Monday, May 07, 2007

Let 'Em Be

Bicycling Downhill
Originally uploaded by Contrary Goddess.
Reason #18445 to quit screwing kids up and let them learn efficiently on their own: Eldest child, 15, learned to ride a bike this year. Youngest child, 7, is turned just like eldest and is simply not interested in learning. Yet. Both of them are pretty risk averse. Isn’t that interesting since I never had a risk averse moment until I had kids myself. Anyway, middle two kids both learned to ride bikes at more average bike riding age. The three riders that we now have are very fluent riders, as you can tell by the speed at which he is going down that hill; as you could tell if you know he comes back up that hill pedaling, not pushing.

Reading is not different either. They learn when they are ready and how it is appropriate for them to learn. Oh, yes, being a homeschooler I know people who insist phonics is the only way to read, as if we fluent readers read by doing phonics really really fast (which we don’t). Well, I had one kid who was a sight reader so strongly that if a word he knew was in a different font, he wouldn’t know it. But he became a fluent reader in his own time. Another kid was phonics oriented, and she learned to read fluently . . . at about the same age, maybe a little younger. Being a much more schooled individual myself, I don’t really remember not knowing how to read. And yet I didn’t read for pleasure until . . . about the same age that my kids have naturally learned to read by reading for pleasure.

Birds fly, fish swim, humans learn. Unless it is schooled out of them.


David Houser said...

Great post. Like you, I don't much remember ever not being able to read, but I only ever liked it before and after my schooling. A few years ago I decided I'd go to school and major in education (I shudder at that now!) and switched majors after reading some of the "professional" journals which were packed with articles on, and advertisements for products promising, "new" methods of teaching kids to read. One hundred years and uncountable billions of dollars later, and they're still working on that.

Have you read John Holt's 'Instead of Education'?

the Contrary Goddess said...

I'm sure I have, but his first two books are the ones that stick in my head -- Why Children Fail and How Children Learn. Must reading begins with John Taylor Gatto's Seven Lesson Schoolteacher. But beyond that, mostly, I haven't found many other people that I consider "real" unschoolers -- even those who really don't "do" school are busy trying to figure out how their kids are going to fit into society. Well, I think society sucks so why would my kids want to fit in to it? Etc.

Oh, gawd, ranting again.

El said...

You're supposed to rant; it is your blog.

Our kid is in a great Montessori school, and fortunately, it will be the only school she'll go to until college. We are not the kind of people who'd homeschool, unless there was zero alternative. Anyway, if the school is a good one, the Montessori Method, especially its slant on how a child learns, is very much akin to what you are doing "down theah" unschooling your own. But you knew that already.

My own beef with homeschooling (and not unschooling per se) is that there are a lot of know-nothing parents out there doing it, usually for some religious reason. Hmf. To each his own, but sometimes, I wonder.

Eleutheros said...

My own family are unschoolers as well. Rabid, card carrying, ragged edge, lunatic fringe unschoolers.

I will have to disagree that Montessori resembles unschooling. Once you take a child out of life and place them in an artificial environment that does not resemble life, the spell is broken.

A woman, single woman raising a teenage daughter, had arranged by din of had work and favors from relatives that she could, if she chose, to remove her child from school and homeschool her by working at night and having the girl stay with relatives during her shifts.

She had misgivings since she had little education herself and was quite unsure what to do.

The girl hated school, was miserable at the prospects of going, was experiencing health problems and emotional problems because of it.

The question was settled for the mother when she was asked, rhetorically, "Could you do any worse?"

So my concern is not so much with know-nothing parents nor religious fanatic parents .... rather it's with parents who could not unshcool, immerse their child in the stream of life, because they themselves have never had a taste of it.

As far as such choices for children and families go, I do not believe there is any such thing as a right or wrong choice. Equally as bogus is the notion that this choice is right for one child while this other choice is right for another child.

Oh, no. It is much more profound and momentous than that. It's that if you choose one thing, you get one result. If you choose another thing, you get that result.

Homeschooling, unschooling, and sequestering children in an institution all produce different results. Which result do you choose?

the Contrary Goddess said...

Which results indeed. I know my answer. Refer again to Gatto's 7 lessons and if you haven't, read it before commenting here.

But I have to say el that to insert your values, how you think children should be schooled (ie. brainwashed) on others is immoral. Until a crime is committed (and if it isn't bad enough to send that parent to jail, it isn't a crime) against a child, how that child is raised should be up to the parents. Period.

And I always wonder, what ARE the "type" of people who homeschool. I have an answer too -- people who actually like their own children.

Someone once said that they wouldn't hire a substitute wife for their husband so why would they hire a substitute parent for their child?

El said...

Wow, what a hornet's nest.

All I can say is schooling (whether home-, un-, or otherwise) should be a proactive activity, not a reactive one as was the case Eleutheros illustrated. So should marriage and becoming a parent too, and if it is done in a reactive way, it can be to the detriment of the people involved. Think, weigh, make a decision. Don't be sheep.

My comment regarding homeschooling should have been struck, as it was my opinion only. And I brought up Montessori as an illustration that even "institutional" situations can be as positive as the best homeschooling and unschooling methods in the consideration of the child as an individual with individual needs and learning patterns.

And yes, indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all thing here, otherwise our kids would all be in public schools.

the Contrary Goddess said...

yes, I may have been harsh but sometimes I don't know another way to say it. I don't happen to think that institutionalization is just as good as whatever non-institutionalization is. But I would defend your right to raise your child HOWEVER. I defend every parents right to do that.

And just to reiterate what might have been said elsewhere, unschooling is not part of the schooling spectrum. It is something else entirely. I believe Eleu has used the example of UNvaccinating.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Having given it a few days, I still have something to say here.

There is a lady I know who rather consistently says "People from around here" in the same way that others might use the n-word. It always offends me.

I don't know how else but terribly offensive a person is supposed to take the phrase, "the type of people who homeschool", especially when used in the negative, "we're not . . . ever . . . unless there was zero alternative."

I suppose Imus could have said he stepped into a hornets nest when he uttered his offensive remark instead of apologizing and moving on. Of course, I could have been a gracious as whatever basketball team that was too, which I wasn't.

Fathairybastard said...

All well said. I think we're ruining the kids today, but my folks generation, and theirs, probably thought the same thing.

Ren said...

I not only adored the post, but the comments shared as well. I think Montessori is just a prettier method of coercion. So is Waldorf. Cloaking manipulation and coercion in prettier clothes doesn't make it fabulous, just better perhaps.

I'm always shocked and surprised (why don't I learn this?) when some "unschooler" starts asking me how to help their kids learn something. Where is the trust? If unschooling doesn't start with trust, there is no unschooling in my opinion. Trust and respect.

And unschooling isn't a schooling method. It's the antithesis of schooling. The "un" just doesn't explain enough! It's about learning which has absolutely nothing to do with schooling.

There is something very powerful in watching the flower unfold without prodding, without trying to unfurl it or coax it or do anything but provide it with water and soil and sun and grow along with it. I love learning from and with and next to my free children....who don't understand why learning would ever be something to dislike.

Ren said...

OH, and I meant to add (is this long enough yet?) that it was really, really cool to see how my second child saw life because he didn't read until age 12. He literally SAW things differently because he wasn't reading.

It's fun talking to him about what it's like to not read....because I can't remember that world either.