It Benefits the System

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.

Becoming a Better Parent

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.

The One in Which Pam Describes Unschooling

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.”

What Does an Unschooler Do All Day?

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.

Library Educated

“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.