There were some emails going around my groups about an NPR intern who was doing a story on unschooling and looking for unschoolers to talk with. I figure what the hey, I might as well give him a call!
Turns out that he had already gotten enough people to use for the radio interview (which was good, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be recorded!) but he was looking to talk to a wide variety of unschoolers to help him get a feel for what it was about. So basically we just talked about homeschooling/unschooling for a little less then an hour or so. And the boys only interrupted me once, miracle of miracles!
He started out by asking me what the boys (after I had told him that I had two boys and their ages) were doing right now (it was about 12:30). Jason was playing his video game and Kyle had just helped me make a sandwich and was eating it. We talked a bit about how I came to homeschooling and then unschooling. He asked me some questions about HSLDA (and I think that I was very tactful, merely pointing out that what most homeschoolers don’t like about them is that they mix conservative political and religious causes with homeschooling issues and they tend to say that they represent “homeschoolers” when I can tell you they most definitely do not represent me!
He said that he found it interesting that most of the people that he talked with considered themselves progressives and wanted to know my impression of fundamentalist Christians’ attitude about unschooling. I told him that it was impossible to make blanket statements and that two of my very good unschooling friends were fundamentalist Christians. I did say that in my experience, the Christians who unschooled tended to the more open-minded side of the spectrum and that my friends felt very strongly that unschooling went hand-in-hand with their spiritual beliefs.
We talked a bit about Jason not learning to read until around 8 and how that did not hold him back. About the idea that kids develop on their own schedule and when they are ready they do it. And how hard it can be when that schedule is later then our culture says it should be. Even got to work in my “kids need two things to learn…they need to be ready and they need access to information in a way that makes sense to them” idea.
He was kind of funny…he asked if he could play devil’s advocate for a minute and ask me some harder hitting questions. He then asked me the “S” (socialization) question (hah! you call that hard hitting??) and the “how do you respond to people who say that schools need parents like you and that you are abandoning the kids in school”. Had no problem answering those. (Probably should answer them on my blog one of these days!)
One thing I did have some trouble with was how did I define unschooling (like I could not have seen that one coming!) After the interview was over, I thought about it for a little while and realized that I have been gradually coming to my own definition of unschooling. Unschooling is not about the “what” you are doing, but rather about the “why”. And the “why” needs to be driven by what your kids need…not from your own fears…not from what our culture says…not from what the “experts” say. It is about trusting in your kids and letting them develop on the timetable that is right for them. Ok, so it still needs a little work…
He asked if he could come out and meet with us (thinking that we were in Northern Va). I think it would have been fun, but when he found out that we were in Ocean City he thought that might be a bit too far to go. Kind of bummed, it would have been fun, I think.
All in all we had a very nice conversation. I asked him how he came to be interested in unschooling. He had a friend in college who had been unschooled and had not started reading until 12 and he found it really interesting. So when he was looking for topics, he decided he would like to learn more about it.
The unschooling program is being done for his internship program and will be “fully produced” and available on their website. There is a chance that it will be aired if an affiliate decides to pick it up. Like I said, I will not be on the actual program, but at least I was a part of it. And it was fun! Now I just have to cross my fingers that unschooling will be portrayed in a positive light! I think that it will, given our conversation. He said that he would email me with a link when it was available. I will let you know!