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Jewish World Review
April 29, 2010
/ 15 Iyar 5770
Careful, don't unschool your kids
I often advocate that parents "trust their instincts." But if you are one of the small but growing number of parents "unschooling" their kids -- I think you should start doubting!
From charter schools to home schools, I love dynamic and creative schooling concepts. As long as schooling is involved.
In contrast "unschooling" means no textbooks, no curriculum, no tests, no grades. Assuming the children want to do anything at all, they do what they want to do when they want to do it. It's estimated that about 150,000 kids today are unschooling. That's according to ABC's "Good Morning America," which Monday ran a shocking report on the trend, featuring kids feasting on TV and junk food but no algebra. Yes, it's legal. (And note to my children: no chance.)
It should be no surprise, really, that unschooling goes so easily with an "unparenting" style. As one young mom said on the "Good Morning America" segment, in their unschooling home there is no judgment, no punishment, or discipline." Oh and, "Hygiene was one of the last things to go for us as far as being relaxed in our parenting style."
Um, this would be called "neglect." Sure enough, these particular unschoolers were complete with children making their own choices about absolutely everything, from chocolate doughnuts for breakfast to staying up all night long.
Hey, my kids would choose the same things every day all day if I let them. But I'm a parent, so I don't.
Some unschooling advocates will argue that their kids actually are building fantastic Lego villages all day or visiting farms, or that they really do develop an amazing interest in skyscrapers and want to delve into books on how to build them. And that they even have to brush their teeth.
That's great. I still think unschooling is nuts, and for the most part the parents who practice it irresponsible. But not most of all because of the academics even that budding architect isn't learning. And not even because of the larger issue that civilized societies are marked out, for starters, because they place a high priority on passing on acquired knowledge in a systematic way to the next generation.
I remember a friend being so frustrated that her high school aged son had to take a home economics class and learn to sew. She felt this was a waste of time and it was something he couldn't care less about. (I thought it was great that a boy should learn such things, but that's a different matter.) My point to her was not that this was a terrific course but precisely that even if she were right, it could have great value in teaching him how to handle life issues. And is learning to sew on a button so bad, anyway?
In other words, one of of the things I actually like most about the traditional schooling course I've chosen for my four kids is precisely what others sometime disparage it for: that my children's curricula doesn't totally revolve around them or their interests.
But, that's life. So what if, in the process of getting an overall good education, my kids have to learn to deal constructively with some boring teachers or uninteresting classes or difficult peers -- talk about preparing for the future!
Forget not learning multiplication tables, unless a child "wants" to of course. When one is raised to follow only one's interest, and do what one wants to do when one wants to do it and not otherwise, imagine the first time a boss says, "I want you to do this," or a spouse says, "but I don't want you to do that!"
What are these "all-about-me" unschooled kids going to do then? "Unlife?"
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