Sandra & Kirby Dodd—Extended Interview from Class Dismissed

August 2010, at the HSC Conference in California

This interview was conducted by Jeremy Stuart and another of the filmmakers. The website of the finished documentary is Class Dismissed Movie

My transcript is a correction of the auto-generated English subtitles (which I've saved at the bottom, for finding things by numbers, or for future translation/subtitling use by others). I've added the text of the questions, and some links and notes. Sometimes I made a paragraph for ease of reading, even though I didn't pause in the speaking.

When did you start homeschooling and why did you start?

Sandra:

I had been a teacher and I thought school was fine. I assumed that when my child was five he would go to school, but he was a little bit of a weird kid. He took two classes when he was four—one was an art class and was a dance class and he didn't do "right" in either one of them, and in different ways. In one he hung back and was very unhappy and cried and in the other one he would jump up and grab the materials and talk to the teacher and do things that she hadn't said "go" about yet. And in neither case could we persuade him why it might help for him to act in a different way. He was happy, you know, at the happy point and really unhappy at the unhappy point.

And I looked at that and I thought if he were to go to school today it would be a disaster for him and he would be really distracting the rest of the class. And in New Mexico because of his late birthday we could wait a year. It was a free year for us, because we could just say he's not ready we'll send him next year, so it was a big luxury.

I knew four homeschooling families in a playgroup and a babysitting co-op we were in through La Leche League. Two of the families did school-at-home and two did unschooling. I don't I've never met anyone who had such a great lab and such a great intro. We weren't even going to plan to homeschool but these kids were all in our house to play and to, you know, for us to babysit them and our kids had been to their homes. The kids were at our house with and without the parent, my kids were at their house with and without us, so we really knew these families. The school-at-home families were not very happy. They didn't get along. When we would go to the park sometimes a mother would say, "Well she can't play because she didn't finish her math so she has to sit in the car," and in the unschooling families, the kids would just spontaneously come and sit in the parents' laps. It was so cool! I hadn't seen that.

And so as Kirby got older growing up with those kids there were just lots of advantages to those families. Their houses were peaceful and it was fun to play there. It wasn't scary, they weren't likely to get in trouble.

So when we did think, "Okay we we're gonna do this one year of homeschooling," I didn't even consider getting a curriculum. I didn't want that relationship with him. And I thought it was Kindergarten. He can play and we can find interesting things to do, and that was easy to do.

And so the year was not high pressure. It wasn't like taking a kid out in seventh grade or something where
NOTE to NON-U.S. READERS:
Seventh graders are 12, turning 13. With kindergarten and preschool, they've already been in school for seven years or more.
everybody's panicky. It was like, "Well at the end of this year we either register him for first grade or kindergarten at school, or we don't, you know, or we keep him home."

But within just a couple of months we knew. It was fun, it was great, and in that time we had read more and talked more to people more explicitly about homeschooling. And I knew that it was gonna be good for him and his personality.

But still I thought Marty his brother who's three years younger, I thought, "Well Marty will want to go to school because he's more physical, social, wants to play sports. He'll go to school." And Marty used to say he was gonna go to school, too. And then one day when Marty was four we were at the grocery store and some woman came up to Kirby, as people do in grocery stores, and go "Why aren't you at school?" or, you know, "What grade are you in"? So she came up and said something to Kirby about this "Is this is not a school day?" or something and Marty, who was sitting in the cart, went "We homeschool!"

Kirby:
Very excited about it.
Sandra:
I thought "Marty?! Marty's homeschooled." So I said, "So Marty," (you know when the woman wasn't there,) "so you think you're gonna stay home?" and he said, "Yeah I mean I'm not gonna go to school next year."

But we always for the first several years kept it like—every year it was like "Do you want to go to school, do you want to try school, or do you want to stay home?" So it was always the kids' choice, and I thought that was really important because one of the worst things about school is that the children don't have a choice. And the parents will further compound that lack of choice by saying, "We have no choice—you have to go. If you don't go to school we'll be in trouble with the government." My parents told me that. "They'll put us in jail if you don't go to school," so not only I didn't have a choice but my parents assured me they didn't have a choice, so you're two layers down and helplessness.

And so I didn't want that to happen with my kids there are many things about school that should be a do-not-try this-at-home situation for homeschoolers. So I thought they needed to have a choice.

And my daughter, I thought, "Well she might want to go to school. She'll want to show off her clothes. She's that kind of kid—

Kirby:

Flashy
Sandra:
—still. And when the time came she said, "No I want to stay home too." So for me that was a position of mmm —self-righteous strength. No, that's not a good I'm sure there's a better term for 'self-righteous strength.' Confidence! Yes, that's it— that the kids had chosen it.

And it wasn't it wasn't in a tricky punitive way. It wasn't like "you made your bed..." you know it wasn't like "It was your idea." It was like "I'm willing to do this if you want to do it," and that made a huge difference. Because we were around some families the kids would have liked to have gone to school and the parents said no school is terrible and evil and you must stay home, so...

5:08
Question for Kirby: What was it like for you? Did you ever consider going to school?

Ah, periodically I'd have neighbor kids who'd try and convince me into it. They'd be like you know I meet all these cool kids and we learn all these neat things and I mean honestly, when I was seven, I was like I don't want to get up at 6:00 in the morning. That sounds awful. Why would you do that to yourself?

But I came to realize that I was already meeting these really cool people and learning all these really neat things—that really it would just be a different route.

5:36
Did you ever feel there were any opportunities you missed out on by not going to school?

No, not particularly. I mean even now in my current day and age people are generally shocked when they find out that I was homeschooled or unschooled, even. They tell me and that I ccould have easily fooled them. I blend in very, very well with normal normal people, normal society.

No, I don't feel like I missed out on anything at all.

6:06
Sandra, what do you think the difference is between school and education?

Sandra:

I used to do a regular workshop called that's not educational and it was a challenge and I had prizes. And I would have people in the audience name something that they thought was not educational, and then I would tell them what was educational about it. But years have passed and I don't like the term "educational" anymore. I don't like "education." I avoid that in favor of "learning." Because just as schooling has a curriculum and a course and "We want you to learn this and this," they create an object and everything else is field, or trivia, or "not on the test." So I think the same thing happens with "education." "This is part of your education. This is educational." And then there are things that are not "educational," so still you get the object and the field and that can be a problem for natural learning.

So sometimes I will say, "Well of course it's educational. Everything is educational," but even as I'm saying it, I don't like that I'm playing that game, that I'm talking about what is "educational".

Also, people talk about having an education as though there is one special one and now you have all of it.

Kirby:

Previously you had nothing.
Sandra:
Now you have an education. "You want to see mine? I'll show you mine," so I don't like the question.

But the difference between school-and-education and learning is that learning can become all the things that anyone expected of education. But learning doesn't separate educational from non-educational, and I think no matter what a person learns—no matter how trivial (not on the test) it seems at the beginning—it eventually can tie into something, or become useful, or make that person interesting, give them their own unique perspective and I think any ideas of "that's not scholarly, that's not schoolish that's not educational" separate a person from the world.

8:06

Sandra, do you think the term "unschooling" is confusing to someone who knows nothing about it? How do you navigate that terminology?

I navigate terminology all the time and I help other people do that, because when people write—I mostly deal with people in writing—message boards and live text chats, and that sort of thing—when people write something and then they want to take it back that's hugely illuminating. So sometimes the words that people use is not confusing, it's clarifying. And so someone will say, "Well I would do that, but my child's lazy." And the response might be something like, "Well maybe the relationship between you and your son isn't as good as it could be. Maybe it'd be better if you didn't think he was lazy."

And she's "Well I don't think he's lazy."

And thanks to the marvels of cut-and-paste, we can say "Look. You just chose this word, typed it, decided to send it to a thousand strangers—somewhere it seems inside you, you think your child is lazy."

And then she goes, "Whoa I didn't even know. I didn't even know I wrote that."

And that's even in writing. What people say verbally when they're tired or hungry or, you know, not really thinking carefully, can be hugely revealing of the problems they have—the disconnect they have—between the kind of person they want to be and the kind they are, or what will or will not help their child to develop in a peaceful way.

My husband says that his goal was to have our children grow up undamaged. I thought that was pretty decent because it covers all sorts of fields.

School and traditional parenting can do just casual, casual and unrelenting damage that people don't even think about. They don't want to think about it because they like the comfort of thinking they "have to" do this. "I have no choice; we had to do this," and it buries sins in many layers of damage. So the idea that we'd make choices that cause them not to be damaged was easy. It's just, you know, you walk along, you have a choice—which one's more damaging?

That was his measure. Mine was which helps them learn more? From which experience will they learn? Which is not to say we always chose the unfamiliar one, because sometimes familiar is nice, but sometimes if you've done the same thing five times, it's nice to do the other thing. And I didn't force them to do things, I chose to be persuasive. I did a lot of singing-and-dancing about "This will be really fun let's do this!" and I was pretty good at luring them toward other things.

[At the same time: ]

Kirby:Generally, sure
Sandra:Not always.
Interviewer to Kirby:
You'd agree with that?
Kirby:
Yeah. Yeah.

I always thought it was important because she would always encourage our interests and our likes, but then she would always make a point to also introduce new ideas or new opportunities, which I think is really key to a lot of it because people can tend ... it's human nature to continue down this familiar path and people can get into a rut where maybe they're not expanding their horizons necessarily, and so it's beneficial to have someone introduce these new ideas to spark new interests.

Sandra:
So the first question I left something out. You had asked about resources and I talked about the families we knew which was an awesome resource, but I did want to say something about that. Can I do that?
Interviewer:
Sure. Absolutely.
Sandra:
In the [I started to say 90's, but said...] mid 1980s there was a lot of homeschooling talk, and a lot of it was school at home and Christian-curriculum based homeschooling but the unschoolers, the less structured schooling...

I should leave those up [my glasses] there, huh
there's that bug.
sorry ignore all of that. I can't be having my glasses on and off, on and off that would be distracting.

Kirby:
Bad for editing.
Sandra:
Yeah, okay so mmm there was a lot written and a lot done for Christian home schoolers. The secular, informal people who were doing basically the open-classroom kind of homeschooling, the only resource was Growing Without Schooling Magazine. It came out every two months and it had letters from home schoolers as a large part of what they had, and a few articles, and when we were first
John Holt died in 1985. Growing Without Schooling had back issues easily available, and most unschoolers depended on that in those days, and on his book Teach Your Own.
homeschooling there were still writings by John Holt in there but he died before too many years. But still it was the only thing we had, so I would wait two months, read it cover-to-cover including the little want-ads about who wanted other families to visit them, and including the publication notes and then I would wait two months for another one.

And time passed. A few years later there were message boards—bulletin boards, not even message boards—like the original leave-a-note-for-other-people-on-the-internet
User groups on usenet. *Prodigy was an e-mail provider, available to people from dial-up connections at home. Same as the about-to-arrive AOL, people would order a disk sent through the mail, to install the software on their computer to use their service. Before those, e-mail was mostly associated with universities and businesses, or small local providers.
deals. And the discussion that I first got into on *Prodigy had 80 families or so, and most of them were Christian school-at-homers.

I was only only unschooling person who wrote regularly. There were a few other people who were fairly unstructured, but I would get jumped on because I was willing to stand up. So I would... they would say, "Well you have to do this, or the kids will never learn." And I would quote John Holt or quote something from the school reform research of the 60s, "Well but they did this study and proved this," and they're like, "Shut up,you," you know. "We don't like we don't like your kind."

So that was a little inspiring for me actually. It's like, "Oh, this is not going to be easy to make this point. I have to actually really think about it, and be really clear about it, and quick, because they're about to get me.

And so I also got to know their arguments and their justifications. from being in those discussions.

So for a couple of years that's all there was. And then AOL came up with a forum. It used to cost three dollars an hour to be online, measured in seconds. So people would get their email—there was a program for you to grab all your email and download it—and at three dollars an hour there
I ran some discussion for "Homefront Hall," AOL directly, and some for Home Education Magazine, which had its own little area. Sometimes I edited the discussion to make it more readable, and those could be downloaded in just a few seconds. There was a set I called "The Unschooling Barrage," of six to nine (increasing over time) files people could request and we'd mail links to them, I think.

I still have some.
Detox (Detoxifying from School), 1995 or 1996
Genius Class To Go (lower left)
Gems from John Holt

would be discussions online—real-time discussions. I used to run one. So that was the way AOL was making their money, partly, was to get people in there and stay online.

But there were message boards and those were nice. Those were really nice, because we could divide it into topics. And at first all of the homeschoolers were in there together, and the unschoolers were oddly pushed away. And then it was like they would they would push us out of 'the society of homeschoolers' and then they would come in secret and ask us questions. And that pattern continues to this week, because on the list I'm on someone said, "Well you guys have really good ideas so she's basically built up a bad situation with her teenager. Years of not taking our advice, now it's this problem and she wants us to help her untangle it.

So there was always that idea that the unschoolers knew stuff, and were creative thinkers and could help other people with resources. So the people who said, We don't want to hear what you're saying because we're telling our kids what to do and when to do it, and you're disturbing the peace"—as soon as they had a problem or needed something that they couldn't find, they'd go where the unschoolers were and say, "Could you guys help me?"

So that's one thing the unschoolers always kind of took pride in.

Kirby:
It's flattering.
Sandra:
It is. It is. It's like "Well, you guys are the smart ones so help me untangle this."

15:35
Sandra, can the approach of unschooling benefit traditional schools in any way?

I don't think that what unschoolers do will affect schools very quickly. For one thing, what we do came out of schools—came out of school research in school reformers in the late 60s and early 70s. And at the time there were a lot of lab schools connected with universities, where they were testing these ideas about natural learning, about optimized learning, about individualized learning. And they set up all these really cool experiments, which worked really well in the lab schools. And then they went out and wrote books about the open classroom.

Albuquerque was kind of a hotbed of that. The professors who wrote the book that was called The Open Classroom were at the University of New Mexico. And the Albuquerque Public Schools built buildings—they got floor plans and built entire facilities based on the ideas of the open classroom. Other places did too.

The idea was have have a place where kids can read in the way they want to—recessed lighting, soft places to sit, privacy—where they can sit how they want to, let them take the books outside and read, don't make them sit at a hard desk and hold it like this.

Have a science center with real animals, and plants growing, and rocks to touch. And that that kind of became hands-on museums later on. But at the time, instead of everything in a glass box, you know, have things that kids can pick up. But they wanted a room like that in every school, in every elementary school.

In the history room have pictures, photos, objects—not just books. And deal with the history of the local group, the history of the town, the history of the kids in the room. And fix it so that the kids can go from activity to activity on their own time, somewhat

And the teachers—the way it worked is the teachers had a checklist of what the children needed know in nine months, and then if a kid hadn't done any math, and it's March, the teachers would find some way to engage him in math board games or something so that they could checklist their deal. But that's how that was set up to work and they proved that it worked really well. I mean, all of their stats were good.

Then they took that into public schools and it failed horribly. just possess the teachers didn't like it the parents didn't know what was going on the kids went crazy and tore up the materials and it was abandoned
There were a few private schools that continued, or formed up later, using that methodology. It worked when all involved knew in advance and were interested and enthusiastic about "open classroom."
wherever it was tried it was abandoned within a couple of years.

Interviewer:

Why do you think that is?
Sandra:
Because the children didn't have any choice.

The kids in the lab schools were either self-selected, or their parents were education professors or professors at the university, or people who wanted their kids in that school, or grad students' kids—the children of grad students. And so they knew they were in a cool school. They were in a special school, they were in a fun school. And all of the people who were teaching there wanted to do that. They self-selected themselves to be doing alternative education. No one was drafted. No one was there against their will. No one was there just for the paycheck, looking at the clock.

And the whole situation was so enriched and so elevated because of the excitement of the people who designed it, and because they wanted to see what the results were. So they were totally totally paying attention to every child. It was a special situation, a self-selected situation, where the parents liked the fact that their children were in this program and and the kids thought it was cool. and they were getting to go to work with their parents, you know, they were at the same facility where their parents pretty much worked.

So they take that to the public school. Some of the parents never liked school themselves. They thought school was stupid. They're only doing this because they have to. The kids don't really want to be there.

So the teachers who went to work for a paycheck and would like to do as little as possible to get this paycheck are now told, "We're changing everything. From now on. that easy thing you used to do—read the chapter and answer the questions—that's gone. From now on you have to be creative and interesting. You have to keep track of each child separately. It'll be fun!

And they said, "I don't think it'll be fun. I don't even get it. I don't even know what you're talking about. They didn't hire me to run a science lab with real animals."

And the parents at home went, What? He doesn't have homework? What? I don't know what you're talking about. Just teach him. Just give him homework and stop making me come down there and make cookies and feed the frog."

So there was just wild resentment and confusion. Then they put it on kids who hated school. They didn't want to go to school. They wanted to do as little as possible. Now they said, "Look! Live frogs!" and you know, uh... and things got torn up. And they said, "You can read wherever you want to!" so the kids crawled into the cubby holes and fell asleep. Or you know it just was pandemonium.

And so that was abandoned, because it wasn't working. And it didn't work because people didn't have choices.

Which is a good point for unschooling because if you try to force someone to learn on his own and have fun—"Do it now because I said so"— it doesn't work.

Kirby:
Maybe they want that structure.
Sandra:
You have to draw them into the little happy-land enjoyment of it, which is fairly easy to do if you want to do it. So if the government said, "All right, we're running an experiment. Half of people who are homeschooling must use a curriculum, and the other half must be unschoolers and we're gonna track you for 12 years and then we're gonna tell you which one works best," none of it would work anymore.

21:05
Sandra, do you think curriculum has a place in homeschooling? Did you ever try any?

Sandra:

No, no. Partly because I could design a better one than I could buy. They're expensive now! There used
Oops!
I think the original question was UNschooling.

Sure, it has a crucial, central place in school-at-home homeschooling.

to be some you could buy for $300 a year, you know—meaning one child, one year, school-in-a-box. School-in-a-box came from Calvert curriculum, which I think was designed for missionary kids. Like if your family lived in some other country totally, you could buy third grade, and they sent you even the pencils. The pencils and papers are there, assuming you're in the Congo or somewhere, you know, the Amazon, and you're gonna get this box that's all you're gonna get.

So they used to advertise in the back of National Geographic, and I used to read those ads (when I was a kid, and read every word of every book). I was reading in the back of National Geographic and it would say " Calvert Homeschool" and it had a little shield and it was all like very dignified.

And I used to think this must be for kids who are are so misshapen or, you know, something so horribly wrong with them that their parents can't take them out in the sunshine, and they live in the room of some big house and they teach them at home because they can't go outside. And I just imagined some poor kid, you know, some Elephant Man kid, who had to learn at school and at home. But I thought that was interesting.

But then Christians came along—Christian home schoolers. here was a huge fad in the 80s [and 90s, too, I should have said]and they started making competing sets of materials. And it started getting expensive and some of those, I think you paid $1200 for one year of an elementary school deal. And when the parents have spent that much money, they want to finish it. They want to do it. They've just paid money on the assumption that someone knows more about it than they do, and so they try to force their child to do that. It ruins the relationship between the parents and child. It ruins a child's ability to believe that he could learn anything on his own. Not that that was the parent's goal. It keeps the parent from knowing or caring what the kid is doing, really. As long as the kid finishes the assignment, the parent doesn't often doesn't necessarily need to sit and do that with them, although some parents do. But a lot of parents won't really help the child because they're not seeing it as a learning opportunity, they're seeing it as a requirement. "Finish this so I can stamp it so we never have to look at it again as long as we live."

So the parent relives their own schooling in another negative way. They don't like it. They're resentful. They're complaining. I think it's twice through school for the parents and never through school for the kids I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

23:43
Kirby, was there ever any discussion among your friends who were in school about the fact that you never had any homework?

Kirby:

um, No. Most the time when the kids in the neighborhood would have a bunch of homework they would just talk about how much, how much they hated it, for the most part, and they would they would be envious of my lack of homework. And sometimes they wouldm they would ask for my help with their homework just to see if I knew what I was talking about which, granted, a lot of time I didn't. I was like, "No that language of math is frightening and foreign. What what are you talking about?"

Granted, when when I needed to pick up that language it wasn't that hard. I just got to the point where I needed to know it, then I learned it.

No, It didn't come up all that much, outside of like, "Once I get this finished, then we can go play baseball."

Interviewer:
It was more a time factor, time was taken up by it.
Kirby:
It was an obstacle, yeah.
Sandra:
But I can remember I think all of my kids—Holly, definitely, and you once—where kids would come over go, "I have to do this homework first before we can play."

So, "Well I'll help you." They would figure it out. It was like, "What's this mean, what's this mean?" They would talk them through it and then get it done and then go play.

Kirby:
Yeah, if they could explain how it was supposed to be done, we'd be like, "Oh, okay. Well that makes sense. Then you just do this. Cool."

25:04
Sandra, didn't your daughter, Holly, want to ride on a school bus once to see what it was like?

Sandra:

Oh, there was a school bus to the zoo or something. There was like a company picnic. Park-and-ride, with real yellow school buses, I meant to say.

But with Holly, we used to drive down, part at the middle school when school was gonna start. So we'd sit in the car, watch the kids arrive and go into the classrooms, and the bell would ring, tardy bell would ring, and then we'd go home. It wasn't riding the bus there, but I would take it there and then we would go in the afternoon, be sitting there so we can see the door, hear the bell ring, see the kids come out. And one day she sat on the bench right by the door and it reminded me of the movie "Unbreakable" when he
CORRECTION:

Thirtieth Street Station, Philadelphia.

Description of the action: "David looks down and gently turns the palms of his hands out as they at his side. His finger tops graze the jackets and clothes of the passengers walking by."

stands in Grand Central Station with his hands out. And she just sat on that bench where the kids flowed around her, and so she would hear the conversations, to see them up close, and that was really fun for her—just to be that close to them in their natural state. But it was the getting-out-of-school state which was the best state.

And she knew some kids there so they go, "Hey, Holly," you know there were four or five kids there she knew. And we went several times, and once Cameron Lovejoy, another older unschooled kid, was visiting us and we drove her down there, and then I we need to pick something up, or I needed the bathroom or something, so we said, "Holly can you stay here? We'll go and come back." She said, "Sure!" So that was exciting for her to be there by herself. But she talked about maybe going to school, but she talked to friends and she would be like, "Ah, I want to, I don't want to," and she ended up not going. But that was part of her decision-making process was what do I want, you know, what do you want to do about this?

She had gone to school in England two and a half
St. Andrew's School in Kirk Ella, in East Yorkshire, on this trip in 2000: The Adventures of Holly Dodd in East Yorkshire
days in uniform and everything visiting a friend, and that was fun for her, but it's so, you know, when you're a visitor you get more attention and you don't really have to do anything. She had a lot of stories about that, and she took nickels to give them for souvenirs, you know, big American money. And she she just had so many stories. But she was learning about school in the way an anthropologist learns about a different culture. She wasn't really *in* the school. But it was fun for her, and she went to school one day in Albuquerque, too, for an all-day, you know, all day go-to-lunch. So she was always an observer of school, and very interested in school.

27:12
Sandra, do you think anyone who chooses can homeschool?

Sandra:

Sometimes people ask me if I think the schools should be destroyed, if I think everyone should have to homeschool. I'm like, No, I don't think everyone should have to. I don't think everyone wants to, and if you don't want to you will botch it. I don't... I think schools are fine. I had a great time at school because it was better than my home, and I think schools should be there. I think schools should probably loosen up and not think they're God's gift to everyone's intellect, because they're not.

I think people who want to homeschool—really want to—can probably figure out a way to do it. There are obstacles. Divorce is a big obstacle. Poverty is probably the biggest obstacle. Negativity can kill it.

I'm talking about unschooling. I think negativity is inherent, I believe, in school at home. I don't think you can march-step your child through thirteen years of lessons and not have a lot of negativity flowing between you, and against school, and against people who aren't making their kids do that work. Because we we get that. We get people who... People whose kids are in schools sometimes are critical of homeschoolers, but all the rest of the homeschoolers are critical of the unschoolers, because we're not... we're making them look bad. So like my parents said "You have to go to school or I'll be in trouble"? I believed that. I didn't know they could have ordered Calvert curriculum for me. So I accepted that as a sad fact of life .

When homeschoolers take their kids out, the neighbors (kids) are like "well they don't have to go to school." now the parents "I don't have any choice" falls. But they say, "Well, but they're doing schoolwork too, and they're taking tests too," and they're "Don't you like school? Because you don't have to sit at home with your mom all the time, and you get to meet kids" so there's still that kind of balance.

But then the people who are doing school at home are telling their kids, "Well, you have to do these lessons; there's no choice. You have to take this test; there's no choice." And the neighbors down in the next house are playing video games, and so they say, "You people are lazy. Your kids aren't learning anything. We can't believe you're doing that. You're making us look bad."

So their claim and their belief—the basis of their reasoning—is belied by the fact that someone else is not doing that. And then we're another step further. I am unwilling to sacrifice my children's happiness to appease some stranger other-parents. But the going practice... it's common for people to do that—to be carried along on the stream of parental habit, and to do what the neighbors are doing, and do what other friends of theirs say they should be doing. And it's a shame, because the same parents will say, "Well if your friend jumped off a cliff would you?" to kids, their friends are jumping off cliffs and they're jumping off the same cliff, because they care more about what these neighbors and friends and co-workers and relatives think than with their child thinks.

30:27
Sandra, what about unschooling. Do you think anyone can do that?

Sandra:

I don't think everyone who wants to unschool will be successful at it. Some people can't relax. Some people are not creative. Some people are not imaginative. Some people are so controlling that if something happens that they didn't plan and execute, they're not having fun anymore.

When kids do that, they're considered to be bad sports and, you know, spoiled kids who need to be nice and consider other people's feelings. When adults do that, they justify it and say, "I was just being a good parent." But unless they can share the stage, unless they can share the decision-making and the planning, with a child who might just want to stay home all day, they won't get it. It won't happen.

And I deal with unschoolers every day, every day, who say, "Well I tried it for a while, but it didn't work," meaning 'I didn't really try it and I'm not going to.' Because they just can't stop. They're looking at their children, they're looking at the world and their children, through school-colored glasses. And they're willing to do other things as long as the result looks like school.

And they need to turn their back on that and look at the world a whole new way but that's so much work. It's such a change in the parents, that some people are unwilling to do it. They don't want to change. They don't want to be inconvenienced they don't want it to take any longer than it would have taken to drive their kid to school and wait to come back and pick them up. No more than that. And they don't want the hours outside of that to change a bit. It's like, "Okay, well then you can't. So if that's the question, whether everyone can unschool, hardly anyone can unschool because they have to be willing to change their beliefs, and their lifestyle.

Interviewer:
It's a whole lifestyle.
Sandra:
It is. It is. They have to change the way they see children, and some people don't want to do that

One time I think—I'm pretty sure it was in a text chat—but Pam Sorooshian and I were in the same place and someone asked—there must have been a chat—because we both answered at the same time. Someone said, "How many hours a week does this take?" and one of us wrote "all of them" and one of us wrote "none of them" or it was like zero or 24 or something.

Kirby:
It was a perfect answer.
Sandra:
It was awesome, because it takes all of your life.

"How many hours you have to do school? Yeah, what? You don't have to do school. And so of course we get called lazy.

I have a thing that I made up as a goof a couple of years ago Holly had made a really nice piece of art


Pioneer Day notes at Time and date, and at Wikipedia. I was right about Illinois.

for it. Just Learn Nothing Day. And I put it on my birthday, just because I figured I have partial ownership of that day. And I knew there wasn't much else going on, except in Utah they have Pioneer Day. They have parades to celebrate the people who walked over from Illinois or wherever they came from. And so I know in Utah everybody's learning, because they all dress up and go talk about Pioneer Day. But everybody else was doing nothing on my birthday and so I figured that would be a good day to say "Take this day off."

And it was a goof but some other people have written some really good things about their attempts to do that, or their discussions about doing that. Up to that point, people used to say, "Well, we can't learn all the time every day," and I would say, "We only have to do it 180 days. The other 185 days are days off, so don't worry if there's a day you didn't do anything special. Don't worry about it."

But I think it's more effective to say, "Okay. Just on Learn Nothing Day, don't learn anything, and on the other days, learn something." Because the cool thing is when they try to learn nothing, they see that that's not possible.

Kirby:
Yeah, they start pointing out all the things like, "Oh I'd learned this, this and this today. Oh man, I screwed up."
Sandra:
And without that joke, without that cover for it, they wouldn't have seen the day so clearly.

But every year somebody or five, without any sense of humor and with very little knowledge of natural learning, will write me insulting notes, sometimes in public sometimes in private. And they'll say, "Well why would you do this?" or "Unschoolers never learn anything anyway," or "Well why do you need a special day to do what you do every day?" It's like
Criticism of Learn Nothing Day
"Thank you very much!" And so that's amusing, too, to see to see the perception of unschoolers, that they're doing nothing, just goofing around.

34:49
Kirby, if there was anything you could change about your educational experience, what would it be?

Kirby:

Not specifically. No. I feel like I'm pretty well prepared for anything that comes along my way. Sometimes—I mean there will be times where like I maybe don't understand one subject particularly well, but I know I have the resources. I know that everybody has the resources to get it, particularly with the Internet these days. Like you can, you can get anything you need. And I have a good pool of people that I can go to to get their opinions and their ideas on anything that I don't know that much about.

No, I wouldn't change anything, which sounds kind of hokey but I feel well prepared I'm not concerned at all. I'm confident in my ability I mean in particular with unschooling it's more like you've been submerged into the real world from the get-go. I mean granted I started I started my first job when I was 14 years old so I guess I was kind of thrown into the real world...
We lived a mile from a gaming shop where Kirby hung around lots. When he was 13, he started helping them run Pokémon tournaments. They wanted to put him in charge of the Saturday morning Pokémon League, but discovered that the company required that only store employees could handle reporting participation and wins, and the distribution of the badges. He was about to turn 14, which was the minimum age to hire, and there it was.

He worked there with increasing hours and responsibilities until he was 18.

Sandra:
You were invited politely and offered money!
Kirby:
and I was invited politely.

Yeah, it was great. They're like, "We want you to do this job."

"Oh, sweet!"

"Oh, now we have to pay for this job."

"Oh, it's even better! Yes!"

So you know, I mean, I guess I kind of started a little earlier than than some kids do, but so long as they go out, they can... They're already in the real world. They just have to realize it.

36:23
It seems like more and more parents are wanting to take the leap into homeschooling. What advice would you give them?

Kirby:

I would tell them to read about it. Anytime if anyone has come and asked me about it I refer them to a number of web sites of course I refer them to my mother's website, Joyce Fetteroll's website, and I just tell them to to research it so they can determine, they can make an educated decision on it.

Most of the time, the reason why they're hesitant about is because they just don't know, or they fear the unknown, and so they they fear this big change that they're considering. And the more that they understand it the easier it'll be for them.

Sandra:
I understand their fear. Sometimes when someone is afraid—I mean I have some little tricks to shake them into not being as stuck as they are. Sometimes when someone is thinking about taking their child out of school and they're like "Yeah but, yeah but, yeah but, yeah but," this is not like moving to Mars. You'll still be in the same house. You'll still be talking on the same phone you called me on. It's just they won't be in school.

When I had friends who were teachers—I had a lot of teacher friends 'cause I'd been a teacher—and sometimes they would ask me, "Well what are you gonna do if blah, what are you gonna do if this?" and I would say, "Well as long as it's working we're gonna keep doing this," but I said, "But if it quits working, I'll put him in school and the special ed teachers will get him right caught up," you know caught up right away.

And I want say that again because I messed it up.

"If this stops working we can put him in school and the special ed teachers will get him caught right up."

And every single time I said that, there were three different friends of mine went [big eyes, intake of breath] they just blanched, you know. It's like oh my god.

Kirby:
special ed, Ah...
Sandra:
... like they think for a second I'm serious. And one of them was an award-winning special ed teacher. And they know that that's not what special ed does, and so the point is made that there are kids in school who get sidetracked into a place where they are not gonna recover. And that my kids will be fine. And it's like, "Oh yeah, okay. You're right."

So they just sort of asked the question. There are dialogues that people have, and phrases that people have, that they just say. It's like somebody wound them up and pushed their button and they say things like, "Well what are you gonna do about high school?" and the questions that the homeschoolers have heard a thousand times. It's not like they have 500 different questions. Same-same few questions.

People will just ask those questions the same way that people will see a little kid and they'll say

hi what's your name?
blah
where do you go to school?
blah
do you like your teacher?
blah
what's your favorite subject?
blah
And then they're out. They don't know anything else to ask them.

But it happens with kids, too. We moved to a new neighborhood when Kirby was 11 and Holly was 5... mmm that doesn't make sense. How old were you?

Kirby:
Ten and she was six.
Sandra:
She turned 6 right after we moved. And there was a neighbour family just right across across the cul-de-sac. They had boys about our boys' ages, and that was very hopeful. I thought that could be fun. But the kids didn't hit it off. And partly from the very beginning it was
Where do you go to school?
We don't.
What grade are you in?
I don't know. I uh, I think I would be in...
And so the kids kind of froze up because they didn't know how to treat these other kids. They didn't know how to act. Once when I was teaching seventh grade there was a Halloween sock-hop dance in the gym and I requested dance duty, because I was young and could stand rock and roll better than basketball. So I would always say "I'll do dances," and the older teachers would say, "Good!"

And so for this one, I hung back and I put on a costume, and I was dressed in such a way that none of me showed. And I was dressed as an alien and so it didn't show gender, and I was thin and young then and not too bumpy. And so I based it with, you know, something tight, and then put this loose stuff over it and I went down to the gym and I thought this would be fun.

It turned out not to be fun, for anyone. And it was... that day I learned a lot that has helped me since. The principal didn't know how to act to me. The teachers didn't know how to act. And the kids didn't know how to act. And I was trying to pull people out to dance. No one would dance with me. And it was interesting, because I knew these people very well. And so for me to look through—I had a big helmet with heavy plastic eyes they couldn't see me and I could see them, and every one of them, I could see it going through their eyes, "Do I outrank this person? Or does this person outrank me? Is this a male or a female?" And they didn't know how to act.

Then one kid recognized my wristwatch, so then they were fine, and they all relaxed, like, "Okay, I know her. She's goofy. She dresses like an alien. We're fine now."

And so I saw that with those kids, with our neighbor kids that day. It's "If they would just state, you know, their rank, I would know how to act."

Interviewer:
So Kirby, how was that for you, though, to experience that as a ten-year-old?
Kirby:
It didn't really faze me. I just knew those kids were not particularly social in my eyes. Because they weren't interested in talking to me.
Sandra:
And they weren't interested in videogame. So the boys invited them over, "Come over to look at our stuff! We're gonna play video games!" and not really. And so then they're like, Come over, look at our stuff! Swimming pool! Basketball!" And they're like, "Okay that was fun for a minute."And so they just weren't compatible with hobbies and interests, really.

Oh, and another question that they asked was "Who's your team?"

Kirby:
They were big football fans.
Sandra:
And they didn't know the answer. Didn't even know what sport they were talking about.

So these kids thought my kids were a little retarded because they didn't couldn't answer who's your team, and it just didn't work out. So I was always sad, then, because theyre those boys were, right there, but they didn't like my boys, and my boys didn't want to invite them back over much. There were a few forays and attempts, but within months, it was, "Hi!" as far as we got.

Some families wouldn't be willing to live with that sort of sacrifice or limitation—that their kids couldn't play with the neighbor kids. They would sacrifice the kids in a different way and say, "We'll subject you to all this schooling because then you will be part of the great expansive herd, and then you'll have friends," you know what they call having friends. But I was more concerned with them being undamaged and learning, than that they followed the crowd. The crowd wasn't going to a very good place.

Kirby:
Not always.
43:00
Sandra, do you feel that kids can become who they are meant to be faster by homeschooling?

Sandra:

I think children are only there in the moment. You can't guarantee or even aim toward a future result.

There was a famous story among unschoolers—among homeschoolers—years ago about a family that had a chart in the child's room—the child was young, 6 or 8, and it led toward getting into Harvard—like in detail—what you have to do this year, this year, this year. And without regard to whether the kid wanted to. But when the result is so specific, if the child had gotten into Yale it would be a failure.

If the parents are aiming for the child to get a gold medal in the Olympics and it's like, "I'm sorry, you can't go out and play because the Olympic chart says you need to practice three hours today," what if they get a silver medal? What if they just change sports or what if they get a Nobel prize instead? Failure!

So to set up the world in such a way that there's one pinpoint success and infinite failures is damning your child to a life of unhappiness. Even if they get the gold medal, even if they go to Harvard and do exactly what you wanted them to do, they lost because you won. And I think that's a terrible thing to do to a child—to say, "I've lived my life and didn't like the way it went, so now I've reproduced and you will live the life I wanted."

44:26
Sandra, what changes have you witnessed in the homeschooling movement in the last 20 years?

Sandra:

When I first started I didn't have any adults to see. There were no examples of grown unschoolers or homeschoolers, really, that I had seen. And the Growing Without Schooling families mostly involved either young families that had that had...—their children were still young, or families that took the child out [of school]. So my three children are one of the only sets I know of who didn't go to school and are now grown. So I'm glad to share them with people who would like to see that, you know, will they be okay? Well they grow up healthy and communicative, and what about socialization? and that...

So it is it is nice now that people have the opportunity, not just my kids—this whole conference is filled with kids who have been unschooled always, or homeschooled always—it helps to have examples around. But parents can't live by those examples always. When they first start you may have some families that you actually know and trust, as I did. I knew these families and I knew these kids weren't faking that affection for their parents, those unschooling families.

But once your own child starts to grow and change, then the confidence isn't external. It's not "I believe this will happen because I've seen it happen elsewhere," it's "I believe it's happening because it's happening. You can't deny that I know my child learned this without school." And so the confidence that those families then have oozes out to other families. And this is an advantage of those many years passing, is there's a lot of experience, a lot of examples, to see.

Kirby:
It's kind of scary being one of those examples, actually. In the the TV-and-video-game panel yesterday, after we were finished I had to rush out afterwards, but I was thinking about all of the negative sides. I was like "oh, I should have said this" or "I shouldn't have said that" and "oh I bet they took this this way, and it's all terrible," and "oh man I sure hope I didn't screw that up." And then just today, people were telling me, they're like "Yeah, that's exactly what I wanted to hear. That was good."

So it's it's relieving to hear that, because they're like I'm the example and oh my god I could really turn this around poorly for everybody.

Sandra:
Oh, and see I'm feeling like that, too. I have three pieces of paper here. What if I don't say everything? [laughter]

46:46
Sandra, how important is structure in children's lives?

Sandra:

I don't like arbitrary structure. I don't think structure for the sake of structure is worth having, or doing. People say things like people say. People say, "If you don't make your kids get up, they'll never be able to have a job. How would they have a job?"

Marty, my middle kid, from the time he was 16 all through his 17th year worked at a grocery store. Many long stories, but as far as time goes his hours were 6:30 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon. He was late once by about one minute. We were walking distance from the place he would get up an hour early. He had his little routine. When I woke, up I could tell what time it was if Marty already has his food or if he's watching the news and the weather. He's that kind of guy.

Kirby:
He's very structured [gesturing...] ...in place.
Sandra:
On his own, he had a serious structure. I had nothing to do with it.

We bought our kids alarm clocks. and if they needed to get up they'd set their alarms, and that's how it was. But Kirby—if Marty hmm Marty was able to do a 6:30 in the morning job. If Kirby had prepared himself for 6:30 in the morning job he's never had one.

Kirby:
Five years later, Kirby had a 5:00 a.m. start-time shift for a while.
[indicating humorously that it wouldn't happen]
No, on purpose.
Sandra:
Well gaming stores and pizza joints don't open that early. So what's your schedule now?
Kirby:
5:00 p.m. to 2:00 in the morning
Sandra:
So yes—he has prepared himself for that schedule his whole life.
Kirby:
That might actually change pretty soon. I might be doing 7:00 a.m. and I'm dreading every second of it.
Sandra:
The first job he had was 8:00 in the morning till noon running the Pokémon League at the gaming store on Saturdays.
Kirby:
And how often was I late?
Sandra:
I drove you so you were never late.
Kirby:
Yeah, but how often were you kicking my butt out the door?
Sandra:
That didn't count. [Laughter]
Kirby:
Just different personality types.
Sandra:
Another thing Kirby did for a while was he woke up at 6 or 6:30 to record Ninja Turtles. We were at the new house, so you must have been 12 or 13. So he set his alarm, got up, set the tape, sometimes he stayed up to take the commercials out, and sometimes he went back to bed. But then he would mark the tape. I still have those tapes. They're all marked, in there, you know, in his little-kid writing of all the Ninja Turtle cartoons.
Kirby:
I wouldn't stay up for it. I would get up, do the job, go back to bed. I actually remember I had to set my alarm clock on the other side of the room so I wouldn't just hit snooze. I had to get up, get across the room, look back, be like, "Oh the bed's so far. I hate this."
Sandra:
So it was structure, but it wasn't parentally imposed structure.

So I think it goes back to all of the unschooling. They don't need to practice to learn. They figure out how to wake up by putting the alarm clock across the room, to wake up to do something they want to do. And when it's their idea...

Interviewer:
It's self-regulation.
Sandra:
You know what's wrong with self-regulation? it's regulation.
Interviewer:
It's another terminology thing (← I think he said that)
Sandra:
It's terminology that exposes what you think. That what you didn't think you were thinking. People talk about "self control" and "self-regulation?" It's like I don't think anyone needs to control or regulate them—not even themselves.

It's choices. So if he chose—if any... any day he could have chosen not to set that alarm and not to record that show. So every day was a new choice. Every day he could have chosen to hit the alarm and get back in the bed and not record it. So it was a series of choices, not the regulation. He didn't make rules for himself, and he didn't control himself, he just made choices.

Kirby:
It was cause and effect every time. I needed this to happen.
Sandra:
Well yes, you preferred to choose to record it.
Kirby:
Yeah.
Sandra:
I'm willing to quit. I'm willing to keep on going.
Interviewer:
Thank you. No, I think we're good. I know you could probably keep going, right?

[Laughter]


More interviews in various formats More about Kirby Dodd More about Sandra and Unchooling


NOTE FROM SANDRA:

I printed out what's below, listened and marked, and marked, and then worked in a Word file (putting HTML code in) and then pasted it in sections to this page. I'm tired. (Maybe by the time you read this, I will have recovered.)

       

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I had been a teacher and I I thought
00:15
school was fine I assumed that when my
00:17
child was five year would go to school
00:19
but he was a little bit of a weird kid
00:22
he took two classes when he was four
00:24
when was an art classroom was a dance
00:26
class and he didn't do right and neither
00:30
one of them and in different ways and
00:31
one he hung back and was very unhappy
00:34
and cried and then the other one he
00:35
would jump up and grab the materials and
00:37
talk to the teacher and do things that
00:38
she hadn't said go about yet and in
00:41
neither case could we persuade him why
00:44
it might help for him to act in a
00:46
different way and he was happy you know
00:47
at the happy point and really unhappy at
00:49
the end every point and I looked at that
00:51
and I thought if he were to go to school
00:52
today it would be a disaster for him and
00:55
he would be really distracting the rest
00:57
of the class and in New Mexico because
01:00
it is late birthday we could wait a year
01:02
it was a free year for us because we
01:04
could just say he's not ready we'll send
01:05
him next year so it was a big luxury I
01:08
knew for homeschooling families in a
01:12
playgroup and a babysitting co-op we
01:14
were in through La Leche League two of
01:16
the families did school at home and two
01:17
did unschooling
01:19
and so I don't I've never met anyone who
01:21
had such a great lab and such a great
01:23
intro so we weren't even going to plan
01:25
to home-school but these kids were all
01:27
in our house to play and to you know for
01:31
us to babysit them and our kids had been
01:33
to their homes the kids were at our
01:35
house with and without the parents my
01:37
kids were at their house with them
01:38
without us so we really knew these
01:41
families the school at home families
01:45
were not very happy and they didn't get
01:47
along and when we would go to the park
01:50
sometimes a mother would say well she
01:51
can't play because she didn't finish her
01:53
math so she has to sit in the car and
01:55
the and unschooling families the kids
01:58
would just spontaneously come and sit in
02:01
the parents laps it was so cool I'd
02:02
never I hadn't seen that
02:03
and so as Kirby got older
02:06
growing up with those kids there were
02:09
just lots of advantages to those
02:10
families their houses were peaceful and
02:12
and it was fun to play there it wasn't
02:14
scary they weren't likely to get in
02:15
trouble so when we did think okay we
02:18
have that we're gonna do this one year
02:20
of homeschooling I don't even consider
02:21
getting a curriculum it I didn't want
02:25
that relationship with him
02:26
and I thought was Kindergarten he can
02:27
play and we can find interesting things
02:29
to do and that was easy to do and and so
02:31
the year was not high pressure
02:33
it wasn't like taking a kid out in
02:35
seventh grade or something where
02:36
everybody's panicky it was out well at
02:38
the end of this year we either register
02:40
him for first grade or kindergarten at
02:43
school or we don't you know where we
02:46
keep him home but within just a couple
02:48
of months we knew it was fun it was
02:50
great and and in that time we had read
02:52
more and talked more to people more
02:55
explicitly about homeschooling and I
02:57
knew that it was gonna be good for him
02:58
his personality but still I thought
03:01
Marty his brother who's three years
03:03
younger I thought well Marty will want
03:04
to go to school because he's more
03:06
physical social wants to play sports
03:08
he'll he'll go to school and Marty used
03:11
to say he was gonna go to school too and
03:12
then one day when marty was four we were
03:14
at the grocery store and some woman came
03:16
up to kirby as people do in grocery
03:18
stores go why aren't you at school or
03:19
you know what grade are you in
03:21
so she came up and said something you
03:23
Kirby about this is this is not a school
03:26
day or something and Marty who was
03:28
sitting in the cart went where we
03:30
homeschool very excited I thought Marty
03:33
Marty homeschooled so I said so Marty
03:36
you know when she's the woman was
03:37
Narcisa you think you're gonna stay home
03:39
and he said yeah I mean I'm not gonna go
03:40
to school next year but we always for
03:42
the first several years kept it like
03:44
every year is like do you want to go to
03:46
school you and try school too and stay
03:47
home so as always the kids choice and I
03:49
thought that was really important
03:50
because one of the worst things about
03:52
school is that the children don't have a
03:54
choice and the parents will further
03:57
compound that lack of choice by saying
04:00
we have no choice you have to go if you
04:03
don't go to school we'll be in trouble
04:04
with the government my parents told me
04:05
that they'll put us in jail if you don't
04:07
go to school so not only I didn't have a
04:09
choice but my parents are sure to me
04:10
they didn't have a choice so you're two
04:12
layers down and helplessness and so I
04:15
didn't want that to happen with my kids
04:17
there are many things about school that
04:18
you know it should be a do not try this
04:19
at home situation for homeschoolers so I
04:22
thought they need to have a choice and
04:24
my daughter I thought well she might
04:27
want to go to school
04:27
showing to show off her clothes she's
04:29
that kind of Kid Flash still and and she
04:33
when the time came she said no and stay
04:34
home too so for me that was a position
04:37
of mmm self-righteous strength that's
04:39
not a good
04:40
I'm sure there's a better term for
04:41
self-righteous strength confidence yes
04:43
that's it that the kids had chosen it
04:46
and it wasn't it wasn't in a tricky
04:48
punitive way it wasn't like you made
04:50
your bed you know it wasn't you it was
04:51
your idea I was like I'm willing to do
04:53
this if you want to do it and that made
04:55
a huge difference because we were around
04:57
some families the kids would have liked
04:58
to have gone to school in the parents
04:59
said no school is terrible and evil and
05:01
you must stay young so
05:08
periodically I'd have neighbor kids who
05:11
try and convince me until they'd be like
05:12
you know I meet all these cool kids and
05:14
we learn all these neat things and I
05:16
mean honestly when I was seven I was
05:18
like I don't want to get up at 6:00 in
05:19
the morning that sounds awful why why
05:21
would you do that to yourself but I came
05:25
to realize that I was already meeting
05:27
these really cool people and learning
05:29
all these really neat things that really
05:30
it would just be a different route
05:40
no not particularly
05:42
in my current day and age people are
05:46
generally shocked when they find out
05:47
that I was home-schooled or or on school
05:49
even they they they tell me and I could
05:52
I could have easily fooled them I I
05:53
blend in very very well with normal
05:56
normal people normal Society
05:59
no I don't I don't feel like I missed
06:01
out on anything at all
06:08
I used to do a workshop regular workshop
06:12
called that's not educational and it was
06:14
a challenge and I had prizes and I would
06:16
have people in the audience name
06:17
something that they thought was not
06:18
educational then I would tell them what
06:20
was educational about it but years have
06:22
passed I don't like the term educational
06:24
anymore I don't like education I avoid
06:26
that in favor of learning because just
06:30
as schooling has a curriculum and of
06:31
course and we want you to learn this and
06:33
this they they create a an object and
06:37
everything else is field or trivia or
06:39
not on the test so I think the same
06:43
thing happens with education this is
06:44
part of your education this is
06:46
educational and then there are things
06:48
that are not educational so is still you
06:50
get the object in the field and that can
06:52
be a problem for natural learning so
06:54
sometimes I will say well of course it's
06:56
educational everything is educational
06:57
but even as I'm saying and I don't like
06:59
that I'm playing that game that I'm
07:03
talking about what is educational also
07:07
people talk about having an education as
07:10
though there is one special one and now
07:12
you have all of it previously you had
07:14
nothing now you have an education you
07:17
want to see my I'll show you mine so I
07:21
don't like the question but the
07:24
difference between school and education
07:26
and learning is that learning can become
07:32
all the things that anyone expected of
07:33
Education but learning doesn't separate
07:37
educational from non educational and I
07:39
think no matter what a person learns no
07:41
matter how trivial not on the test it
07:43
seems at the beginning it eventually can
07:46
tie into something or become useful or
07:48
make that person interesting give them
07:50
their own unique perspective and I think
07:54
any ideas of that's not scholarly that's
07:57
not schoolish that's not educational
08:00
separate a person from the world
08:07
i navigate terminology all the time and
08:11
i help other people do that because when
08:13
people when people write I mostly deal
08:16
with people in writing message boards
08:18
and live text chats and that sort of
08:21
thing when people write something and
08:24
then they want to take it back that's
08:26
hugely illuminating so sometimes the
08:29
words that people use is not confusing
08:31
it's clarifying and so someone will say
08:34
well I would do that but my Styles lazy
08:36
and the response might be something like
08:39
well maybe the relationship between your
08:40
and your son isn't as good as it could
08:42
be maybe it'd be better if you didn't
08:43
think he was lazy and she well I didn't
08:45
think he's lazy and thanks to the
08:47
marbles have cut and paste we can say
08:49
look you just chose this word typed it
08:52
decided to send it to a thousand
08:53
strangers somewhere in see inside you
08:56
you think your child is lazy and then
08:58
she goes whoa I didn't even know I
08:59
didn't even know I wrote that and that's
09:02
even in writing what people say verbally
09:05
when they're tired or hungry or you know
09:09
not not really thinking carefully can be
09:12
hugely revealing of the problems they
09:15
have the disconnect they have between
09:17
the kind of person they want to be and
09:20
the kind they are or or what will or
09:23
will not help their child to develop in
09:25
a peaceful way my husband says that his
09:28
goal was to have our children grow up
09:31
undamaged but that was pretty decent
09:34
because it covers all sorts of fields
09:37
school and traditional parenting can do
09:39
all just casual casual and unrelenting
09:43
damage that people don't even think
09:45
about they don't want to think about it
09:46
because they like the comfort of
09:49
thinking they have to do this I have no
09:50
choice we had to do this and it's it
09:55
buries sins and many layers of damage so
10:00
the idea that that we'd make choices
10:03
that cause them not to be damaged was
10:05
easy it's it's just you know you walk
10:08
along you have a choice which one's more
10:10
damaging for me that was his measure
10:13
mine was which helps them learn more
10:16
from which experience will they learn
10:20
which is not to say we always chose the
10:22
unfamiliar one because the most familiar
10:23
is nice but sometimes if you've done the
10:26
same thing five times it's nice to do
10:28
the other thing and I didn't force them
10:30
to do things I chose to be persuasive I
10:33
did a lot of singing and dancing about
10:35
this will be really fun let's do this
10:36
and I was pretty good at luring them
10:40
toward other things I always thought it
10:51
was important because she would always
10:52
encourage our interests in our likes but
10:57
then she would always make a point to
10:58
also introduce new ideas or new
11:00
opportunities which i think is really
11:03
key to a lot of it because people can't
11:06
end it's it's human nature to continue
11:09
down this familiar path and people can
11:10
get into a rut where maybe they're not
11:13
expanding their horizons necessarily and
11:16
so you it's it's beneficial to have
11:19
someone introduce these new ideas to
11:21
spark new interests so I the first
11:25
question I left something out um you had
11:27
asked about resources and I talked about
11:29
the families I knew which is awesome
11:31
resource but I did want to say something
11:32
about that can I do that and in the
11:35
night mid 1980s there was a lot of
11:37
homeschooling talk and a lot of it was
11:38
school at home and Christian curriculum
11:40
based homeschooling but the young
11:44
schoolers they're less structured
11:46
schooling I should leave those up there
11:49
huh there's that book sorry ignore all
11:53
of that I can't be having my glasses on
11:54
and off on and off that would be
11:56
distracting bad for editing yeah okay so
12:02
mmm there was a lot written and a lot
12:04
done for Christian home schoolers the
12:06
secular informal people who were doing
12:10
basically the open classroom kind of
12:13
homeschooling the only resource was
12:16
growing without schooling magazine and
12:17
came out every two months and it had
12:20
letters from home schoolers as a large
12:23
part of what they had in a few articles
12:25
and when we were first homeschooling
12:27
there were still writings by John Holt
12:29
in there but he died before too many
12:32
years but
12:33
still it was the only thing we had so I
12:35
would wait two months read it
12:36
cover-to-cover including the little one
12:37
ads about who wanted other families to
12:39
visit them and including the publication
12:42
notes and then I would wait two months
12:45
for another one and time passed few
12:50
years later there were message board
12:52
bulletin boards not even message boards
12:53
like the original leave a note for other
12:57
people on the Internet
12:58
deals and the discussion that I first
13:01
got into on prodigy had 80 families or
13:08
so and most of them were Christian
13:10
school at homers I was only only
13:13
unschooling person who wrote regularly
13:16
there are a few other people who were
13:17
fairly unstructured but I would get
13:20
jumped on because I was willing to stand
13:21
up so I would they would say well you
13:23
have to do this or the kids will never
13:24
learn and I would quote John Holt or
13:27
quote something from the school reform
13:29
research of the 60s well up but but they
13:31
did this study and proved this and
13:33
they're like shut up you you know wait
13:35
we don't like we don't like your kind so
13:37
that was a little inspiring for me
13:39
actually it's like oh this is not gonna
13:41
be easy to make this point I have to
13:42
actually really think about it and be
13:43
really clear about it and quick because
13:46
they're about to get me and so I also
13:49
got to know their arguments and their
13:51
justifications from being in those
13:53
discussions so for a couple of years
13:55
that's all there was
13:56
and then AOL came up with the forum
13:59
discussed three dollars an hour to be
14:01
online measured in seconds so people
14:04
would get their email there was a
14:05
program for you to grab all your email
14:07
and download it and at three dollars an
14:11
hour there would be discussions online
14:12
lifetime discussions I used to run one
14:14
so that was the way Al was making their
14:16
money partly is to get people in there
14:17
and stay online but there are message
14:19
boards and those were those were nice
14:22
those were really nice because we could
14:24
divide it into topics and at first all
14:27
of the home schoolers were in there
14:29
together and the unschoolers were oddly
14:31
pushed away and then it was like they
14:34
would they would push us out of the
14:37
society of home schoolers and then they
14:39
would come in secret and ask us
14:40
questions
14:42
and that and that pattern continues to
14:44
this week because on the list I'm on
14:47
someone said well you guys have really
14:48
good ideas so so she's baked has
14:51
basically built up a bad situation with
14:54
her teenager years of not taking our
14:56
advice now it's this problem and she
14:59
wants us to help her untangle it so
15:01
there was always that idea that the
15:02
unschoolers knew stuff and we're
15:06
creative thinkers and could help other
15:07
people with resources so the people who
15:11
said we don't want to hear what you're
15:12
saying because we're telling our kids
15:13
what to do and when to do it and you're
15:15
disturbing the peace as soon as they had
15:17
a problem where needed something that
15:19
they couldn't find that go where the
15:20
unschoolers were and say could you guys
15:22
help me so that's one thing the
15:24
unschoolers always kind of took pride in
15:25
flattering it it's like well you guys
15:28
are the smart ones so help me untangle
15:30
this
15:35
I don't think that what unschoolers do
15:38
will affect schools very quickly for one
15:42
thing what we do came out of schools
15:43
came out of school research in school
15:45
reformers in the late 60s and early 70s
15:47
and at the time there were a lot of lab
15:50
schools connected with universities
15:51
where they were testing these ideas
15:53
about natural learning about optimized
15:56
learning about individualized learning
15:58
and they set up all these really cool
16:00
experiments which worked really well in
16:03
the lab schools and then they went out
16:06
and wrote books about the open classroom
16:08
Albuquerque was kind of a hotbed of that
16:10
the professors who wrote the book that
16:12
was called the open classroom where at
16:13
the University of New Mexico and the
16:16
Albuquerque Public Schools built
16:18
buildings they got floor plans and built
16:22
entire facilities based on the ideas of
16:25
the open classroom other places did too
16:27
and the idea was have have a place where
16:32
kids can read in the way they want to
16:34
recessed lighting soft places to sit
16:36
privacy where they can sit how they want
16:39
to let them take the books outside and
16:40
read don't make them city to hard desk
16:41
and hold it like this have a science
16:43
center with real animals and plants
16:45
growing and rocks to touch and that that
16:49
kind of became hands-on museums later on
16:51
but at the toe instead of everything in
16:53
a glass box you know I have things that
16:54
kids can pick up but they wanted a room
16:57
like that in every school in every
16:58
elementary school in the history room
17:00
have pictures photos objects not just
17:05
not just books and and deal with the
17:08
history of the local group the history
17:09
of the town history of the kids in the
17:11
room and fix it so that the kids can go
17:14
from activity to activity on their own
17:15
time somewhat and the teachers what the
17:18
way it worked is the teachers had a
17:20
checklist of what the children needed
17:22
know in nine months and then if if a kid
17:25
hadn't done any math and it's March the
17:28
teachers would find some way to engage
17:30
him in math board games or something so
17:33
that they could checklist their deal but
17:35
that's how that was set up to work and
17:37
they proved that it worked really well I
17:39
mean all of their stats were good then
17:41
they took that into public schools and
17:43
it failed horribly just possess
17:47
the teachers didn't like it the parents
17:49
didn't know what was going on
17:51
the kids went crazy and tore up the
17:52
materials and it was abandoned wherever
17:56
it was tried it was abandoned within a
17:57
couple of years because the children
18:02
didn't have any choice the kids in the
18:05
lab schools were either self-selected or
18:08
their parents were education professors
18:11
or professors at the University or
18:13
people who wanted their kids in that
18:15
school or grad students kids the
18:17
children of grad students and so they
18:18
knew they were in a cool school they
18:20
were in a special school they were in a
18:21
fun school and all of the people who
18:23
were teaching there wanted to do that
18:25
they self-selected themselves to be
18:28
doing alternative education no one was
18:29
drafted no one was there against their
18:32
will no one was there just for the
18:33
paycheck looking at the clock and the
18:38
whole situation was so enriched and so
18:40
elevated because of the excitement of
18:42
the people who designed it and because
18:45
they wanted to see what the results were
18:46
so they were totally totally paying
18:49
attention to every child that it it was
18:52
it was a special situation a
18:54
self-selected situation where the
18:55
parents liked the fact that their
18:57
children were in this program and and
19:00
the kids thought it was cool and they
19:02
were getting to go to work with their
19:03
parents you know they were at the same
19:04
facility where their parents pretty much
19:06
worked so they take that to the public
19:09
school some of the parents never like to
19:10
school themselves they thought school
19:11
was stupid they're only doing this
19:13
because they have to the kids don't
19:15
really want to be there so the teachers
19:18
who went to work for a paycheck and
19:20
would like to do as little as possible
19:21
to get this paycheck are now told we're
19:23
changing everything from now on that
19:26
easy thing you used to do read the
19:28
chapter and answer the questions that's
19:30
gone from now on you have to be creative
19:32
and interesting you have to keep track
19:34
of each child separately it'll be fun
19:36
and they said I don't think it'll be fun
19:38
I don't even get it I don't even know
19:40
what you're talking about
19:40
they didn't hire me to run a science lab
19:43
with real animals and and the parents at
19:47
home went what he doesn't have homework
19:49
what I don't know what you're talking
19:52
about just teach him just give him
19:53
homework and stop making me come down
19:55
there and make cookies and feed the frog
19:58
so there was just wild resent
20:01
and confusion then they put it on kids
20:03
who hated school they didn't want to go
20:06
to school they wanted to do as little as
20:08
possible now they said look live frogs
20:10
and you know uh and things got torn up
20:13
and they said you can read wherever you
20:14
want to so the kids crawled into the
20:15
cubby holes and fell asleep or you know
20:18
it just was pandemonium and so that was
20:22
abandoned because it wasn't working and
20:23
it didn't work because people didn't
20:25
have choices which is a good point for
20:30
unschooling because if you try to force
20:31
someone to learn on his own and have fun
20:34
do it now because I said so it doesn't
20:36
work maybe they want that structure you
20:38
have to draw them into the little happy
20:41
land enjoyment of it which is fairly
20:43
easy to do if you want to do it so if
20:46
the government said all right we're
20:48
running experiment half of people who
20:50
were homeschooling must use a curriculum
20:51
and the other half must be unschoolers
20:53
and we're gonna track you for 12 years
20:55
and then we're gonna tell you which one
20:56
works best
20:57
none of it would work any more
21:05
no no partly because i could design a
21:11
better one that i could buy their
21:12
expensive now there used to be some you
21:14
could buy for $300 a year you know
21:16
meaning one child one year school in a
21:19
box school in a box came from Calvert
21:21
curriculum which I think was designed
21:23
for missionary kids like if your family
21:27
lived in some other country totally you
21:29
could buy third grade and they sent you
21:31
even the pencils the pencils and papers
21:33
are there assuming you're in the Congo
21:35
or somewhere and you know the Amazon and
21:38
you're gonna get this box that's all
21:39
you're gonna get so they stiver ties in
21:42
the back of National Geographic and I
21:45
used to read those ads when I was a kid
21:47
and read every word of every book I was
21:49
reading in the back National Geographic
21:50
you never say Calvert homeschool and it
21:53
had a little shield and it was all like
21:54
very dignified and I used to think this
21:57
must be for kids who are are so
22:01
misshapen or you know something so
22:04
horribly wrong with them their parents
22:05
can't take them out in the sunshine and
22:07
they live in the room of some big house
22:10
and they they teach them at home because
22:13
they can't go outside and I just
22:17
imagined some poor kid you know some
22:19
Elephant Man kid you had to learn at
22:22
school and at home but I thought that
22:24
was interesting but then Christians came
22:26
along Christian home schoolers there was
22:28
a huge fad in the 80s and they started
22:30
making competing sets of materials and
22:33
it started getting expensive
22:34
and some of those I think he paid twelve
22:37
hundred dollars for one year of an
22:40
elementary school deal and when the
22:43
parents have spent that much money they
22:44
want to finish it they want to do it
22:46
they they've just paid money on the
22:48
assumption that someone knows more about
22:49
it than they do and so they try to force
22:51
their child to do that ruin is the
22:53
relationship between the parents and
22:54
child it ruins a child's ability to
22:57
believe that he could learn anything on
22:58
his own not that that was the parent
23:00
school it keeps the parent from knowing
23:03
or caring what the kid is doing really
23:05
as long as the kid finishes the
23:06
assignment the parent doesn't often
23:08
doesn't doesn't necessarily need to sit
23:11
and do that with them and although some
23:12
parents do but a lot of parents won't
23:14
really help the child because they're
23:15
not seeing it as a learning opportunity
23:17
they're seeing it as or
23:18
acquirement finished this so I can stamp
23:21
it so we never have to look at it again
23:22
as long as we live so the parent relives
23:24
their own schooling in another negative
23:27
way they don't like it they're resentful
23:28
they're complaining
23:29
I think it's twice through school for
23:32
the parents and never through school for
23:34
the kids I wouldn't touch it with a
23:36
ten-foot ball
23:43
um now most the time when the kids in
23:47
the neighborhood would have a bunch of
23:48
homework they would just talk about how
23:51
much how much they hated it for the most
23:52
part and they would they would be
23:54
envious of my my lack of homework and
23:57
sometimes they would they would ask for
23:58
my help with their homework just to see
24:00
if I knew what I was talking about which
24:02
granted a lot of time I didn't I was
24:04
like no that was that language of math
24:07
is frightening in for and what what are
24:09
you talking about granted when when I
24:12
needed to pick up that language it
24:14
wasn't that it wasn't that hard I just
24:16
got to the point where I needed to know
24:17
it then I learned it no we didn't come
24:24
up all that much outside of like once I
24:27
get this finished then we can go play
24:29
baseball okay
24:32
it was it was an obstacle yeah but I can
24:39
remember I think all of my kids like
24:41
Holly definitely and you once you know
24:43
where kids would come over go ID you
24:44
have to do this homework first before we
24:46
can play so we'll I'll help you they
24:49
would figure it out it was like what's
24:50
this mean what's this mean they would
24:51
talk them through it and then get it
24:52
done and then go play yeah if they could
24:54
explain what how it was supposed to be
24:56
done to be like oh okay well that makes
24:57
sense then you just do this
25:04
uh we there was a school bus to the zoo
25:07
or something there was like a company
25:09
picnic but we used to with Holly we used
25:12
to drive down Park it to middle school
25:14
when when school is gonna start so was
25:17
it in the car watch the kids arrive and
25:19
go into the classrooms in the bell would
25:20
ring tardo would ring to me go home and
25:22
so I wasn't riding the bus there but I
25:24
would take it there and then we would go
25:25
in the afternoon be sitting there so we
25:29
can see the door here the bell rings see
25:31
the kids come out and one day she sat on
25:34
the bench right by the door and it
25:36
reminded me of the movie unbreakable
25:38
when he stands in Grand Central Station
25:40
with his hands out and she just sat on
25:42
that bench where the kids float around
25:44
her and so she would hear the
25:46
conversations to see them up close and
25:48
that was really fun for her just to be
25:50
that close to them in their natural
25:52
state but it was the getting out of
25:55
school state which is the best state and
25:58
she knew some kids there so they go hey
26:00
Holly you know there were four or five
26:01
kids there she knew and we went several
26:04
times and once Cameron lovejoy another
26:06
an older unschooled kid was visiting us
26:08
and we drove her down there and then I
26:11
we need to pick something up or I need
26:13
the bathroom something so he said Holly
26:14
can you stay here we'll go and come back
26:15
she said sure so that was exciting for
26:17
her to be there by herself but she she
26:20
talked about maybe going to school but
26:22
she talked to friends and she was she
26:23
would be like I want to I don't want to
26:24
and she ended up not going but that was
26:27
part of her decision-making process was
26:28
what do I want you know what do you want
26:31
to do about this she had gone to school
26:32
in England two and a half days in
26:35
uniform and everything visiting a friend
26:36
and that was fun for her but it's so you
26:38
know when you're a visitor you get more
26:39
attention and you don't really have to
26:41
do anything she had a lot of stories
26:43
about that and she took nickels to give
26:44
them for souvenirs you know big American
26:47
money and she she just had so many
26:50
stories but she was learning about
26:51
school in a way an anthropologist learns
26:53
about a different culture she wasn't
26:54
really in the school but it was fun for
26:57
her and she went to school one day in
26:59
Albuquerque too for an all-day you know
27:02
all day go to lunch so she was she was
27:04
always an observer of school and very
27:06
interested in school
27:12
sometimes people ask me if I think the
27:14
school should be destroyed if I think
27:16
everyone should have two home schools
27:17
like no I don't think everyone should
27:18
have two I don't think everyone wants to
27:21
and if you don't want to you will botch
27:23
it I don't I think schools are fine I
27:28
had a great time at school because it
27:29
was better than my home and I think
27:31
schools should be there I think schools
27:33
should probably loosen up and not think
27:34
they're God's gift to everyone's
27:35
intellect because they're not I think
27:38
people who want to home-school really
27:41
want to can probably figure out a way to
27:43
do it there are obstacles divorce is a
27:46
big obstacle poverty it's probably the
27:50
biggest obstacle negativity can kill it
27:56
I'm talking about unschooling I think
27:58
there's and negativity is inherent
28:01
I believe in school at home I don't
28:05
think you can March step your child
28:07
through thirteen years of lessons and
28:09
not have a lot of negativity flowing
28:14
between you and against school and
28:16
against people who aren't making their
28:17
kids do that work because we we get that
28:20
we get people who people whose kids are
28:23
in schools and times are critical of
28:25
home schoolers but all the rest the home
28:26
schoolers are critical of the
28:27
unschoolers because we're not we're
28:30
making them look bad so like my parents
28:32
said you have to go to school or I'll be
28:34
in trouble I believed that didn't know
28:38
they could have ordered Calvert
28:39
curriculum for me so I accepted that as
28:44
a sad fact of life when home schoolers
28:47
take their kids out the neighbors are
28:49
like well they don't have to go to
28:51
school now the parents I don't have any
28:53
choice Falls but they say well what
28:56
they're doing schoolwork too and they're
28:57
taking tests too and they're don't you
29:00
like school because you don't have to
29:01
sit at home with your mom all the time
29:02
and get to meet kids so there's still
29:04
that kind of balance but then the people
29:07
who are doing school at home are telling
29:09
their kids well you have to do these
29:10
lessons there's no choice you have to
29:11
take this test there's no choice and the
29:14
neighbors down in the next house are
29:16
playing video games and so they say you
29:20
people are lazy your kids aren't
29:21
learning anything you can't believe
29:22
you're doing that you're making us look
29:24
bad so
29:26
their claim and their belief the basis
29:28
of their reasoning is belied by the fact
29:31
that someone else is not doing that and
29:32
then we're another step further I am
29:36
unwilling to sacrifice my children's
29:38
happiness to appease some stranger other
29:41
parents but the going practice it's
29:50
common for people to do that to be
29:53
carried long on the stream of parental
29:56
habit and to do what the neighbors are
29:59
doing and do what other friends of
30:02
theirs say they should be doing and it's
30:04
a shame because the same parents will
30:06
say well if your friend jumped off a
30:07
cliff would you - kids their friends are
30:10
jumping off cliffs and they're jumping
30:11
off the same cliff because they care
30:13
more about what these neighbors and
30:15
friends and co-workers and relatives
30:17
think than with their child thinks
30:27
I don't think everyone who wants to
30:29
'unschool will be successful at it some
30:31
people can't relax some people are not
30:32
creative some people are not imaginative
30:34
some people are so controlling that if
30:38
something happens that they didn't plan
30:40
and execute they're not having fun
30:42
anymore when kids do that they're
30:44
considered to be bad sports and you know
30:47
spoiled kids who need to be nice and
30:49
consider other people's feelings when
30:51
adults do that they justify it and say I
30:53
was just being good parent but unless
30:56
they can share the stage unless they can
30:58
share the decision-making and the
31:00
planning with a child who might just
31:02
want to stay home all day they won't get
31:04
it
31:05
they won't happen and I deal with
31:07
unschoolers every day every day who say
31:10
well I tried it for a while but it
31:12
didn't work meaning I didn't really try
31:15
it and I'm not going to because they
31:17
just can't stop they they're looking at
31:21
their children they're looking at the
31:23
world and their children through school
31:24
colored glasses and they're willing to
31:27
do other things as long as the result
31:29
looks like school and they need to turn
31:32
their back on that and look at the world
31:33
a whole new way but that's so much work
31:36
it's such a change in the parents that
31:39
some people are unwilling to do it they
31:40
don't want to change they don't to be
31:42
inconvenienced they don't want it to
31:44
take any longer than it would have taken
31:45
to drive their kid to school away from
31:46
to come back and pick them up no more
31:48
than that and they don't want the hours
31:49
outside of that to change a bit it's
31:52
like okay well then you can't so if
31:54
that's the question whether everyone can
31:55
unschool hardly anyone can unschool
31:58
because they have to be willing to
31:59
change their beliefs and their lifestyle
32:03
it is it is they have to change the way
32:07
they see children and some people don't
32:10
want to do that one time I think I'm
32:13
pretty sure it was in a text chat but
32:15
Pam sure she and I were in the same
32:16
place and someone asked there must have
32:19
been chat because we both asked at the
32:20
same time someone said how many hours a
32:23
week does this take and one of us wrote
32:26
all of them and one of us wrote none of
32:29
them or is like zero or 24 or something
32:32
and it was an awesome perfect man it was
32:36
awesome because it takes all of your
32:39
life how many
32:40
hours you have to do school yeah what
32:42
you don't have to do school and so of
32:45
course we get called lazy I have a thing
32:47
that I made up as a goof a couple of
32:49
years ago Holly had made a really nice
32:51
piece of art for it just learned nothing
32:53
day and I put it on my birthday just
32:55
because I figured I have partial
32:57
ownership of that day and I knew there
32:58
wasn't much else going on except in Utah
33:01
they have Pioneer Day that parades to
33:03
celebrate the the people who walked over
33:05
from Illinois or wherever they came from
33:07
and so I know and in Utah everybody's
33:11
learning because they all dress up and
33:12
go talk about pioneer day but everybody
33:14
else was doing nothing on my birthday
33:16
and so I figured that would be a good
33:18
day to say take this day off and it was
33:24
a goof but some other people have
33:26
written some really good things about
33:27
their attempts to do that or their
33:29
discussions about doing that up to that
33:31
point people used to say well we can't
33:33
learn all the time every day and I would
33:36
say we only have to do it 180 days the
33:39
other 185 days or days off just so don't
33:42
worry if there's a day you didn't do
33:43
anything special don't worry about it
33:45
but I think it's more effective to say
33:49
okay just unlearn nothing day don't
33:52
learn anything and on the you're on the
33:53
other days learn something because the
33:55
cool thing is when they try to learn
33:57
nothing they see that that's not
33:58
possible
33:59
they start pointing out all the things
34:01
like oh I'd learned this this and this
34:03
today oh man that without that joke
34:07
without that cover for it they wouldn't
34:09
have seen the day so clearly but every
34:13
year some or somebody or five without
34:17
any sense of humor and with very little
34:19
knowledge of natural learning will write
34:21
me insulting notes sometimes in public
34:24
sometimes in private and they'll say
34:26
well why would you do this or in
34:28
schoolers never learn anything anyway
34:30
well why do you need a special day to do
34:31
what you do every day it's like thank
34:33
you very much
34:34
and so that's amusing too to see to see
34:38
the perception of unschoolers that
34:40
they're that they're doing nothing just
34:42
goofing around
34:49
not specifically no I feel like I've
34:53
like I'm pretty well prepared for
34:55
anything that comes along my way
34:57
sometimes I mean there will be times
35:01
where like I maybe don't understand one
35:03
subject particularly well but I know I
35:06
have the resources I know that everybody
35:08
has the resources to get it particularly
35:09
with the Internet these days like you
35:11
can you can get anything you need and I
35:15
have a good pool of people that I can go
35:18
to to get their opinions and their ideas
35:21
on anything that I don't know that much
35:24
about it's no I I wouldn't change
35:26
anything which sounds kind of hokey but
35:29
I feel well prepared I'm not concerned
35:34
at all confident in my ability I mean in
35:38
particular with unschooling it's more
35:39
like you've been submerged into the real
35:41
world from the get-go I mean granted I
35:43
started I started my first job when I
35:46
was 14 years old so I guess I was kind
35:48
of thrown into the real world invited
35:51
politely and I was invited funny
35:54
yeah it was great they're like we want
35:56
you to do this job oh sweet oh now we
35:58
have to pay for this job I mean I I
36:04
guess I kind of started a little earlier
36:06
than than some kids do but so long as
36:09
something I say they go out they can
36:12
they're already in the real world they
36:13
just have to realize it
36:23
I would tell them I would I would tell
36:25
them to read about it anytime if anyone
36:26
has come and asked me about it I refer
36:28
them to the number of web sites of
36:30
course her Ferno mothers website joyce
36:32
Federalist website and it's I just tell
36:35
them to to research it so they can
36:38
determine they can make an educated
36:40
decision on it most of the time the
36:43
reason why they're hesitant about is
36:44
because they just don't they don't know
36:45
or they fear the unknown and so they
36:47
they fear this big change that they're
36:49
considering and the more that they
36:51
understand it the easier it'll be for
36:52
them I understand their fear sometimes
36:59
when someone is afraid I mean I have
37:00
some little tricks to shake them into
37:03
not being as stuck as they are sometimes
37:05
when someone is thinking about taking
37:07
their child out of school and they're
37:08
like yeah but yeah but yeah but yeah but
37:09
this is not like moving to Mars you'll
37:11
still be in the same house you still be
37:13
talking on the same phone you called me
37:15
on it's just if it's just they won't be
37:19
in school when I had friends who were
37:21
teachers I had a lot of teacher friends
37:23
cuz I've been a teacher and sometimes
37:25
they would ask me well what are you
37:27
gonna do if blah what are you gonna do
37:28
but if this and I would say well as long
37:31
as it's working we're gonna keep doing
37:32
this but I said but if it quits working
37:35
I'll put him in school and a special ed
37:37
teachers will get him right caught up
37:38
you know caught up right away and I
37:41
don't say that again cuz I mess it up if
37:44
this stops working we can put him in
37:45
school and the special ed teachers will
37:47
get him caught right up and every single
37:49
time I said they're like three different
37:51
friends of mine went they just blanched
37:53
you know it's like oh my god special
37:56
like like they think for a second I'm
37:58
serious and one of them was an
37:59
award-winning special ed teacher and
38:01
then because though they know that
38:03
that's not what special ed does and so
38:06
the point is made that there are kids in
38:08
school who get sidetracked into a place
38:11
where they are not gonna recover and
38:13
that my kids will be fine and it's like
38:17
oh yeah okay you're right
38:18
so they just sort of asked the question
38:20
there are there are dialogues that
38:22
people have and phrases that people have
38:23
that they just say it's like somebody
38:25
wound them up and pushed their button
38:27
and they say things like well what are
38:29
you gonna do about high school and the
38:30
questions that the home schoolers have
38:32
heard a thousand times there it's like
38:34
it's not like they have 500 different
38:36
questions
38:37
different questions same-same a few
38:39
questions so people will just ask those
38:41
questions the same way that people will
38:43
see a little kid and they'll say hi
38:45
what's your name blah
38:47
where do you go to school block do you
38:49
like your teacher blah what's your
38:51
favorite subject but and then they're
38:53
out they don't know anything else to ask
38:55
them but it happens with kids too we had
38:59
we moved to a new neighborhood when
39:01
Kirby was 11 and Holly was 5 mmm that
39:05
doesn't make sense how old are you 10
39:08
makes noises
39:09
she turned 6 right after we moved and
39:11
there was a neighbour family just right
39:13
across across the cold a second they had
39:15
boys about our boys ages and that was
39:16
very hopeful I thought that could be fun
39:19
but the kids didn't hit it off and
39:22
partly from the very beginning it was
39:24
where to go to school we don't what
39:27
grade are you in
39:28
I don't know I don't I think I would be
39:31
in and so the kids kind of froze up
39:35
because they didn't know how to treat
39:37
these other kids I didn't know how to
39:39
act once when I was teaching seventh
39:41
grade there was a Halloween sock hop
39:44
dance in the gym and I requested dance
39:48
duty because I was young and could stand
39:50
rock and roll better than basketball so
39:51
I would always Sal do dances and the
39:53
older teachers would say good and so for
39:56
this one I hung back and I put on a
39:58
costume and I was dressed in such a way
40:01
that nothing none of me showed and I was
40:04
dressed in such shows dress as an alien
40:05
and so I didn't it didn't show gender
40:08
and I was thin and young then and not
40:10
too bumpy and so I had you know I based
40:13
it with you know something tight and
40:15
then put this loose stuff over it and I
40:17
went down to the gym and I thought this
40:19
would be fun it turned out not to be fun
40:21
for anyone and it was that day I learned
40:25
a lot that has helped me since the
40:27
principal didn't know how to act to me
40:29
the teachers did not act and the kids
40:31
did not act and I was trying to pull
40:33
people out to dance no one would dance
40:34
with me and it was interesting is I knew
40:37
these people very well and so for me to
40:39
look through I had a big helmet with
40:40
heavy plastic eyes they couldn't see me
40:44
and I could see them and every one of
40:47
them I could see it going through their
40:48
eyes do i outrank this person is this up
40:50
first not ranked me is this a male or a
40:53
female and they didn't know how to act
40:55
then one could recognize my wristwatch
40:58
so then they were fine now relax like
41:01
okay I know her she's goofy she dresses
41:03
like an alien we're fine now and so I
41:07
saw that with those kids with our
41:09
neighbor kids that day it's it's if they
41:12
would just state you know their their
41:15
rank I would know how to act it didn't
41:22
really faze me I just knew kids didn't
41:23
really yeah those kids were not
41:25
particularly social in my eyes because
41:28
they weren't interested in talking to me
41:30
and they weren't interested interest in
41:31
videogames so the boys invited them over
41:33
come over to look at our stuff we're
41:34
gonna play video games and not really
41:36
and so then there's like come over look
41:38
at our stuff swimming pool the
41:39
basketball and they're like okay that
41:41
was fun for a minute and so they just
41:43
weren't compatible with hobbies and
41:45
interests really oh and another question
41:47
that they asked him is who's your team
41:49
they were big football fans and they
41:52
didn't know the answer didn't even know
41:53
what sport they were talking about so
41:55
these kids thought my kids were a little
41:56
retarded because they didn't couldn't
41:58
answer who's your team and it just
42:01
didn't work out so I was always sad then
42:03
because they're those boys were right
42:05
there but they didn't like my boys and
42:06
my boys didn't want to invite them back
42:08
over munch there were a few forays and
42:11
attempts but within months within months
42:14
it was high as far as we got some
42:19
families wouldn't be willing to live
42:21
with that sort of sacrifice or
42:23
limitation that they that their kids
42:25
couldn't play with the neighbor kids
42:26
they would sacrifice the kids in a
42:28
different way and say we'll subject you
42:31
to all this schooling because then you
42:32
will be part of the great expansive herd
42:36
and then you'll have friends and you
42:38
know what they call having friends but I
42:41
was I was more concerned with them being
42:44
undamaged and learning then that they
42:48
that they followed the crowd the crowd
42:50
wasn't going to a very good place
42:52
not always
43:00
but I think I think children are only
43:02
there in the moment you can't guarantee
43:05
or even aim toward a future result there
43:12
was there's a famous story among
43:13
unschoolers among home schoolers years
43:15
ago about a family that had a chart and
43:17
the child's grandchild was young 6 or 8
43:19
and it led toward getting into Harvard
43:22
like in detail what you have to do this
43:24
year this year this year and without
43:28
regard to whether the kid wanted to but
43:30
when the result is so specific if the
43:32
child had gotten into Yale it would be a
43:34
failure if the parents are aiming for
43:37
the child to get a gold medal in the
43:39
Olympics and it's like you I'm sorry you
43:42
can't go out and play because the
43:44
Olympic chart says you need to practice
43:45
three hours a day what if they get a
43:47
silver medal what if they just change
43:48
sports or does they get a nobel prize
43:51
instead failure so I saw to set up the
43:54
world in such a way that there's one
43:56
pinpoint success and infinite failures
43:59
is damming your child to a life of
44:02
unhappiness even if they get the gold
44:03
medal even if they go to Harvard and do
44:06
exactly what you wanted them to do they
44:08
lost because you won and I think that's
44:12
a terrible thing to do to a child is to
44:14
say I I've lived my life and didn't like
44:17
the way it went so now I've reproduced
44:19
and you will live the life I wanted
44:26
when I first started I didn't have any
44:29
adults to see there was there were no
44:31
examples of grown unschoolers or home
44:34
schoolers really that I had seen and
44:38
they're grown without schooling families
44:40
mostly involved either young families
44:42
that had that had their children were
44:44
still young or families that took the
44:46
child out so my three children are one
44:50
of the only sets I know of who didn't go
44:53
to school and are now grown so I'm glad
44:56
to share them with people who would like
44:59
to see that you know will they will they
45:01
be okay well they grow up healthy and
45:04
communicative and what about
45:07
socialization and and that so it is it
45:11
is nice now that people have the
45:13
opportunity not just my kids this whole
45:15
conference is filled with kids who have
45:17
been unschooled always or homeschool
45:20
always it helps to have examples around
45:23
but parents can't live by those examples
45:25
always when they first start you may
45:27
have some families that you actually
45:29
know and trust as I did and I knew I
45:31
knew these families and I knew the kids
45:33
weren't faking that affection for their
45:35
parents those unschooling families but
45:38
once your own child starts to grow and
45:40
change then the confidence isn't
45:41
external it's not I believe this will
45:44
happen because I've seen it happen
45:44
elsewhere it's I believe it has it's
45:46
happening because it's happening you
45:48
can't deny that I know my child learned
45:51
this without school and so the the
45:54
confidence that those families then have
45:57
uses out to other families and this is
46:00
an advantage of those many years passing
46:02
is there's a lot of experience a lot of
46:05
examples to see it's kind of scary being
46:08
one of those examples actually in the
46:09
the TV and video game panel yesterday
46:11
after we were finished I had to rush out
46:13
afterwards but I was thinking about all
46:15
of the all the negative sides I was like
46:17
oh I should have said this or I
46:18
shouldn't have said that and oh I bet
46:20
they took this this way and it's all
46:21
terrible and oh man I sure hope I didn't
46:23
screw that up and then and then just
46:25
today people were telling me they're
46:26
like yeah that's exactly what I wanted
46:28
to hear that was good so it's it's
46:30
relieving to hear that because they're
46:33
like I'm the example and oh my god I
46:35
could really turn this around poorly for
46:37
everybody Oh
46:39
three pieces of paper here what if I
46:41
don't say everything
46:46
[Music]
46:52
I don't like arbitrary structure I don't
46:54
think structure for the sake of
46:56
structures is worth having or doing
47:00
people say things like people saying
47:02
people say if you don't make your kids
47:04
get up they'll never be able to have a
47:05
job how would they have a job Marty my
47:08
middle kid from the time he was 16 all
47:11
through his 17th year worked at a
47:12
grocery store
47:13
many long stories but but as far as time
47:16
goes his hours were 6:30 in the morning
47:18
to 3:00 in the afternoon he was late
47:21
once by about one minute we were walking
47:23
distance from the place he would get up
47:25
an hour early he had his little routine
47:26
when I woke up I could tell what time it
47:28
was if Marty already has his food or if
47:30
he's watching the news and the weather
47:32
he's that kind of guy so on his own he
47:36
had a serious structure I had nothing to
47:37
do with it we bought our kids alarm
47:39
clocks and if they needed to get up
47:40
they'd set their alarms and that's how
47:41
it was but Kirby if Marty hmm
47:45
Marty was able to do 6:30 in the morning
47:47
job if Kirby had prepared himself for
47:49
6:30 in the morning job he's never had
47:51
one business he's well gaming stores and
47:56
pizza joints don't open that early so
47:59
what's your schedule now - two in the
48:02
air 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 in the morning so
48:05
yes he has prepared himself for that
48:07
schedule his whole life that might
48:10
actually change person I might be doing
48:11
7 a.m. and I'm dreading every every
48:13
first job he had it was 8:00 in the
48:15
morning till noon running the Pokemon
48:16
League at the gaming store on Saturdays
48:18
and how often was I late I drove you so
48:22
you were never late yeah but how often
48:23
were you kicking my butt out the door
48:25
that didn't count
48:26
[Laughter]
48:30
personnel another thing Kirby did was
48:33
for a while was he woke up at 6 or 6:30
48:36
to record Ninja Turtles when you we were
48:39
at the new house seemed us been 12 or 13
48:41
so he was set his alarm got up set the
48:44
tape sometimes he stayed up to take the
48:48
commercials out and sometimes he went
48:49
back to bed but then he would mark the
48:52
tape see I still have those tapes
48:53
they're all marked in there you know and
48:56
his little kid writing of all the Ninja
48:57
Turtle cartoons I wouldn't stand for it
49:02
I should remember I had to set my alarm
49:08
clock on the other side of the room so I
49:09
wouldn't just hit snooze I had to get up
49:12
get across the room look back be like oh
49:13
the bed so far I hate so it was stress
49:15
sure but it wasn't parentally imposed
49:17
structure so I think it goes back to all
49:19
the unschooling they don't need to
49:21
practice to learn they they figured out
49:24
they figure out how to wake up by
49:26
putting the alarm clock across the room
49:27
to I got to do something they want to do
49:29
and when it's their ID and self
49:32
regulation you know what's wrong with
49:33
self-regulation it's regulation and and
49:37
regulate its terminology that it that
49:40
exposes what you think that what you
49:42
didn't think you were thinking people
49:44
talk about self control and self
49:45
regulation it's like I don't think
49:47
anyone needs to control or regulate them
49:49
not even themselves it's choices so if
49:52
he chose if any any day he could have
49:55
chosen not to set that alarm and not to
49:57
record that show so every day was a new
49:59
choice every day he could have chosen to
50:01
hit the alarm and get back in the bed
50:03
and not record it so as a series of
50:04
choices not the regulation need to make
50:07
rules for himself and he didn't control
50:10
himself he just made choices cause and
50:12
effect
50:12
every time I I needed this to happen so
50:15
I well yea you prefer to choose to
50:17
record it yeah I'm willing to quit I'm
50:24
willing to keep on going
50:27
[Laughter]
50:38
you