If you read yesterday’s entry, you read part of an article from Sandra Dodd in which she talks about how when people say they tried unschooling and it didn’t work for them, she often finds that what they were looking for and expecting was still ‘school’. As though if left to their own devices, the children would choose a curriculum and area of study and set about procuring the proper materials with which to learn it; materials being textbooks, workbooks, etc.
On the flipside, what I sometimes find is that when people hear that you unschool, they have their own ideas about what that means. For instance I told someone today that we unschool (and this person homeschools her own children) and the first thing she asked was how old my kids are and if they read. So I told her their ages and said yes, they both read, although Maya read much earlier than Ben. (And I gave my little spiel about how he began to read chapter books almost overnight after having read nothing more complicated to that point than “Bink Says Boo”.) She seemed slightly surprised, and then followed up with “Do you have a TV?” When I said yes, she raised her eyebrows and said, “Oh! And have you had one since they were little?” Yes, we have. We have TV and computers and a Wii, and I’ve never restricted their usage. “Do you watch a lot of TV?” Well, no, not really, and what I do watch I mostly watch on line. More surprised looks, and then we were interrupted by the kids who’d been skating (it was a party at the Bryant Park ice rink) and were thirsty. End of conversation.
I was slightly puzzled by the questions. This was a very nice woman who is a part of the homeschooling community, but seemed surprised that my kids could read – I believe she said, “Well I just wondered how they learned to read since you unschool.” – and then went on to ask several TV related questions. Are unschoolers not supposed to own TV’s? Maybe the stereotype really is that we are shower-eschewing crunchy granola’s who subsist on nothing but tofu and organic kale and live in yurts. Boy do we not fit that picture! I hate tofu, for one thing, and the whole unshaven, undeodorized thing really isn’t my scene.
But I digress. The point is that just as some people who say they tried unschooling were hoping their kids would spontaneously start following a curriculum, others who hear ‘unschool’ expect unschooled kids to be a certain way (illiterate, wild creatures who are more comfortable living in the forest?). And there are kids who don’t read until they are 10. So what? I knew a kid who didn’t read till the age of 10 and then at 14 got a perfect score on the language arts section of the SAT, which he took just for fun. Other unschoolers read young. There is no ‘right’ way to unschool. Each kid is different with different interests. I can write about what my kids do and the things they like and how they learn. Doesn’t mean anyone else who unschools will have the same story. The truth is, it’s difficult to write day in and out about “unschooling”, because what you end up writing about is just… life. Some people don’t understand that. Like if I spend an evening writing about how we watched the Oscars (foreshadowing!) I might get a comment that watching TV has nothing to do with unschooling. But yes, it does. Since unschooling is life learning and everything we do is part of life, then everything is also part of unschooling. Wow. That sounded almost philosophical.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to say good-night to Maya. Not that she’s going to sleep. I think she’s Skyping or IM’ing for a while before reading. Then I’ll watch some TV on my computer – and maybe do a little reading as well.
Oh those crazy computer & TV loving, novel reading unschoolers!