Author Alfie Kohn (who is a thoughtful critic of school, though not an advocate of homeschooling or unschooling) adds another bit of research to the homework-isn’t-necessary file.
“If experience is any guide, however, many people will respond to these results by repeating platitudes about the importance of practice, or by complaining that anyone who doesn’t think kids need homework is coddling them and failing to prepare them for the “real world” (read: the pointless tasks they’ll be forced to do after they leave school). Those open to evidence, however, have been presented this Fall with yet another finding that fails to find any meaningful benefit even when the study is set up to give homework every benefit of the doubt.”
Okay, but no meaningful benefit to homework? Are you sure? Because it seems to me the meaningful benefit of assigning homework is quite clear: it reminds students and their families that the school has the right to follow the student home and intrude on their non-school hours. In doing so, school is indeed preparing students for the “real world,” one in which working “off the clock” is just part of the job.
This I know is true: I’m a better parent because of unschooling.
Not a better parent than that person over there, but a better parent than I was before.
More mindful than I was before. More thoughtful. More gentle. More interested. More interesting. Less rule-bound. Less controlling. Less adversarial.
Most of us come to unschooling through a search for alternatives to conventional school and curriculum-based homeschooling. We have to start somewhere. But it’s good to remind ourselves along the way that the goal of unschooling is not academic. It has little to do with conventional benchmarks of achievement, and a great deal to do with our daily, ongoing choices as parents to have a more peaceful, respectful, joyful, satisfying relationship with our kids.
From Sandra Dodd’s daily blog, Just Add Light & Stir, I found this to be a useful description of unschooling from Pam Sorooshian, college instructor and mother of three grown unschoolers:
“Unschooling is dropping the conventions of schooling, eliminating such things as required subjects, reading and writing assignments, and tests, and entirely replacing those with the creation of a stimulating, enriched environment and lots and lots of parental support for kids in pursuing their interests and passions.
“LOTS of parents create stimulating environments and give lots of support for their kids’ interests; this is not unique to unschoolers. What makes it unschooling is that unschoolers give up the rest of the schooling and trust that their kids will learn what they need to learn by being immersed in the rich and stimulating environment and with parental support of kids’ interests.”
The yarn project needs two more colors. Can we go to JoAnn?
I put Sherlock on the Netflix queue. It says there’s a very long wait. What else shall we add? Do you think it’s too hot to bake? I have a chapter to write. Whose laundry is in the dryer? Can you get it, please?
We’re out of Swiffers.
Do we have any small canvases? The diminished chord has a flat third and flat fifth. I’ve got to go to the library.
Did you see that moth on the porch? It was huge. What kind of moth was that?
I used up all the gesso. Do you think they have any at JoAnn? Are there any stamps left? I have all this stuff to mail. Let’s get some Popsicles while we’re out. And something for dinner. The t-shirt art is done. I’m going to send it off. Have the cats been fed? I’ll make the salad. Thanks for doing the dishes.
That was a polyphemus moth, Mom. Here’s a picture.
“I’m completely library educated. I’ve never been to college. I went down to the library when I was in grade school in Waukegan, and in high school in Los Angeles, and spent long days every summer in the library. (…) And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone.”
Ray Bradbury, in an interview with Paris Review, originally conducted in the 1970s, updated and published last summer.
An always-unschooled woman writes about the decision to live in a multi-generational home after her marriage. Thoughtful, grounded, sweet, smart: the woman, and the post.
When you look the graph on Beth Terry’s site it’s pretty clear that for even the most dedicated among us, getting rid of that last itty bit of plastic waste might be the hardest part. For the record, her plastic waste is 2% of the national average.
Her upcoming book is probably really useful and informative. (It’s available for pre-order on her site.) But what I especially love is the quality of (plastic-free) production and packaging. Very smart. Very handsome.
I watched Waiting for Superman recently.
So many loaded terms. “Success.” “Failure.” “Achievement.” “Learning.” So many experts who know what’s best. So many devils. So many details.
It’s an exasperating film, full of unfounded assumptions, not least of which being the assumption that putting kids in a box is the starting point for all learning.
Even when I was young it seemed to me that most classroom material could be presented and assimilated in four, maybe five, years… I’ve since come to understand the reason school lasts thirteen years. It takes that long to sufficiently break a child’s will. It is not easy to disconnect children’s wills, to disconnect them from their own experiences of the world in preparation for the lives of painful employment they will have to endure. Less time wouldn’t do it, and in fact, those who are especially slow go to college. For the exceedingly obstinate child there is graduate school.
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
My daughter was 11 the year we went to our first unschooling conference. It was a big one. There were 300 or so people in attendance. We knew exactly none of them.
We’d been unschooling in our fashion for a couple of years, making the segue from an eclectic, workbook-based homeschool approach to something less schooly and more fun. In our homeschool co-op we’d become the fringe family, the ones who didn’t “do school at all.” (We also didn’t do religion, which pretty much put us into the Satan’s Spawn category, but that’s a subject for another day.) Read the rest of this entry »
From an article by Richard Elmore, instructor at the Harvard School of Education, on the modern secondary school:
I wonder, finally, what would happen if we simply opened the doors and let the students go; if we let them walk out of the dim light of the overhead projector into the sunlight; if we let them decide how, or whether, to engage this monolith? Would it be so terrible? Could it be worse than what they are currently experiencing? Would adults look at young people differently if they had to confront their children on the street, rather than locking them away in institutions? Would it force us to say more explicitly what a humane and healthy learning environment might look like? Should discussions of the future of school reform be less about the pet ideas of professional reformers and more about what we’re doing to young people in the institution called school?
“What Would Happen if We Let Them Go?”, Education Week, May 17, 2011
Back from spring ARGH, the twice-yearly unschooler gathering in the mountains of east Tennessee. A smaller group this time, fewer families, less frenetic, with plenty of time and space to wander and think and porch-sit and play.
ARGH stands for Autodidactic Radical Gathering of Homeschoolers. Kind of a mouthful. But it makes for a memorable acronym. And memorable gatherings. We’ve been to five so far. I like to imagine that we’ll just keep going, growing old among these people who are our spirit sisters and brothers, our found family. Read the rest of this entry »
My feed reader is my personal daily news. Everything in it is something I find stimulating enough to invite into my life on a regular basis. It’s the stuff I want to read.
The stuff I don’t want to read but others think I ought to read – stuff about Libya and Scott Walker and the federal budget, for example — seeps in on its own, so it’s not like I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I just don’t let it on my feed. It takes some vigilance to avoid becoming a sponge for all the crap put out into the world.
Anyway, two thoughts came together in my mind as I read through this morning’s feed. One had to do with deschooling, the other with stories. Read the rest of this entry »