Another response to a question I received about unschooling. If you have your own question, click on the “Email Me Today” link on the right sidebar and send me your question.
Background: We have homeschooled our children for many years. Our eldest is now in college. But my dw continually stresses out about curriculum and “being behind,” and this stress is loaded upon the remaining child as she is pressured to complete particular work.
Questions: Is it possible to transition to an unschooled paradigm with only a 15-year-old left in the house? How? What difficulties can one expect? How does one set up transcripts for college?
Unschooling Wannabe Dad
Dear Unschooling Wannabe Dad,
The quick and easy answer is, “Of course it is possible to transition to unschooling!”
Does your youngest child wish to unschool? Does she already unschool in some fashion and just does not realize it? If she has some input into what her studies are and how/when she does them, then she may already be unschooling to some degree.
One key to unschooling success is to have everyone in the household at least willing to give it a good try. If your wife is already stressing and worrying, then I suspect she will have a great deal of difficulty adjusting to the notion of unschool. You might need to do some “selling” of unschooling to your wife: meet some local unschooling families, learn about unschooled students who successfully made it into college, joining some unschooling email lists or support groups, and read some good unschooling books.
How is your eldest doing at college? Is your wife worrying because the eldest is having difficulties adjusting to college? Or is she just worrying because that is her natural tendency? If she has specific concerns, such as writing abilities or particular math levels, it may be necessary to compromise and continue with an academic schedule (plan) for those areas and then allow your daughter to unschool in all other areas of her life.
Other than getting your wife on board, the only real difficulty I can think of is if your youngest is uncertain about unschooling or believes that unschooling might not work. Sometimes students are so used to having their academic work laid out for them, without their having any input into what they study, that the idea of unschooling seems scary or even wrong in some way. They worry that they won’t cover the necessary material to get them into college. Or they flounder for a while, not certain what to do nor when, simply because they are so used to following someone else’s schedule.
Your daughter might find it necessary to deschool for a while, just to gain the time and perspective to see what she wants to do for herself. Deschooling is like a vacation from prescribed learning, allowing the student to regain touch with her own desires, her own reasons for learning. Sometimes deschooling is necessary for students who have always followed a strict regimen of learning where they had no input into what they learn (whether school-at-home or in public school). The rule of thumb with deschooling is one month for each year that child has been in public school. Since you have already been homeschooling for a number of years, your daughter might not need that long.
Transcripts for Unschoolers
As for transcripts, there are many ways they can be done, depending upon the homeschool regulations in your particular state. Many homeschools are considered private schools; if that is the case in your state, you create your child’s transcript, translating their activities and interest into “schooly” subjects. In Alabama (the state I have the most familiarity with), homeschoolers join church schools and the church school provides the transcript and/or diploma, based upon the information provided by the homeschooling family.
There are also some “unschooling schools” that provide transcripts and diplomas for unschoolers, which might be a way of reassuring your wife that the necessary material will be covered for college. One such school is West River Academy.
Unschooling High School
Unschoolers can and do graduate from high school and go on to college just fine. We graduated two unschoolers, and while our eldest decided not to attend college, she easily could have, given her grades and SAT scores. Our middle child is currently enrolled at Tallahassee Community College, majoring in computer science, and made the Dean’s List last semester. Both unschooled their high school years, each in their own particular way. I chronicled some of their unschooled high schooling a few years ago, which you can read at Unschooling High School.
Unschooling Wannabe Dad, please let us know what your family decides to do and why!
Readers, do you have any suggestions for this Unschooling Wannabe Dad? Please post your comments!