Friday, July 22, 2005

Thoughts and Arguments

Today was my last day to return the Oak Meadow Curriculum for a full refund. I didn’t for a bunch of reasons. One reason is the reason I got it in the first place – I’m not confident about being able to take frequent trips to the library to follow interests. That reason was bolstered this week when we did go to the library, and all the kids wanted was videos. The videos are right at the bottom of the stairs as we go to the children’s room, so it can be hard to get them past the videos to the books. Then, at home, there were many tears over the videos – when to watch them, who gets to choose, etc. And two days later we’ve barely touched the books.

As I worked on deciding whether to keep or return, I went to reread the introductory material in the Oak Meadow curriculum, and read the following in the preface:

“. . . each subject should be presented in a natural, informal manner, so that the child does not feel forced into the activity, but rather becomes involved because it sparks something within him. . . . we feel the best approach is to integrate the recommendations concerning stories, notebooks, poems, music, etc., into the natural flow of daily activities, so the child doesn’t learn to make a distinction between “school” and “live.” In this way, the child gradually develops the attitude that expanding one’s knowledge and capabilities is part of the process of life, and indeed is what life is all about.”

This is very close to my own (untested) philosophy, and I hope that the Oak Meadow material can work as my “enriched environment” for a relaxed, child-led, almost-unschooling approach. I also liked the part of the preface about "continually striving to unfold the potential within yourself so that you can respond more deeply and spontaneously to your child. . . . It is never the techniques you have learned through the years that cause a child to develop his capabilities. Rather it is the strength of your being, the light of your understanding, and the love you have for him as a fellow being that draws the latent spark of individuality within him into active manifestation." I am looking for good support around that striving, whether IRL, or in the form of an online list. I know that I will not find it with the unschooling list I had a run in with this week!

As I’ve said before, I find unschooling attractive. It is the main competition to the Oak Meadow curriculum. However, I have my suspicions that it’s not as simple as many make it sound. I suspect that some unschooling parents (although probably not all), have a mental (or even paper) list of topics they’d like to see the kids cover, and do quite a lot do direct their attention to those topics. I love the idea of child-led learning, and I hope that is what homeschooling will look like in our house,

And then there was my run-in on an unschooling list. Radical unschoolers seem to be quite intolerant – their way is the right way, and anything else isn’t good enough. They seem to be argumentative and have no problem criticizing other list members with copious quoting (of other posts). As for the run-in, I posted about a housekeeping matter – said that I (sometimes) tell the kids that if they don’t pick their stuff up I will put it in the cellar or the trash. I didn’t use many qualifiers, and in fact, I probably pull that only a few times a year. I was called creepy, and other negative assumptions were drawn (for instance, that I throw away projects and much loved items). On the one hand I was somewhat convinced to rethink this tactic. But on the other hand I was so upset by the episode that it has affected my parenting in the past few days in a negative way. Being “yelled” at makes me defensive and angry, not thoughtful and compliant. I could never share a parenting problem with this list for fear of being harshly judged. It’s not even correct to state it as a fear – it’s just a fact – I would be harshly judged. My main argument with unschoolers is that they don’t accord adults the same that they do their children. Children can find their own way to learn; adults must be browbeaten to do it the radical unschooling way. As I said in a post, people who bend over backward to allow their children to learn in their own way, at their own pace, the topic of interest to them, do not accord other parents seeking to guide their family into adulthood the same respect and latitude. That disconnect makes me suspicious of the whole philosophy. I also take issue with the extremism, and the absolutism of it – you can’t unschool halfway – it’s all or nothing. I want to read more about unschooling, but for now I may stick with articles and books, and avoid online groups/lists/boards.

I haven’t yet found a list with members with similar parenting philosophies to mine that I can ask for homeschooling and parenting support, and now that I’m keeping the curriculum, it’s probably too much to ask that I find a tolerant unschooling list. I would love to find a gentle parenting list where I can discuss my parenting issues in relative “safety.”


Anonymous said...

Strangely enough. I'm on the OM board and unschooling board that you mentioned. I saw the whole thing play out. I used OM last year--my son is 11. I am leaning towards unschooling as well. I understand what you're saying about absolutism. It almost reminds me of my Catholic upbringing, where they told us that we were either with them or against them. I find it hard to believe that something as open-ended as unschooling would have so much in common with organized religion--to the point that they harangue people who don't see the world exactly as they do. I have found more ideas on the UU board. Maybe that's the type of list you need. I myself am not a UU member, but they are tolerant of discussion as long as you are open minded, too. As the summer goes by, I still don't know what to do about next year. I've yet to purchase OM7 and am wondering if I have what it takes to jump into unschooling.

Anonymous said...

As a home educating parent, with some unschooling tendencies, I have found 'Life Learning Magazine' ( to be a great source of information and support.

Mariah said...

I'm just coming to your blog from the OM list. I've had just the same experience as you've described with an unschooling forum. Maybe the same folks?

Anyways, I, too, am drawn to unschooling. The things that are motivating me are a need/desire to reconnect with the joy in learning. Last year was rough and I got way more focused on getting stuff done than on my kids.

That desire brought me to OM from Sonlight (used secularly). I'm hoping the relaxed paced and focus on hands-on projects will keep our year lighter and more in touch with each other. Of course I have to use OM in that manner, so we'll see. I have to admit that the biggest stumbling block to these goals will be myself. I tend to get stern and overbearing when it comes to school stuff.

I've rambled enough now.

I'm looking forward to visiting here often. If you find the list or group that fits your needs, pass it on.


Anonymous said...

I think you're right on track and not many people are willing to admit that they share your views. city lost is an AWESOME place to discuss LOST.