Google+ Authentic Parenting: No Education? Comment Turned Post (rerun)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

No Education? Comment Turned Post (rerun)

Dear anonymous,

You have commented on the article I wrote a while back "Why We Unschool". I started answering your comment as a response comment, but it became rather lengthy and I decided I'd rather have it up as a full blown post.

First of all I am really sorry you felt the need to post this anonymously, there is no need for this, I like a bit of debate and I am not scared of different opinions. After all, it is out the conflict of ideas that new ideas arise.
Secondly, I get that the concept of unschooling is a very scary one and it seems to go against everything we have been 'taught' (but there you have it... some enlightened reflection might just fix this problem). However, the decision to unschool my daughter has not been one we took lightly as your comment suggests it is. I find that slightly annoying, because what you say in the body of your comment proves that you have not given the topic the same consideration I have. If you had read about the topic as much and had discussed it as extensively as I have, then probably you would think about it in a different way.

But just to put your mind at ease, let me adress the issues you put forward in your comment:

  • "Homeschooling I can understand. Schools can be a scary place."
Schooling is a very recent conception. A little over a hundred years ago, all children were either un- or homeschooled. The choice to un-or homeschool children nowadays is not a matter of schools being scary, which you should know if you read the article you commented on. It has many reasons that are completely different to all parents who choose to do so. 
  • "Don’t you worry that by providing NO education for your child you are closing so many doors for her?"
With this comment I see that you are mistaking schooling for education. Schooling (by which I mean subject oriented curriculi with any degree of coercion defined as teaching) does in no way equal education. Education should be provided by parents for the larger part, wether their children go to school or not and extends far beyond curricula and subject matter. There are many things a child needs to learn that are not taught at school. I pity the parent who thinks that school will provide for the education of their child and that their 'work' ends there.
So yes, I will be providing total and utter education for my child, by which I mean that I will guide my child to learn all the skills she needs to succeed in life (academical and other).
  • Isn’t it YOUR job as her parent to TEACH HER? 
No, no it is not. Personally, I resent the idea of calling parenting a job, but this is beside the issue. It is my 'job' to guide her, it is my 'job' to help her find her way and facilitate her journey, but in no way is it my job to jam useless knowledge into her head and call it teaching. My child does however learn a great deal from me, as any child does from its parent, but most often, these are not the things we 'teach' them.
Teaching as you probably intended in your comment (I am assuming because you are talking about a job) is a top down imposition of predefined knowledge... I try not to do such a thing. I do teach her unintentionally, giving her information about things, answering her questions, spending time with her...

  • In the U.S. lack of education is the reason so many people have to work at McDonald’s and resort to crime and gangs versus earning an honest living. 
This is an entirely different topic I probably shouldn't get into for the sake of this post, but let me just say this: lack of education is not the main reason why these things happen, I could name one factor that could be one of the many underlying factors of this problem as the lack of support. But I'll leave it at that for now.

  • Unfortunately having no high school or college degree means little opportunity for gainful employment as an adult. Maybe it’s different where you live?
First of all, where I live is hard to define as I move every two years. Anyway, unschooling is something that doesn't exist or isn't even known in any of the countries I have lived in so far (well maybe Sweden, but I'm not sure), at least not in the deliberate and defined way as we unschoolers do it (it does of course exist in the African countries I have lived in, but we can debate wether that is out of choice or necessity - whereas for us it is certainly a matter of choice). As far as I know it is mainly an anglosaxon thing that is steadily gaining followers among other countries.
But since you bring up the US: more and more voices rise that college degrees aren't living up to their expectations, they cost a heap of money, put people in debt and don't mean you will get a (highly paid) job. Even where I come from (Belgium) a universitary degree doesn't mean you will get a job that pays a universitary level salary, or if you will even get a job at all.  

Secondly, it is not because we unschool that my child will never be schooled. That's the great thing about unschooling: we leave the choice to our child. We do not oblige them to go to school, but if she chooses to attend for any amount of time, she is at liberty to do so. This is as true for high school as it is for college or university. Some unschooled kids do decide that a degree will help them to achieve their goals in life.

Third, you talk about gainful employment. By this, you suggest that the only way to earn a living is to work for an employer. It is not so. There are millions of ways to gain a living and there are also different ways to approach the monetary system. One can choose to follow a money-led consumerist system, as the one the western world follows. Or one can choose not to. I will not go into too much detail here as this is beside the point. One can also decide to be self employed and thus bypass the 'degree-employment' connection you see as imperative.

  • "And I’m sorry but the likelihood that your child is the next LDV or Einstein is pretty unlikely…"
Why would that be so? Isn't that a very schooled attitude towards my child's possibility's? Who are you to judge? You don't even know my child or my family? If any child is to reach full potential, it surely is the child that can lay out her on path. That can follow her interests. That can become good at what she likes to do and what she is, well, good at - instead of wasting times on things that do not interest her, just because the curriculum tells her so.
Why would my child not be the next Einstein? Or why should she have to be? If we could be sure about anything, then it would be that it is very unlikely if she were to be schooled.

  •  "I hope you are teaching her to read and write."
De Smet, SD on Picasa
No, I am not. I am not teaching in a way that is coercive. Of course I do read to her and we tell stories and we play together and we look at pictures and we count and I write words for her when she asks me too, or sometimes just because I feel like it. And she fools around with crayons and pencils and the wordprocessor on my laptop... ANd believe it or not, at two and four months, she can 'read' some numbers. Maybe you think I should put her in school because otherwise her reading would be on advance compared to other kids then?

  • "I feel like it’s an injustice to so many children who don’t have a choice."
If you read the above, then you will see that unschooling is all about choice. Schooling however is rarely about choice, so your point is rather ignorant and unfounded. Maybe you should go and stand outside a schoolgate and ask some children how many of them chose to be there.



  1. Lovely post. Right now I'm leaning towards autonomous education, at least at this point. My son is very curious and asks me about things all the time. I don't do anything formal with him, just tell him about things, read to him, explore. I'll re-evaluate periodically to make sure the approach is still working, and we'll take it from there. I actually taught in a grade school for a little while, and I'd rather not have my child in that environment. I was bored to tears throughout most of my schooling, too.

  2. I have found that most people who are against home- or unschooling, really do not understand what it is. Unfortunately, your response didn't do a very a good job of explaining what unschooling is. Rather than telling "anonymous" that her ideas were "ignorant" and "unfounded" you should have done a better job of respectfully educating her, rather than becoming defensive. I have never found insulting people to be an effective way of changing their minds. Opportunity lost.

  3. "Personally, I resent the idea of calling parenting a job"

    here! here! parenting is one of my life's greatest joys - perhaps my greatest - it is NOT a job - but a blessing and an adventure and a journey and a challenge and so much more than a job!

  4. I think it's extraordinary how many people still believe that the alternative to going to school is to be uneducated.

    Because - irony of ironies - in 2010 the typical school classroom is so far behind how information, knowledge and understanding can be acquired in the world at large these days - by everybody! - it's almost a joke.

    Khan Academy on the iPhone anyone?

  5. Thank you. This is brilliant. And you are entirely civil and awesome to someone who did not afford you the courtesy of doing any serious research into unschooling. But thank you for putting this forth!

  6. THank you all for the comments.
    Heather, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come off as defensive.

  7. To the commentor:

    I'll remind you that Einstein was a patent clerk. He did Physics in his spare time...

  8. Einstein actually said 'i never try to teach my students anything, I only try to create an environment in which they can learn'. Ooh wait a minute, sounds like....unschooling!!! I have painted this on my dining room wall to give everyone something to chew on. I think it's helps visitors get our approach more easily. This is a fantastic post, and indeed blog. Will be following with interest :-)

  9. That is a beautiful quote that motherfunker posted :] loved your responses as well. About the reading and writing thing, I will have to find the post but I found a great article written by a psychologist [I believe] that says most children will teach THEMSELVES how to read and write. Most children learn how to read on their own by the age of 10.

  10. I love your blog, and I am very interested in unschooling (I am pregnant with my first, so it will be a few years before I have to decide). I was homeschooled from preschool to when I went to college (and I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in Greek and Latin despite never really being "graded" or "tested" in school prior to college).

    I just wanted to point out one thing (since I have seen it in 2 posts so far). The plural of curriculum is curriculA (not curriculi). I would hate for someone to dismiss your wonderful ideas based on an error of this type. (Not that the average American can spell, or knows the plural of "curriculum" anyway, but still, there's always "that person" who wants to find any excuse to dismiss an idea for a silly reason.)

    Thanks for your great articles.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out to me. I should have known, I studied Latin ages ago... in school. Go figure. SO guess that 'knowledge" is not permanent ;)

  11. I really appreciate this post! I am in the States and just coming to terms with the idea of abandoning the consumptive lifestyle I have been raised to abide in order to live a more self-sufficient life; we just finished reading Haye's "Radical Homemakers" and the ideas therein are echoed in your post (music to my ears). My future-husband and I are determined to have children, and to homeschool them. Currently I am working on an undergraduate certificate in Infant & Toddler Care which includes coursework on Early Childhood Development (why? mostly because my job will pay for it and I am absolutely clueless about children); the education models I find most engaging are those which allow the child to chose the activities and guide the curriculum. Is un-schooling similar? Can you point me in the direction of some literature on the subject? I will continue following your blog as I do indeed find the authenticity quite refreshing! --tam

    1. Hi Tam,
      Thank you so much for your comment. It's really nice that you're already looking into educating and parenting before you have kids. Most people don't really educate themselves until they're already confronted with problems and it's so much easier to implement change BEFORE you have kids.
      Unschooling (or life learning/worldschooling/child led education/interest led learning...) is a way of learning without curricula. The child is in charge of his/her own education and follows his/her interests. You can find lots of articles on unschooling here. A couple of quick reads:

      Other great sources are Peter Gray, Sandra Dodd, John Holt, there's also the Life Learning Magazine
      A nice way to get an insight is the Always Unschooled Yahoo group and the Radical Unschoolers Ning

      If you have more specific questions, feel free to send me an email mamapoekie @ yahoo dot com

  12. <3 Thank you mama... It's hard being a mama against the system and I know how it makes u feel, for it is also in my mind.
    The more people like to write the more support and courage the rest of us get in our difficult decisions.. :)

  13. I love unschooling! It's so much fun to watch the girls learn without me forcing them.

  14. I love unschooling my girls. It's so much fun to watch them learn based on their interests!

  15. Hello! I just would like to give you a large thumbs up for your wonderful information you’ve here on this post. We are returning to your blog to get more soon.

  16. I don't think there is really any right or wrong way to homeschool, you know? It's what works for each family. There are some people that are very uncomfortable with the idea of unschooling (and yes there are people who decide against unschooling even after research) - so then they shouldn't unschool. What's the problem?

    I do disagree that college is unnecessary. Whether you work in your degree field is not the issue. It opens doors. My education has opened many doors and afforded me many many many opportunities in other areas - that wouldn't have been opened otherwise. Education never equals debt in my opinion - whether it be homeschool, unschool, college or graduate school. Whether this is good, bad or indifferent, employers are looking for degrees. Times are a-changing.

    I always encourage people to do what makes them most comfortable. And, if it doesn't work out - change.

    Thanks for sharing this post at the #homeschoollinkup

  17. Interesting, I would have said that I am home preschooling my girls but since it is child led maybe actually I'm unschooling. A brave choice for the long term I feel but I envy you that courage.

  18. I am thrilled to have found this at the #homeschoollinkup this week. It still amazes me how easily we can slip into judging others. Homeschooling itself is a living breathing thing. What works today, may not work tomorrow. What worked for child number 1 will likely NOT work for child number 2. I have found in my many years of homeschooling that I need to be flexible and teachable. It is totally ok to be missing critical answers as long as we are open and seek solutions.

    I really enjoyed your response to the anonymous commenter. While I am not an unschooler myself, I have some unschooling tendencies and I appreciate your candour!

  19. I really appreciate this post. It brings up a lot of different things for me, but what stands out the most is just how little people like the anonymous commenter seem to understand so little about how learning works and how there are so many possible ways to be human. It's great that you were able to engage in that conversation, it can be challenging when there is that much of a mismatch. I lean toward a child-led unschooling type approach myself, but even after reading a bunch of books and magazines and trying to figure it out, I'm still not sure if we technically qualify as unschoolers...but in any case I support any family that unschools 100%

  20. I stopped reading at "Don’t you worry that by providing NO education for your child you are closing so many doors for her?" and just had to comment.

    I unschooled my 3 daughters till they were 9 and 10, at which point they each chose to enter public school. They knowledge was not 'up to grade' but because they wanted to be there, they quickly learned what they needed.

    I never made them do homework nor made them go to school. In fact at times they missed many days, because they still has a life outside of school. Their school experience was their own to live as they wanted.

    This week, my middle daughter was named valedictorian of her high school. That's someone who was never punished or rewarded, never made to do something she didn't want to do when it came to her own life.

    My oldest daughter is currently completing in 3 years her 4 year college program, with high honors.

    And I was warned that my children would be uneducated, unmotivated and wouldn't have the discipline to function in the world! :-)

    You can read some of my experiences here:

    It's nice to meet like-minded people!


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