When asked where your children attend school, you can expect eyebrow raises and skepticism if your response resembles, “Oh, we’re homeschoolers.”
However, respond with, “Actually, we’re unschoolers,” and don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the receiving end of a parenting interrogation.
Homeschooling is not a new concept in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1.5 million students were homeschooled in 2007, a figure up from 1.1 million in 2003. Ten percent of those students were unschooled, an untraditional method of homeschooling less recognized in the public eye until recent publicity.
So what exactly is unschooling? Let’s take a closer look at what has America, once again, casting homeschooling in a negative light. Although unschooling is a type of homeschooling, the learning approach is informal and often called “learner-led,” or “interest-initiated.” Traditional homeschoolers generally use textbooks and/or curricula to teach core subjects such as math, science, reading, language arts, and social studies. Unschoolers typically, but not always, forego textbooks and structured schedules. Instead, students learn by experiencing everyday life and what interests them. Learning opportunities present themselves as students are exposed to a variety of activities.U.S. Department of Education, 1.5 million students were homeschooled in 2007, a figure up from 1.1 million in 2003. Ten percent of those students were unschooled, an untraditional method of homeschooling less recognized in the public eye until recent publicity.
When ABC aired its report,Extreme Parenting: ‘Radical Unschooling’ in April, concerned citizens hammered the station’s message boards. As one who watched the report on Good Morning America, the viewers’ reactions made perfect sense. The portrayal of a homeschooling family lacking structure, expectations, discipline, or standards to uphold, would make most parents uneasy. Doesn’t every parent allow their kids to stay up all night, play video games, and do whatever they please every day without responsibilities? Certainly not the good parents. However, the obvious bias shone through the crafty editing, relieving ABC of any credibility depicting the reality of not only the Yablonsky-Biegler family, but that of unschooling as a method of education.
Like public schooling, private schooling, or traditional homeschooling, unschooling offers pros and cons. Expenses for activities, art supplies, field trips, and other materials can add up. Traditional assessments or grade levels may be difficult to document, since homeschoolers tend to work at their own pace, often academically ahead of students in public schools.
Before judging the Yablonsky-Biegler family or deciding that unschooling is truly “radical” or even criminal, do a little research. Do some fact checking of your own. Realize that the media is not the only source of information. Ignorance only breeds fear, hate, judgment, and more ignorance. Be responsible and educate yourself.
Griffith, Mary. (1999). The Homeschooling Handbook. New York: Three Rivers Press
Ishizuka, Kathy. (2000). The Unofficial Guide to Homeschooling. California: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.
U.S. Department of Education http://www.ed.gov/
ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/