After giving myself time to let the GMA story on unschooling sink in, I have come to terms with where I stand in the debate. First I am disgusted that Good Morning America picked an unschooling family that are as about off the radar as it gets when it comes to schooling kids at home. Second, after many conversations and debates with other homeschoolers, have come to the realization that most unschoolers do so with purpose, and then there are the radical unschoolers.
Radical unschoolers are the type of unschoolers portrayed in the GMA news program. This type of unschooling also included a bit of un-parenting. The family featured did not believe in tests, books, classes, curriculum, chores, or discipline. Without chores or discipline in the household, all I could imagine is chaos.
As I pondered over the story and communicated with other homeschoolers, I was reminded that unschooling is usually done with a purpose and that this family only represented a small segment of unschooling. Of all homeschoolers and unschoolers, they may represent 1% of the population at most.
The vast majority of unschoolers, are a bit more purposeful in not directly teaching the children. While they may be no, or very few, formal lessons, these unschoolers, feed their children’s thirst for knowledge. They make regular trips to the library, and fill their homes with books. If they notice a special interest in one of the children, they purposely plant books and materials to promote self education by the child.
Purposeful unschoolers also make educational field trips a priority, exposing children to art, culture, volunteer, and professional experiences. By doing this they help children to find a passion to further fuel their children’s interests. In addition, unschoolers are willing to purchase books and curriculum if the children request it. Some unschooling children have even decided to spend time in public schools with their parents blessing, because they decided to do it.
Most of all, unschooling with a purpose does not mean not parenting. According to unschooling.com, “Children need loving adults interested in helping them grow and learn… We do chores, have a family life, and participate in the wider community. The children are actively engaged in living and learning during all of this. “
This is not written to measure judge one type of homeschooling against another, but to show differences in two types of unschoolers. The most important thing to realize is that no homeschooling family is representative of another, and most especially do not represent homeschooling altogether. The only thing you can say that is constant about homeschooling is that each families approach is as different as the family doing it.