Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Will Now Take Your Questions

I was feeling badly for you guys.  Really - I totally was.  Because tonight?  I was going to write a very unprofessional yet highly spirited (!) review of the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, I'm With You.  It was going to be so very good and awesome and totally uninteresting to 99.9% of my peeps. But I'm going to have to hold off on that because a reader left me an incredibly heart-felt and detailed comment with many questions regarding my last post about homeschooling and so I'm going to be hitting on that, instead.  But the Chili Pepper review is coming and c' know you're gonna read it.  You read my erotica critique, after all.  Don't deny it.  House of Holes in is in your Kindles.

OK.  So my reader has a blog and I checked it out and she has a couple of adorable kiddos she's considering homeschooling.  And can I just say, Dear Reader Considering Homeschooling, that we have the exact same picture of not quite exactly the same kid with the hair done up in the tub like a narwhal or a unicorn?  Made me chuckle.

So, the reader had this to say (and I'm going to interject my comments and answers in italics):

I'm strongly considering homeschooling my kiddos due to the deplorable state of the public schools in this city (some of the worst in the nation) and the high cost of private ones.

Many (most) people strongly consider homeschooling for the same reason or some similar and very specific reason. There is A Reason...mine was a child with learning disabilities....that serves as a catalyst for this monumental decision.  What I have found (and don't let this discourage you) is that The Reason, at some point, ceases to become "enough" if the lifestyle of homeschooling is one that is at odds with the family's structure.  Basically, what I'm saying is that tons of people choose to homeschool for This Reason or That Reason and then a year later you run into them and their kids are in school and it turned out to not be so horrible after all....because homeschooling, for them and their expectations, Just Plain Sucked.  So - good reasons you have there - but unlikely to sustain a long-haul experience in homeschooling unless, at some point, you find yourselves doing it because you love it and would do it even if good schools were available.  It has to become a lifestyle you cherish or you can't keep it up. That's what happened for us.  Obviously, not all of my kids are learning disabled - yet they are all homeschooled (except for the one currently in college).

My main misgiving isn't that my kids would turn into those *weird home schooled kids* or anything like that.
Good! Because I'd really hate to go all judgemental on your ass - but ahem - it would be hard because I'm pretty sure I worried about my kids becoming weird homeschooled kids at one time or another when I was agonizing over this decision myself so....yeah.  All I can say is this:  Good for you for not worrying about it....we know some spectacularly awesome and brilliant and smart and sweet and kind and incredibly loyal weird homeschooled kids.  I love them and their quirky selves to bits.  Also?  I have as Asperger's kid who might very well qualify for this....and Jasper definitely seems to be headed in the weird direction.  But I do know how the stereotypes and That Family You Saw At The Park That One Time can send chills through your body when you consider your own children forced into wearing tube socks and jogging shorts with polo shirts tucked in...oh and the tube socks are worn beneath sandals, by the way...while talking about Star Wars for twenty-nine billion consecutive hours.  I GET IT.  But - those kids are being themselves.  They are grateful for the opportunity to do so - they will accept your kids and their possible quirks without the slightest hesitation - and they will probably grow up to invent something quite amazing that you might be able to ride at Disneyland or watch in the movie theater or use to control the environment of your eco-bubble. Also?  There are weird kids in school.  They were there when I was in school - and they're there now.  Often they're bullied and humiliated and depressed instead of doing all the awesome things they would be doing if they were homeschooled and not bullied and humiliated and depressed.  Alnd?  You can make your kids be cool with Peer Pressure.  That's how we do it over here. Of course, in order for this to succeed, you yourself....must be cool.

There are a lot of social options for home schoolers around here.
Yay!  There are around here, too.  Our house is as full of cheap and meaningless trophies and ribbons as anyone elses. All the museums and nature centers and art places and dance and music schools offer homeschool classes.  There are homeschool groups out the wazoo and they are all taking field trips (I HATE FIELD TRIPS but a lot of folks enjoy them) and performing musicals and other such nonsense and forming co-ops and there is absolutely no reasons for homeschoolers to sit around at home unless they want to.

I'm mostly concerned they wouldn't respect me/listen to me like they would *a teacher.*
Talk to a teacher and ask them how much respect they're getting in their classrooms.  Also?  When I talk like a teacher to my kids they don't tend to listen to me for very long because I become boring and I begin to spoon feed them information they do not find relevant or are not interested in.  I know this happens because I am driven to do it several times a year for reasons I do not understand but am pretty sure have something to do with a past life as a one-room school teacher.  In fact, Laura Ingalls was in my class and my name was Miss Beadle. I have strong urges to ring bells on church porches and to whack kids across the knuckles with rulers.  Most of the time I can resist my urges, but sometimes I cave and put on my homespun dress. 

I'm already noticing this attitude from my toddler.
Did you say toddler?  That means she's developmentally RIGHT ON.  Good for her!  The more egocentric she is at this age, the more capable an adult she will be.  The smart ones look out for Numero Uno - it's encoded into their survival DNA. They will continue learning how to advocate for themselves and devise ways in which to meet their needs unless this instinct is effectively stamped out by well-meaning adults....who will then later complain that kids don't know how to be independent.

She knows what makes me tick. She knows which buttons to push to drive me insane.
I knew it!  She's a smart one.  Good for you - you should be quite proud!

She knows that she can ignore me or be mean to me and I will still love her. 19 months old, and she knows this already.
This warms my heart.  She has a good mama.  Do not fret about this, my friend.

I have a feeling we would get into far more "battles" on a day to day basis than she would with an outsider.
Now I feel we might be getting into parenting issues rather than educational ones - and here's my revelation that we practice Attachment Parenting and subscribe to Unconditional Parenting.  *Read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn for more info.*  But, that aside - you are absolutely right.  Your child will and should have more battles with you than an outsider.  If a child trusts an outsider with her emotions as much as she does a parent - there is a severe disconnect.  You don't want to have the same level of trust and intimacy with your child as a stranger would.  This means, a child is going to trust you enough to argue with you, to make her demands known, and to become extremely upset when her efforts as communication fail and she doesn't get her way or doesn't understand your reasoning. (Until the Age of Reason has been reached - Parenting is Pretty Much Hell unless you accept the fact that you're dealing with a tiny person who meets all the clinical requirements of Actual Insanity and adjust your expectations.)  The battles can be quite trying and stressful depending on the nature of the child and your relationship, and honestly, if it is too difficult - the break that school provides is welcomed by most parents and rarely results in the Actual Ruin of the Child.

My mom taught me the violin for 16 years of my life. I hated/loathed/etc. playing the violin. I learned in spite of that and became quite good at it too, but I didn't develop a passion for it, mostly because I felt like my mom forced it upon me all those years.

I'm truly sorry this happened to you - not uncommon for parents to wish certain things for their children thinking they have their best interests at heart - only to discover they didn't know what their best interests were.  We do not force our children to do anything.  Force doesn't play into our relationships at all - unless we're talking safety (they must wear seat belts, etc) and they are generally cooperative because they have so much control over their lives in other areas.  My daughter plays piano - she debuted with a major metropolitan symphony as a concert soloist at the age of 16 and is now studying Piano Performance in music school.  She had her first lesson at 11 - loved it - and we've invested much time and effort and $$$ into this pursuit of hers.  And just recently, when she was joyfully complaining about how much work it all is, I told her again..."You're not a prisoner of your talent.  Walk away at any given time and nobody here will blink an eye.  You have ONE LIFE."  She knows this - but I still like to remind her that she's in charge of her life - the last thing in the world she needs to consider when deciding what to do with it is whether or not she will disappoint someone else, who has their own life to worry about.

I'm intrigued by unschooling. It seems very logical to let a child drive his/her own learning in order to prevent the dying of passion. Similar to the Montessori method in that it allows a kid to just become fully immersed in a topic and direct his/her own learning without the distractions of the traditional schooling environment. Love that thought. On the other hand, what do you do when the kid shows absolutely NO desire to learn a particular topic that's super important to know in order to function in society?
I want to be frustrated by this question but again - it was one that I had - and one that I felt was never adequately explained to me.  I once said to an adamant unschooler (before I homeschooled) - "But they can't learn calculus from gardening or cooking experiences!"  To which she replied, "Most people don't need to know calculus."  She was right, of course, but I remained unconvinced. 

However, now that I can look at this from the other end of the rainbow - I can see just how ridiculous it was to worry about if they'd learn what they needed to learn.  We all learn what we need to learn.  If there's a particular topic that is super important to know in order to function in society - we learn it.  Maybe we don't learn it in 1st or 3rd grade....but eventually, we learn it.  Back to calculus - my oldest daughter took it.  She didn't need to know calculus in order to play the you might be wondering how it made it on the list of Things Super Important to Know.  Well, she needed to go to college or conservatory, and we knew this, and so we checked to see what was required by the colleges to which she might want to attain entrance.  There were a lot of things on their lists that my daughter then studied in order to gain admittance to the colleges - because she saw a reason for it. In fact - she was accepted into some very good schools because of her coursework and her SAT scores.

My 16-year-old just registered for an online distance learning biology course, he's taking algebra, and although he's unlikely to NEED these things in order to write storyboard animation scripts (what he plans to do with his life), he WILL need them if he decides college is in his future - a possibility he has not completely ruled out.  Again - he sees the need for this. Now my 7-year-old?  Doesn't see the necessity of knowing anything other than really long complicated dinosaur names.  At some point, I'm quite certain, that will change and he'll learn the things that are necessary for his particular life plan.  With the exception of the 12-year-window known as formalized education - that is how and why we all learn things.
I was a writing tutor in college and it was mind-boggling how many college students didn't know how to follow basic grammar rules. Their sentences were a mess to the point where I felt like I had to hire an interpreter to understand them sometimes.
And had these other college students been homeschooled?  If not - it's obvious that having been enrolled in institutionalized learning environments didn't amount to success in this area.  As a writer, I feel your pain.  When I was in college (back in the day), I was also amazed by the lack of writing skills of my fellow students.  I continue to be amazed by the lack of writing skills of adults I interact with (oops!  I ended my sentence with a preposition!!!).  Anyway - another reason to homeschool!

I recall learning grammar through pure repetition/ritual back in gradeschool. The teacher *made* us do "easy grammar" worksheets where we had to underline the subjects, double underline the verbs, cross out the prepositional phrases, put the implied "you" in commands in parenthesis, etc. We even had to memorize the most common prepositions. "Busy work," yet so invaluable.
Here's the part where Real Radical Unschoolers call me a fraud.  Are you ready?  I freaking LOVE the Easy Grammar Systems curriculum.  We go through spurts where we actually do this stuff!  We have the Daily Grams (takes like 5 minutes) and my 9-year-old eats it up.  She goes through periods of whininess where she does not eat it up - and then we just don't do it.  But often she is quite happy to sit at the table for a few minutes doing these things. She can string a sentence together and is already ahead of 60% of the average incoming college Freshmen LOL.  (*I just typed LOL - shoot me now.)   Early Intervention is simply not necessary.  Let me give you a lovely little example.

We sometimes participate in a very loosely run and somewhat insane small family co-op.  I use Great Books Foundation to teach the teenagers how to think and how to write (the program requires them to record their thoughts in the form of essays).  I had a delightful unschooled 15-year-old boy who had never written a word in his life....(he's at Rice University now, having earned an impressive academic scholarship).  He read a lot (I've yet to meet unschooled kids who don't love to read) and he was good at organizing his thoughts.  There were, however, a few grammar issues.  "Galen," I said...(I just outed him on my blog, didn't I?)...."You should begin your sentences with a capital letter and you should end them with some form of punctuation."  

"Okay," he said.

And from there on out, he did.  The next grammar class he took was a college course.  I know!  You people are kicking yourselves now for all the hours spent trying to teach a 6-year-old who wasn't listening to you that he needed to start a sentence with a capital letter while wishing that someone was pulling your fingernails out with a rusty pair of pliers instead because it would have been so much more enjoyable!

My 16-year-old and my 13-year-old do NOT care for doing any kind of Easy Grammar work and they rarely, if ever, cooperate with me on this.  But recently my college kid said, "Hey, when did Jules learn to spell and use punctuation?  I noticed on facebook that he's like almost literate..."  And he is!  In fact, compared with his peers (many of them in school) he writes like Hemingway on the F-Book.  "Hey mom!" he called from the study.  "When do you use the too with two o's? I'm writing a status update!!"

"Double o's are used when the word means ALSO or in front of the word MUCH."

"Okay - thanks!"

The end.  Once we get down the concept that "there" and "they're" and "their" are not interchangeable - he's ready for the Big Leagues.

In short, I'm curious how you teach a kid to write properly if they show no interest or motivation in wanting to take on that goal themselves. Is there a point at which you just go "it's too bad you don't want to do this. You're doing it anyway" or do the child's whims reign supreme i.e. if they don't want to do it, you can't make them do it?
I do not say, "Too bad," to the 7-year-old - or even the 9-year-old.  And I don't even say it to the 16-year-old, preferring instead to be passive-aggressive and say things like, "Don't blame me when you're rotting in jail because you had to resort to ripping off liquor stores in order to provide for all of your illegitimate children...."  Like I said, with goals in mind - the kids simply WILL do the things they need to do in order to meet those goals.  They might not be doing it in elementary school - but by about the 7th grade - they have some loosely formed dreams and ambitions and it is super easy to get on the Internet and Google "What Kind of Education Does One Need to Become an Anthropologist?" and then devise a road map. 

In summary, I'd like to point out that, as a society, we only approach education as an All or Nothing on a Timeline for twelve years.  It is a hysterical 12-year-window and we've convinced ourselves that it shuts and then we're ruined for life if we didn't get through it in time when in fact, the average human lives to be what....80?  Don't you think that if everything we need to know about life and general subject matters could be compressed into twelves years it would be a very sad state of affairs?  The reality is: We learn new things and utilize that knowledge to better our own lives and the lives of others from the day we're born until the day we die.  The 12-year-window of opportunity can be completely ignored with the same (or better) results.

I liked answering these questions!  Should I do it regularly do you think?  Let's try it out occasionally.  If you have any questions pertaining to Unschooling, Attachment Parenting, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers - send them my way!  I will now take your questions.


  1. great read! (although I'm not going to do it, haha) now the Chilis, please...

  2. ha ha...i just heard from that 1/10 of my 1%....the next one is for you dini...'cause I'm With You sista!

  3. Great post! I plan to refer to this a lot when I start getting those weird looks and questions about homeschooling (no kids yet to homeschool!).

    My experience: I only learned to read because we got a computer (Windows 95!) and I wanted to play games on the internet. Plus my siblings were really into Archie Comics around that time so I learned to read so I could be cool like them. If it weren't for Archie & the Internet I would have fought my mom the whole way.

    I only learned basic grammar because my brother Tim looked at my first few personal websites (yes, I was coding websites before I knew the difference between "your" and "you're") and told me my grammar looked really unprofessional. As the youngest I basically got peer-pressured into learning.

  4. Thank you for making this fun to read. You know how I feel about reading. I blame the school system for making me read Death Be Not Proud. Geez, I hated that book from start to finish. I swore, after that, I would never do it again.
    Great post and you answered them brilliantly.
    After this, I'm not too worried about my Joshua who can't find the letter A in the alphabet. No wonder I drink. I should be more like you. But without the breasts. I can do without them, on anyone!
    Sadly, I have no questions about the RHCP. I'm pretty sure I know all I want to know about them. But if I do, I know where to come for answers.
    Once again, great post.

  5. Hannah - your parents have been such inspirations to us. You and your sibs are shining examples of homeschool / unschool success! said..."No wonder I drink. I should be more like you..." Umm...yeah...we're pretty much alike and I have some pinot grigio chilling in the fridge.

  6. Also - this post was longer than Death Be Not Proud so good job with the reading!

  7. Thank you so much for your post...loved it!!!! I really need to remember this post more often while I'm homeschooling my Kindergartener. I know she will learn everything she needs to know, but it is still so hard to let it go -- and just let nature take its course (without too much input from us).

  8. Stephanie - it IS hard, isn't it? Sometimes my boys will innocently show some Major And Possibly Embarassing Ignorance About Something and I panic. But then they're just as likely to begin explaining the cycles of the moon or how the plates of the earth move and what causes it or something else I haven't even thought to teach them and I remember to chillax.

  9. My boys are not writers. So you mean to say if I bring them to coop they are going to Rice!!! We are definetly showing up. LOL. Looking forward to getting together.

  10. Hallelujah! It seems to work. Now I will comment (and you are so thrilled).
    Here's my question. If my son decides never to pass another public high school course again (and this could easily happen), how can this unschooling idea work to his advantage? My nightmare is having a 45-year-old man in his underwear playing Pacific Battlefront for seven hours a day. Ellie was highly motivated, bless her heart! If a kid doesn't want to go to college but maybe wants to go straight to a job instead, do they have to get a GED? What do employers look for, if it's not a college education? I guess I'm so tied into the college thing because it's how I grew up; it's still baffling to me to know it's not likely to be Ethan's route.

  11. "and honestly, if it is too difficult - the break that school provides is welcomed by most parents and rarely results in the Actual Ruin of the Child." Yep, this was us last year and might yet be us again THIS year, but I really like being reminded of why I wanted to homeschool in the first place. I love this format, by the way. :) Always love your posts.

  12. Amy - just sent you a note. Cynthia - ha ha - when I saw your first comment I was pretty sure it was you but I was tempted to answer, "NO! It doesn't work!! This is all lies!!"

    Your circumstances are special, as you know. But getting a GED would always be an option - lots of kids quit high school and get one and are done with it. As for what employers look for - it depends on the job. It is strange for me to let go of the college idea, too. But college used to guarantee a higher paying job - no matter what your degree was in - and that simply isn't the case anymore. There are plenty of degreed young people working at Best just going to college to go to college (without a clue as to what you want to do) to get a general business degree or whatever - is cost prohibitive since it doesn't necessarily produce results that will even pay off a student loan. Did you read the Teenage Liberation Handbook? I can't might be a good place to start in order to help you evaluate your expectations. Most Texas homeschooled teens do not get GEDs because in Texas, homeschools are legal private schools. We say they're done and they're done. We give them a diploma and people have to accept that it is a valid diploma. If Ethan were to want an actual "school" diploma - not a homeschool one where it's obvious you only homeschooled for a couple of years - he can always do online school. He wouldn't actually have to go in, he could go at his own pace, 99% of the bullshit is eliminated, and he ends up with credits and a high school diploma. If he ever wants to attend community college - you know - they're open enrollment here. He just goes. People often feel that they're totally obligated to get their kids through school even if school isn't working for them - but the truth of the matter is that they're not. Anyway - don't know if I helped. We can continue the conversation over dinner maybe?

  13. I stalk a bazillion blogs (really, a bazillion, I counted--I also run a bazillion blogs but that's beside the point), and skim through them when I feel like it on google reader, often skipping entries while half asleep with some vague notion of coming back to them later. Sometimes a post catches my attention and I will stop and read more carefully because it's like the writer is speaking directly to me. But never have I had a complete stranger ACTUALLY write directly to me via their blog. Haha. I was all set to skim through your entry while half-asleep when it all started to seem creepily familiar. After noticing you had literally responded to every single sentence I wrote, I had to tell my husband, who was attempting to crawl into bed next to me, to hold on because I was going to be at this reading business for awhile. I made myself a cup of coffee and actually read every word, no skimming. Scout's honor.

    Wise reply and good thoughts. (and funny too. Found myself giggling quite a bit). It's nice to hear the perspective of someone on "the other side," i.e. with a "grown" child who has done the homeschooling thing. When I say "strongly considering," I mean that as of now it's a plan. We've met with friends who are also homeschooling, looked at curriculums, thought about our philosophy, etc. The only thing that would change the plan as of now is a super amazing school that would materialize and fit all of my hopes and desires for my kids' education (not likely). Despite the listed misgivings, I actually think we can *do* the homeschooling lifestyle. We'll see what actually goes down, but for now I'm 99% committed to doing this (with the 1% being that super amazing dream school). Neither my husband nor I were homeschooled, but I didn't have the typical public school education either. From what, age 2?, until 2nd grade I went to a Montessori school which is very different in the way they teach--student directed learning within an environment set up to be as interesting and educational as possible. Classrooms are always several grades combined so that the older kids can learn through teaching the younger ones and kids can learn at their own pace within a 3 year window rather than year by year strict requirements. After that I went to a small (and I mean SMALL) Christian grade school through 8th grade. Our one and only classroom was a mobile classroom surrounded by miles of cornfields. I had 4 people in my graduating class and 14 kids in my classroom of 4th-8th graders. We did a lot of mixed-ages learning then too, and we had a lot of time to explore and learn on our own as the teacher couldn't be everywhere at once. I recall math and grammar were pretty much self-taught. It only just struck me recently that the way I learned growing up was closer to homeschooling than to traditional schooling.

    Anyway, before this comment is another novel (ok, too late for that already), I just wanted to add that while I didn't develop a passion for violin, I did deeply appreciate knowing how to play later on as an adult. It got me a scholarship in college, a side income to rely on through wedding gigs and such, and it's one of those impressive things I know how to do that I bust out whenever I'm trying too hard to sound interesting. I also was quite good at it, scoring "1st chair" in high school in the all-state honors orchestra one year. That built up my self esteem quite a bit and taught me that I could do something well that I never would have thought to do on my own. Even my sister, who is now hugely passionate about music and violin, hated it early on. If my mom wouldn't have forced her to play as a young'n, she never would have switched to a great teacher/orchestra as a teenager and discovered she loved it. She wouldn't have had the basic skills at that point to be able to take that opportunity.

  14. All I'm saying is that sometimes forcing your kids to do something isn't terrible. Forcing maybe is a bad word. Challenging them to reach their full potential, perhaps? Knowing they can do bigger and better than what they think they can do? I'm going to be honest, I am incredibly lazy. And I'm not just saying that because people have led me to believe it. In fact, people tend to assume the opposite of me: that I'm highly organized and driven. Go figure. In truth, my deep secret is that I take shortcuts ALL THE FRIGGIN TIME. I also am very non-committal. I get very excited about projects and then fizzle out on them quickly. I was one of those kids who NEVER knew what I wanted to be when I grew up because I liked too many things. I NEVER had a life plan. I still don't. I still try things for a year, get tired of them, and then move on. In short, if my mom left me to my own devices, I never would have stuck with anything long enough to get good at it. This has been my track record. EXCEPT the violin. She made me practice. She made me be in orchestra every saturday morning. And while it was never my passion, I did grow to like it in the end. And I ended up thanking her. And it wasn't that she wanted me to be a classical violinist either. She has always supported my interests (however fleeting they may be) and was proud of me anyway when I decided to go off and be a pointless English major with no real career goals in mind. I think she just wanted to teach me the value of sticking to something. You've read "Battle hymn of the Tiger Mother," right? My mom admitted to relating to the writer of that story more than she thought she would. She's not that over-the-top, but I think she shared partly in the philosophy. My aunt was the opposite. She wanted her kids to follow their own passions and not force anything on them. They went in and out of everything--gymnastics, soccer, ballet, sewing, acting, music, etc., and as soon as they hinted they wanted to quit, she'd let them quit. They never did get good at much. 2 out of 3 of them just ended up joining some form of military and the third is living at home still unsure what she wants to do. I think any philosophy in too high a dose or too strict a measure can be bad. Kids are all different and sometimes they need to be raised differently, even within the same family. Some kids work best when allowed to fully decide their own passions. Other (lazy) kids like me need a kick in the pants and someone holding them accountable if they're going to finish a single thought or follow a single idea to completion. Although I do enjoy some attachment parenting philosophies, I hate the label, to be honest, because it seems limiting. If anyone asks about my parenting philosophy, I call it "gut parenting." I.e. following my instincts.

  15. (Had to divide that comment into two comments it was so long. Oy.)

  16. Carol, I've had this post open in a tab for days, knowing I wanted to comment and tell you how wonderful it is, but not quite sure how to say it. I've figured it out: this post is wonderful. The end.

  17. This reminded me - my college government professor can't write!! He has still not figured out that "there", "their", and "they're" are NOT interchangable. Ugh. It drives me insane. I know I'm just going to UNT, but STILL.
    I really really really want to point this out to him, but I don't want to come across as being a smartass or anything. Not me.


  18. Quick and easy question- do parents who unschool schedule "school time" like more traditional home schoolers? Because I absolutely ADORE the idea of home school- I love learning and (mostly) loved school, but when It think back on all the miserable moments and useless things I learned (and immediately forgot... waste of time and effort IMO) it makes me kind of crazy. But I am also one of those parents who looks forward to the break provided by public school (my DD just started kindergarten), and if I were to choose to unschool I have a really hard time "just doing" something, it has to have a schedule and a deadline. Thanks for this- it's an awesome post!

    Oh, I just thought of another question- do parents who unschool run into legal problems? I was under the impression that home schoolers had to submit curriculum to the state and teach certain things. Wouldn't unschoolers run into problems with this? Of course, it probably varies by state...

  19. I agree with the above about it not always being bad to force a kid to do something, as long as it's kept within reason (not the mother tiger...) and is limited to only one or two activities. I plan to "force" both of my kids to learn piano, because I think some sort of musical education is important for a variety of reasons (some of which you touched on) and that learning piano early provides the best foundation for learning any music, as it's something children can learn earlier than many other instruments and it teaches kids how to read music, keep time, learn to have an ear for tone, etc. And I am doing it because my mom forced me to learn piano. I didn't hate it, but I did hate having to practice. But She made me stick with it until I was in the 6th grade. Then she let me quit, but I started taking lessons again of my own accord in the 8th grade. I found a better teacher and ended up loving the piano- I wouldn't say I'm passionate or anything, but I find quite a lot of enjoyment in playing. But in all other subjects (hello, calculus...) I agree with this post.

  20. Pardon me while I teach my kid some social skills real quick-like...Ellie - do NOT correct your college professor.

    Okay - onto the next question. No, unschoolers do not typically schedule school time but they do, obviously, have schedules to keep for lots of other things. I really hate trying to fit into an unschooling label (although I do use it) because I find, at times, that we can become very schoolish - the difference with us is the motivation. For example, my son created a schooling schedule for himself yesterday - because he has certain things he wants to learn this year and lots of extracurricular activities. He was very loose with scheduling last year and now sees that he simply doesn't do the things he needs to do when he allows himself to opt out :). But no - I don't call the little guys to the table for school time. My younger kids will go weeks without anything remotely academic going on....other than hours and hours of lazy reading.

    As for the musical thing - everyone has their way of doing things. What we've done has worked for us - and I still don't believe in forcing kids. I DO believe in encouraging them to stick with something; explaining to them the benefits of sticking with it, but ultimately, it's their decision. Five of my kids have started piano - four have quit and one is studying piano in college. Three have started guitar - one has quit (piano girl), one seems to be losing interest, and one is cranking it up. Four have started tae kwon do - one quit - one earned black belt. I've started, stopped, and re-started more things in my life than I can count. And I hope to keep doing it! So far, I haven't quit blogging.

  21. Oh - and as for the's a state issue. We're in Texas and except for when we're accepting federal funding we like to yell "Secede!" on a semi-regular basis (when we're not running for president) and we are a low regulation state as far as homeschooling goes. We are considered private schools with no ties to school districts, nobody to show curriculum to or report to. We jump through a few extra hoops to get into college, but according to statistics, we fare much better there than our public schooled counterparts.

  22. I have a question too: how do you afford to not work? I mean, earning money? Apart from the fact that I do not even want to start to imagine how the idea of homeschooling/unschooling might be "welcomed" in our (very well) regulated tiny country waiting for a government since 400+ days now, I had to start working again (did stay home with the two children until the littlest one was +/- 15 months) for us to continue living the way we were used too...
    But maybe I don't want to have the answer, you probably have your priorities better organized than I do, so never mind my silly question - better spend your precious time on your RHC post, which I am really looking forward too (at least I won't feel too bad a mother reading it, it'll just take up some of my time (duh, some of the time I should be using to prepare my classes...), but it won't make me feel like I'm doing it all wrong with my children.
    Ellie: just try to suppose that your professor is using his brain to think about other stuff than writing when he is writing. I mean: I know a professor who was wearing one shoe and one sandal one day - I pointed it out to him around lunchtime, because he also happens to be my mother's partner - he wouldn't have realized otherwise. No point trying to tell him there is something wrong with his spelling. (but boy, I can imagine you really really really would like it to change!)

  23. Thankfully, I do not have to consider these issues any longer. Anarchy would be my answer . . .

  24. Really enjoyed this blog. I was homeschooled up until grade 11 & 12 and now I have two little ones who I look forward to homeschooling. All I have to say is that I really loved homeschooling, of course it had its rough days but all in all my sisters and I have really benefited it and I'm so proud of my mom who taught us a really good work ethic which has led to many good jobs for us, both my sister and I went to college, and most of all my mom was able to teach us good character and with the help of God we kept a good head on us. She also trusted us in our teenage years to make decision which caused us to want to please her and not rebel. Homeschooling is such a wonderful thing. Overall, I'm really thankful I had the opportunities that I did to take dance, piano, choir, rythemic gymnastics, basketball, & baseball to name a few. I'm thankful I didn't have to deal with pressures from peers to look, act, be a certain way and I could just hang out with them in my free time after I'd focused on my schoolwork. Just a really thankful homeschooled kid... now 23.

  25. I really appreciate this Q/A session! I have been unschooling for years, but manage to have a "crisis of faith" every other month or so. Luckily, my kids don't feel the need to participate in this, so they just keep on doing what they always do. I love getting a glimpse of "unschooling in action" whenever I can, because I *do* feel so insecure with it. Well, mainly the people around me are insecure with it, and the constant chorus of worry rubs off.
    We don't have a great flow yet, but I keep hoping we'll get better. Both of my older children taught themselves to read with ease, now if they could just master math without my help, I could relax.