Unschooling Is Not For Everyone But It Definitely Works For Some

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school kidsI am a staunch and vocal supporter of the public school system. My brothers and I went to public schools and so did almost everyone else I know. One of my brothers is also a public school teacher along with several of my cousins and high school friends. For my own children, public school education is the obvious choice- I would never even consider an alternative.

However, there are many people in our country who think that a movement called “unschooling” is the right choice for their families. It is different than home-schooling as it follows no structured curriculum and children are allowed to learn freely as they grow up pursuing their individual interests. This idea made me recoil at first but after doing some research, I came to the conclusion that unschooling is not for everyone but it definitely works for some.

According to this piece in the NY Times, of the research documented, many “unschoolers” go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives:

Curious about how these children have fared in the structured world, Peter Gray conducted a survey of grown unschoolers. Many of them enter into higher education — always on their own accord — and succeed, being highly motivated and self-directed from the very beginning of their education.

They may have a hard time adjusting to schedules, but because it was their decision to attend college, they are often more diligent than their peers, Mr. Gray told Op-Talk. He added that because during childhood they interacted with children of all ages, they report a better social life, though they are discouraged by the others’ lax attitude, the partying and the drinking.

Of the grown unschoolers surveyed, median age 24, 78 percent said were “financially self-sufficient,” Mr. Gray writes, choosing careers that are “extensions of their childhood interests,” and are “enjoyable and meaningful,” rather than lucrative. Many of them pursue careers in the arts, and a high percentage are entrepreneurs or enter science and technology careers. Few go into “middle management,” Mr. Gray told Op-Talk.

As someone on the career path of “middle management”, I can tell you that I would much prefer being creatively fulfilled and doing something I love. As much as I support public schooling and am glad that this was the type of education I had, I cannot help but wonder how my future would have been affected had I been allowed to focus on what I am truly good it. I can tell you that I have barely utilized the subjects I did not like in high school and still question to this day why I had to learn certain things when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never think about them again. I can’t imagine the possibilities had I solely focused on what I was actually interested in.

As it is, all of us are going to have to work well into our 60’s unless we have some kind of alternative financial plan in place for our comfortable retirement. To me, it sounds far more desirable to be in a career that we find fulfilling and stimulating rather than showing up at an office every day rolling our eyes and wishing time would go by faster. While I may not agree with the social aspects of unschooling, I can appreciate where some parents would make this decision for their children. I know that at age 32, I have barely used a lot of what I learned in my high school classes but I have clung closely to some of the lessons I learned in life at that same age. It is definitely not for everyone, but I am not terribly judgmental of anyone who chooses this method of educating their children as long as they go on to be productive and happy adults. If they are self-sufficient and successful in the end, who am I to question it?

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