Sunday, March 1, 2015

But How Will They Graduate?

One of the things I see, especially with people who are frustrated with their child's school situation, and who are wanting to start unschooling at a later age- maybe the end of middle school, or beginning of high school- is that although they want to change the METHOD they are using, they don't want to change the GOAL.

In other words, they are hoping to get the same outcome from unschooling that they had originally hoped to get from schooling.
Schooling, for whatever reason, "isn't working" for them, so they are looking for something that WILL WORK.

Often, the first thing they want to know is how their child will "graduate" and get a diploma.
The next, associated thing, is how their child will get into college, and be able to go right back into the formal education model that CURRENTLY ISN'T WORKING.

I'd like to share some thoughts with these people.

First, unschooling does not "produce" the same results as schooling.
If we wanted our kids to have the same experiences, do the same things, and have the same "results" and life goals as they would if they went to school- we'd send them to school.

What this means, for some people, is that if your goal, your plan, is to "unschool the last couple of years of high school, until graduation," and you want to know how to do that in such a way that your child learns precisely what they are "supposed to learn" in school, and does precisely the same thing afterwards, that you (not they) have already planned on, I'm going to say something that may be fairly unpopular, that unschooling is NOT FOR YOU.

It is not a last ditch, "kinder, gentler" method to shape kids into the same "product" that schools are trying to create, only without the stress of school.
ESPECIALLY if your child is unhappy in school.
It will TAKE TIME for them to adjust to a TOTALLY DIFFERENT way of being in the world.
The same time that you HAD been expecting to be their last couple of years of school, run-up to college, complete with tests, college applications, etc.
If you take them out of school NOW, they will still be in that deschooling phase, right when you were expecting to send them off somewhere else.

This is not to say that it's "too late" to take them out of school, or to begin unschooling.
It means that if you do so, you will NEED TO ADJUST YOUR GOALS.
You will need to change your way of thinking about what education means, and how to help your child get what they want and need in their lives.

The first thing that needs to change, and may help you, is to stop thinking that there is such a thing as "graduation" for unschoolers.
Learning doesn't end at a specific age, or after a certain length of time, or once some specific body of knowledge is gained. It is a lifelong endeavor.
When you see unschooling not as a "teaching method," but as a life where you do the things you want to do, and learn whatever you need, in order to do those things, as you live a full and interesting life, it's easier to see that it doesn't have an end point.

The next thing is to let go of the idea that college is the only, or even best, goal for a young person.
MANY kids go off to college right after graduating high school not because they have a specific goal that requires it, but because it's simply what they are expected, and expect, to do.

In my parents' generation, the focus was on being a high school graduate, as THE way to guarantee a "good job."
By the time I was that age, it had begun to shift to a college education being THE way that guaranteed a good job, and something that proved a person was intelligent and of value. Someone who did not finish college was a "failure" and doomed to "flipping burgers."

Never mind that many people had no interest in further formal education, being much more interested in hands-on skills than "bookwork."
Social status became more and more dependent on going to a "good school," rather than on anything a person might or might not DO. Academia gained status in some social groups, while working with your hands lost status, with all the associated assumptions about someone's intelligence, or even what intelligence means.

Now, for kids the ages of my kids, an undergraduate degree is not enough to guarantee ANYTHING. Many find themselves compelled to go on for a masters degree, or a PhD- and THEN, to a post-doc position, because there STILL aren't jobs available for them.

But the public school system is still focused on "go to college" as the goal.

YOU, and your child, don't have to have that goal.
College MIGHT be something they are interested in, IF their interests are in something that college is best for.
Or, it might not be.
Or, it might not be right now, while they explore other things, and it might be something they choose to do later in life.

And, even if they go to college… it may not be that they "leave home" at the age of 18, as used to be expected.
It is not so easy for a young person to go off and support themselves in a world where the minimum wage buys approximately 20% of what it did when I was a teen. No joke.
People who say the minimum wage should be $15/hour aren't making that number up out of nowhere. That is what it would have to be in order to support someone the same way minimum wage did when I graduated high school.
Not only is it not, but entry level jobs in MANY things don't pay that well, either. If there even ARE entry level jobs.


My point here is this:
Unschooling isn't going to work well for people who still feel bound up by the cultural expectations of college preparation, with a goal of college entry, at the age of 18, after "graduating."
If your kids are in school all the way up to high school, they have been in that system for most of their lives.
If you want a different way of living, it comes with changing everything: your thought patterns, your goals, your expectations.
It is not just a substitution of one method for another.

It's like this:
If you spend all day making bread dough, and letting it rise, and putting it in the pan, then in the oven to bake, it isn't going to help you to decide at that last part that you want to put it in the freezer instead of the oven- but you still want freshly baked bread in an hour.

Starting unschooling is a whole new adventure.
A new plan.
A new way of thinking.

Worth doing, even if you are starting in the teen years?

But it changes EVERYTHING.

That should be what you are looking for.
Not the educational equivalent of trying to hide broccoli in the meatloaf.
You can't get where you are going without leaving where you are.

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