If anything that I present here clashes with the views of the unschooling community, or unschoolers individually, I apologize. I realized - too late - in the comments on the previous post that "competition" and "humanistic" are key terms in the unschooling world, and I may have confused the readership with my answers.

We are not unschoolers. I could leave A alone with books on mathematics, physics, chemistry, French, the universe, the Art of Picking Up Teenage Girls, and his guitar. He would likely choose to study the latter two. For the entire school year.

A and I come from nearly the same gene pool. As a young student, I needed prodding to learn math. Ditto to learn English (even though I was very, very good at it in school). Prodding to do P.E. To study for the SAT or any exam, for that matter (did I tell you about the time my Classics master in England had to physically get me up out of bed and literally drag me to the exam room? Yeah, being caught sleeping midday through a test. That was oh-so-much fun). I had my natural talents and gifts; they were, sadly, not "academic" ones. And they were never nurtured.

I notice similar traits with A. I know how to guide him through the academic stuff without indoctrinating him to death. I try to inspire in the academic areas. But A's talents? I nurture them. I know from my own experience that ignoring them is a very foolish mistake and might lead to an unfulfilled life. I would hate to be the catalyst for an unfulfilled life. Knowing my child, knowing that structure, with some competition, yet with freedom to daydream and grow in other areas would be the best brew for us, I chose a "classical" curriculum and modified it to our needs. Oh boy did we modify it. And, we never tried "School-in-a-Box" or an otherwise pre-determined packaged curriculum.

I did study John Holt a bit. When I learned that he had been to Le Rosey in Switzerland (OH MY GOD, NOBODY GETS INTO THAT SCHOOL UNLESS YOU'RE...YEAH. OH MY GOD), then Phillips Exeter Academy (HELLO!), then Yale (OF COURSE...HE WENT TO LE ROSEY AND TO PHILLIPS EXETER!!), I was disappointed. This man could not have been better pedigreed, educationally. His views come from his experiences as the product of an elitist boarding school education. Not once, not twice, but three times over. John Holt could say "Boo!" about education and people would listen. That he was friendly with Summerhill School's A.S. Neill, sealed the deal for me. If I had known of an activist unschooler who did astounding things in the educational field, perhaps my views on unschooling would be different. But that's just me.

While I did not get to go to Le Rosey, I did notice that at the elite boarding school environment I attended, critical thinking and self-expression were encouraged more than in the American public school system. If a student spoke up in class (I remember the round table that was my English 'A' Level class) and she expressed her views, she was a star for that moment. The other students listened, the English master did his Socratic thing with her, until she reached that gold nugget of information that made us all go, "a-ha!" I also remember my classrooms at the boarding school had very large loft-like windows that overlooked a green. I could observe students walking about, the snow falling. It was very different from the American public school world, where I was straight-jacketed most of the time. Or maybe it was jail. Yes, I think it was jail.

I believe that homeschoolers, particularly in New York City, do not seem to be sufficiently proud of their educational choices. For example, I hear this a lot -

Parent A: My son is going to high school next year. He just wants to. He's ready!
Parent B: My daughter chose XXX High School, because she wants to investigate what school is like!
Parent C: My son is probably going to high school. There just aren't any teenage homeschoolers in New York City!!!

I give credit to Parent C. She was honest. I think homeschoolers in NYC are pressured to seek some kind of validation that what they are doing is okay, and that their precious children will be accepted somewhere, anywhere, that society deems is proper. And that their kids will have others with whom to socialize. [Thump. Thump. Thump. Hey, kids, hear that? That is me beating a dead horse!]

Of course, they could consider one of John Holt's alma maters. Le Rosey now has online applications.

*click for famous alumni list.

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