Unschooled Teens: How are they as People?
update with Holly nearly 16, Marty 18, Kirby 21 and moved away, it was never horrible, and has become better and better
October 2009 update: Holly nearly 18; others similarly older; still great.
Kathryn Baptista, on Julian and other teens, February 2005:
I find myself in the last legs of unschooling, and it's really very cool. Beth and I were talking last night about Julian, and we agreed that, after pulling him out of school after the third grade and plunging into unschooling, neither of us would have dreamed how amazing he would turn out: Kind, knowledgeable, fun and funny, scary smart, mature, competent....
Being unschooled has been an issue, as I'm sure you're aware of, with others. I just don't even discuss our way of unschooling vs. homeschooling. HOWEVER, in the past year I've never heard such compliments on my son.....how intelligently he speaks, how well versed he seems, etc. Thanks for your help in finding a great way for US, both David and me, to learn. What a difference it's made in David, in me, and in our relationship. AND as an added bonus, David's own personality, intelligence, and self worth is thriving like I never had imagined. Just had to share.
Winter 2006: I/Sandra wrote, bragging up how much Pam Sorooshian's three teen daughters knew and did:
It's not fair, it's not right, it's not totally true (but it might be a little bit true <bwg>, but my kids probably know as much as her kids do, it's just way more scattery.
Pam Sorooshian responded:
I guess we have some level of "kid envy" going <g> - but what I admire about Sandra's kids seems a lot more important than depth of knowledge about certain things. They are SO good-natured and nice and generous. They are incredibly quick-thinking and intelligent and interesting!
My kids are now sadly disappointed when they encounter "big kids" who "aren't nice like Holly and her brothers."
Sandra Dodd, June 7, 2003
Well, the same day I read that we were lazy hedonists, this happened:
The final day, graduation from the Junior Police Academy, they march in like soldiers, doing face drills and filing in and pledging allegiance (we briefed Marty on that this week; he said he knew it from a humorous version in the bathroom, just leave out the joke parts)...
Ceremonial this'n'that, certificates, pins, Marty was awarded a certificate as "Top Gun" (electronic target practice guns, F.A.T.S. and paintball guns) which also came with $15 gift certificate to a sporting goods store. Seven or eight other kids (of 32) got awards like most pushups, most improved, most physically fit male.
Of Marty, I thought "All that Nintendo Duck Hunt paid off."
Then we ate good local barbecue, served up by their instructors, and as people were taking pictures and saying goodbye, I went up to one of his instructors and sat to thank him. He said Marty was just a joy to work with. Chit chat you'd expect.
Then he said the big thing. (Brace yourselves. And I really like the guy.)
He said "You can always tell a kid who comes from a family with a lot of discipline, and rules.."
He said Marty was really well behaved and enthusiastic and cooperative. (I wish I had the exact quotes there; I wish I had VIDEOTAPE.)
I said "We hardly have any rules at our house. We just tell them to always make the best choice, to be helpful and not hurt people." (That's maybe 85% close to exact words; I need my audio back!)
He said they had talked about a lot of things like that over the week. I wanted to make light again, because it was maybe kinda tacky to counter "you can always tell" with "GOTCHA! Wrong! CAN'T always tell." So I said, "Y'know, Monday was really his first day at school of any sort. It was his first day taking notes or anything like that."
"Oh, right, he's homeschooled, right?"
"Most of the homeschooled kids I've met were not so good at social interactions. Marty's really confident and outgoing."
I told him he had gone home and re-written his notes from Monday, and had been really focused on his assignments and getting ready for the next day. He said "Initiative! Good!"
Probably there was nobody there who was as eager and excited to be there as Marty was. So we made some more sweet chitchat and that was it.
I could hardly wait to get into the van and close the doors so I could tell Keith, Marty and Holly what he had said about discipline and rules. We talked about that most of the way home. Holly can hardly believe that some people think that rules upon rules will make people "good" away from home. It just makes no sense to her.
Marty said one of the kids got in bad trouble this afternoon, threatened with being sent home, for throwing pieces of rubber at other kids, and for throwing paintballs. One broke on the exercise track. NOT at the targets, where the mess was supposed to be.
Marty couldn't fathom why someone would be at such a cool place and act that way.
But Marty had also told me there were two people there who hadn't even wanted to be there. I didn't ask (yet) whether this kid was one of those. Marty was exhausted when he got home and went to bed at 10:00.
This evidence is really important, that someone who works with kids a lot (Police Athletic League volunteer), someone who's in law enforcement, sees an enthusiastic, well-behaved, cooperative kid, and is confident that he came from a house with discipline and rules.
Discipline and rules? All-fired flaming hedonists? (Whatever the accusation was.)
Neither of the above.
An addition to that story:
On the way home we took him by the gaming shop where Kirby was painting miniatures, and the employees know Marty well, and four or five of the guys there gaming are regular friends of his. He was still in his academy uniform, and he wore his hat in, and we were showing around the photo of all the students and teachers posing in front of the police helicopter (already framed and on the wall now), and his certificate of completion, and his certificate as Top Gun.
Rhonda / RJHill wrote:
Sandra, you have such great kids!!! I was thinking about this concept the other day, after talking with a friend who is having difficulties with her four year old. She goes to preschool and the traits that were already driving my friend nuts are getting worse. So the topic of discipline and rules came up. People always assume that because kids like our house so much it must have something to do with our discipline and rules. I have agreed most of the time. The funny thing is, their idea of discipline and rules are nowhere like ours. Our rules are: have fun, enjoy yourself, be kind - not hateful or mean, never hurt each other physically and respect each other. The discipline is: if you can't be or do the aforementioned, then don't come over until you can. It's so simple and yet it seems people want it to be so much more about power and less about choices in being a decent human. So I guess we really do have rules and discipline, just not what are considered the standard of those. But really I don't know what would be the standard.
My friend is a gem, she and her hubby think my kids are the standard by which all kids should be measured. I warn them that my kids are just what they are because they are free to be so. Of course I slip in words of encouragement for their child and am really hoping they will choose to take her out of school. She goes three days a week now and I just hope for her sake they realize that the traits they dislike won't magically disappear as long as she attends any school.
Betsy Hill commented:
For Holly to believe a stupid rule, someone would have to program it into her *before* she had the life experience to contradict it. (In reference to " I could hardly wait to get into the van and close the doors so I could tell Keith, Marty and Holly what he had said about discipline and rules. We talked about that most of the way home. Holly can hardly believe that some people think that rules upon rules will make people "good" away from home. It just makes no sense to her.")
Betsy's point above is true. Teens who were always unschooled *know* things that other people don't know. My children, for example, know one can learn to read without being taught. They don't think it, kind of believe it, or have a theory about it. They know that it's possible to be honest and trust your parents. They know it's possible for a fourteen year old girl to hang out with her older brothers pleasantly and at their request. They understand why those with unlimited TV in their own rooms can go a long time without turning it on, or why they might want to leave it on to sleep. They have years of experience with the fact that someone with the freedom to choose to stay awake will get sleepy at some point and want to go to bed and sleep. They all understand when it's worth going to sleep even though fun things are going on, and they know how to decide when it's worth setting an alarm to get up.
There are many adults who don't know those things.
Jenny Cyphers wrote:
I just dropped Chamille and Cyle [teen daughter and boyfriend] off at the movie theater. They met up with a friend there, whose mother insisted on meeting me. If I'd known I was going to meet someone, I would've put something else on. I had only heard of this mom through various accounts from the kids.
sibling relations among unschoolers Unforeseen Benefits of Unschooling parenting considerations