Tuesday, February 08, 2011

10 Unschooling Mistakes You Want to Avoid


I believe that the root of all evil is comparison. When you find yourself about to do the "is my child keeping up?" or "her child is better at piano then mine, and they're the same age," just stop. Don't do it.
When you look at another unschooling mum and back at yourself and feel that you fall short, don't go there. Rather, allow her to inspire you; don't feel down.

2.Believing that everyone should agree with you.

This is the attitude of any newbie. I remember how militant  I was when I first became a vegetarian (I no longer am-a vegetarian).  I couldn't tolerate people who weren't. I must have been an insufferable 'know it all.' I know I certainly annoyed people.

3. Getting offended/feeling hurt when people don't agree with you.

The world owes you nothing. If someone tosses you a dubious look or expresses doubt in what you are doing, deal with it in a mature way.  Learn not to take yourself so seriously. Laugh.

4.If there really is a problem, being afraid of admitting it.

Your kids are unruly, or they really don't seem to be 'getting it.' There might actually be an underlying cause for it. Or they don't seem to have any interests. Don't panic.You can still  raise a child that is learning naturally. Get the support you need.

5. Expecting your kids to be best buddies and get along all the time (well most of the time) just because they're unschooled.

They fight. They say they hate one another. That's okay. We can't choose our family but we sure as heck have to learn to get along. That's one advantage of unschooling. They HAVE to work it out because they spend so much time together.

6.Expecting your kids to become educated by osmosis.

This is magical thinking. They won't. You have to engage them. You have to make sure they get exposure to a wide range of activity.

7. Thinking that you are their one and all.

You are not. Share them.

8. Over-protectiveness.

Let them venture forth according to their strengths, age and ability.
Be sensitive to the needs of the changing and growing child.

9.Having to prove that unschooling works-especially in BIG ways.

Funnily enough, BIG gets redefined over and over and you realize that they are doing BIG things but not in the way you and others might have envisioned it. And remember, behind a shining star, there might be an even brighter star shining so be careful not to block that light because of your belief in the first.

10. Immediate evidence of 'learning' taking place.

Relax. You will be amazed at how what you angst over last year is all but a distant memory this year. Learning unfolds, often with out us noticing.


p2.rab said...

quote - [...] 10. Immediate evidence of 'learning' taking place. [...]
This is why end of the year exams fail to assess learning. Students do not fail exams. Exams fail.

Unknown said...

@p2.rab-Well put. Exams test students on what they have memorized-not what they have learned.

Anonymous said...

Unschooling parents are sort of the 'one and all' to their children -aren't they? I mean, the role of the unschooling parent is huge- everything rests on their shoulders. You have to pull it all together- at least this is what I feel. If something goes wrong, as the unschooling, parent you get all the blame.

unschool said...

I almost didn't click on this link because it sounded too prescriptive and didactic! But I'm glad I did--it's a great post, and applicable to much more than unschooling. Thanks for these thoughts--I'm going to share them!

Unknown said...

@unschool-thanks for giving us a read and for sharing with others!

Unknown said...

There was a question raised on another list about #6- kids won't learn by osmosis. What I mean is that you have to provide a rich environment for them to learn in.
Of course,some kids will be very self-directed and will need minimal help. One comment I will include her is from Linda Clement. She writes:

One of the earliest instances of 'unschooling' that I ran into was a story, I think, from John Holt --about a young man who just didn't go to school, parents (if they were present in his life at all--I really only remember the one bit of this story!) at work or whatever all day. He was out and about in New York City --libraries, galleries, museums, stores, neighbourhoods-- gathering himself up his very own education about the world and life.

Among a lot of other things, I became convinced that any child who had reasonably alert and aware parents --people who learned things on purpose, for their own reasons, who talk about current events, history, arts, music, or any reasonable range of realms of the world... will have children who end up with an education the same way people who walk and talk for their own reasons in the world end up with kids who walk and talk with no lessons or even much in the way of 'valuing' the skills particularly.

I've never felt I was facilitating anything --or, rather, by the time they were 14 or 15, I felt that everything I'd 'facilitated' had distorted them, and sometimes extinguished their interest completely.

While I always felt children arrive on the planet already complete human beings, by the time they were in their mid-teens, I'd come to realize that their agendas were entirely enough for them, and my job was to allow them to flourish...

Big mamma frog said...

In response to anon "the role of the unschooling parent is huge- everything rests on their shoulders."

I can't help thinking that if the parent is working really hard at doing the unschooling (or autonomous education as we say in the UK) then it's not really unschooling.

Sure, parents can provide opportunities and resources for the kids to learn but autonomous education is about child-led education. It is about the child choosing and being responsible for their own learning path, not about parents trying to be all and everything to and for the child.

As a (mostly autonomous-style) home educator of 3 kids (eldest now 12, never been to school) I do feel a responsibility for my children's education and outcome, and perhaps the buck does stop here. But I also believe that the whole point of autonomous ed is that the person (child) takes on a large amount of that learning responsibility themselves...

and I agree with much of what rfs says, particularly:
'I felt that everything I'd 'facilitated' had distorted them, and sometimes extinguished their interest completely.'
Yes a very familiar experience lol!

Unknown said...

@Big mama frog-what an insightful comment!
I love the way you express the idea -autonomous learning and that it is the child going after his interests first. The child being responsible for his or her learning. Seems scary but that is in essence what unschooling is. Thanks!

Crystal Jeffers said...

I absolutely loved this post! I came by unschooling from a very different way of life. We started out unschooling even though I had NO idea that is what we were doing. I remember one lady who unschooled and I talked with her about it some but she was really afraid to go into detail for fear of being judged. When my oldest was "school age" we decided to start homeschooling through a charter school. eventually the charter school system felt stifling and broken and like it was not working for my children or me. We decided to change the way we were doing things. We took a break. we did nothing. or at least that is how it appeared to those who were on the outside.

That is when we discovered what unschooling was really about. Our eyes were opened to a whole new way of learning.

As an Unschooling mom I do not facilitate learning. I follow their lead. If I see that they are interested in science I help them do research or show them where they can learn more about what they want to know. I plan field trips to attractions that are in their range of interests. We play a lot and have fun a lot and they learn more in 10 minute increments then their counterparts who sit in a classroom for hours on end.

I love your insight into what mistakes are often made. Thanks for the post.

Unknown said...

@Crystal-thanks for sharing your story. It's amazing what can happen when you let go.

Emily said...

Thank you! Love this post. It's a reminder to me on a couple of the points, but also a reminder that just because I know this is the right path doesn't mean I need to expect other people to understand that.

Re: anonymous ("as the unschooling parent you get all the blame"): Some people may choose to blame us, but I don't see life as a situation that is blamable, so can't we just shrug that blame? We have, as all parents do, the responsibility to give our children the best we can. But wouldn't that be the case if our kids were in school? I do spend a lot of time with my kids, and, recently, some well-meaning person asked them if they get sick of me. They said no, and came to tell me about this question that baffled them -- and yet I know that sometimes we ALL get sick of one another!! But that's life! I don't think I'm ruining my kids. I don't think I need to blame myself for this; it's just part of our life. And as unschooling parents (just like all parents, I feel) we have the responsibility to raise our kids in community, so we do. My kids attend a few group-oriented activities every week, including one that I lead, and they spend time with individual friends. We navigate our lives by feel; if it feels right, we do it, and sure there's a lot of thought put into exactly how we spend our time, but that thinking is based on assessment of our needs in that moment; not our fear of failure or of being blamed.

Thank you for your beautiful thoughtful blog; I just discovered it, but am now subscribing!

Unknown said...

@Emily-thanks for a really insightful comment. And thanks for the lovely compliment too!

Emily said...

You're very welcome. I'm going to link to you from my own unschooling blog, too. I believe we're on the other side of the continent from you, but the core of our beliefs and questioning is the same all over, I think. It's lovely for me to have found you.

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