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Here is an interesting concept: unschooling. It is similar to that of home schooling, except that it is less rigid. . . as if home schooling was rigid! Unschooling is basically education that the student decides to partake in; parents take advantage of “teachable moments”. If little Johnny asks a question, Mom and Dad run with it. It is, to say the least, intriguing.

To be honest, I am skeptical. It seems a little hypocritical for me admit that. Nothing else could better promote that intellectual curiosity, but unschooling just is not all that realistic. Let’s compare it to communism: in an ideal world, it could be great. But it is not an ideal world. Thus, if put into practice, it could be the downfall of humanity.

Academic requirements exist for a reason. They create a level playing ground for students. And as much as parents like to believe they know what is best for their children, when the little ones leave the nest, they could be ill-equipped for society.

Isn’t “unschooling” essentially an everyday process for children, and for people in general? If something interests a person enough, he or she is going to explore a certain depth of information concerning that topic. Unschooling seems to promote learning as a hobby. While I am attached to the idea of learning being fun, I think that is the role of the teacher to make it fun and not of the student. There is a bare minimum amount of knowledge that all students should have, and much of that knowledge is not seemingly “fun”. But teachers, at least those who are practiced, can manipulate information in a way that it becomes fun. Let me relate this to geometry. A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square. In other words, learning cannot be fun, but fun is not always learning, and should not be a child’s only access to information. A method of learning based merely upon a student’s uninfluenced interest could produce a lopsided frame of reference within a child. Of course, this is an if-worse-comes-to-worst type situation.

Some parents strike a balance between home schooling and unschooling, such as the subjects on a recent New York Times article, the Rendell family.

With Benny, Mr. Lewis went on to say, “we embraced a hybrid between home-schooling and unschooling. It’s not structured, it’s Benny-centric, we follow his interests and desires, and yet we are helping him to learn to read and do math.” They read to him hours every day. “It’s about trying to find things we both enjoy doing,” Ms. Rendell said, “rather than making myself a martyr mom. The terror of home-schooling is you have to be super on all the time, finding crafty things to do.”

Perhaps this mother’s method is a way of cultivating the benefits of unschooling without risking her child’s academic competitiveness. I am interested to hear other people’s opinions on this. Argue with me, agree with me, whatever you would like. I welcome your ideas.

“The Anti-Schoolers” by Penelope Green
The New York Times
15 October 2008
Full Article

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