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:

Unschooling.com

GA Peach Homeschool

Sandra Dodd

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Election Day, a Mermaid, and a Sleeping Beauty

In trying to raise good citizens of this great country of ours, we like to do a few things with our kids when election day rolls around. Yesterday we had a primary election here. I usually keep up with canidates and issues, but have slacked off recently, so I spent a good part of the afternoon researching how to vote and for whom. In this stage of the game, the kids were outside playing. But, when Marc got home, the discussion began. I with my research, he with his wisdom and the kids with their little sponge-brains, soaking up every word. We openly discussed each item on the ballot, and the kids were willing listeners wandering in and out of the conversation. In the end, we had our sample ballots filled in and our minds made up. Even little Beka knew who she would vote for (that would be “Abraham Lincoln. I don’t care if he is dead!” she stated emphatically).

Off we headed to the polling place, my husband, five children and I. We marched into that place and split up, Marc with a few kids and me with a few. Beka watched me as I carefully filled in the little ovals. Noah inserted my ballot into the machine that whoosh! sucked it up like a vacuum. Very exciting. The kids were given stickers like this one:

and Emma tried to put hers on the toe cap of her shoe (she is nearly three years old. We can’t be expected to understand some things….). Off we headed for the really great part of our family voting tradition – a treat. Each kid is allowed to pick out any candy at the drug store on election day. (In our house, this comes very rarely, so it is a very special treat indeed.) In this way we hope to teach them that doing their civic duty is sweet. Ha!

These are the moments in a homeschooling mom’s life that make her feel like she might be doing an okay job after all.

And, so that I don’t loose all my knitting readers, here is Mermaid so far.

After frogging the lower edge, I knit until I had added one more complete repeat of the cable and then started the rib (which I am changing to a 4×2 instead of the 5×1 it called for. The 5×1 seemed to roll a bit on the first take, and though I would have been willing to try blocking it out, now that I have ripped and re-knit once, I just don’t think I could bear doing it again. Here’s hoping a 4×2 rib will be okay!) Just three more rows and then I can think about sleeves. Funny how this is always the time in a sweaters construction that I seriously start thinking to myself, “I could use a really thick, wool t-shirt…” Yeah right! I live in Central California for crying out loud! Either I’ve gotta move, or I need to change my attitude toward knitting sleeves!

I guess all that responsible citizen stuff can get pretty tiring.