Sunday’s New York Times featured an article on unschooling, the approach to home education that we’ve practiced for fifteen years. While I am not surprised that the newspaper sought out the ominous undercurrent of this subversive practice, I do marvel that a professional educator provides them with the sensational blare for their warning: “the folks who are engaging in these radical forms of school are doing so legally”! Oh, no!
The concluding paragraph of the article concedes that unschooled children don’t learn everything, that “there are definite gaps” in [one] unschooled student’s education. Are we then to understand that at PS 666, all students do indeed “know everything,” and find no “gaps” in institutionally-schooled children’s educations? If the school systems have improved that much since I graduated from high school, I’m at a loss to explain why I hear so much about our troubled school systems.
Here’s the real story: it’s possible for unschooled kids to emerge from their childhood poorly-prepared for further academic life, and it’s possible for institutionally-schooled kids to emerge from their childhood poorly-prepared for subsequent endeavors. On balance, does unschooling offer a better prospect than institutional schooling? Whom would we ask to discern?
[Disclosure: Our unschooled eldest son is beginning doctoral work at the University of Michigan with a Regents’ Fellowship. Our unschooled second son is a sophomore at Marlboro College, doing OK last I checked. Our unschooled daughter has not ventured into the world of quantified educational evaluation.]