Sandra Dodd

Often people think unschooling (or homeschooling in general) will offer less opportunity than school. If they're thinking of marching band or sports teams, it can be true, but when they're thinking about a range of topics of discussion or exploration, it all turns.

I've been carrying a newspaper article around with me hoping to share it and I have a few minutes this morning. :-)

It starts:
The NYC Department of Education is generating controversy over its attempt to not generate controversy. The department released a list of 50 banned words and topics that publishers around the country should avoid if they want to be considered for the job of revamping standardized math and English tests in the city. Among the list of topics are obvious taboo topics such as violence, drugs and pornography. Mention of an religious holiday is forbidden. Halloween is banned because fundamentalist Christians think it's Satanic. Birthday parties are similarly unmentionable because Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate them. The word "dinosaur" cannot be used because it might remind creationists of evolution...

It's about tests, but the ideas will apply to in-class discussions, too.

And because of population and money, for years the three states driving educational materials (textbooks, workbooks, tests, all kinds of other things like that (posters, videos) were California, Texas and New York state. States with smaller population choose from materials aimed at one or more of those states.

I wanted to point out what a HUGE luxury it is, and how it opens up the entire world, that unschoolers CAN talk to their kids about anything and everything without considerations of offending Jehovah's Witnesses (and if they ARE JWs, they can discuss that ALL THEY WANT!), or whatever. And we can talk about talking about it, too, if it comes up that way.

Schools have requirements (things on the curriculum that teachers are expected to present), and schools have prohibitions (things teachers can't present). Unschoolers can frolic and explore without regard to lawsuits from parents in public schools.


P.S. I didn't find the full list of taboo topics, but here' an editorial about the issue:

Kristin Suchar

The full list is here:


On 5/18/2012 11:53 PM, Sandra Dodd wrote:
> P.S. I didn't find the full list of taboo topics, but here' an
> editorial about the issue:

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The topic of freedom of speech has been on my mind lately, because I've just finished reading Nick Cohen's "You Can't Read This Book". Although he's talking at a broad societal level, the core idea also applies to our individual lives too - that the discussion and arguing of ideas are too important to be controlled or squashed by an outside authority. (He also pulls apart this idea that fear of causing offence is good grounds for restricting free speech - but that's another discussion ...).

It is so wonderful that as unschoolers, parents and children can talk about any topic under the sun. Not only that, but we talk with respect and openness. The other day I was at the park with the kids, and a school group also happened to be there. The kids would've been in the 5-7 age range (just like my kids). The way the teachers spoke to them appalled me, not because there was yelling or nastiness, but because there was no respect. They ordered the kids around, and expected immediate obedience. I know I sound naive being shocked by this, as it is so much the norm that most people don't even hear it, but to my ears it was horrible, as was the thought that the kids are spoken to this way day after day after day. Made me grateful for unschooling all over again!


Jenny Cyphers

My first reaction to the full list is:

What?  Those are all things that exist to a great degree in the world!  Then my next thought was to be very grateful for South Park for bringing us these topics in a most interesting way!

I'm glad that our family can discuss these things and that my kids can learn tactful ways to talk about sensitive issues.

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Catherine GB

Claire, I had the same feeling than you readding Calvin and Hobbes this
afternoon !
In one of the stories, he is woken up in the morning, goes to school, is
bossed around by the teacher, ordered to eat when back home, put in the
bath, ordered to go to bed, his mum wishes him good night and says "you
need to rest, it starts all over again tomorrow", and you can see Calvin
in his bed, eyes wide open, with an awful sad face...


How depressing!

My two kids are now safely tucked up in bed fast asleep after our nightly ritual of their dad reading aloud while I breastfeed the younger one. In the morning they'll wake when ready, mooch around in their pyjamas playing, watching tv and eating breakfast. Then for the first time ever we'll be going in to the children's section of the art gallery in the city - can't believe I haven't taken them there yet! We'll be meeting up with some of our homeschooling friends, and I'm sure we'll have a lovely time.

In our unschooling lives, every day is different. There's no grind, and there is flexibility to respond to interests and desires as they arise. How lucky am I to be with my kids sharing this amazing journey with them!