiments in math instruction, and who still both find manipulating numbers a challenge, have strong opinions on the subject. Dad worked in Air Force comptroller offices, and was later a bookkeeper, so our innumeracy wasn’t wholly genetic (if that can be a factor). In our homeschooling talks together, she and I wonder if we would have had better checkbook balancing skills if Dad had been given the job of teaching us math (yes, I had business math in high school, as well as algebra and geometry).
It is nice that Education Week noticed unschooling and published a report on it, but one has to wonder if the magazine had existed when the public schooling experiment began, would writers have labeled it risky, too? Or even in today’s hothouse success climate with young people under the educational microscope, is less formal schooling even considered something valuable? Probably not: “Paying Attention Earlier On”.
posted by Valerie