Unschooling Works
(What does that mean?)

On the same day I had [re]sorted my desk into "to be filed," "to be scanned," and "to continue to stay on the desk," a discussion started on facebook and blogs about what it means for unschooling to "work." In the scan pile was this article, folded back for years to this page, which I've intended (for years) to add to my site. It's from the Spring 2002 issue of Rio Grande Homeschooling Network, a short-lived local publication.

I'll transcribe it so it's searchable and more legible, but for now it's here.

I was the token unschooler. I think the quote was made illegible on purpose. Other quotes in the issue were clear. But that newsletter didn't last a year, and this website's still here.

The transcript is here, and then an image of the newsletter page.
The quote that was left, illegibly, as decoration, was this:

"Yet it seemed that the kids without the lessons
knew as much or more than the poor kids being pressed ..."

Working for us...

by Sandra Dodd

I've been unschooling for over ten years now, so I guess that shows that I'm pretty confident it works. I'll start in the middle and go forward and backward. Kirby, my oldest, was born in 1986. I went to La Leche League (LLL). There I learned a crucial concept: my child and I were partners, not adversaries. What was good for him was good for me. At that time I had been going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings for a little over a year, and there I learned that we need to avoid repeating our parents' parenting mistakes, and that by raising our own children gently and respectfully, that we would heal our own hurts.

Lucky Kirby!

Time passed, and several families from La Leche League formed a babysitting co-op and playgroup. There were four homeschooling families there. I wasn't planning to homeschool, but from a lifelong interest in learning, I was curious. I watched them carefully, and asked questions. Two families used structure. Two unschooled. I saw something I could neither forget nor ignore: in the unschooling families, the children were gentle with each other, and sweet to their parents. In the structured families, the children were not as warm or as comfortable. Sometimes they were in trouble for not doing their math, or were made to miss a playgroup because they hadn't finished their homework. Yet it seemed that the kids without the lessons knew as much or more than the poor kids being pressed to "do school."

Time passed, and Kirby didn't go to school. But I thought Marty, who was three years younger in school-years, would probably have a different personality and school would be good for him. When the time came, though, Marty wanted to stay home, too. Holly had come along by then, and she used to talk about school. I thought she might be the one who would thrive in school. But the time came and she chose to stay home.

Now to the backwards part. I used to teach in public school, where I had gone to school myself, in EspaƱola. I had wanted to be a teacher since first grade, and I had never wavered from that plan. I graduated from UNM in 1974 with a degree in English, a minor in Psychology, and a teaching certificate. The radical teachers at UNM had told us all KINDS of really important things about how children learn. They had us read John Holt, Jonathan Kozol, Herbert Kohl, A.S. Neill and others. We were told that the only real learning grows from a child's interest, and the best thing a teacher can do is to be a facilitator of others' learning.

And now I have three children who are 10, 13 and 15. They have never been to school. They have never had a math lesson. But today Holly asked me to help her with 7/18 plus 5/18, for a video game she was playing. Kirby has a job and will do his income taxes soon for the second year. Marty was discussing odds and probability earlier with three other teens and his little sister.

The forum mentioned in that bio has been preserved, in part, on the WayBack machine of the Internet Archive:

Conversations with Sandra Dodd

More on math photos of my kids Interviews (more what and why)