There is a growing number of parents that are pulling their kids out of public schools, due to the ever-growing rash of problems. With the tuition costs of private schools requiring something in the same range as another mortgage for some families, there are common sense alternatives available, Homeschooling and Unschooling are being chosen for low or no cost and flexibility. Living your life with the freedom to choose your own subjects according to the likes and wants of your children and to learn at more of a pace that’s suitable for your child’s learning style. Using the world as a classroom to pursue the creativity and curiosity that is often missing in today’s indoctrinated public schools is preferred, instead of imposing a locked down feel with time restraints. Out here in the Texas Freedom Grounds we use a long list of projects, events, activism, field trips, and the popular independence education. Independence education is when we let them start and complete a life lesson task on their own, such as giving them a grocery list with the money while waiting outside, changing the oil, rotating tires, and cutting up firewood. These can even lead to building a hen-house, hunting, caring for a numerous amount of animals, with raised bed garden construction, planting, and transplanting seedlings being a favorite out here. We still open the books but now focus on the basics reading, writing, and arithmetic. different families in our area take turns and teach whatever they know and utilize their strengths. For example, Janie gives Spanish classes on Monday evenings, I give automotive and tool identification and usage classes once a week, and Kory has given firearm safety classes. We have coming up this week a calf raising class by a local farmer in the area, who will also invite us over at a later date for a hog butchering, and rotisserie event.
There is an author and his wife that are implementing the Unschooling method and are extremely content and their story is inspiring.
The Hewitt’s who reside in northern Vermont believe in what’s called unschooling, which to some would be considered a radical or off-the-wall subsection of the homeschooling philosophy. Many would also say that it’s detrimental to children, the fact is that Unschooling places learning independence before structure and to not confine children to a cubicle or a four walled classroom. Sitting in a desk all day is removed from this process because the instinct of our species is that we are natural learners. Instead of learning from computers, following other kids in a single file line, and being pressured with fundraisers all year. These kids can operate a tractor, tend to various farm animals and are expert farmers. They spend countless hours exploring the woods, creeks, and streams that are near their home where they hunt, fish, and forage the vast amount of wild edibles present there. Attending school is not an option for these boys, they get what little formal learning they need at home with their parents. The boys, 13-year-old Fin and his brother Rye who is 10 wear knives and carry gardening tools instead of books and backpacks.
Ben Hewitt, their father and Author of the book Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World. He goes into great detail about this free and vibrant lifestyle that he and his wife Penny choose to live. Home Grown is not anti traditional education but a description and guide-book to self-sustainment and his family’s choice of a unique ambition of a lifestyle to live and learn at home. Mr. Hewitt, who didn’t finish high school himself but has written and published three books and raises livestock on a 40 acre plot of land where they manage a vegetable and berry farm believes that less is more when the subject of formal education comes to mind. Hewitt writes “At ages that would likely see them in seventh and fourth grades, I generously estimate that my boys spend no more than two hours per month sitting and studying the subjects, such as science and math, that are universal to mainstream education.”
Washington Post Writer Andrea Orr asked Mr. Hewitt a series of questions concerning his book and his lifestyle.
1.) Unschooling is a catchy term, but you note in your book that it really doesn’t do justice to the unconventional and unstructured education you’re providing your children. Explain what you mean by unschooling.
Answer: The long version is that unschooling is self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning. The reason I don’t like unschooling as a term is that it describes what we’re not doing, but not what we are doing. Some people hear “freedom” and “self-directed” and assume we are totally hands off. Any parent who spent a day or a week with us would come away realizing it’s a hell of a lot easier to put the kids on the bus.
2.) As a family who, to a large extent, lives off the land in rural Vermont, what do you have to tell a suburban or urban parent who may be interested in a less traditional approach to education?
Answer: Unlike the standardized, institutionalized model of education, unschooling can be a million different things to a million different families. I know many unschooling families who live in suburban or urban environments. The commonality I see is that they all really believe that children learn best when they are immersed in the community in their environment. Many see a structured school environment as something of an artifice and they believe there are better opportunities for our children to learn outside of the school. The setting for my family happens to be rural Vermont because we do place a lot of importance on connection to the natural world. But I know a lot of urban unschoolers and their priorities are a little different. The common theme is immersion in the environment … and hopefully it is a healthy environment.
3.) Absent formal instruction, when did your children learn basic reading and math that is so much of the focus in elementary school?
Answer: Reading came for our older son when he was 8. Our younger son learned when he was 9. Even though we did not sit down and teach reading, we read to our children ceaselessly. We immersed our kids in books, and they just picked it up.
Math is a little more challenging. We’ve started to examine our approach and implement some basic instruction.
4.) What’s your plan for later years? Can unschooling work for calculus? Physics? Shakespeare?
Answer: I am always struck by how we determine what it is we believe our children must learn. I do think we have an obligation to ensure our kids have a strong grasp of basic math, up to and including some basic algebra. But for me, calculus and physics are not required to be a functioning member of society. My belief is that if my kids determine they need certain skills in their adult lives, they will get them. I have a tremendous amount of faith in my children’s ability to fashion the world they envision. I believe giving them some autonomy is only going to give them more resourcefulness and confidence. And I know from experience this will not necessarily preclude them from choosing a more conventional career path.
I have nothing against Shakespeare but you might ask why it’s not just as important for our kids to be able to go out and identify every tree in the forest outside the house? We believe in the value of our kids knowing their way in the natural world. Now, if you are unschooling in an urban environment, I’m not sure it would be as important to be able to identify every tree in the park. But I think it’s critical to have an intimate connection to place and community. I think that is where some of the most meaningful experiences would come from.
5.) Your boys are acquiring life skills. But are they the right skills?
Answer: People often ask me if I think my kids will need to take remedial math to get into college. I always respond that that would put them on par with a lot of kids in traditional high schools. We base a lot of our assumptions about education on what children are supposed to be getting from a standardized curriculum, rather than what they are actually getting.
6.) You spend a lot of time describing how rich your kids’ lives are. Are there things you think they are missing?
Answer: Of course. There seems to be a first world belief that we need to expose our kids to as much as we possibly can. The reality is that everything we expose them to is a choice that will effectively deny them exposure to something else.
7.) What have you learned so far? What’s been the biggest upside?
I have been overwhelmingly surprised at how resourceful and capable my kids have become at fairly young ages and I don’t actually think this makes them all that unique. I think that most children are inherently able to becoming capable of that same level of resourcefulness. General school erodes resourcefulness and confidence. Not only does it put children in a position of subservience, it provides few opportunities for them to be trusted. If you want your child to be responsible you have to give them responsibility. If you want them to be trustworthy, you have to trust them. (end of questions)
With the numerous amount of misconduct involving educators around the country and the world, the rise of the common core curriculum, and the constant proof of the ineffective teaching methods. The search for other options for the education of our children is becoming increasingly common. The homeschool and unschool craze is more than just a fad, it’s a reality.