As everyone knows, homeschoolers are commonly dismissed by detractors [(waving) Hi Robert!] as crackpots and religious fanatics who (presumably) keep their children locked up in boxes in the basement and only trot them out long enough to memorize pi to the 30th decimal place and spout history dates to impress visiting CPS workers.
But it is a myth that all homeschooling is the same. And it's also untrue that homeschoolers uniformly approve and support all homeschooling techniques.
One of the controversial techniques is "unschooling," and ABC recently wrote a piece about it.
While I applaud parents' efforts to tailor children's education toward their specific needs, aptitudes, and abilities, there is a difference between tailoring and laziness. I have never met any unschoolers so I can't vouch for its long-term efficacy (unlike the long-term efficacy of homeschooling, which is well documented)... but if this article is anything to go by, I cannot praise unschooling.
Some of the red flags I saw in this article included:
Her [the mother] hands-off approach extends to other areas of the children's lives. The kids are allowed to eat whatever they want -- even pasta with peanut butter sauce -- as long as it is in the house... What's more, they make their own decisions, and don't have chores or rules. "Because we don't punish, we don't use the term rules," Martin said.
Sounds like the kids rule the roost and the parents just want to be "friends."
Martin said she has "such a present-based mind-set" that she doesn't think about her kids' futures, and that she just wants them to be happy.
Uh, as difficult a concept as it is to grasp, there is a future. Having a "present-based mind-set" and admitting you don't want to think about your kids' futures sounds like the old Grass Roots song, "Let's Live for Today." And just wanting your kids to "be happy" in no way prepares them for instances where they're not happy. Duh.
"Algebra is not something that everybody needs to know. This life is about honoring the fact that we are not all put on the earth to do the same thing in life. ... It is such an individualized education as opposed to a cookie cutter education where kids are kind of, this bucket of knowledge that you pour into kids and they may or may not learn it."
Obviously we are not all put on the earth to do the same thing, but to presume that such basic knowledge as algebra is unnecessary is wrong. That's kind of like saying it's not necessary to teach your child how to calculate the area of a triangle or to memorize the multiplication tables.
In the kitchen, a sticky issue came up: What to do when your child wants to eat the whole bag of cookies. Martin encouraged Berg to let her kids have it their way... "When you set up things with limits, you're setting up a scenario of kids sneaking things," Martin said.
Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Children need boundaries to learn respect, self-control, manners, and to realize the whole world doesn't center around them.
Martin said her children have picked up adequate reading and math skills without formal instruction. But when we asked Devin [her son] a basic multiplication question, he stumbled.
Okay, I admit it irks me when strangers spring quizzes on my homeschooled kids to prove how unejikated they are. Kids learn things at different paces, and what they're learning in 6th grade in public school may not correlate to what my 6th grader is learning at home. Nor do I know what "basic multiplication question" the interviewer asked Devon (age 11).
But the attitude presented by these unschooling parents do not - repeat, do not - represent the attitudes of all homeschooling parents. I am hoping not all "unschoolers" fall into this line of thinking, because I've seen too many instances where parents with a "hippie" mentality and who impose no boundaries or discipline on their children end up raising out-of-control thugs. Children need to learn respect, discipline, and self-control in order to become stable functioning adults.
This opinion is not necessarily shared by the Home School Legal Defense Association, who is willing to give unschoolers the benefit of the doubt until such time as unschoolers are proven wrong.
But to my way of thinking, these types of "unschoolers" give homeschoolers a black eye. Just my $0.02.