Tests Don’t Determine Whether Unschooling Is A Success

One of our members came across an article, titled “Unschooling Isn’t The Answer to Education Woes – It’s The Problem” where Forbes contributor Natalie Wexler shares her thoughts and concerns about not only the documentary Unschooled, but current school methodologies as well.  For a large portion of the article Wexler conflates Unschooling with COVID-forced-school-at-home.

Preface – I’ll use Unschoolers/Self-directed learners interchangeably, they’re equivalent in this discussion.

This isn’t a comprehensive examination of the article, but the biggest things I took away are:

1. Wexler doesn’t like the school system either. Everything she’s written is how they’re doing it all wrong. (it’s unlikely to gain much traction as she pretty much denigrates all educational models)

2. I spent some time reading some of the articles & studies she cited. Interestingly, many of the articles she links in support of her position are her own, which then link to more of her articles & books, which then link back to the same study.

3. The main study she cites (and her other “proofs”) are based on testing. How well children do on testing based on various methods. This is problematic because in most cases, the kids in the “control group” are being taught to the test.

So if I take 100 kids that have never seen the color red or a heart and explicitly teach 80 of them that this ❤️ is a red heart. Then wait 6 months and test them all. Yes, a percentage of the 20 remaining may not have learned “naturally” yet the color red or the shape heart. That doesn’t make self-directed learning a failure or directed education superior. It makes directed education superior for taking that specific test.

Testing, the marketing of testing, the writing of test questions, etc are all very problematic – but I have yet to see a study that shows that excellent test takers & high test scores necessarily equates to successful college/careers. (Since more & more colleges/Universities aren’t even requiring testing precisely because tests are NOT indicative of success, it’s hard to continue to value them)

4. I watched the movie. I found it interesting that the kids were held to a higher standard by “educational evaluations” for their short time in the self-directed center than they were in school. These kids spent a decade in the school system and didn’t have this knowledge.

4. b. There is a difference between a child who has been always Unschooled and one who is transitioning after a long time in the school system. It can take YEARS to recover from that. (And in some ways kids who were especially traumatized may never recover fully.) So expecting Unschooling to “work” quickly is unrealistic.

5. I understand the concern that kids won’t learn basic skills. However, I don’t see how any child with an involved parent/caregiver (or facility) is going to make it to 18 not being able to encounter situations in which to learn these skills.

The member who inquired specifically  stated,  “one of my fears, that my children won’t be able to do basic math for life skills”   What life skills? Engage your child in life and they will pick up the skills. At various times and to varying degrees, but they will. Or, at a minimum, give them the skills to find any answers they need. The library, internet, YouTube, etc. are amazing resources.

5. b. HOWEVER, they may still not be able to pass a “test” until taught how to pass a test. Sometimes (dare I say “often”) Unschoolers don’t understand the abstractness of random math “questions” but are immensely capable of applying that math in their life through cooking, sewing, constructing machinery, helping with home improvement projects, strategizing the percentage of attributes needed for a character to win a campaign on Outer Worlds, etc.

If they find they need to pass a test in order to move forward to reach a goal – we can easily help them prepare for that.  It doesn’t take 13 years of school.

Ultimately, we don’t know how/when/where – but if we’re including our kids in life and nurturing their interests, they will gain skills.

-Rachel

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Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids To School?

What do you do if school isn’t a good fit for your child?

The opening of Blake Boles’ new book, Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School? might seem a bit opportunistic given the current state of public education enacted by pandemic policies.  However, not only has this book been in the works long before COVID became common vernacular (I can show you my receipt that I pre-ordered in January) but this is a topic near & dear to Boles for nearly two decades.   Additionally, what the closing of local public schools has brought to light is something that many students and their parents* have been feeling for years, even decades.  Conventional schooling is not the best option for every child or every family, and in some respects can be downright dangerous – mentally, physically, and educationally.

What I like best about this book is that Boles doesn’t spend a lot of time pointing out all the flaws in conventional schooling.  This book’s primary audience is those who are seeking out what options might work best for their particular child and family dynamic.  There are pros & cons to each and I think Boles does a fantastic job of acknowledging limitations and helping parents narrow down what might provide the best fit.  He also addresses many of the misconceptions and concerns parents may have like:

  • That doesn’t look like learning
  • Are they happy
  • Cost
  • What about working parents
  • How they go to college
  • How they get a job

Boles provides anecdotes from current & “graduated” self-directed learners, studies, survey results, and abundant resource material.  Even as a seasoned Unschooling family (our children are currently 15 & 17 and have never been to school), I still found myself gaining a new perspective on topics as well as additional confirmation that our personal observations/experiences hold true for other families.  I’ve added new books to my wishlist and my highlighter is almost empty capturing the wisdom imparted.  I know you’ll be seeing quotes from this book shared regularly.

What continually comes through is immense respect for children and young adults as humans worthy of respect, their identity, and ownership of their own goals.

You can learn more about Blake Boles on his website or you can follow him on Facebook.  Order Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids To School? from Amazon.

*I use the term parents for simplicity – but please know that I acknowledge the myriad of adults that act as guardians & facilitators in young people’s lives. 

-Rachel

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Creating Abundance During Scarcity

“Scarcity” vs “creating abundance” is something we talk about a lot in Unschooling.

Those new to Unschooling often can’t conceive of the paradigm shift to where things are “unlimited”. Where we don’t put *arbitrary* limits on gaming, TV, internet, reading, types of food, amount of food, etc.

I think in the past few weeks, we’ve been witness to an extreme version of what happens when people even *perceive* that a shortage of something is possible. They run, they hoard, they become rude & ruthless, and some even try to find ways around the system to get even more.

It’s a version of this that happens when we *arbitrarily* limit our children. When children feel that their enjoyment is going to be limited or structured or in other ways out of their control – things like hoarding, grumpiness at interruptions or rescheduling, or finding ways to break the rules are likely to happen.

Also, looking at current events – note that despite reassurances from the government, grocery stores, suppliers, etc. that these items aren’t actually in short supply overall and that new stock is arriving daily – people are still buying up to the limit, visiting multiple stores, making multiple trips, etc. to continue to hoard these items.

Any initial relaxing/relenting of your previous rules/schedules/restrictions may take weeks or even months before your child really trusts, at a deep psychological level, that there isn’t a threat to that level of availability.

When there is a scarcity that is NOT arbitrary, work with your kids to find solutions that are as abundant as possible. Also, abundance in other areas (that you may not even realize is of concern) can help alleviate stress about scarcity somewhere else.

Today, our daughter saw ketchup at Costco and asked to buy some. I told her that I was pretty sure we had a full bottle in the pantry at home. I watched a look of concern cross her face and asked, “Would it make you feel better to know for sure that we have ketchup despite other things running out?”

“Yes”

-Rachel

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Why are they watching YouTube all day?

This is a pretty common question, not only among Unschoolers, but parents in general.  There are a lot of reasons our children watch YouTube or Twitch.  For something like watching other kids play with toys, unboxing, or game play ~ it’s often about better understanding the product. Sometimes that doesn’t directly translate to the same product in your home, but they still “file away” that information for later.

I kind of equate it to something like Pinterest. I may “pin” or save ideas or pictures.  Am I going to turn my under-the-stairs-closet into a home library/reading nook? Probably not. However it spurred ideas about creating a nesting spot elsewhere in my house. OR I love what someone did and I can appreciate the aesthetic while simultaneously acknowledging that I’m never going to spend $50K on a “she shed”.

Our kids have been regularly perusing YouTube for 10 years now. Especially when they were younger ~ I sat down with them. I’d ask them, “Why are you watching this?” Not in a judgy way, but to learn what *they* were getting out of it. “What do you think about this product?”  “Why do you like this reviewer?” Sometimes they were seeing something completely different than I was. We talk a lot about marketing, commercials, paid endorsements, etc. Both kids (15yo & 16yo at the time of this post) are actually fairly savvy consumers, thoroughly check ratings/reviews, shop the best deals, etc.

Also, even if a YouTuber or a product don’t interest me ~ I appreciate it for *their* interest. Sort of like how I watch Tennis or Football or Car Shows with my husband. Are those things that I’d prioritize to watch on my own? No. But I love him so I enjoy getting to know the things he loves better.

Now that they are older and I’m not always right by their side, it’s interesting to see the amazing things they discover merely browsing on YouTube.  Just the other day our son (16yo) brought up an art restorer he’s been following.  So we, along with his sister, spent an hour watching Baumgartner Restoration.

We had a lot of great conversations about art, history, colors, chemicals, and patience.  (Because WOW, does restoration require a lot of patience and meticulous detail work.)

Any time you don’t see the value in something that your children spend a lot of their time engaged in, I encourage you to find a way to truly observe what it brings to their life.

-Rachel

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Texas Bubblers at TexUns2020

We’re excited to announced that Texas Bubblers will be a featured performer at the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference.

The Texas Bubblers love to make the world smile with something so simple as a bubble.  Bubbles do something good to the heart of every person who sees them. For the very young, they are in awe and it is pure enjoyment and excitement. For the young at heart, it is a moment of a sweet childhood memory, and many adults become child-like again and start playing with bubbles.

Join Texas Bubblers for Giant Magical Bubble Play.  Giant Bubbles created by Shelly & Bubba McBubbles using their wands that are between 4-10 feet long to create jellyfish bubbles, giant bubbles, monster bubbles, the crowd favorite the bubble cloud, and Texas “snow”.

Texas Bubblers on Facebook
Videos of Texas Bubblers 

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Receive Art Via Text from SFMOMA

Text 572-51 with the words “send me” followed by a keyword, a color, or even an emoji and you’ll receive a related artwork image and caption via text message from the SFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Image is of two pieces of art received when I texted, “send me Texas”.
Alec Soth, ‘Del Río, Texas’, 2011
Steven Holl, ‘Edge of a City: Spiroid Sectors, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas’, 1991

More info can be found on SFMOMA’s website:
https://www.sfmoma.org/read/send-me-sfmoma/

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Class Dismissed & Self-Taught are coming to TexUns2020

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be screening TWO documentaries about life outside of classrooms at the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference.

Class Dismissed: Frustrated with the traditional school system, a family in L.A. pulls their two kids out of school and takes their education into their own hands. Class Dismissed takes a fresh look at what it means to be educated in the 21st century and explores the rapidly growing movement of parents providing an education outside a classroom setting.
View Trailer for Class Dismissed
Class Dismissed Website

Self-Taught: Through the stories of six extraordinary individuals, Self-Taught explores what self-directed education means to them and the impact it has had on their lives, ambitions, work, and beliefs.
Whether Artist, Scientist, or Entrepreneur, they all have one thing in common: their belief that true education is the capacity to author your own life instead of merely accepting the one you’ve been handed.
View Trailer for Self-Taught
Self-Taught Website

Click here for more information or to register for the 2020 Texans Unschooling Conference.

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Top Fan Contest

Want to win a $50 credit toward the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference?  Join our Facebook Top Fan contest.

Become a Texas Unschoolers Top Fan by liking our page, liking posts, commenting on posts, and sharing our content.

At the end of the month, we’ll randomly select a top fan to win a gift certificate worth $50/off registration fees.

Rules:

  • Must be 18 years or older to win.
  • Gift certificate is only good toward conference registration fees for the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference.
  • Gift certificate can not be exchanged for cash.
  • Gift certificate can not be applied to future conferences
  • Gift certificate can not be used as payment to Jellystone in any way including, but not limited to: lodging, day pass, food, or activity fees.
  • By entering you acknowledge this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.
  • By entering you consent to a complete release of Facebook for any responsibility in this promotion.
  • Winner will be announced no later than Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 at noon.


Please note:
While we want you to share content with your friends you know will enjoy it, tagging them in posts/comments/shares doesn’t increase your status as a top fan.  So only do it if you think they’ll truly be interested.

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Respecting Our Children’s Boundaries

Lately, here’s what pictures of our daughter’s activities have looked like:

When I took the next picture, I commented that she and the dog looked so cute together and asked if I could I post it.  She asked to see it and returned the “edited” version to me:

It’s understood by our family and friends that there will be seasons where they will not see pictures of one or both of our children on social media.  That’s because we have always asked our children if we can post their pictures.  I show them the pictures that I have taken and they have the opportunity to select their preferred pictures, if they approve any at all.  They also approve any conversations we post that they participated in (and they’ll both review and consent to the contents of this post). 

A conversation between our kids a few years ago (using their ages at the time):

11yo: Why don’t you want mom to post pictures of you to Facebook?

9yo: Because I said no.

11yo: I’m trying to understand *why* you said no.  It doesn’t matter, you can say no for any reason and people have to listen to that – I was just wondering why.

This made my heart so happy.  Not only that our children knew that their “no” will be respected, also that they don’t have to justify their “no” and that they aren’t entitled to demand others explain themselves.    Seeking their permission in posting to social media is just a small part of how we protect their autonomy – physically & emotionally.

Respect your children, their feelings, and their boundaries so they will know how wrong it is when someone else doesn’t.  We have done this to the best of our ability since they were born.  In ways that seem to be “no big deal” like choosing their own clothes, a favorite toy, and what activities they want to participate in.  As well as backing their right to refuse affection and declining to stay with someone or somewhere they aren’t comfortable with.  This may seem inconvenient at times but pays off in both the solid parent/child connection as well has how your children treats and expects to be treated by others.

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Everyday Conversations: Rice At Weddings

One of the biggest lessons for me, as an Unschooling parent, is learning to say “my understanding is…” You’ll see our family with our phones out A LOT. Because with almost every discussion comes the desire to look things up for clarification or more information.

This weekend, some friends of ours got married. Our daughter is an artist and often creates cards as part of our gifts to family and friends on special occasions. I asked her if she’d like to make a wedding card.

14yo: I don’t even know what would go on a wedding card.
Me: I’ve seen a lot of bows and birds.
14yo: Birds?
Me: I think they’re a sign of fertility.
14yo: Fertility?
Me: Short definition? Ability to get pregnant and have children. For some religions/societies/people marriage & children go hand in hand. Some people see it as a positive thing to have lots of babies & quickly. So I think the birds thing is like a “blessing” or “support” of that. Like throwing rice. Or maybe the rice is fertility and the birds are something else. I can’t remember as it’s been 20 years since Daddy & I were married. All I remember was not throwing rice because it would make the bird’s stomachs explode.
<<14yo is horrified>>
Me: That may not even be true anymore, let’s look it up.

Spoiler alert: Birds are generally happiness & love (different birds can specify different things). Rice is fertility. Birds like rice and it doesn’t hurt them.

https://curiosity.com/topics/the-origin-of-throwing-rice-at-weddings/

The 14yo opted not to make a card and we just ordered off the Amazon wishlist. She would also like people to throw candy at all future nuptials.

(This convo was originally posted to our Facebook page.)

-Rachel

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