Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Has unschooling ever worked for any student? It did for me.

I fell in love with American history at a young age. I read books about the American Revolution, westward movement and the presidents. Every week I went to the library and selected two of three books to devour. I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s and Zane Gray’s books. I loved John Dickson Carr, whose mystery stories included locked room puzzles. They were great lessons in critical thinking, not that I knew that then.

Despite my passion for reading, I was not doing well in school. I was a strange kid with stringy brown hair that would not hold the bouffant hair styles so popular then. I wore thrift shop clothes, had cavities in my teeth and just didn’t make friends very well.

On the bus and on the playground, the bullies tormented me. I was ashamed of not having friends to play with, so I tried to hide in the bathroom with a book. The teachers would make me go outside.

I hated the lunches, so the teachers picked on me about that.

I was bored with the lessons. We studied the same things every year. Apostrophes have to be the most boring thing on earth, not to mention comparative and superlative adjectives.

I did poorly in all my subjects except history and English. I did well in history because it didn’t bore me, though the textbooks were not as good as the books I took from the library.

I did well in English because I was a reader. Maybe I didn’t know the comma rules or the nouns and verbs and other rules, but I had seen enough proper sentences in books that I could recognize the correct version. I was like a musician who plays by ear. I read and wrote by ear.

School did take its toll on me. I stopped even trying to study. I retreated into a world of daydreams. I watched television and read books because the fantasy worlds in both fed my daydreams.

But I did not just learn in books.

I joined a humane society and a writers club. These were adult evening activities, so even though I had no friends my own age, I spent time with intelligent mature people who did not repeat the same boring material over and over.

Unschooling will not work for all students. Most students don’t skip school to go to the library like I did. They have little or no interest in history, animal welfare or writing, but there has to be alternatives to public school for those of us who do not thrive there and cannot learn there.

Homeschooling is a great option, but most parents don’t have the resources for homeschooling. It takes time, effort and money.

What other options are there?

The granny cloud works in India, and I will have more about that and other options in future columns.

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