I have no internet or TV, and have been outside the mainstream news for a while now, so didn’t realize there was a tiny segment about Radical Unschooling on GMA. You can watch the video here.
“Imagine No School, Parents Let Kids Go Free!” was the caption under most of the segment, which made me LOL. Oh no! Not free kids!!!!
I have received a bunch of emails and calls from friends and family all over the place, who know I unschool but haven’t really seen it in action until they watched the segment on TV. They were, understandably, freaked out. So, here’s my post to everyone, because I can’t answer every message personally!
First, I give a lot of credit to the family for opening up their doors like that. I was approached to have an article written about our family in a Boulder newspaper, and declined. Whenever you do something that is so different from the norm, everyone in the norm has a hard time wrapping their heads around it. Which is the case of this interview.
I didn’t find anything spectacularly cringeworthy in the interview or the way the parents and children spoke about their lives. I did find the attitude of both Stephanopoulis and the lady interviewing them particularly dismissive, biased, and aloof. Which is not much different from what we get from everyday people on the street. Her questions in particular, and the comments from everyone who watched the show, show just how closed minded our public schools are making people. When you’ve been raised in a system of tests and ranked heirarchy and performance reviews and grades and forced curriculum, you get a bunch of people that think in a very small range. A range that feels that textbooks, tests, curriculum, and someone telling you what, when, how, and where to learn are the only ways to do so.
The parents and children gave her more respect than she gave them is the opinion I formed after watching the interview. Instead of asking them questions about how they live their lives, what their interests were, how the child led passions formed their day, what made them happy, how they got along in their family when they based it on trust and love rather than rules and discipline, what the kids wanted to do when they left the house and chose a career or trade…etc., etc., etc., the interviewer raked them over the coals for not doing things mainstream. Uh, that’s already been established, that’s the point of the interview! But she never asked them anything that had to do with their lives, she just focused on all the things they weren’t doing. A great opportunity was missed.
*focused on what they “regret” by not going to a “normal school”, emphasis on ‘normal’. As in, what everyone else does, as in, just like everyone else, as in, following along because everyone else is doing it. Is this really important? What about asking them what they gain by doing things so differently? What about wondering what opportunities they’ve had by going outside a classroom? Why negative instead of positive?
*yelled in exasperation when the oldest son answered her question by saying he didn’t really like what he did in school, “But you were 7! What do you know?!” AAAAAAAGHHHHHH. It’s called respect, and the lack of it towards kids in this segment killed me. Kids all through history have been hunting, working, building, learning, producing at this age. And now, all of a sudden in the 21st century America, they don’t know anything? Really?
*Pointed out school is for exposing kids to different things. I fail to see how sitting at a desk with a break for lunch and PE is exposing them to more than just letting them out into the world does, with an unrestricted access to whatever it is they are curious about at the moment (rather than waiting for the right grade/class).
*Tried to classify the daughter into a grade (why are grades so important, rather than life lessons or experiences?) and then pressed her on college readiness. As if college is the be all end all of a students life. Guess what? There are scores of college graduates out there, unemployed, totally screwed by this economy and the failed promise that a college degree creates more opportunity.
*Did she really suggest that creating a unique, empowering, outside of the mainstream experience for kids will really make them “handicapped”? Really? Is that the lesson schools are inadvertently teaching? There is only one way to do things. One right answer. One way to learn. Anything else=retarded. ???
*where was the follow up question about what the kids experiences and knowledge were that other people dont? Now that would make this a balanced interview. But no, the question was never asked. Because obviously, the only knowledge that’s important is what everyone is learning thanks to NCLB and the curriculum.
Really, the only important idea in this whole interview is that, guess what….unschooling is growing by leaps and bounds. And it’s growing as a direct opposition to this stifling, one size fits all, ‘normalizing’ pressure of NCLB.
Unschooling is radical. It goes against the grain of what we as a society have been taught about parenting and educating. I’m sure my family would come across just as poorly if we were followed by an interviewer with a closed mind like that. Secretly, I’m glad Hubby was traveling during the week when the kids and I started unschooling, because I don’t know if he would have been down with the radicalness of it. All he saw was the change in the kids when he saw them on the weekends. I told him we were trying a ‘new curriculum’, but didn’t say that curriculum was throwing out the curriculums and putting the kids in charge of their learning. I felt safe to tell him that when he commented, about 4 months into it, “whatever this new curriculum is, you should keep doing it. The kids are so tuned in and learning so much!”
And that’s about all I have to say about that. I love unschooling, I love the other unschoolers I get to hang out with, and unschooling is going to continue to grow the more pressure schools put on standardization and control. Because guess what? Every kid is outside a ‘norm’. No kid, and no adult, should ever want to be in a ‘norm’. We are all different, with our own interests, passions, and skills. We need to celebrate and encourage this kind of radical development rather than medicate and force kids to stay in a classroom that celebrates ‘mainstream normalcy.’
In Colorado-moving-from-the-house-news, here’s a bulletin: moving sucks! yeah!
I’m getting a brief respite from it with my double peppermint hot chocolate and a little internet action.
Filed under: Homeschool/Unschool |