It's been a while since I had an all out rant and I'm feeling a little rant-y.
I've recently come up against a very small group of people I describe as "militant unschoolers". Let me clarify right off the bat, I am NOT talking about people who say, "Hey, have you checked out this book?" or discuss their own homeschooling methods on their blogs. Those things are just contributing to the discussion and I welcome suggestions, whether I end up deciding to take them or not. But when someone goes onto a public forum and out and out berates anyone who dares open a text book or sit their child down with a worksheet, I have a problem.
Here's the thing: we chose homeschooling precisely because we can educate our children in the manner that is best suited for them. We don't have to teach in a certain way, or do things in a certain order just because that's what works best for the rest of the class. The militant unschoolers seem to have COMPLETELY missed the point. We opted out of the school system to get away from the rules and we certainly aren't going to let you stuff us back into a new set of your own making.
Let me describe a typical day around here. We get up, have a fairly lazy morning, then head upstairs to "do school" around 10. For the next 1-2 hours, we do seat work. There are a fair number of worksheets involved (gasp! the horror!), the math is done one on one with manipulatives, the history involves me reading from a book and then a website for her to explore or a project to do. Then we have lunch and the rest of the day is free time. Some days we might cook or write letters or talk to a clerk at a local store or just look out the window and those activities always present the opportunity for further learning. If something really catches Sierra's interest, we'll use this time to learn more about it. Hardly a "school at home" set up (which so many homeschoolers talk about with disdain). But, no joke, these "militant unschoolers" will directly insult such a set up and the parent who dares institute it because there is a semblance of a schedule and the children are expected to do any seat work at all. To make it worse, these people who are supposedly all about following the child's lead never seem to ask what the children think about it. Personally, my child has thrown screaming hissy fits in the past over WANTING to do workbooks. She learns really well from working through a practice sheet and being evaluated. She enjoys it. And frankly, in the early years, I feel like there is a base that needs to be laid anyway. A child needs to know how to read if they are going to learn about the topics that interest them. And while you can certainly practice math skills by having them add up totals in the grocery store, they're going to get awfully frustrated if you haven't at least given them the basic knowledge at home first.
I know plenty of unschoolers that are well educated. Many of them started out in school though and the unschooling part of life came later on, after they had already learned how to read, write and do basic math. I'm also aware that homeschooling is not the norm. While it's very possible for a homeschooler to get into a good college, there is a certain amount of "playing by the rules" required to get there. I'm choosing to leave that option open for my children in the way I teach and document their progress. That doesn't mean that I haven't "seen the light" as someone claimed, it means I'm not dictating my children's course for them while they are too young to have developed the logic and reasoning ability to make their own choices about matters that have such long-term consequences. That's hardly ignorant.
More importantly, our set up is what works for our family at this point in time. I respect that our way is not the best way for everyone, and I expect that same respect from others we associate with. I trust you've made an informed decision about what is best for your family, I welcome dialogue about the choices you've made and why you made them. What I have no room for is arrogant, belittling, close-minded people who assert that what was right for their kids is also right for mine. You have no right to dictate how a child you've never met will best learn, grow, and stay excited to learn about the world.