Letter to a reader (who suggests that homeschooling is not the real world)

Yesterday, a reader called jensketch left a comment on my latest post that I really want to respond to. Here’s the comment:

I didn’t know you wrote about this stuff – saw it tagged from your other recent post (which was a good one) but really – you sound a little defensive about being homeschooled where I don’t think you need to be.

My kids are all in public school where they learn to line up and raise their hand just like everyone else however, it’s far more difficult to resist the indoctrination than be clueless about it. It’s far more difficult to live through the social groupings than be secluded and shielded from it like someone who is homeschooled is. I regard public school another lesson in life. The real world. With its foibles and its difficulties and it’s, yes, social groupings. Learning to navigate them and still retain your own individuality is where the real challenge lies. It’s not easy.. but the worthwhile things rarely are.

It’s really hard to write about homeschooling without starting a competition. I’m totally guilty of doing this. It’s really hard not to, sometimes, because homeschooling always stands in obvious contrast with its alternative: school. Sometimes it seems like school and unschool are wrapped around each other like a yin and a yang. But that isn’t right.

Jen leans on several popular stereotypes about homeschooling to make her points:

1. School is the real world. Homeschooling is not.

2. Homeschooling is . . . → Read More: Letter to a reader (who suggests that homeschooling is not the real world)

Things homeschoolers don’t know how to do

1. Line up

2. Raise their hands

3. Identify the “cool” kids

My mom was in the city with her friend yesterday, so the three of us were hanging out, and we started talking about lines, because we were walking by Grimaldi’s Pizza in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and there is ALWAYS a ridiculous line. People wait for three hours to get in and get some pizza. I wonder what that pizza tastes like. I’d probably wait that long for the best pizza in the world.

A few days before, my friend from Australia said that “we would never queue like the Americans.” I hadn’t known that Americans liked to queue. Would you look at that. Maybe it has something to do with our obsession with what other people like? We are always pretty concerned with popularity.

Anyway, my mom laughed and said she remembered going with a bunch of other homeschooling families to some event, possibly at a museum, where the guide told all the kids to line up. And all of the little homeschooled kids looked at each other and their parents and moved obligingly in several directions and couldn’t seem to arrange themselves into a line.

(we were good at this sort of thing, though!)

. . . → Read More: Things homeschoolers don’t know how to do

Fighting with my mom

On Sunday, I went home for Father’s Day. (I’m still at that transitional phase of life where I have two homes. When does that end?) And Bear couldn’t come because he had to work. It was the first time in a long time that I’d gone home without him. It felt kind of nice, if I’m being perfectly honest. Not because it’s better without him, but because it felt like being a kid again. Unpartnered, with my family, sitting around the long wooden table like any other evening over the course of the last twelve or so years.

Within five minutes of sitting down at the long wooden table, I was fighting with Mom. It was a stupid, unnecessary fight. As most of them are. She was passionately warning me to be careful with my thinking, to hold my tongue. I was arguing vehemently for my right to speak honestly with my own family. MY OWN FAMILY. I MEAN, REALLY. As usual, my brother Gabe was laughing and refereeing gleefully, and Dad was alternating between serious interjections and a helpless smile at the absurdity of the exchange. I was cracking up with Gabe and then getting offended by Mom, and Mom was dead, dead serious.

At one point she glared across the table at me and said coldly, “You don’t know anything.”

“Anything?” I said.

Gabe howled with laughter. “BURNED! You’re the dumbest kid she has, and that’s saying something! How’s it feel, MRS COLUMBIA?!” (He likes to point out . . . → Read More: Fighting with my mom

I don’t want to be just like everyone else

After Home schooling, Pomp and Traditional Circumstances

My friend sent me this New York Times article. She pointed out that it concludes with the words “…just like everyone else.”

See look, the article seems to be saying, they want to be just like us!

Or maybe it’s saying, homeschooling is so normal now, they are just like us.

Or, probably, it’s saying both.

I know that what I’m about to say is radical and possibly unhealthy, but here it is:

As an unschooler, I did not want to be like everyone else. Not at all. I really, really liked being different. I wanted to be Stargirl, not the kids in her class. I wanted to be the one who stood out. Not because I was weird, but because I was weirdly awesome.

. . . → Read More: I don’t want to be just like everyone else

Unschooling skills in the adult world

Note: I was on The Unplugged Mom today, where Laurette Lynn and I talked about unschooling. If you don’t know who she is, go listen to her now! She is what everyone wishes they could be: great at talking.

Non-schoolers learn a lot of things that end up being important in the adult world. When I was a kid and people asked me questions about my education, it was clear that they were concerned about my eventual ability to “make it” in a harsh, unforgiving world. A world for which, they imagined, I must be totally unprepared. What if I couldn’t do math fast enough in my head? What if I didn’t have enough friends my age? What if I’d never had to take tests and be told it was weird that my arms were that hairy and develop the self-discipline required for night after night of homework?

There are plenty of things I don’t do well. Math is one of them. If someone asks me to multiply one big number with another big number in my head, I will definitely fail. And then I will stand there for a long time, blushing and looking totally awkward. And then I will laugh.

But here are some things that happen all the time in the world I now inhabit that remind me a lot of unschooling. And when I spot them, and I think about my education, I feel kind of proud:

1. Seeing the big picture

How are things connected? . . . → Read More: Unschooling skills in the adult world

Boys Will Be Boys—Even When They’re Unschoolers

This is a guest post by Peter Kowalke, editor of The Unschooler Experiment Peter Kowalke is a 32-year-old grown unschooler and host of the biweekly radio show, The Unschooler Experiment Podcast. He also is producer of the critically acclaimed documentary about the lasting influence of home education, Grown Without Schooling. You can find more of his work at unschooler.com.

When I was born, my mother had this noble idea that she would raise me free from the clutches of societal gender roles. I would play both with trucks and dolls. I would be comfortable in the kitchen and in the garage. I would cry but also be strong like a rock. You get the picture.

This would be possible partially because she homeschooled me; I wasn’t in an environment that forced gender roles on me. Like Rousseau’s Emile, I would develop naturally and unmolested by the silly notions of gender usually foisted upon us by school and other institutions.

. . . → Read More: Boys Will Be Boys—Even When They’re Unschoolers

Work and play can be the same thing

I think I’ve written before about the relationship between work and play that a lot of people believe in very firmly. I may have written about it embarrassingly recently, but I have a terrible memory and I don’t feel like checking, because I’m really looking forward to talking about it now!

One of the biggest differences between going to school and not going to school is that when you go to school you have the summer off. Which sounds pretty great, right? Having a couple free months to do whatever you want. (Not that this always happens– plenty of kids I knew growing up were shipped off to camps and summer school programs.)

When you learn outside of school, there are no breaks.

And I don’t mean that like “You will sit there and work on that calculus until you memorize every single rule in the book. I don’t care if it takes you a year.”

I mean, life isn’t structured in terms of work and non-work, effort and relaxation. These things blend together.

. . . → Read More: Work and play can be the same thing


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