Monday, November 27, 2006

Unschooling in the news

The NY Times profiles proponents of unschooling, a child-led homeschooling movement that's catching on in the Midwest, particularly in Chicago. I first heard of unschooling a little less than a year ago when I sold a Japanese-style baby carrier on Craigslist. It was a beautiful piece of baby gear, but one Z refused to be carried in and which was, frankly, a pain to use anyway.

The woman who answered my ad asked if I was, by any chance, the same Alma who once worked at Newcity. Turns out she was someone I'd hired to be Newcity's receptionist six years prior. She was three months pregnant with her new boyfriend's baby at the time, and she never came back to work after giving birth.

Fast forward to the present and she was living in Oak Park with her husband (same guy), their six year old and a one year old girl in need of a new carrier. We hung out in my living room for about an hour catching up, and it came out that she belonged to a group of parents who believe letting kids follow their interests beats the structure and pressure of regular schools.

Sounds nice in the abstract, but if I only studied what I wanted to, I might have spent my elementary school years doing nothing but reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books and learning the names of poisonous snakes. I might have figured out fractions while baking, but I definitely wouldn't have learned my multiplication tables or long division.

What's more, for the most part I loved school. And I'm pretty sure Z will too. She's already started asking to go.