Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Questions

These questions come from a comment on someone else's blog. The original can be found here. Since my focus is a bit different from hers (or anyone's, since we're all different people!) and because the questions made me want to address some of the assumptions behind the questions, I'm bringing it over here to my blog.

I honestly know nothing about “unschooling”. What is it exactly? 
Good question. You will probably get as many different answers as people you ask. There is no actual definition. Way back in the 70s, people used it fairly interchangeably with homeschooling. Now, there are different groups of people using it slightly different ways, and people who don't like the term at all, preferring to focus on what they do, rather than what they don't do.

Basically, it's learning without depending on school concepts, schedules, methods, etc. Learning as if schools had never existed. It's a belief that learning happens best (perhaps only) if the learner is in control of what they learn, why and how.

Are you legally allowed to not cover and be tested on certain subjects in each grade, or am I misunderstanding? 
First, consider what the word "cover" means in education. Usually, it means someone- a teacher- has "gone over" a certain set of material, according to some lesson plan. Then that material is said to have been "covered." Notice it does not require anyone to have learned it. Likewise, people frequently learn things on their own, without anyone "covering" the material at all.
So are unschoolers legally allowed to "not cover" material? Yes. In this state, at least, there is a set of "subjects" that must be accounted for, but no instructions whatsoever are given for what, within those subjects, must be "covered."
Now, on to "certain subjects." Yes, the state has a list of subjects. And schools are based on the concept of separate subjects. Unschoolers generally don't agree that life should be separated out into subjects at all. We can go back, and in retrospect, assign different activities and thoughts to "subjects," in order to satisfy a state requirement for paperwork, but that isn't the same, at all, as teaching or testing on certain subjects as a specific goal.
I'll cover the testing part of the question in the next one.

Also, don’t most states require occasional standard testing by the state, even for home-schooled children (to make sure they are actually being educated)? 
I don't know about most states; I only know about the one where I live. It requires standardized testing in certain years.
Standardized tests do NOT "make sure they are actually being educated" and even if they did, there are other, better ways.
The testing requirement here has a minimum score requirement that is pathetically low, and most people, even without having specifically studied or been "taught to the test" can meet that requirement. Some parents just give the tests and don't worry about the score, as long as the state leaves them alone. It's simply another hoop to jump through, not a meaningful measurement.
I have always found it fascinating that the state requires a test to be given, allows parents to give the test, does not require reporting of the scores. If they trust the parents to give the test and behave accordingly depending on the results, why don't they just trust the parents to educate their kids in the first place?

If so, how do you prepare them for all subjects, if they might not have gravitated towards one or two yet? 
As I said in the previous answer, a lot of unschooling parents really don't care what those test results are, as long as the state leaves them alone. I wouldn't "prepare them" for "all subjects." Chances are pretty good that they know enough to pass the test anyway, since the tests are a minimum standard. It's not like my kids are sitting around doing nothing. They are learning all the time.
The test requirements only cover math and reading/writing anyway. Not "all subjects."

How do you teach advanced math subjects that are required for college entry, if they aren’t naturally interested in Algebra (who is, lol…)?
Ooh. There it is. That assumption. Why is it always algebra getting picked on?
Who is naturally interested in algebra? I am, and always have been. First started learning basic algebra when I was about 9. LOTS OF PEOPLE LOVE MATH. Really.
As for assumption #2: It is absolutely not true that "advanced math subjects" are required for college entry.
They might be required for certain majors in certain colleges, and if my child wanted to go to one of those, chances are it would be because they love the subject, in which case, it wouldn't be an issue, or, if they came to an interest later on, and needed some prerequisite for college that they hadn't been interested in earlier- they can learn it NOW. No big deal. There is no law that says "college" has to be four years, starting immediately after graduating high school.
And assumption #3 in that question: People frequently ask unschooling families how they will "teach" some "advanced subject" with the assumption that the parents do all the teaching, and if they need to teach something they don't know themselves, it makes unschooling not possible. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don't have to teach them anything, ever. There are an infinite number of resources in the world. If I can't answer their questions, I help them find someone who can.

I ask these questions, because I was home-schooled and it involved a lot of strict state requirements, in regards to regular testing at a local school and registration with a private school or home school group that met state standards… 
I have to wonder if that was really a state requirement, or if the person's parents only believed it to be so, or if they had joined some support group that preferred to work that way. There are parents out there who really want to duplicate school at home, and WANT to do regular testing and register with some sort of umbrella school. That doesn't mean those are actually legal requirements. While it may have been this person's experience, it likely was not the state requiring it.
Many parents who begin homeschooling don't know what their state requirements are, and most school officials don't know, and don't want to. Homeschooling communities need to keep a close eye on what their school districts are asking for because they frequently overstep their legal authority.

To enter college, you need proof of high school graduation and credits in certain subjects. 
No, you don't.
To start taking classes at a community college, all you have to do is sign up for the classes.
If you want to go to a college that requires certain credits, etc, and you want to go that route, you can usually get those at a community college in two years or less. Compare that to twelve or thirteen years of public school.
For what it's worth, many colleges love homeschoolers, and specifically unschoolers, because those students are much more self-motivated. Also, they tend to contribute more during class because they are not conditioned by high school to avoid speaking up.

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