Schooling and life learning are not mutually exclusive. Schooled children learn in a structured manner on school days for approximately 6 hours. The rest of their life is spent learning freely.
Really? Only six hours? What about transportation to and from school? The hours of homework to be done after school? It seems to me that school takes up quite a bit more time than six hours a day, and that for the majority of schooled people, very little time is left over to "learn freely"!
Not all parents are as patient and nurturing as you experienced with your mother.
Of course they're not. But what other experience am I expected to write from besides my own? I write and speak about unschooling from my own experience, my own observations of others experiences, and research (reading anything about freedom-based education I can get my hands on). But, mainly, from my own experience. I don't claim and have never claimed to speak for or represent all unschoolers: I represent myself only, and my mother is a wonderful, nurturing person. I hope that comes across whenever I write about her.
However, there are lots of other unschoolers out there with very different experiences (though I'm happy to say the majority of unschooling parents I know are very "nurturing"). Some have bad relationships with their parents. Some unschoolers left high school to unschool entirely against the wishes and without the support of their parents. Each experience is different.
There are many children who benefit greatly from the structure and separation that school provides. In some cases there are sad situations behind that reality. In other cases, it just works well. There are also many families who do not have the luxury of the stay-at-home-parent.
Now, I see a couple of points that need to be addressed here: firstly, unschooling is NOT against structure. What unschoolers are against is *forced* structure. Unschooling is all about personal choice: putting the power over their own learning and life into the learner's/student's/individual's hands. It's then up to that individual to choose how much or little structure they want in their lives. Sometimes (fairly frequently, actually), unschoolers decide to try school! Many end up choosing to leave again at a later date, some stay. Unschooling isn't a philosophy against structure: it's a philosophy against force and coercion in the choosing of what and when to learn.
By sad situations, I assume you're talking about bad home lives. I agree, that's incredibly sad, and in such cases, which are way too common, unschooling definitely isn't an option. In low income families, again, I agree that unschooling can be extremely difficult, and even impossible, to do (I should mention that I do know unschoolers who either are on or have been on welfare, so some low income families definitely manage to unschool!). But there's a reason I say I'm not just in support of unschooling, but of freedom-based education. Under that umbrella of freedom-based education, I place both unschooling and something else called freeschooling. The most basic description of freeschooling would be unschooling in a building! Virtually every freeschool I've heard of is dedicated to accepting as many people who want to go there as they can, no matter their economic backgrounds. This certainly holds true for the freeschool starting up near me, as the organizers have a strong social justice bent and envision something truly wonderful, community based, and inclusive!
There are many children who would not have the drive to learn to read, as you did.
Oh dear, here I do believe you're showing your ignorance in having never interacted with the unschooling community, and seen the results! As Peggy Pirro, who writes one of my favorite unschooling books, said:
“We learn because we want to learn, because it’s important to us, because it’s natural, and because it’s impossible to live in the world and not learn. Then along comes school to mess up a beautiful thing.”And that's how unschooling works. As humans, we're creatures who love and want to learn, creatures who will learn everything they need to function in the society they're born into, simply by being a part of that society. However, when you dis-empower people by telling them that they're not smart enough, not mature enough, not trustworthy enough, to control their own learning and life, you create people who no longer know how to learn if not from an "expert". Schooling creates people who look to a higher authority for the answers, and don't trust their own power.
I have yet to meet an unschooler who *didn't* learn to read, and at this point, I've been lucky enough to meet hundreds of unschoolers in real life, and dozens more online. And yet at the same time, I don't think literacy, knowledge of math, or any other academic achievement should be used as a measurement, *the* measurement, of success for any human being. Memorizing stuff, learning to read? That's easy. And there are plenty of very well educated people who are miserable, depressed, and suicidal. Is being "educated", as defined by having a body of knowledge that has been judged the Most Important Things To Know by some far off authority, really the most import thing out there? I'd ask instead: are you happy? Do you have a knowledge of your own value? Do you love? Do you feel loved? Are you living in a way that makes you feel good? Are you giving your best self to the world? These are what I would consider measures of success, not whether you can do algebraic equations.
Schools do provide a service to our society, even if all it amounts to is increasing literacy of our community.
If everyone graduated high school being able to read, then this might be a more convincing argument. It might also be a more convincing argument if the tons of people who graduate high school and can read, actually all liked reading, instead of many planning never to open a book again if they can help it. Forced "learning" (because forced learning is never as real or powerful as true, deep learning, chosen willingly) often sours the subject, makes it hard and boring and distasteful. Who enjoys being forced to do something against their will? When you come to something yourself, you come to it without the tangled web of negative emotions and experiences attached to something you were forcibly made to do.
It sounds like your objective is to promote unschooling as superior. What you should be doing is seeking acceptance of unschooling as an equivalently effective method for preparing our children to become productive adults in our society.
That's what I *should* be doing, is it? I should tell you now, Anonymous, that I don't take well to doing things I *should* be doing. Everyone has their own idea for what everyone else should be doing, and many feel no shame in sharing their visions of what an individual should be doing loudly and authoritatively with said individual. Whereas me? I'm a fan of listening to your own intuition, looking at what you need and want, what your community (human, non-human, nature) needs and wants, and then taking the path that seems best to you.
I believe in freedom: freedom from government, corporation, hierarchy, oppression. I don't see unschooling as simply one option among many (should I unschool this year, or go with a private school?), but as a method of freeing individuals from a government controlled institution that's intent on turning out well schooled individuals, who don't question the status quo, and happily consume as an empty attempt at gaining fulfillment. Unschooling isn't just a type of education to me: it's a revolutionary and joyful choice.
So yes, I definitely consider unschooling to be superior to other so-called methods of education. No, I *shouldn't* simply be "seeking acceptance of unschooling as an equivalently effective method for preparing our children to become productive adults in our society". I have absolutely no desire to become a "productive member of society" (=cog in a very large and currently earth destroying machine), or to suggest anyone else do such a thing. What I want to be, and what I see as being created by unschooling/life learning/freeschooling is *good* (kind, compassionate, passionate, strong) people. That's my wish and my hope, and more importantly than wishing and hoping, what I'm trying my hardest to be and do.
There are so many children in our world that need schools.
No. There are so many children in our world that need love, and food and shelter, and acceptance, and support, and trust. No one *needs* schooling!