Last Updated 08 Apr 2020

Parents Against Education: Unschooling

Category Curriculum
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The topic of radical unschooling is important for a number of reasons. It deals with a very important matter, which is the education and rearing of children. It calls the integrity of public schools into question and the importance of a curriculum. It also questions or disregards the need to guide children at all through life. The world in general does not look fondly upon radical unschooling. Most people see it as neglect. The people who choose this lifestyle for their family bring up a few arguments and have philosophies that, in theory, make sense.

They say that unschooling is good for children because it allows them to naturally learn for themselves at their own pace and in their own environment. Radical unschooolers extend their beliefs to everyday life. They believe that it is best for children to freely learn and express themselves without guidance and outside pressure. The children of parents who practice this form of education, or un-education, mostly get to decide what is best for themselves and have very little, if any, rules at all.

Parents who radically unschool their children argue that children are “natural learners” and this is the best way for children to learn because it gives them real-life experiences and helps them to grow their own intellect. However, it has been proven that children require guidance and structure that this form of education has time and time again shown that it does not provide. One large problem with radical unschooling is the lack of structure and care provided for the child. Though radical unschoolers argue that they do not neglect their children and they provide helpful advice and suggestions, this is not exactly what children need.

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It has been proven that children really need structure and a definite routine to feel comfortable. According to Kathy Eugster, a registered child and family psychologist, structure is very important in the lives of children. Not only does it help to assert parental authority, it also helps children feel safe and secure. Also according to Eugster, children who come from chaotic and uncontrolled households have a harder time with healthy development. Unschoolers make the argument that their form of education is best in the long run because children will adapt better to life in the real-world.

The real world does not coddle adults as they may have been throughout their childhood, so the adjustment could be difficult for some. However, structure is also a large part of the adult world. Also, as children grow into teens and then become adults, they learn more to think on their own, especially if they are encouraged to do so within a structured environment when they are young. These things are found to be true in a study entitled, “Chaotic homes and school achievement,” performed by King’s College London, The Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Center.

Children living in the environmental confusion and unpredictability of high levels of family chaos (i. e. noise, disorder and human traffic) have lower expectations, lack of persistence and a tendency to withdraw from academic challenge. The level of family chaos affects early reading skill, even after considering other home environmental factors relevant to children's mastery of reading. Parents who radically unschool say that their children are in control of their lives. This becomes a problem because parents are not teaching their children how they are expected to act in public.

They are not able to socially interact with other people and often act in a way that most of society frowns upon. Quinn Cummings, the author of the book, “The Year of Learning Dangerously,” who unschooled her daughter for some time, recounts some of her experiences while attending a Radical Unschooler’s Conference. She said that when she was there, she witnessed children stripping down to nothing and running around a crowded room, as their parents did nothing. Also, she saw one four year old girls get up and hit another child as her mother looked on, not saying a word.

Most radical unschoolers will argue that these things rarely ever happen. However, many people have recounted experiences where things like this do happen. It is not very uncommon to see behavior like this from children of parents who radially unschool. One mother expressed fear of her children playing with the children who were radically unschooled down the street from them because they were so violent. Without proper guidance, children are not able to know what behaviors are really appropriate and which ones are not.

Also, schooling your children in an environment void of other children can become a problem. Since they are not exposed to different types of people, such as, different races, religious, and economic backgrounds, they can become intolerant. This becomes especially true since they are not being taught about these things if they do not express interest in them. Though the children are encouraged to “become their own person” so to speak, they can still act out the behaviors and have similar thoughts that the people in their environment have as they grow older.

For example, in the essay “Group Minds,” Dorris Lessing makes the point that we all live our lives out in groups, whether it is a school, family, etc. It becomes very easy for people in this situation to fall prey to thought that they are their own person with individual thoughts and are not subject to other people's ideas infiltrating how they think. Even though unschooling parents say that their method of teaching is best because it prepares children for the real-world, they seem to skip over one of the most important parts of adulthood, understanding other cultures.

Another issue within unschooling is general inability of being able to do it. This could be from a number of reasons. Many people do not have the money, resources, or knowledge to do this. Radical unschools make the point that if there is a will, there is a way. While this sounds nice, most two income houses are not able to live off of just one income. It is almost impossible for a single parent to switch of unschooling unless they become their own boss. Many people do not feel comfortable when not using a curriculum in teaching their children.

By definition and through all of its philosophies, there is no curriculum for unschooling, especially radical unschooling. Also, many people do not feel that they have the proper knowledge to be able to teach their children, especially without a proper guideline of what they should be teaching. Honestly, many people do not find that they are properly qualified to teach someone else. An argument that is made often is that children have more options to explore things they want to do. While this is true, if the child does not express interest in it, parents are not supposed to make them pursue anything.

Also, if a child decides they are not interested in anything, they very often end up sitting in front of the television or playing video games all day. This is not a radical step in the right direction, it is actually radically unhealthy. Allowing children to take interest in solely what they want is a main component in radical unschooling. In her essay, “When Bright Girls Decide that Math is a Waste of Time,” Susan Jacoby talks about how not being able to use math and science is detrimental to society.

If a child decides that math and science are not important and only wants to color, that does not mean it is right to let them do so. Avoidance of math and science has the potential to limit job potential in the future, as well as, making a child feel inadequate when someone possesses more knowledge than them. Children learning to read can also go along with this. Many unschooling families had expressed concern with their child's unwillingness to read, or inability to catch on.

Also, because part of the philosophy is for children to do things at their own pace, this can really be a hinderance. Often, they are behind and unable to excel in other subjects because they just cannot figure out reading. This also serves to greatly limit children and what they are able to do. Overall, radical unschooling is a bad idea. While the philosophies seem to be in the best interest of the child, most of the time, they are not practical. Numerous studies have proven time and time again that structure, routine, and true guidance are all important for children.

Also, always allowing children to do activities that will not help to intellectually serve them is really hindering, not helping them. Without exposure to different types of people, children can become intolerant and in general stuck within themselves while not being concerned with other people. This is especially true if all they have been taught all of their lives is to do whatever they want to do. It is a great possibility that these children could grow up to be the kind of people who do not care for others, education, or and kind of structure. That is not the kind of future that is best for children.

Parents Against Education: Unschooling essay

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