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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


July 12th, 1998.

"Unschoolers."

An increasing number of parents and students are concluding that school -- even an elite private school -- isn't the best way to get a meaningful education. In spite of the perceived problems of home education, mounting evidence strongly suggests that home-schooled children perform better academically than children at government schools. But - do these children get the same opportunity to socialize? How do they get into college, when they wish to go? These are just two of the questions that are now being asked by a rising tide of parents. The answers to these questions are now available.

Two books have come to my attention, Real Lives and The Teenage Liberation Handbook; both were written and arranged by Grace Llewellyn.1 Real Lives is a book contributed to by 11 teenagers who are homeschoolers; The Teenage Liberation Handbook is a practical answer book.

This schooling revolution, it seems, is grass-roots and being led by the kids themselves:

"The only things I was taught in school is that I couldn't have learned faster and better outside of school," declared a 16-year-old teenager "were to conform, to be blindly patriotic and accept all the stereotypes presented in textbooks, to submit to patronizing treatment by adults, to suppress my own ideas and dreams and go along with the norm."

These teenagers are caught up in the joy of learning, they follow their own interests -- "without the interruption of rigid classroom schedules. They talk about a wide range of self-chosen activities like algebra, photography, biology, horses, beekeeping, mountain biking, playing musical instruments, designing computer games, working for local newspapers and science museums." These teenagers tend to do a lot of reading and include on their reading lists names of authors such as: Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Amy Tan, (The Joy Luck Club), Jostein Gaarder, (Sophie's World), Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird) and Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind).

Wise parents, before hauling their kids out of school, not only have to check their legal situation (home-schooling, as it turns out, can legally be undertaken, but restrictions do apply), but must first deal with a number of practical questions and issues. A network of school friends is to be established; and for this the parents can take an active role in this establishment, which is more than can be said if the family is stuck in sending their children off to school. As a further point of information, interested parents might want to find out from school officials on how the homeschoolers will be subject to home visits, and how progress reports are to be filed and how it will be necessary to show that proper college preparation is being achieved. Books such as those written by Llewellyn "can help give young people the inspiration, confidence and knowledge to take charge of their own education." Now parents and students can find out from those who have been through it. And further find out how important the parent-child relationship is and how it might be improved in preparation for home schooling (or any schooling, for that matter). Now parents and students can get practical advice on how best to get started learning biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, history, anthropology, geography, foreign languages, English literature; and get tips on how homeschoolers can start a business and get into a good college. Such books as those written by Llewellyn, it seems to me, are tantamount to being recipes on how to lead a happy and healthy family life. These books are written to be read by parent and teenage-child, alike. Parents are finding out what a lot of language specialists have known for many years: healthy kids teach themselves what they need to know and that it can best be done in a loving relationship that is more often found in the family; this has historically been the case. These days, more then ever, home-schooling is the way for a person (not just a child) to get a real education. A real education has never been less inexpensive, less easy and less accessible; and a real education has never been more critical. All that is needed is a computer, a phone modem, a healthy kid, and understanding parents.

_______________________________
FOOTNOTES:

[1] These books by Grace Llewellyn should be generally available; try Laissez Faire Books to which I have put a link on my Book Stores Links Page. Here is a small sample of Grace Llewellyn: "In the end, the secret to learning is so simple: forget about it. Think only about whatever you love. Follow it, do it, dream about it. One day, you will glance up at your collection of Japanese literature, or trip over the solar oven you built, and it will hit you: learning was there all the time, happening by itself."

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Peter Landry

July, 1998 (2015)