A Bone To Pick

The other day I saw this clip of the report Good Morning America did on unschooling. (Insert disclaimer here. I consider my style of homeschooling to be very unschooling-ish) Three things went through my mind while watching the short clip.

1. Where did they find these people? I know lots of homeschoolers, having been homeschooled myself through jr. high and high school, and now being a homeschool mom myself. I have never met any homeschool family that was so cavalier about their children’s education. They kept reciting these figures to make it sound like ten to twenty percent of homeschool family’s were just like the family they were interviewing. Where are these people? Where is the other side of the story? Where are the success stories? Couldn’t they find any more mainstream unschoolers to interview? And, okay, listen. I am sure those people are very nice, but next time you are invited to represent the rest of us on national television, please state your case better than that. Show us why your way is good, don’t leave so much room for criticism. “They get want they want to get done” just doesn’t cut it.

2. Why doesn’t this sound so bad to me? While I object to the “Let the kids do whatever they want” spin, why are the “experts” so concerned about it? Those kids are being raised by parents who are actively thinking about what is best for them, and are being given the freedom to pursue their dreams. What is so great about public schools? What “choices” are they missing out on? Putting a kid in a box and forcing him to be a full time student doesn’t sound that appealing to me. Let kids be kids. Let parents be parents. Why do we think kids need to be in a classroom (whether at school or home) for most of their childhood in order to turn out “mainstream”? The reporter asked the fifteen year old if she was prepared for college. What?!? What fifteen year old is? Where was the emphasis on her ability to get prepared when the time came?

and 3. The definition of unschooling varies from family to family. While I consider us to be unschoolers, we still “do school”. We have text books, we have a reading list. My kids are required to do things that they may not be interested in from time to time and we certainly have rules in our house. Unschooling to me means that , while we do not work our way through a certain curriculum and do not keep school hours, we are schooling all the time. In some ways, unschooling is harder than any other choice. I have no check list, no teachers manual, no schedule. It is my job to find teachable moments and take advantage of them. We find a centipede, put it in a jar, watch it grow, research centipedes at the library and online and voila! we are “doing school”. I spend my days educating my kids through living life. And they are thriving.

So, forgive me if I take offense to this mockery of education. Unschooling can be education at its finest.

In closing, I would just like to add that I feel my job as a homeschooling mom is to instill in my kids three things – a love of learning, a curious mind and the skills to find the information they need. With these three things, they can conquer any educational gap that may occur with my teaching style. But you won’t hear that on Good Morning America.

For further reading check out these links:


GA Peach Homeschool

Sandra Dodd

12 thoughts on “A Bone To Pick

  1. I KNOW!! It’s awful, discovery channel had something similar recently. I almost threw up in my mouth. While I do not consider myself an unschooler, I DO take a LOT of pride in letting my kids ‘take the lead’ to help guide me in what they WANT to learn.

    These people made every homeschooler look like some crazy lunatics with no concern about our children’s education. That’s completely and utterly wrong, as you mention, we probably think MORE about our children’s education then most public school parents do!!

    You get on that soap girl, keep a preachin’ πŸ™‚

  2. I would just like to add that I feel my job as a homeschooling mom is to instill in my kids three things – a love of learning, a curious mind and the skills to find the information they need. With these three things, they can conquer any educational gap that may occur with my teaching style. But you won’t hear that on Good Morning America.


    More beautiful words were never written!

  3. I agree. My homeschooling style is also “unschool-ish”, though I don’t consider myself an unschooler, per se. We have textbooks, we do things they are not always interested in, and I look for teachable moments. I don’t keep a “schedule” because that’s just not us at all….NOT because I want my kids to “do whatever they want”. Part of life is learning to follow rules and directions that sometimes you don’t understand or agree with at the moment. That is definately part of our life.

    I like to think (ok, I think) that my kids are learning life skills. My son will grow up and know how to help raise children, do laundry, dishes, balance a checkbook, do REGULAR MULTIPLICATION (pet peeve of mine with public school “textbooks” – lattice math, ugh!!), make a meal, plan a menu and grocery shop. He can also do yardwork and take out the trash….and even *gasp* clean a bathroom.

    I also like to think that I am showing him how to LEARN, not just what he *should* learn. If he can read, know where to look for information, find it and understand it – he can do anything. He could build a submarine or fly an airplane. He could run a business or balance their books. He could get into the fine intricates of fly fishing if he wants to. It’s more about learning how to learn than it is about WHAT. My opinion, of course.

    And of course I homeschool so my kid(s) so that he values human life and learns his faith to it’s full, and truthful, extent.

    Oh! Looks like I jumped up on the box with you. Hope I’m not crowding you!!


  4. that’s pretty despicable.

    i am definitely not an “unschooler” (though I also know some “school at home” types who would disagree with me!) but i’ve never met an unschooler who did not do a good job with their kids! They are always well-educated, well-rounded, curious, interested kids who would still blow their conventionally schooled peers out of the water academically.

    And the 15 year old? ready for college? huh!? that was just dumb! wonder if the reporter is ready yet?

    Unfortunately, as long as there are “fringe” elements in (name your group) they will be the focus for those who, for some strange reason, object. Never the whole picture, just the fringe. Or those appearing to be the fringe, anyway.

  5. I am not an unschooler, but this interview gives a bad name to any home schooler out there. That is just what mainstream media does to something they don’t agree with. The piece was poorly done, they should have given more views talked to more families. George Stepa”nufalufagus” is a complete idiot in my opinion and he even introduced it and summed it up in a negative light!!

    Thanks for sharing Shelly, but now I’m fuming!!! Now I remember why I NEVER watch those channels for the “news” shows!!! Grrrr!

  6. I’m not an unschooler, but I’m definitely pretty relaxed in my approach.

    I wish they would have stressed more that this is a very RADICAL form of unschooling. I just hope that legal policies don’t start getting changed as a result of the attention on this extreme end of the homeschooling spectrum. I loved that statistic the reporter gives at the end. “10-20%”? Really? That’s a pretty broad range.

    Really, there are a lot of ways to teach and raise kids and most people do just fine in spite of how they were raised. Not everyone is destined for the office job. And people have ‘choices’ limited all the time because of their circumstances. Waaaaay laid-back parents are just one factor that these kids are beginning with.

    At any rate, this piece was way better than the one that aired on Nightline.

  7. I don’t unschool, I get my stuff from a box and trudge through it like a good girl. This is only bc if I didn’t my kids wouldn’t learn anything (I’m pretty spacey, I blame my public school education). BUT, it doesn’t take all day like ps and then we have “fun” visiting museums,science experiments, chasing bugs, libraries and what not. ( we chase libraries, they are hard to find since we just moved)

    A fifteen year old would not be a junior!

    I find it very offensive they would report like this, In that light all homeschoolers look bad, not just unschoolers. They made it sound like all unschoolers are radical. I did agree that kids need some structure, (they should brush their teeth, eat (reasonably) healthy and go to bed at a decent hour). If we didn’t care about our kids we would stick them in Public school like everybody else. In the words of my public school English teacher, “You go girl.”

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