Monday, December 28, 2009

First ever issue of DIY Life Zine NOW AVAILABLE!!

The long wait is over: the first ever issue of DIY Life Zine is now available!!  For anyone who's just anxious to see it right away, I'll cut to the chase.  There are a couple of ways you can read it.
  1. Go here, where you can download the file off of
  2. Send me an email at (with the subject "DIY Life Zine" so I can find it quickly and easily) and I'll send you the file (in PDF format).  NOTE: hotmail doesn't accept larger files, so it probably won't go through on a hotmail account.

    If you like what you read, I'd be thrilled if you shared the link on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  You can also print it out and photocopy it as much as you want: hand it out to your friends and family, leave it lying around in a bus stop or at the library...  Or not.  I'm just being optimistic and saying all the cool things you *can* do if you want to. ;-)

    Some random notes about the zine:

    Firstly, I want to thank everyone who contributed SO MUCH!!  You guys made this project a success.

    Secondly, I originally planned on having a cooler layout: more of a gritty, zine-y feel to the whole thing.  However, life and procrastination got in the way, so it's not quite as nice as it could have been.  Sorry about that!

    In terms of language, I received some pieces with Canadian spelling, some with American spelling, and for the most part, that's how they were left.  Also, my proofreader flaked out on me partway through, so I'm blaming her for the typos I'm sure are there! ;-P

    I'm sure there's so much more I could say about the zine, about the process, the content, the everything, but right now I'm just feeling frazzled and brain-fried, so I'm going to leave it at this!  Oh, wait, one more thing: I'd love love LOVE to get feedback, so if you read it, I'd be very happy if you left a comment or sent me an email ( to let me know what you think, what you liked and disliked, suggestions for ways to do things better in the future, or anything else you can think of.  Thanks a bunch!!

    EDIT: I used the wrong version of one of the poems in the original version, which is why if you click on the link now, it says "revised version". :-)


    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Review of For The Sake Of Our Children

    “How did we ever decide to deliver our children to strangers with questionable skills during the best hours of the day? In the same way, we agreed to have the birthing process taken away from us by the medical profession. In the same way, we agreed to have our dying taken away by this same profession and the directors of funeral “homes.” In the same way, we agreed to be satisfied consumers of processed food that has been so far removed from its original state that it is unrecognizable, consumers of biased information, misleading and enticing advertising for things like disposable gadgets. In the same way, we have agreed to accept the authority of the State-Mommy-who-watches-over-us.”

    For The Sake of Our Children by Léandre Bergeron, translated by Pamela Levac

    This is a book about unschooling. But this is not a book *just* about unschooling. It’s a book about attachment parenting, respectful parenting. About sustainable living and farming. It even has a good sized fistful of politics thrown in! In short, this is a book about one man’s life, led trusting and respecting both his daughters and the world around him.

    Léandre Bergeron comes from an interesting background: born in Manitoba, educated at a Catholic school in the hopes that he’d one day become a missionary priest, and eventually becoming a teacher, his rebellious nature led him to put all that behind him and move with his wife to rural Quebec. It’s there, on their homestead, that his three daughters were born, and there that the story truly begins.

    Léandre shares, in the pages of a journal he kept for a year, his daily life spent with his three teenage daughters, the flowing rhythms of their days that move with the seasons. He shares memories of the past, stories of raising his daughters from the time they were babies, stories of their business (a health food store), the circle of life on their farm... He also shares his very strong opinions on childrearing, education and schooling, and the processed lives so many people live in this modern world. His words are insightful, his writing poetic and flowing, and thus this book was a joy to read. I found it interesting that in most books on unschooling, I find myself nodding in agreement with pretty much everything, whereas in this book, my opinions where more mixed. Much of the stuff he has to say I agree with fully. But there was a fair bit that made me pause, and seriously consider my stance on the matter. Not for anything huge, just at small points throughout the book. This, I believe, instead of taking away from the experience, actually added something to my reading of this book.

    I did find myself wanting to hear more about the *entire* family, mom included, because she was mentioned only briefly throughout the book. However, most of what I’ve read on unschooling seems to be like that, only usually it’s entirely from the mother’s perspective. Just one parent’s interactions with their children, not how their family works as a whole, so that isn’t really unique to this book. That said, I found it a very pleasant change to read a book, talking about hands on attachment parenting and unschooling, not just the theory, written by a father. That subject seems to be covered almost exclusively by mothers! I also really liked that this book was about a family in my home province (and current residence!) of Quebec. The translation was great, as you’d never know that it was originally written in another language from reading it, yet at the same time the book felt very *Quebecois*!

    Definitely a good read, and a good addition to any book collection on attachment parenting, sustainable living, unschooling, or homeschooling.


    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    A brief description of the difference between relaxed homeschooling and unschooling

    I love this description by Ren Allen of the difference between relaxed homeschooling and unschooling (found on Sandra Dodd's page on the subject), so I wanted to share it!

    "....How are relaxed homeschoolers different from unschoolers? In my brief searches, they seem to be very similar. ..."
    They are and they aren't.
    I've been both so I feel qualified to answer this.:) 

    When I was the eclectic/relaxed homeschooler my focus was still about making sure we were doing "educational" types of activities. Yes, we did mostly hands-on fun stuff the kids liked, but I was still seeing it as a way to touch on "science" or "history". We DID have a lot of fun but sometimes we'd hit walls where the kids didn't get all excited about something I planned and it made me all grumpy.

    Not the best atmosphere for learning. I couldn't see that the video games they were fascinated with were more valuable than the homemade solar cooker I had planned.;)

    I was always the most hands-on, relaxed parent of EVERY group we ever belonged to. I really wish we'd run into some real unschoolers earlier in the journey because I think it would have been a fairly easy transition from an academic standpoint.

    The part that is missing with the relaxed/eclectic approach is still trust. It's just being more creative with how you get information into children,that's all. Better....but not quite the complete trust that unschoolers have in the human ability to learn.

    We may still raise butterflies or garden or go to museums, so to an outsider we're doing some of the same activities. The difference is my kids can show zero interest and that is just fine. The difference is that I'm not trying to check of some subject box or define their learning experiences for them. The difference is that we do these things to have fun and trust that learning happens when we're alive and breathing.:)

    My family started off as relaxed homeschoolers as well, then drifted into full-fledged unschooling, and our experiences sound so much like Ren's!  Right down to our always being the most relaxed family of every group we attended.  And it would have made a big difference in our journey towards unschooling had we met other unschoolers earlier on, as well...  That's one of the reasons I'll happily answer questions over email and hang out with any new unschoolers who want to connect with families who've been doing it longer, as well as meet older/grown unschoolers who can be the "proof" they need that unschoolers do not have two heads. ;-) The other reason being that unschoolers are generally really great people to hang out with! :-)


    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Unschooling: a "hands off" approach?

    I've seen, too often for my tastes, unschooling be described (by non-unschoolers or those very new to unschooling, mostly) as a "wait 'til they ask", or "hands off" approach, and that always makes me sigh.  I wonder if perhaps this arises from the fact that many parents dealings with their children are often confrontational, authoritarian, and generally of a more coercive nature?  Perhaps when they think of "not forcing" kids to do things, they feel they couldn't suggest activities or anything at all, because the way they're used to interatcing with their kids is that of authoritarian Parent and Teacher of child!  Perhaps not.  I'm just throwing that out there, because I'm really not sure *where* that misconception came from!  If you have any ideas on that, I'd quite like to hear them. :-) But moving on.

    Wherever the misconception came from, the fact remains that it is quite common.  And it is just so far from the truth!  I think that people get so caught up in the perceived technicalities, the what an unschooler *does* and *doesn't*, *can* and *can't*, do, that the core of the philosophy and lifestyle, that of parents and children living and learning in freedom together, seems to be forgotten. 

    Because that is really what unschooling is all about, and what unschooling looks like: a family that actually likes each other exploring the world together.  Emphasis on *together*.  When I think of unschooling in my own family, I think of my mom finding an awesome book at a local used book sale, and saying "Idzie, I saw this book and thought you might be interested.  It looks fascinating!".  I think of an impromptu trip to the library because I asked my mom if we had any books on Medieval weapons, and it turns out (for some reason) that we didn't.  I think of my mom calling me from the other end of the house, voice filled with both fascination and horror, because she wanted to read an article about GMOs to me.  I also think of countless times when I searched her out to tell her about the intriguing characters and plot of whatever novel I was reading, or to bounce an idea off of her for an article I wanted to write, or to share a song I thought she'd like, or to read her an excerpt from a book on green anarchy or unschooling.  Point being, learning in my family is a very involved thing (I used as examples things just between my mother and I, but I enthusiastically tell my dad interesting stuff as well, and my mum, sister, and I have the most fascinating conversations all the time!). 

    I'm not saying that *everything* is shared, because it isn't.  For instance, Emi writes a ton of fiction, but she usually only lets her online role playing (not the RPG type role playing, but the writing back and forth, collaborative story writing type role-playing) buddies read it, and both my mom and I respect that as her choice, and don't try to bug her to let us read it.  Even that though, is involved in that my mother cares about her writing, and happily listens to Emi telling her about the finer points of writing, her own writing journey, what she's discovering about English grammar as she learns a second language, etc.  She just doesn't try and push my sister to do something she doesn't want to. 

    "Hands off" to me means ignoring kids.  Saying "oh, they'll learn for themselves", then just going about your *adult lives* without making your kids a part of it at all, or very little.  I see true unschooling, on the other hand, as a collaborative living process, where each family member shares interests, suggests activities (which the other family members can choose to participate in or not), shares cool articles and facts and internet links, and lets the appropriate person know when they come across something they might like (my mom has brought Emi home numerous books on Japanese history, language, poetry, etc., for her perusing pleasure). 

    Unschooling is nothing more complicated than living, and thus learning, with respect and freedom, together as a family.  And although this often isn't *easy* (I know that my family has more than it's fair share of squabbling and grumpiness), it seems to me to be fairly *simple*!

    These are just a few rambling thoughts, so please excuse the general, well, rambly-ness of it all! ;-)


    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    How I came to be an unschooler: vlog version

    I haven't done a vlog in ages, so I decided to do one today!  It's aimed mainly at my subscribers on YouTube, most of whom do not read my blog (as far as I can tell), so it's covering a topic that I've already talked about here, and that is how I ended up as an unschooler.  I decided I'd post this video here anyway in case anyone was interested, and you can find my page on YouTube here!


    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Some more thoughts on teaching and learning

    Wow, there's been a whole conversation going on over several blogs about the subject of what exactly the words *teaching* and *learning* mean; is teaching a good, bad, or neutral word (or can a word be good or bad?); how language is used, etc. etc.  It started (and I'm doing this in chronological order) with Cassi's The Role of Parental Instruction, I responded with some thoughts in my post Teaching vs. Learning, Cassi wrote a post entitled Teaching and Learning, and finally today there's a post over at Lenz on Learning called The Unschooling Thought Police.  Be sure to read the comments if you want to get a picture of the whole discussion, because those are at least as important as the original post!  I wanted to post excerpts from some comments I made on a couple of the posts, to kind of expand on why I don't generally use the word teach.

    “Don’t let words master you” is one way of looking at things. Another way is realizing that words have incredible power. They do. And what word you choose to use can make a huge difference in how what you’re saying is interpreted by those around you. Jumping on other people because of their word choices? Maybe not such a great idea. However, I make a point of paying attention to the language I use, since as both an unschooler and an anarchist, I have very strong opinions about things, and I want the language I use to reflect my values, not just perpetuate all of the stale ideas of this culture. So that means that sometimes I decide to use certain words carefully in context, so they mean only what *I* want them to. And it means that sometimes I decide to stop using a word entirely, or almost entirely, if I feel that its commonly held meaning, that I strongly disagree with, is too entrenched in most peoples minds… 
    What you describe as *teaching* sounds a lot like what I'd just call fascinating conversations with interesting and intelligent people! 

    I didn't respond before to a mini discussion on whether someone can only learn if they *want* to learn, but I'm going to throw out a few thoughts on that now.

    I think this depends a lot on what exactly your definition of learning is.  Schools generally consider learning to be synonymous with memorization, and I'd say you can definitely be *taught* a list of facts...  But even then, memorization only occurs if the student decides they're going to memorize stuff!  Students who really don't give a crap don't, and fail tests, because they just don't care.  So I'd say that it really is all up to the individual and whether or not they want to learn this specific thing, and if they don't want to *learn*, they're not going to!  As for true, deep, learning, well it seems obvious to me that that type of learning can only ever happen when the student truly wants to learn about whatever it is they're learning... 

    That felt a bit scattered, so my apologies!  Not enough sleep lately...


    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Review of The Teenage Liberation Handbook

    I wrote this review for Homeschooling Horizons magazine a year or two ago, and since I've been wanting to share reviews of unschooling books, I decided to post it here!

    "In the end, the secret to learning is so simple: Think only about whatever you love. Follow it, do it, dream about it...and it will hit you: learning was there all the time, happening by itself."
    Grace Llewellyn

    The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn

    This has to be the most inspiring book I’ve ever read. I’m actually at a bit of a loss for just how to get across how amazing I found this book… I suppose I should start with how it affected me personally. I’ve always been an unschooler, and I read some of this book years ago, but the last year I was seriously questioning the path that my education had taken. Was I doing the right thing? Should I really be in school instead? Or at least studying textbooks? Then I picked up the Teenage Liberation Handbook once again, and my worries melted away. Here in my hands I held a virtual goldmine of ideas, resources, encouragement, and practical advice. Written with passion and conviction, liberally peppered with stories of real life teenage unschoolers and the marvelous things they’ve done (least fascinatingly to me getting into prestigious universities, but that means a lot to some people), and continuously inspiring. Although aimed directly at teenagers still in the school system, with advice on convincing your parents that unschooling can work, to legal issues, to worries about socialization, I found it equally useful as an unschooler, with such wide ranging chapters giving ideas for things you can do for every traditional school subject, and some less traditional ones, as well as getting into colleges and universities, finding meaningful volunteer and paid work, doing apprenticeships, starting your own business, traveling the world… If ever you thought unschooling couldn’t work, or you simply need to be inspired, then this is the book for you. I feel like I’ve started my own education all over again. I’m actually exited about learning for the first time in a while. Good job Grace! Grace does have some very strong opinions. Since I agree with most of them, it wasn’t a problem for me, but it may be for some people. That’s the only even possibly negative thing I can say about the whole book! Read it. Love it. And most importantly, love learning.


    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Teaching vs. Learning

    After reading this post entitled The Role of Parental Instruction over at Unschooling Ruminations, I was thinking about the word "teaching", and trying to figure out if there really is anything *wrong* with it, or if as an unschooler I just have an unfair prejudice against it. I know that I certainly get a bad feeling when I hear it. But I've come to the conclusion that no, it isn't just an unfair bias. I really do feel the two words have distinct meanings, and I choose not to use the word "teaching" because I don't like the meaning it conveys. This is how I see the two words:

    1. Teaching puts the emphasis on the external: the person or thing *doing* the *teaching*.
    2. Teaching implies something being done to you, instead of being something that you do. As if learning is something done *to* you. You're taught. It implies a certain passivity in the learning process. You sit and take in what is being taught, instead of going out there and learning it.
    1. Learning, however, puts the emphasis squarely where it belongs (IMO), in the hands of the one doing the learning. What learning is, as far as I'm concerned, is what YOU make of the world around you. Not just what experiences you take in, but how you interpret them. Thus learning is the process of interpreting and making sense of the world around you.
    2. It implies an active process. You are the one *doing* the *learning*.

    I'm sure there's tons more that could be added, but this is the brief version of why you won't hear me using the word teaching if I can help it! ;-)


    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Review of 101 Reasons Why I'm an Unschooler

    Today, I received a veritable jewel of a book in the mail, entitled 101 Reasons Why I'm an Unschooler by PS Pirro. It's a small, slim, volume, one that could quite easily be overlooked when grouped among the vast array of unschooling books out there, but hopefully won't be, because it's a wonderful read! Described as an "unschooling manifesto", this book is exactly what it sounds like: 101 reasons why the author is an unschooler! Delivered in short, bite sized pieces, each reason delivers a clear point, something to think on, and this format makes it very readable, whether you read it straight through like I did, or just flip open a page for a short, inspiring thing to remind you why you've chosen unschooling!

    Divided into two sections, the first 50 reasons are basically anti-school: why the author is not a compulsory schooler. And let me tell you, those reasons are very convincing (not that I needed any convincing, obviously... :-P)! Covering such things as "School Steals Your Freedom", "School Rewards Conformity", and "Drugging The Kids", I wish I could convince some pro-school people I know to read it, since hopefully it would shake their perceptions on schooling a bit!

    The second section is 51 reasons why the author is an unschooler, and what wonderful reasons they are. :-) From "Staying Up Late", to "Real Learning Happens In The Real World", the author details some of the wonderful reasons we unschool, highlights the perks, as it were, of living this free life.

    I read the entire book aloud to my mom, with frequent pauses in reading to discuss one point or another, and we both agree that it was a lovely read. Inspiring, thought-provoking, and just generally a good way to pass a gloomy Fall afternoon! Highly recommended.

    If you want to read more from PS Pirro, you can check out her blogs, Over The Wall and Crooked Mile.

    Also of note, this is the first in a series of sorts, as I've got several other books on unschooling and self-directed learning that I'm planning on reading and reviewing, so keep a look out for future posts about great unschooling books!


    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Another view of unschooling...

    I haven't been feeling much inspiration lately in terms of blog writing, which I'm hoping will sort itself out soon, but in the meantime I wanted to share something written by someone else with you guys... I know that a large percentage of the readers of this blog are very interested in unschooling, so a while back when my sister Emi was having a written debate with some friends and let me read it, I asked her, since she doesn't blog herself, if I could share what she'd written on my blog. She said yes, which I am very thankful for! It got lost and forgotten about entirely for a while, but she kindly dug it up for me when I asked her to! Keep in mind this was written at something ridiculous like 2 or 3 at night, so I've fixed the typos that are unavoidable at that time of night (morning?), as well as editing out the names of those involved in the debate!


    First, to (name removed): I don't understand how you can say you 'don't see how far in life you could get in unschooling'. I know people who have gotten through their entire lives (or at least their lives so far, up to the age of thirty-something, in the case of the oldest unschooler I know), and done just fine. Well, more then fine; really well, actually^^. So yes, you can get through life wonderfully being unschooled, that has been proven by many people.

    People in high school get to choose their own paths only to an extent. While you are in high school, you must take certain classes and follow certain rules. You have much less freedom then an unschooled person. You can choose your own path once you leave high school, but by that point most (don't jump on me here, I'm saying most, not all) people have developed a narrow view of what their options are. Unschoolers (again, on a whole, not in the case of every individual), having lived free lives, can often see many more possibilities for how to live their lives, often not in the mainstream way most people do. And just to point out, by saying you choose your path by what classes you do well in, you're proving my point that you don't /really/ get to choose your own path. What if you'd never been interested in math, never done well in math class, then in your last year of high school you developed a burning passion for science and decided you wanted to be a scientist? Since you'd never done well in the math required, you'd probably just go into some other CEGEP course and never realize your dream of being a scientist. Whereas an unschooling person, who'd spent their entire lives knowing that they could learn what they want, when they want, and in whatever way they want, would find ways to learn math, then go into university taking science courses, and become a scientist like they wanted to be. Unschoolers have never had their education restricted by false notions that one has to learn certain things at certain points, or that certain doors become closed to you after certain points, all because of arbitrary rules.

    As for coming into public school, I am wonderfully happy with being unschooled, so I don't want to try public school. The reason I suggested that you guys try unschooling is because I've gotten the impression from all of you that you're not happy with school. (I know for sure that two of you have directly said you dislike school to me before).

    To (name removed): That 'well it works for you, but it wouldn't for everyone' argument is one I hear quite often, and it is a reasonable concern, but I disagree. It is true that by high school, there are indeed a lot of people who wouldn't know what to do with themselves without teachers telling them what to do. But that is because they've spent their entire life being instructed in how to spend their time, what to learn, what to do and what not to do, etc. All children are born with the instinct to learn. Babies touch things, put them in their mouths, mimic adults, and learn naturally. Toddlers still have that curiosity about the world, the urge to explore, to figure things out, and to ask questions. School puts a child in a classroom where they cannot learn naturally by interacting with the world, forces children to sit still and keep their hands to themselves, squashing their natural urges to learn. They aren't allowed to follow their particular interests and passions, they're not allowed to learn about what they love; instead, they're forced to learn a prescribed set of things, whether they find those things interesting or not. They're forced to learn for fear of disappointing their parents, being told that they've failed, being looked at as stupid by their peers. And through being forced to memorize facts that they don't want to, and by being kept from learning about the world in a natural way, that instinctive desire to learn is dampened and sometimes destroyed entirely. By the time a child reaches high school, chances are good that they don't know what to do with themselves without instruction. They probably have no desire to learn on their own, because learning is synonymous with work.

    So in a way, you might be right; Maybe you would have no motivation to do anything, and maybe a lot of teens wouldn't. I know that I, for one, sometimes don't have much motivation either, but because of my natural tendencies towards laziness and procrastination, I've learned ways of dealing with that and motivating myself.

    Also, it might be good to mention here that a lot of people, even by high school, would be motivated to learn about the things they're interested in. I'd bet the great majority of people wouldn't be motivated in the slightest to learn a lot of the stuff taught in school, and that's okay. People don't need to know everything taught in school to get by in life. You can argue that people do need most of what's taught in school to get by in life, but I know many, many people who were unschooled, learned little of what schools teach, and are now adults functioning well and earning money in the 'real world'.

    As for your second point, you are assuming that everyone wants to go to CEGEP or trade school or get a job at that age. Some people give CEGEP a miss and go to university; some people give CEGEP and university a miss and never go to any sort of school; some people already know a trade, and don't need to go to trade school; some people do want to go into the traditional path of university or trade school, but want to spend some time getting used to the freedom that leaving school gives them, and just doing (and learning about) what they love before they follow that path. My point is, regardless of your age or how long it takes you to adjust to being out of school, it's never too late to leave.

    Of your argument, the point of parents is the only point I agree with. Sadly, that is a huge reason that does stop people from unschooling. I just hope that more parents will be more open minded and put more trust in their children and their children's capabilities ^^.

    To (name removed): First point, the world being anarchy would be better then it is now in my opinion, but that's a whole 'nother debate :P. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but basically you're agreeing that school is controlling and directs people onto certain mainstream, pre-determined paths, and that this is a good thing, because otherwise people wouldn't all work mindlessly in our current societal system. I'm honestly not trying to be snide here, but really, that seems like what you're saying, and I couldn't disagree more. To have a system that controls people and molds them into certain lifestyles that the government deems worthy is completely immoral, in my opinion. As for peoples' general stupidity, I believe that it is in good part because they have gone through a school system that discourages thinking outside the box and teaches obedience of authority without question. As I touched on before while replying to (name removed), if people were allowed to learn naturally from the world around them, they would (as a whole) develop into more open minded, thoughtful people who were better capable of handling new situations, new problems, and new ideas. I know that the people who are unschooled now are certainly all of those things.

    Moving along, I find the term 'real schooling' kind of insulting. There is nothing less 'real' or valid about unschooling. Also, again to do with your phrasing, in my opinion nothing should be imposed on the masses, but once again let's leave that for another debate. You say that if school is not imposed on people, they will be ignorant and poor, but this is just not true. I don't know how many times I've said that I know lots of intelligent, well rounded, socially adept, money making unschoolers, but it seems I need to say it once more at least. Clearly, as thousands of unschooled people prove, unschooling does not breed ignorance or poverty. So why do you think, if more people were unschooled, that that would change? Unschoolers aren't some elite group of people who were genetically pre-determined to be motivated and intelligent; the lifestyle leads to those qualities. About not being taken seriously in the work force, again, that's just not true, and I feel the need to delve into a few different reasons why. First, no one puts 'unschooled' on their resume. If a person goes on to CEGEP and/or university, they would put those qualifications on a resume, and no potential employer would care what they'd done through their high school years. Ditto if they went on to trade school and acquired papers touting their qualifications there. Secondly, you are assuming that all unschoolers want to get traditional jobs and join the regular workforce, with is an incorrect assumption. Again, I draw on examples of unschoolers I know who are self-employed, people who have started their own businesses, who have become midwives or massage therapists or travel tour guides or one of any number of other nontraditional jobs. If an unschooler wants to make money through being self-employed, they can, and and if an unschooler wants to get a traditional job, they can go through university/trade school/courses to get what they need to get hired for that job. The key thing is that unschoolers know how to learn and accomplish things on their own, without being instructed or forced, so they're capable of taking whatever path they choose and doing well on that path.

    In that whole first paragraph of yours, what you seem to be saying is that if everyone was unschooled, it would unbalance our current society. This is most likely true, and I think that a society that breeds such ignorance, bigotry, violence and poverty as ours does would be better off with the changes that free-thinking, open-minded, curious, competent unschoolers could bring to it.

    On to your second paragraph! (Whoof, getting tired typing fingers here :P... Hope you guys are still reading and understanding all this... I'm falling asleep at the keyboard^^'!)

    A child should not be pressured, by tools such as a marking system, into learning things that they do not want to learn. No one ever needs to be forced to learn; a person will learn what they need to live in our world without being forced. I cannot stress this point enough.

    To address your last point: I will start by saying you have been extremely disrespectful in your comments, especially this last one. It seems to me you're saying unschoolers can't socially interact as well as people in public school. (It kills me a little inside to see people still using this ancient 'but if you don't go to school, you must be isolated and un-socialized!' argument -_-'). This is simply not true. Do you think I'm socially inept? I certainly know all my unschooled friends my age, and all my unschooled friends who are adults living in this 'real world' of which you speak so much are doing just fine socially. They interact with many people on a daily basis, they have friends and a social circle (or few), some of them do indeed work side by side with co-workers every day. And they are perfectly capable of doing so. It is perfectly possible, in fact easy, to socially network without school. Let me use the obvious examples of extra curricular activities, such as sports, cadets, guides, 4h clubs, etc. etc. etc. Also through community, getting to know your neighbors and (in the case of teens and kids) people in your neighborhood who are your age. (I think it'd be great if people actually developed a strong sense of community and knew the people living closest to them). Also, through the unschooling community, such as conferences, local support and activity groups, etc. You know, my social life is most fun in the summer, when everyone's out of school, because then I actually get to see, talk to, and interact with my schooled friends a lot, instead of having them trapped in schools (where they're encouraged to sit quietly and learn for most of the day, rather then socially interact as you imply, I might add).

    Well, I think that's everything... Sorry if some bits don't make sense or if there are typos, it's 3:09 in the nigh- morning, and I don't want to proof read this heckuva long message -_-'.


    Isn't my sis a wonderful writer? She writes fiction mostly (also wonderfully), but I always love seeing her forays into non-fiction, because they are always good. And I am envious of her debating skills (she's even better when it's not 3 in the morning! :-P).


    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Article on un/homeschooling in local paper

    Remember that interview on unschooling my mom did ages ago? Well, the article finally came out! And guess what? It's actually positive!! There are a couple of misquotes and slightly inaccurate facts, but hey, it's positive!! :-P Here is the link! EDIT: I just want to make a note that how me co-leading a discussion at ONE conference and having a column published in ONE magazine was turned into me "speaking at conferences and being published in magazines" was thanks entirely to the reporter, not my mom. :-P


    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    How I came to be an unschooler

    I've been thinking, and unless I'm much mistaken, I've never actually told the story of how I came to be an an unschooler... I simply popped up with a blog at age 17 saying "hey, I'm unschooled!". :-P So this is the story of how I came to be an unschooler! Some of it is taken from what my parents have said, since I was pretty young when some of this went down, but I'll do my best to tell it accurately!

    Before I was born, neither of my parents had ever even considered homeschooling. It just never entered their minds. But my mom was, and still is, a hippie, so she did plan to breastfeed. Because of that, she joined the Le Leche Leauge when I was born (or possibly before I was born... I don't know how those things works! :-P). Now, my mom had plenty of gentle discipline, unconditional parenting, type books, I was never let to cry, lived in a sling for ages, and all those other attachment parenting practices (she never used that term, though I don't know why she didn't... She must have seen it used in all those books she read!) so she was the type who liked to keep her kids close, and be involved in their life.

    At the Le Leche Lauge, she was exposed to an idea she'd never been exposed to before: homeschooling. And she liked it! Being the type of parent she was, she didn't like the idea of sending her precious little girl off to spend her days with strangers. ;-) So she started reading and researching, and decided that she really did want to homeschool! My dad, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic. He's the most traditional minded of my immediate family, and he thought school was best, so my mom agreed that they would at least try it out. So off I went to half-day kindergarten at age five! I didn't really mind it. Neither did I love it. I had fun sometimes, but I was always happy to head home afterwards, as well (and I find it surprising that I actually remember that!). However, partway through the year, we started getting strange phone calls. Obscene phone calls, actually, and when they were traced (yeah, my parents actually had the police trace them) it was discovered that it was a kid in grade 2 making them. Sad, eh? So that about convinced my dad, and halfway through my first, and only, year of school, I was pulled out.

    Our homeschooling started out in a way that many unschoolers will be familiar with: school-at-home! Well, sort of. Since this is my mom we're talking about, we never had a schedule of any sort. But she did buy a reading program (Sing, Spell, Read & Write! *Shudders*), and sort of tried to get me to do it regularly. Through that, I learned how to sound out words and stuff, though I didn't really read, per-say, and we never ended up finishing the program.

    For years our "schooling" is a bit of a blur, I'm afraid. I was pretty young! I know that we had various school books and programs and stuff, but the only thing I can ever remember my mom actually trying to force was math. We did lots of fun science experiments, as well as watching Nova and Nature and similar shows avidly (I say we, because my sister reached school age with no one ever suggesting she go to school, so we just continued to learn together!). My mom always read aloud to us, poetry, stories, the newspaper, and I started actually reading at age 8 or 9 when she was reading Harry Potter too slowly for my taste! We never did book reports, though I'd enthusiastically tell my mom about whatever book I was reading. None of us considered that "schooling". We considered it life! I memorized poetry, and wrote both poetry and stories before I could even read (I'd narrate them to mom ;-)). My sister ad I would play spelling games for fun, and we relished our regular trips to the library, where we'd get whatever books we wanted (Emi would always max out her card, ending up with huge piles of books that my mom and I would then end up carrying, since she was too little!). Throughout this time period, my mom would tell everyone that we were doing "child-led" homeschooling.

    Throughout that time, the only thing that she ever attempted (I say attempted because she'd often fail) to force was math. I was somewhere around 10 or 11 when I started completely refusing to do math workbooks, and, well, I guess that's when we moved over to full fledged unschooling!

    We didn't really know it, though, and I always felt, because my mom always felt, since she was surrounded only by public schoolers and homeschoolers, that we "should be doing schoolwork!". We didn't, but I guess unschooling wasn't fully embraced in our house until a mere couple of years ago. When we fully, truly, embraced and accepted that what we were doing was *right*, it felt so much better! I started reading and thinking and talking about it, and was just like wow, this really is a wonderful thing we're doing! I think that made my mom very happy. She'd *known* what we were doing felt right, but there had always been that fear, that "what if", until I said gee mom, I like what we've been doing! :-P

    And the rest is history.

    Oh, and I invite my mom to make any corrections to my story if she so wishes. :-P


    Monday, September 28, 2009

    NBTSC 2009

    Now, how to write about this? I have a mild head cold, so my brain feels rather stuffed up and slow, yet I don't really want to put off writing about NBTSC because I'm sure too much of it will slip past my mind if I wait too long! I don't want to write about it in a chronological way, as I have with the conferences I've been too, so I'll try something different...

    To start with, as you'll know from my earlier posts, I wasn't looking forward to NBTSC all that much. I felt like I may have been getting sick, and like camp, perhaps, wasn't right for me at this time. However, from the moment I got there, things were vastly better than I'd thought they'd be! I knew a huge portion of the people there, so instead of being overwhelmed by all the people rushing around, I was cheerfully greeting old acquaintances and friends and happily talking to new folk as well! It amazed me that I genuinely wasn't feeling very shy... I didn't feel like hiding in a corner, or only talking to people I knew well. I was quite happy conversing with those both new and old! So the week got off to a good start in that way. And the getting sick bit I'd worried about didn't happen. :-) Also, we were put into our advisee groups that first evening (advisee groups are groups of about 10 campers and one staffer who meet daily to check in about how they're feeling, play games, or just generally do whatever they want within that group), and the staffer for my group was actually the person I was hoping I'd get after reading the staff bio's on the NBTSC website!! He's a green anarchist, and just a totally awesome guy all around. So that was really cool. :-) Also, I simply loved my advisee group as a whole! The people were awesome, and it was just a really nice atmosphere.

    The first night was fucking COLD! That wasn't so cool. I slept badly, was really sore in the morning, and although I was fine in the daytime, that second evening was the worst I felt in terms of mental well-being the whole week. I wasn't really homesick, but I sure as hell was warmth-sick!! However, my mom had dropped off extra blankets around supper time on the first full day (she was staying at a local campground for a couple of nights) so despite my worries that I'd have another horrible night, I slept just fine. :-)

    From then on out, the week was just great! I had some wonderful conversations about anti-civilizationism/green anarchy with multiple people, listened to a very interesting debate about anti-civ stuff between other people, had conversations about freeganism, nontraditional paths (i.e. not going to college and/or getting a normal job), unschooling, politics, and a ton of other awesome things. I love the fact that at camp, Monsanto is a bad word, and that if I made some comment dissing corporations, mainstream media, government, or similar, it was practically guaranteed that at least one or two people who heard would instantly jump in with agreement! That freedom to state my opinions openly felt really good. Now, that doesn't mean that most peoples opinions were as overall... extreme(?) as mine, just that I found common ground with many people. I have to thank Julie for her Utopia workshop, and Mike for also being a green anarchist, because those two things made me brave enough to openly talk about my views, when usually I'm not willing to in big groups since I *know* everyone will disagree vehemently and I'll end up feeling bad! After that first time, being open about my views was much easier for the rest of the week. :-)

    I also just really felt that I made a lot of good connections with people. Some were small connections, with people I never really talked to, but we'd always share a smile. Others I felt a really strong connection with, whether or not we talked much, or simply spent a lot of time with each other! That felt really good. And I really, really want to keep in touch with people. I also think that anyone from camp who's ever in the area should come visit me. ;-)

    Oh, and I also exercised a lot more than I usually do. I was up and down the rocky hill to my cabin multiple times a day, and also went on a great but quite difficult hike (up the side of a mountain. The view from the top of the trail was incredible!), canoed out to a rope swing and swam (now that was tons of fun but damn, that water was COLD!), and just generally wasn't nearly as much of a couch potato as usual. :-P Something I'm actually missing already about camp (besides the people, which is a given) is the amazing, healthy, 100% vegetarian food! So. Good.

    So yes, NBTSC was good this year. I still don't really feel like it was *life-changing* as such, but it was certainly good. I befriended amazing people, had some great times, and yeah, it was just generally really *good*. :-)

    Now, remember how I said I managed to stay healthy the whole week? Well, on Saturday when my mom picked Emi and I up from camp, I felt fine. However, not long into the drive home, my throat started feeling scratchy. Talk about timing! So I do have an actual cold now, but so far it's mild (*knocks on wood*) so I'm not overly bothered. I'm just hibernating for a few days while I get better, and then I'm going to go out into the world! :-) I do feel inspired in some ways, and I've committed myself to making some changes in my life. Many fairly minor, one or two more major. And, well, I'll just have to see how that goes. :-)


    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Thoughts on NBTSC

    I leave for Not Back to School Camp on Saturday!! My feelings on going are really mixed, and honestly, right now, I'm not really looking forward to it.

    Last year was my first time at NBTSC, and I really didn't have as good a time as I could have... I found being in such a large, high energy group with no one whom I knew well to be incredibly stressful, and then I got a nasty cold on top of that. I wrote very honestly of my experiences last year here if you want to check it out. Come late Winter, however, I really wanted to do it right. To actually be more social, and really get all that I could get out of being with a large group of unschoolers! However, about a month ago, basically when I realized NBTSC was so close, I started feeling that it really wasn't right for me, for where I am in life right now. Now, I don't really feel that I do know what's *right* for me right now, and as a wise friend pointed out, perhaps I'll discover that at NBTSC! Then of course there's also the issue of sleeping outside in two walled cabins in the cold September nights of Vermont, the open air showers, and the outhouses, none of which make me terribly happy. I like camping usually, and don't fuss about stuff like that, but I'm having a hard enough time adjusting to the fact that Fall is here after a ridiculously short Summer, and I'm really not enjoying the colder weather, so the thought of being dumped outside in the cold makes me grumpy! :-P

    Complaints about small things aside, I'm a very different person from the one I was last year. I notice it, and the people who've known me a while notice it even more! So I'm sure that my experience this year will be very different from last year. Whether it'll be positive, negative, or mixed, I do not know. I just know that it'll be different!

    Moving on to something different, and totally wrecking the flow of this post, I realized that I don't think I ever actually announced that I have a Twitter account. I kind of snuck it into the links on the sidebar, but who reads those anyway? So, my point being, I have a Twitter account, so if you want to connect with me there, that's great! :-)

    There are also a couple of cool things going down, but I'll save writing about those for another post...


    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Overview of the Northeast Unschooling Conference 2009!

    (This first paragraph was written last night. I ended up giving up after then and postponing the rest until today! :-P)

    So, you know how I said I was going to write a daily journal entry unless I was having too much fun? Well, I was having too much fun! I'm honestly torn about whether or not I should write about the conference now, because I only arrived home today at about 7:30 pm and I'm ridiculously tired (hanging out with people was the priority at the conference, not sleep), but at the same time I really want to write about it while everything is still fresh in my mind! So I'm going to plow through the exhaustion, and hope that what I write isn't complete crap! (As I said above, I gave up on that idea. Instead, I'm writing Wednesday, when I'm slightly (only slightly) less sleep deprived!)

    Day 2 (I counted the first day of travel as day 1) which also happens to be August 27

    The 27th was Emilie's 16th Birthday, as well as being the first day of the conference! I felt really bad when I forgot to wish her a happy Birthday in the morning, but a friend of hers had discovered when her Birthday was and made her a lovely card, then got it signed by a ton of people at the conference. It was really sweet, and made Emi happy. :-)

    Conference registration opened, and people just hung around the registration area talking. I didn't really know anyone well, so I was being pretty shy... My mom started talking to people so I just trailed around bouncing between my mom and Emi, until I got into a conversation, along with my mom, with Erika. I have to thank her for being the first person to make me relax and laugh!

    I went to Eli's World Travel Photos session, and although there wasn't a great turnout (apparently the first time slot in a conference isn't necessarily the best), I enjoyed seeing the cool photos, and I had some interesting conversations with the people who were there about Montreal, Quebec, our culture and history, family history, and similar interesting things... I also got a henna tattoo, which is something I've wanted to do for a while, so I'm happy I finally did! It's mostly worn off by today, but it's still visible...

    The whole afternoon my mom was stealthily arranging a surprise for my sister. In the evening, just before karaoke started, they played Happy Birthday and pulled out a cake. She was completely surprised, so that was awesome. :-)

    Since I'm not exactly much of a karaoke person, I headed outside to throw a Frisbee around with a bunch of people instead. Now Frisbees, I like. :-)

    After that, I headed to bed... Probably my earliest night of the whole week!

    Day 3 (august 28)

    This day was lots of fun, but so long it almost felt like two separate days! First off, I stumbled down to the Tie Dye workshop, where I greatly enjoyed dyeing my shirt in cool ways. I'm thrilled with how it turned out! I also got my feet and legs dyed, thanks to some very enthusiastic young kids with squirting dye bottles! :-) I then went to the Artist Trading Card funshop. I'd never heard of ATC's before, but I LOVE the idea! You take a small card (2 1/2 by 3 1/2 I believe) and do whatever you want with it. Collage, painting, drawing, basically creating a miniature work of art, then trade it with someone else for their miniature work of art. That way, everyone ends up with awesome artwork from all different people. Really cool!

    The card at the top (I couldn't get the picture to rotate for some reason) has the most wonderful little story. It reads:

    A lone fisherman sat on a stretch of beach. His single fishing pole was planted in the sand. Along came a businessman on vacation. "Why don't you have two poles so you can catch more fish?" the business asked. "Then what would I do?" asked the fisherman. "Then you could take the extra money, buy a boat, get nets and a crew, and catch even more fish." "Then what would I do?" asked the Corsican. "Then," said the businessman, "you could move up to a fleet of large ships, go whole-sale, and become very rich." "Then what would I do?" asked the Corsican. "Do whatever you want!" shouted the businessman. And the Corsican replied, "I am."

    After lunch (or in my case most probably after hanging around with people or something, since I was either too busy or didn't feel like eating most of the time while I was there!) I went to a discussion called Unschooling Teens, then to one called Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol, both of which were interesting. THEN I went to a session with Michael about GLBT issues, which ended up being more of a presentation on transgender issues, which I'm glad of. It was a great session! I think that too often people focus entirely on sexual orientation, and forget that gender identity is something extremely important that more people should be talking about! EDIT: Bonnie wrote a cool post on that here.

    That evening, I stayed up late talking to people and listening to beautiful music played, and sung, by Julian (check out his stuff here).

    Day 4 (August 29)

    Went to Erika and Kathryn's Even More Different talk, which was great and really got me thinking. After that, I spent most of the lunch break having fascinating conversations.

    I picked at food a bit, talked to people a lot, then went to Eli and my discussion, Untraditional Adult Paths. There was a really good turnout, which tells me that this is something that should be talked about more at unschooling conferences, since apparently it interests a lot of people! I feel it went really well. Most people were a lot more interested in Eli's input, since he's been doing things "untraditionally" for a while now, but I'm happy with what input I did give, and it was great to hear from several people who have managed quite well without either college or regular jobs. :-)

    After that, I went to a photograohy funshop! There were only a few of us, so basically we just hung around chatting about photography, then wandered around a bit taking pictures. It was fun.

    We fed a couple of people sandwiches, then it was on to the entertainment of the evening. An absolutely AWESOME band called Fishing With Finnegan, made up of grown unschooling siblings, was playing, and they were tons of fun. They play Irish, Scottish, English, and American folk, and they do it with much humour and a unique flair. I highly reccomend that you check them out! After the concert, I sat around talking with a couple of of the band members, as well as the other cool people I'd been hanging out with. Even once the band members were dragged away by the rest of their family, I stayed talking to people for a while more... Are you noticing a theme here? Another long but good day.

    Day 5 (August 30)

    The last official day of the conference, I was finally relaxed enough to pretty much just be myself. That always seems to happen with me. I only ever relax at the end of an event! After closing remarks, I, can you guess? Yup, hung around talking to people for a couple of hours! Then I played a game that was quite popular, especially with the moms (they were intense at that game. Scarily intense. O_o), called Bananagrams.

    Annnd after that, virtually everyone who hadn't left right after closing remarks went out for Sushi! It was kind of funny actually. Someone called the restaurant ahead of time to make reservations, but the restaurant understood the reservation to be for 3 to 5 people, when really it was for 35!! Luckily, they managed to fit all 45 of us in (more people went then had oroginally said they would). My table played hang man (with much laughter and joking around) while we waited for our food, and the sushi was really good. Fun times. :-)

    Having entirely given up on getting any decent sleep while still at the con, I was up late with a bunch of people who decided to not sleep at all... I was actually one of the first to bed, at 2:30 or so!

    Day 6 (August 31)

    The last conference activity was a picnic in Salem, right on the beach. I played Frisbee, hung around with peeps, and went for a long walk on the beach...

    I also came very close to heading straight to Texas for the Rethinking Education conference with a couple of friends! It was a crazy plan that ended up not working out (airfare was just too expensive), but it really brought home the fact that it's very possible to just take off across the country when you feel like it, so I've decided I'm going next year. That conference looks awesome, and there's no reason why I shouldn't go!

    It was sad saying goodbye to everyone, and the hotel felt so very quiet and lonely that night...

    Day 7 (September 1)

    We drove home. Pretty simple, really.

    Now, this post feels like such a skimming of the surface (and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of the surface stuff as well). I had so many wonderful conversations, such a wonderful time overall, so many new thoughts and realizations, that I can't possibly fit it all into one post. There are several issues and things that I plan on devoting whole posts too, but for now this will do. Some interesting posts you may want to check out, that are to do with this conference, are Jean's post on "unparenting" at the conference (it was pretty bad), and Bonnie's posts entitled Shit Happens. Even to Unschoolers. and Highlights from NEUC 2009. Eli also wrote an overview of the conference here.

    As I said, more to come soon!


    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Day one of NEU conference

    Day 1 (August 26th)

    I found out that I have Internet access!! The hotel provides it for free, which is great. I decided what I'll do is write a daily journal entry (unless I'm too busy having fun!) but wait until home so I can upload photo's to go with each day before publishing, EXCEPT for this post, which I'll post now to let people know what I'm up to... I doubt I'll have time to answer comments or emails before I get back, so please don't be insulted if I don't respond until then!

    So, we were supposed to leave at at 10:00 am this morning, but due to our usual taking forever to get out of the house thing, by the time we actually left it was closer to 1:oo! We had a cool drive. As we passed through the mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire there were really low hanging clouds, so that we were literally driving through them. They also partially obscured the mountains, so the whole place looked really surreal and magical... Way cool. :-)

    We arrived at the hotel at about 8:00 pm, and as I write this at 10:45, I've already met three people/families I know! I have a good feeling about this conference, and I hope that it'll be lots of fun! For now though, no socializing for me. I'm tired, so I'm going to just go to bed... Tomorrow registration opens at 2:00, but hopefully I'll get a chance to hang out with peeps earlier tomorrow, unless of course I decide I really just need to sleep...


    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Untraditional Adult Paths

    It's now official: Eli Gerzon and I are doing a discussion called Untraditional Adult Paths, with the following description:

    After all the freedom of unschooling what happens when you're not at all interested in a traditional adult path of college and working in an office? Grown unschoolers Eli Gerzon and Idzie Desmarais will talk about their thoughts, struggles, and triumphs with finding work and a life that pays the bills, is joyful, and contributes to the world.

    If you're going to the conference, perhaps I'll see you there! :-)


    Monday, August 24, 2009

    The Northeast Unschooling conference!

    So, as I think I mentioned ages ago, we're going to the Northeast Unschooling conference near Boston, and leaving in TWO DAYS!! I'm a mix of excited and nervous, which I will explain below...

    I'm excited because I'm going to be meeting/seeing a ton of cool people, some completely new, some that I know online and will be meeting in real life for the first time, and some whom I've met previously, and am happy to see again! I'm also excited because Eli has kindly asked me to speak alongside him in his discussion entitled Finding Your Own Path, where Eli and I will talk about finding meaningful work! Also, there are tons of cool presentations and funshops.

    Now, why I'm nervous is because I'll be meeting a ton a new people, and I'm shy. I usually refer to myself as a social introvert, because I love being around people and am happy being around them nearly constantly, but large/new groups, new situations, and new people make me feel shy and kind of like finding a nice little corner to hide in! Even in the case of all the people I already *know* online, I find it slightly scary to actually be meeting them... When people meet me without ever having read my blog or talked to me online, I'm usually quickly forgotten about because, as I mentioned above, I'm shy and tend to fade into the background in new groups. However, when people do *know* me online, they're expecting something of me in real life, so I can't get by by simply fading into the background, I actually have to be myself to a certain extant, to put myself out there more! Which is probably a good thing, but doesn't change the fact I'm nervous.

    Annnyway, the excitement does still outweigh the nervousness, which is a good thing, and I'm really excited to be going!


    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    My response to some unschooling questions and concerns

    I got this message from someone a little while ago, and I figured my response may be of some interest to my readers. The original email is in italics, and my response is in regular font!

    Your blog is very interesting to me. I tried to leave this as a comment on your January 8 post about unschooling, but it is too long. Thus, I hope you don't mind receiving a comment via e-mail. You are a thoughtful, articulate writer, and I enjoyed reading through your blog.

    Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed my blog. I'll do my best to address your comments and concerns as honestly as possible, and since I think this exchange may be of some interest to my readers, I'm going to post it on my blog as well!

    I attended traditional public school in the United States (near Washington, DC), but I did not really have a bad experience, myself. My parents were hippies with a relaxed parenting style, and maybe that counterbalanced my public school experience. So even though public school worked out for me, the ideas behind unschooling are not bizarre or nonsensical to me. I find the philosophy of it very appealing, in fact. And yet I have some concerns I cannot shake, and I wonder what you think about them.

    Pretty much everyone who isn't actually unschooling has concerns they can't shake! Unschooling is so very different from the norm, so very far off from the widely accepted views of how people learn, that it's hard to wrap your mind around it. Hell, I was eclectically homeschooled until I was about 9 or 10, then unschooled throughout my teens, and I only really gained complete confidence in it a bit over a year ago!

    First, I do think there are some subjects that would be very difficult to learn through unschooling. Math, for example, builds on itself so that mastering the most advanced concepts might take 10 years of intensive study and practice. For a small child who wants to be an astronaut, it may be very hard to connect that goal with the dull task of learning multiplication tables. And yet it would be very difficult to learn calculus without learning one's multiplication tables. I guess I am skeptical that young children -- and even older children -- would have the ability to assess what they need to know to reach a particular goal and the discipline to learn material that comprises the dull building blocks to support this goal.

    Actually, unschoolers learn math just as easily as all other subjects! Though many parents who choose to unschool their kids (though certainly no where near all) are more liberal arts types, the unschooling children and teens themselves are a complete mix of more math and science oriented and more arts and language oriented people. There are many unschoolers who've gone into college in the maths and sciences area, and even though I'm definitely not a big fan of math, and haven't done more than poke at a math book since I was about 10, I can do basic math in my head faster and more accurately than a good friend of mine who just graduated public high school at the top of his class (actually, at the top of his entire grade)! All public school teaches is how to use a calculator, and many students go through high school without gaining any real understanding of mathematics. Also of interest, I've heard anecdotal stories of unschoolers who happily study (and do well at) the higher maths in college, without having ever memorized their times tables!

    This isn't because I don't "trust" children or have faith in their abilities. It's because certain subjects are by their nature abstract, and that makes them much less likely to draw a child's interest. I would worry about the possibility that my son might decide at age 15 that he wants to be an astronaut, and yet he wouldn't know his multiplication tables. Yes, he could learn, but he would have years of catching up to do, and that would be unfortunate I think.

    It seems to me that unschooling is much better suited to children with interests and goals in literature, the arts, maybe history, social sciences, etc., and not so much in the hard sciences and math areas.

    Actually, I would say that your words do show a lack of trust in both children and the natural learning process. As many young children become fascinated with numbers as do with language, or building things, or insects. Math is part of life, and until it's made into something to be dreaded for many people in school, it's just as interesting a thing to learn about. You also make the mistake of believing that things must be learned at a certain time, or they can never be learned. Many unschoolers go until their mid to late teens without ever cracking open a math textbook, yet once they decide that they want to take the SAT's so that they can get into college, they study for a bit, then pass the SAT! MOST unschoolers go on to college (I'm in the minority since I don't plan to go to university), in a variety of fields. It does not take ten years of textbook study to get the math needed to enter college, even if you're going into the fields of math or science! I was recently talking to a schooled friend about the possibility of writing the test for my high school leaving certificate, and telling him that I thought I'd need to study for about 3 months to be able to pass. His response? You could do it in one month! Just because you're not using textbooks doesn't mean you're spending years where you're not learning. There's very little "catching up" needed.

    I also think there is value in learning about things that you don't necessarily find interesting. Sometimes this is because only upon being exposed to it do you know that it might interest you. But it is also because there are things worth knowing that might not be very interesting. For example, I know people who know very little about history and think it is dull and irrelevant. And then they say really stupid things about current events or issues, and its obvious that their statements are due to their complete ignorance. Anyone is prone to that, but I can't help but wonder if unschoolers would be particularly prone.

    You also make the mistake of thinking unschooling parents play a very passive role. Throughout my childhood and teen years, my mom would bring interesting books into the house (we also have a personal library of AT LEAST 5,000 books, I believe more), share interesting articles from the paper, send me links to cool websites or articles online, tell me about activities I may find interesting... We made (and make) regular trips to the library, and when I was young we participated in numerous activities. Unschoolers are exposed to far MORE of the world, since we're actually living in the world, than schooled kids who are stuck inside a building all day, away from the real world, and taught only a very limited curriculum. You say you're open minded to unschooling, yet your words seem very judgmental of a lifestyle that you admittedly know very little about!

    You can be "taught" something, but you'll only get anything out of it, only retain the knowledge, if it means something to you, if it seems interesting and important. I'm guessing the people who make "ignorant" remarks about history are schooled, no? I know the people I've heard make comments like that are or were either traditionally schooled or homeschooled, not unschooled. They were taught all about history, but to them it was meaningless and boring. True learning only takes place when the learner is interested in a subject. Otherwise, it's simply rote memorization.

    Last, I think it's a mistake to think that public education is really about the content taught. It isn't, for the most part. (From your post, I don't think you think public education is about the content either, but I see that you've raised the point in addressing the questions that other people ask you.) As a parent, I generally think it's my job to handle the content, because really learning about subjects requires experience and involvement -- i.e., traveling to Europe or China or wherever, instead of reading about these places in a textbook, visiting museums or nature centers, etc. Now, this isn't always true -- for some subjects, public education can teach content. (Again, I'm thinking of math, where the dull building blocks can easily be taught in public school.) But for most subjects, the content isn't taught all that effectively, and most people do forget it over the long term.

    While you think the real goal of public school is to teach submission and obedience, I don't quite agree with you. I think it can have that effect, if parents are not careful. But I don't think it has to, and I don't think it necessarily does.

    Instead, I think one of the most valuable things the public school experience teaches is how to maintain your sense of self -- your dignity, your identity, your sense of control and self-definition -- in an environment where everything is not within your control. In life, we must deal with people we don't like, rules we find objectionable, policies we find foolish. Our life choices may help us limit our exposure to these things. But other life choices require us to learn how to deal with these things. Becoming a lawyer or an astronaut, for example, requires the ability to navigate certain systems -- educational systems, career systems, government systems. Learning to navigate these systems -- to manipulate them effectively to achieve our own goals -- is an essential skill, IMHO. That's not to say that every kind of life path requires them. I have friends who are artists or dancers or craftsmen who have, for the most part, avoided these systems. But a person who has not learned to navigate these systems has far fewer choices in life. They cannot become a lawyer or an astronaut, a doctor or a veterinarian, because achieving these goals requires knowing how to function in an environment that is not entirely self-created and interest-driven.

    I'm glad you agree that public school is not really about the content being taught. However, I find it incredibly sad that you realize school is a place where there's a constant assault on you dignity and sense of self, yet you think children should be forced to spend every single day in such an environment. As an unschooler, I have grown up in a safe, loving, nurturing environment, and because of that, I'm a healthy, happy individual who has the confidence to interact with a world where many people, and many institutions, are trying to undermine my dignity and sense of self. That's why so many people are so impressed with most unschooling teens! Unschooling creates whole human being, who have developed healthily thanks to the wonderful environment they grew up in. I see so many schooled teens and adults who have been damaged by the system. They've created a shell for themselves, and I think this is what you're attempting to get at when you talk about learning to survive in the school environment, but inside that shell they're insecure, scared of "failure", and don't know how to function in a healthy way. They've also learned that external validation is the only sort of validation, and that you must always live up to another persons expectations.

    Now, maybe unschoolers can learn how to function in such an environment without public school. Certainly life does provide other opportunities to learn this skill, but only in very small doses. When I went to public school, I was encouraged to participate and to achieve, but only as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. I was taught by my parents to ask questions and challenge teachers. I was encouraged to use the public school and its resources for my own purposes, not to submit to it. And I am glad that I was so encouraged, because my current life as a part-time lawyer and full-time mom would be impossible without some formal education, the ability to achieve on standardized tests (including the bar exam) and the ability to function in the workplace (where I am sometimes required to spend time on subjects I don't find very interesting or compelling, but which are the essential underpinnings of larger goals I find laudable).

    You can learn to "work the system" whether or not you go to school! I was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets for three years. As it's literally based on the military, with "fun" components tossed in since it's designed for youth, it's quite structured, with a rigid ranking system, separate levels (grades), and all that jazz. I've never been to school (I don't count kindergarten) and when I chose to leave cadets, I was at the highest rank I could be for the amount of years I'd been there. I hated it, and I discovered that I'm never going to be part of that sort of structure again, but I can most certainly function in it! You don't need to have been in a rigidly structured institution your entire life to be able to function in one. As I already said above, unschoolers are in no way limited in their options.

    Yet another assumption you make is that unschoolers will never do anything that isn't "fun" since they're not forced to. That's silly. Everyone has goals and aspirations, and if you want something badly enough, you're going to do whatever needs to be done to get there, whether or not each individual activity is fun. Unschoolers don't do pointless busywork. That doesn't mean they don't work towards the things that are important to them! I have, and will continue to do, things that I don't particularly enjoy, yet I do them because they're necessary for something that truly matters to me, something I'm passionate about! If I find that I really want to take a course offered by a school that won't accept me unless I have a high school leaving certificate (not that that's likely, since ALL the universities in my area accept students without paperwork), then I'll take those few months to study, and get my certificate! I don't like learning things of no value to me, such as I would have to if I wanted m certificate, but if I had to to get to where I wanted to be, then I would.

    My older son starts kindergarten later this month. I have a lot of trepidation about it. I have this feeling that he isn't going to like it, that he's not going to be terribly good at it, and that it isn't going to add much to his knowledge. But I am sending him anyway, because I think it is essential for him to navigate a world that does not cater to him and of which he is not the sole master. I will be very curious to see how he does. I am also open-minded to the possibility that it will be a very poor fit for him and that it will offer nothing valuable for him. In that case, I would be willing to change gears, and all options would be on the table, including unschooling.

    Our culture does not foster human happiness, and seeks to maximize production and consumption above all else. That's what the schooling system is for: creating worker bees. Worker bees are what the economic system needs. You say you think that young children should be shoved into a system that is indifferent to their emotional well being, and you act as if that's a good thing. I say that's terrible. Unschooling raises WHOLE human beings, human beings who are comfortable in their own skin, healthy, confident. Whole human beings can navigate this unfriendly society far more successfully than can people whose souls have been crushed by the school system!

    I find it hard to believe that you'd consider unschooling, since you come across as feeling very negatively towards it. You speak as one who believes that public schooling is best. It seems to me you're saying that you think children should go to school so they learn just how unimportant their feelings and emotional health is!

    I apologize if I offend you with this response, as that's not my intention. It's simply a subject I feel passionately about, and your words hurt my heart. I hurt for your own son, and all the other children being sent, against their will, to school this year. You sound like you also believe school will hurt your son, and are only sending him as some sort of "tough love" thing. I don't understand how you could send him there, feeling the way you seem to (I could be wrong, that's simply what I gathered from your words)!

    Something that also may be of interest to you is Eli Gerzon's Whole Soul Safety or the Real Reason to Rise-Out of School.

    I hope that, at the very least, you can come to see where I'm coming from in my feelings and opinions on this issue!