I've been feeling for the past few years that my son Jack was seen as "behind" by the people closest to us, who do not unschool. He is almost 13 and has just really emerged as a reader. This summer he took a robotics day camp at our local Parks and Rec. He ended up being the "go to guy" when the counselors had too many kids asking questions or needing help, or if they, themselves couldn't figure it out.
We switched dentists this spring and Jack has been going a lot for a root canal issue and other things because our last dentist was horrible and had put fillings on top of decay (long story). Anyway, after yesterday's 1 1/2 hour procedure, the dentist asked me what kind of grades Jack made. I said "we homeschool" and he started talking about how Jack asks a lot of thoughtful and interesting questions, not like the "stupid stuff" (his words) most 12 year olds seem to talk about.
When he was little, people use to comment on his curiosity and intelligence a lot. It seems we are coming back into the upswing of this theory.
That's been my experience. There is this age between 9 and 12 where kids in elementary and middle school seem to be doing and learning more. The mulitiplication tables was a big trigger thing.
My experience with Chamille, is that she was doing way different things than all those kids in school, now at the age of 15, she knows similar things as they do, but more, and more personal, for more personal reasons.
She may not know math language or other formal schoolish things, but she does know how to figure things out in her head. You could take any subject that is in school and I could tell you a way in which Chamille has been exposed to the same kinds of information. Through exposure, she's been able to learn things. Of course, unlike school, everything she's been exposed to she's learned from. I find that school kids often tune these things out.
Now that she is a bit older, what she does, looks NOTHING like school, yet her knowledge is profound and meaningful. There is very little to compare to with school, contrast maybe, but for comparison sake there is little similarity.
It's hard to encounter doubt in unschooling, yet, if you can get past it, by the time your kid is a teen, it's easy to relax. Especially if you look around and get to know other school kids, who struggle with school pressure and peer pressure and parent pressure. I can look at Chamille and see that she is relaxed about herself and confident in what she DOES know, that the things she struggles with are avoidable or workable. She's not stuck in her thinking or her life. When she encounters things that upset her, it's usually about someone else's misery, not her own.