Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So Let's Talk About ABC's Unschooling Piece

Where do you start with a media piece like this? With the obvious bias that the reporter carried into it, the fact that she didn't even make a feeble attempt to keep an open mind? Or with the fact that they deliberately focused in on a kid eating a donut and kids watching TV and playing video games in a transparent attempt to skew what viewers think of the family's lifestyle choice?. It wouldn't be nearly as controversial if you showed them eating a green pepper or reading a book, both things that they probably also do. What about the fact that they take what the kids themselves say and deliberately misinterpret it? Like this quote from 15 year old Kimi:"I haven't done the traditional look at a textbook and learn about such-and-such," she said. "If I wanted to go to college, then I would pick up a textbook and learn."

Basically she's saying what both of my kids know: If they have to learn something in order to achieve a goal, they can do it in a relatively short amount of time. This happened when Mackenzie wanted to take a computer science class for which Algebra was a pre-requisite. Problem? No, we just got a textbook and went over the Algebra and in a fraction of the time he would've spent on it in school, he had it down.If he has to do the same thing for college admissions, I don't think it will be a problem.

But the reporter chose to spin the teenager's comment this way: "{she}doesn't even know what grade she'd have been in if she had remained in school, and doesn't feel prepared for college." Where did she say she didn't feel prepared for college? Shoddy journalism at its worst. Maybe the reporter would've been better off unschooled? At least my kids know a fallacious argument when they see one.

So the story really didn't say much about unschooling other than it's radical, it's weird, the kids are unprepared academically and not exposed to other stuff in their lives, they eat like crap and watch too much TV, play too many video games, and are generally unprepared for life.

This is why I wouldn't sign my family up to appear on such a show, though you might remember that years ago our local paper did a front page article on unschooling featuring our family and they were much more open-minded and fair about it. I spoke with the reporter ahead of time and expressed my concerns about wanting an article that presented unschooling in at least a fair light without demonizing it, and I think she did a good job with it. Reading back through that article (written when my kids were 4 and 7 years old!), it's funny how what we were doing then is what we do now, just with older and bigger kids. And it's turning out just fine. I like my kids, they do such cool and amazing stuff. I can barely keep up with all that they do and only blog about a fraction of it, really. They're fun to be around, other people constantly comment on their politeness, their work ethic, their interest level and enthusiasm. I just can't see any way that these kids have been held back in life by being able to pursue their own interests fully. And yes, that often involves video games and sometimes involves donuts! Especially now that we're going to get a Voodoo Donuts shop right here in town. Yummmmm.... 

Oh, but I digress. For instance on the topic of video games, Mackenzie really really likes to play them. And yes, he even plays those first-person-shooter types like Halo, you know the kind that's going to make him into a violent maniac. Except that this weekend he also went with me down to my mom's house, since she had hurt her knee in a dancing accident (gotta love my mom!). He set up some stuff on her computer for her, helped around the house, went on a walk with her through historic Jacksonville (a gold rush town) so he could walk her dog, went on a nice hike with me through the interpretive trails in the gold mining area of the hills, and generally was just such a fun, nice, funny, and helpful guy you could hardly believe he's one of those dreadful teenagers, let alone one that plays those horrid video games.

And still on the topic of video games, Mackenzie has taken to making Youtube videos that explain various stuff in some of his favorite games. Like Blockland, a Lego-based building game, he's made a couple of videos for that. He loves to check back and see the comments, especially if people find his videos helpful and informative. So he's gotten a lot of experience using Windows Movie Maker and is currently helping me with a video project of my own. It's all in a day's unschooling, and contrary to what ABC might have you believe, it's all good.

So as a final antidote to that piece of yellow journalism, here's a bit of what our week holds:

A train trip to OMSI yesterday, the science museum in Portland, which has a nice NASA exhibit right now. 
Asa is spending the afternoon at a friend's house, they are choreographing a duet dance for an audition (ballet, jazz, hip hop). Auditions are tonight
Asa has rehearsals for Little Shop of Horrors
Mackenzie is helping me film my video project
Mackenzie is doing some writing on his first novel
Both kids have their usual classes: Asa has Mime, dance, theater, karate. Mackenzie has computer science, karate
Mackenzie is doing some configuring of our home network
Mackenzie has a couple of hours of work at his web design internship this week
Asa is practicing writing in cursive (another example of a kid wanting to learn something that I didn't even want to learn in school!)
Asa has been doing more and more cooking in the kitchen, for herself and for others.
Both kids are planting and working in the garden

and on and on and on. Such deprived kids!


janasmama said...

Asa's almond meal muffins were way fluffier than mine....can she come over and do some cooking/baking for us? ;)

All the things your family does is amazing and it makes me want to unschool too because you are all a very connected and respectful family unit that is destined for success.

Robin said...

Yeah, her muffins were better than mine too, and it's the same recipe. What's up with that??