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Unschooling? Neglect? I don't know...


Heidi
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What do you do if you know someone that has 5 kids ages 4-13 that has home schooled from the beginning, but doesn't actually teach them anything? I was talking to her today and she said that her three oldest just picked up reading around ages 8-9 on their own. (I don't know how well they actually read). She didn't teach them. She doesn't like teaching. They can't spell at all. She loves MUS because it teaches them for her. "School" consists of her being in the same room with them so she is available for them should they want to learn something during that time, but it's hard for her to even have "school", as she is busy doing her own thing during the day. When they're not having "school" they play and watch tv. She is always telling me how awesome Thomas Jefferson education is, which is what she says she is doing. I haven't researched Thomas Jefferson, nor do I desire to do so from what she's told me of it. Is this unschooling? I'm sorry if I have offended anyone, but I don't get it. What she is doing looks more like neglect. Is this legal? Should I speak up or ignore it? BTW, she's my sister.:001_unsure:

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It's been a while since I've read A Thomas Jefferson education. It is more child lead, but I think around 13 it starts to get pretty rigorous in that the child is supposed to be self educating the majority of the day and writing summaries over research that has been done and reading great books and then they meet with the parent once a week to go over all they have studied. I don't think video games and TV come into the picture. They really wouldn't have much time for it. The parent is supposed to be self educating as well and organizing all sorts of clubs and lit discussion groups and debate team type stuff and exposing the children to all sorts of things. In the book they had some classical musician friends come over and give a little concert for their kids and then talk about the instruments. There was a lot going on. When I read it, I really felt that it sounded great in theory, but unless you just have kids that are really driven then it isn't going to work and you also have to have the money to really stock your shelves with all different kinds of books in various subjects so the kids can find different things to study. I don't know your sister, so I don't know what all is going on, but she might want to look into a video school or something if she doesn't want to teach. TJE does tend to be delayed on the start of math and reading because it starts when the kids are interested. When they start reading late, they usually pick it up quickly, My sister was 8 when she started reading and she was reading Sir Thomas More's Utopia by 6th grade for the fun of it.

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Well is she following her state laws? It sounds like she's been doing this for a while. I know there are some homeschoolers that I've met and I don't agree with how they teach their children. But I have to remember those children aren't mine either.

 

Its amazing what children will learn, even in the harshest of enviroments. I mean look at the Jasey Duggard case. Here this young girl was kidnapped at age 11. Lived under such horrid conditions , bore two daughters who are now something like 12 and 15. In that sime while being hidden away from the rest of the world she managed with a 6th grade education to teach her daughters and according to the media they are right at where a child their age should be. No one knew these two young girls even existed. Given their horrible circumstance they learned anyways. I can't imagine she had a curriculum, and I can't imagine they ever graced the halls of a library or watched television. Yet they still learned which leds to the saying " Is less sometimes more? "

 

My oldest daughter struggled with reading until the age of 9. One day it clicked for her and now at age 11 in grade 6 reading has finally clicked for her. She is reading at grade level and testing at grade level as well.

I just let her progress at her own pace when it came to reading.

 

My 6yr old is a 1st grader this year and reads at an early 2nd grade level. My friends daughter is the same age and her mom reports that her daughter is just beginning to decode three letter short vowel words. So who is better? Am I better because I worked through the summer , and bought a program that just seemed to really click with my daughter and she nows read short chapter books. Or the mom who's 6yr old is just decoding three letter words and still sounding each and everyone of them out? Actually neither because children have gifts in different areas, they all develop in different areas and we all have our own method to get from point A to point B.

 

If she is following your state's law, and she is indeed short changing them then it will be her in the end that will have to answer to her children in the end.

 

Having sisters of my own you can only suggest, and give advice. In the end its up to them whether they want to take any of it or not. If she really isn't into teaching then maybe the suggestion of cyberschooling might work better ( if its available to you in her state) that way someone else is doing the teaching. Or like another suggested video schooling, programs like Abeka , Bob Jones, have a DVD option. Calvert has online live time virtual classes. I use Memoria Press's Latina Christiana DVD's because it teaches the Latin for me. otherwise I would of never of even thought of having my daughters learn latin. I have never been taught Latin so I wouldn't of had a clue. So if they are using MUS and they are learning just fine from the video then so be it. It maybe not be the way you would utilize the program but if it works for her and her children then it does. I know what may look like homeschooling to one person maynot look like it to the other too.

I know every time my mother in law comes over my daughters get up from the table and begin to play around like they haven't been doing a think all day long. So I can imagine my mother in law thinks we haven't done a thing all day long. But in fact before she came over we did math, and reading and whatever else subject before she even came to our place.

Now if your sister is doing her own thing and not spending anytime with her children at all then I yes, it would be consider neglect. Does she do anything with them? Does she sit and read with them? Does she play any game with them? If they are being left to their own devices all day long and she is off and running around and paying no attention to them whatsoever then, yes, it is neglect. But then this happens to children who attend brick and mortar schools too. They may sit in a building but they aren't learning much and nothing after school either ( I actually know a situation like this with another family I know) because their parents are so caught up in their life they pay no attention to their children.

 

I can't say for sure if its neglect as I don't know your sister. So its 100% hard to say for sure. Like I said she will have to be the one to answer for it in the end when her children ask why she didn't give them a good education.

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Is she "not teaching them anything," or just teaching what she wants to? If she's using MUS then she's teaching at least math, right? Some kids do respond well to full unschooling (the Sponge learned to read with full unschooling--but we are addicted to library books/reading ;)) and some kids definitely need structure. If I unschooled the Dramatist it would border on neglect, because she does not learn that way, but her big sister does learn a lot on her own. Whether it's legal depends on the state.

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Do the children like to learn? What do they do all day? When they watch TV is it junk or something they can learn from?

 

I would need to know more info. I have a friend who unschools this way but her kids still go to campfire group, take soccer, and do a lots of other activities during the week. They also take month long trips to explore the country as a family. Her kids know more information about nature and science than I do. They could probably live off the land if they had too for the rest of their lives. :001_smile: Her oldest is 9 and just started reading. He pretty much picked it up overnight though. Her youngest is 7 and has recently started being interested in math. She picked up addition and subtraction very quickly.

 

For some people this way of learning works. I am too anal (so is my oldest) for this to work for us but it works very well for my friend. If they are following the laws of the state than it is not illegal. If she is giving them the information they crave as they crave it then I do not believe it is neglect.

 

As a cool aunt I would buy the kids items they are interested in for holidays and birthdays if you are concerned. That way you know that they are at least getting science experiments or art supplies (whatever their interests are).

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I mean look at the Jasey Duggard case. Here this young girl was kidnapped at age 11. Lived under such horrid conditions , bore two daughters who are now something like 12 and 15. In that sime while being hidden away from the rest of the world she managed with a 6th grade education to teach her daughters and according to the media they are right at where a child their age should be. No one knew these two young girls even existed. Given their horrible circumstance they learned anyways. I can't imagine she had a curriculum, and I can't imagine they ever graced the halls of a library or watched television. Yet they still learned which leds to the saying " Is less sometimes more? "

 

Actually, Jaycee Dugard's daughters thought that she was their sister. The person they called their mother was the perp's wife. When they reported that their mother homeschooled them, I'm sure they meant the Garrido lady. Not that she wasn't a hot mess herself, but she probably had some access to curriculum or at least a library.

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It sounds to me like she is available if the children need her, or to help them get started on something? A lot of unschoolers school like this...it's not neglect. She's letting them figure out their own path of education, and as long as she meets her state's requirements, it's not illegal.

 

It's not the way I teach, but I know very successful families whose children learn this way and do well.

 

FWIW, my son didn't pick up reading until age 8...with intensive phonics. So, I wouldn't rest anything on that.

 

She does math, it sounds like the kids pick projects to do, and it sounds like some of them read for fun...nothing wrong with that.

 

 

We "unschool" a few subjects...my son totally follows his own interests in them...and those are the subjects he's ended up very accelerated in.

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She's doing TJEd and MUS, the kids are reading by age 8-9 and playing, she's with them all day and letting them do things they're interested in.... sounds pretty ok to me and nothing like neglect. I wouldn't be worried at all.

 

Unless she is asking you for advice, or you see clear signs of abuse, I would say it's not really your business. You could send over educational games, interesting books, offer fun educational activites, but truly it's not your place to do anything above being their aunt. There is certainly no need to contact some authority or have a confrontation with your sister if that's where you are going with this. (Unless you see some sign of abuse or the children are being physically neglected -- left home alone, not fed, etc.) If I was curious about my sister's homeschooling methods, I would just ask her, especially if we are both homeschooling; it would probably already have been discussed ad nauseum. I wouldn't have a problem asking her specifics but I also wouldn't feel like it was my responsibility to decide whether her methods were up to par.

 

BTW, Thomas Jefferson method can be quite rigorous, especially at the older ages. Unschooling and/or TJEd may not be your cup of tea, and that's cool... but it's fine for others and many children thrive with these methods.

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As a cool aunt I would buy the kids items they are interested in for holidays and birthdays if you are concerned. That way you know that they are at least getting science experiments or art supplies (whatever their interests are).

 

:iagree: This is a great idea. It fits with the spirit of unschooling, and soothes your conscience at the same time.

 

Unsolicited advice is a dicey proposition, no matter how close the relationship is. They may be reading excellent literature for all you know -- better to bite your tongue and keep a non-judgmental attitude. You don't want to shut the door in case you are asked for specific education advice in the future.

 

By the way, I don't "like teaching" either. I guide, discuss, plan and assign work, explain and sort out mistakes, I mentor, model being a scholar, and I nudge, nag and cajole. But I don't like to say I teach because I don't see my kids as passive participants in home schooling. My kids in turn read, ask questions, research, think, summarize, argue their points, follow their passions. And they have lots of free time for their creative interests, which when they were younger was play time. It might look at times like neglect on my part, but it is not, it is just an alternative and quite successful style of educating.

 

So keep your opinions to yourself. Care about your sister and her kids, listen to what they have to say -- be interested and engaged, but don't judge. Just love them. All kinds of kids with all kinds of rearing turn into wonderful young adults!

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Unsolicited advice is a dicey proposition, no matter how close the relationship is. They may be reading excellent literature for all you know -- better to bite your tongue and keep a non-judgmental attitude. You don't want to shut the door in case you are asked for specific education advice in the future.

 

<snip>

All kinds of kids with all kinds of rearing turn into wonderful young adults!

 

:iagree:great advice!

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It might or might not be a good learning situation for the children, hard to judge without knowing all the details and knowing the kids. If you are concerned, why not have a chat about it in a non threatening way. Ask your sis some open questions like "How do you feel the kids are going with their educational stuff?" or "I don't know a lot about your home schooling approach, I'd love for you to explain it a bit more for me?" or "Hey, how about we swap some ideas on activities our children might enjoy?" and see where this takes you both. You never know, she might have some good suggestions for you as well. If you get the impression that she's not coping well, you could try some empathy, eg "This home schooling can be really hard and exhausting sometimes, huh? How are you doing with it?"

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And right around the time my kids were the age of yours- very little. I didn't understand how much kids could absorb just from reading!

 

I would say now, that not learning to read at all would be neglect, or being too far behind in math. If shes got those things covered, her kids will be ok as long as they otherwise have a good work ethic.

 

If they are otherwise lazy, undisciplined, or uninterested there will be problems down the road.

 

But even then it's not neglect. :)

 

I personally don't get it- if I hated all aspects if teaching I would use ACR or a video. But we are all different.

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I know there are some homeschoolers that I've met and I don't agree with how they teach their children. But I have to remember those children aren't mine either.

 

It sounds to me like she is available if the children need her, or to help them get started on something? A lot of unschoolers school like this...it's not neglect. She's letting them figure out their own path of education, and as long as she meets her state's requirements, it's not illegal.

 

Unless she is asking you for advice, or you see clear signs of abuse, I would say it's not really your business.

 

Yep. Yep. And..yep.

 

Different strokes for different folks and all that...

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I was talking to her today and she said that her three oldest just picked up reading around ages 8-9 on their own. (I don't know how well they actually read). She didn't teach them. She doesn't like teaching. They can't spell at all.

 

This is pretty common for unschoolers. I didn't teach my daughter reading at all. She picked it up at 9 and within 6 months was reading fantasy novels. The spelling generally comes after that with the reading.

 

I don't think you're seeing neglect at all, just a style that you're unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.

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I think if your sister is feeding and loving her children, it is not neglect. I think you are treading dangerous ground by deciding that her way of educating her children isn't "right"...it's kind of what society as a whole and the ps system does to homeschoolers. KWIM?

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I think if your sister is feeding and loving her children, it is not neglect. I think you are treading dangerous ground by deciding that her way of educating her children isn't "right"...

 

You have also mentioned that her children do read and do math.

 

It may not be what you want these children to have, but it's not your choice. There is curriculum in the home and an expectation for learning.

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Ok, well your responses definitely make me feel better about the situation. I guess I just don't understand unschooling.

I don't ask what she does during the day, I don't give advice, and I don't tell her what my kids are doing unless she asks. (I'm very non-confrontational). She just starts confessing to me when I call her. It seems that now that my oldest kid is 5 and I've started homeschooling, its like she feels guilty around me, I guess because I do things differently than she does. ?? She confesses how she doesn't like teaching so she doesn't teach, she doesn't hold school, her kids are way behind, etc. She did do K12 at the beginning of this year but it required too much of her, so she quit.

My advice was that I know of self-teaching methods out there, but they do have to know how to read first... Are they really reading or not? I don't know. I don't get to visit often at all, maybe once a year. They came to visit me about two years ago and the oldest, dd12, wrote "mery Crismis" (Merry Christmas) on our chalkboard before leaving. It is frustrating to see intelligent kids NOT be intelligent. She has now started to say they have learning disabilities, but I HIGHLY doubt it. I think she is putting the blame on them instead of herself. :mad:

Anyway, I've stayed out of it the last 10 years and will continue to do so, I suppose. Thanks for the advice!

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I think if your sister is feeding and loving her children, it is not neglect. I think you are treading dangerous ground by deciding that her way of educating her children isn't "right"...it's kind of what society as a whole and the ps system does to homeschoolers. KWIM?

 

This.

 

I'm sure that any of us could look suspicious about something or other. Maybe your family goes to bed later and sleeps until ten. Maybe you do lessons in your pajamas. Maybe your kid is reading above grade level but is a bit behind in math. Such is the life of homeschooling--many of us don't *have* to live by a public school (socially acceptable) schedule so we don't.

 

If you ask my six year old what he's done on any given day he's liable to say, "Nothing." Nothing. He might have had a very productive day, homeschooling wise, but he doesn't think to say that.

 

I'll admit to having little patience with people questioning my life decisions (now, I don't mean people who ask questions because they are interested in why we milk cows instead of buying milk from the store or why we raise our own pigs but people who actually feel entitled to explanations as if they had some level of control over the answers). I also know that the snippet a person sees of a day isn't necessarily indicative of the entire day (right now we're all huddled on the couch getting ready to watch "America's Funniest Home Videos, a morning ritual before schoolwork and not a representation of the day as a whole). Because of this I try to give other people the same benefit of the doubt.

 

I understand that you are a concerned aunt and I'm not trying to belittle honest concern--I'm really not. I've just been on the other side and react from that mindset.

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We cross-posted.

 

Seeing your new reply I do sympathize--I'm not a fan of unschooling either. I've read the books and in theory I understand the concept. Unfortunately the models I've seen IRL have appeared to be less than ideal (but, again, perhaps I look like a mean, overbearing mother because some nights we work on Classical Writing or SWR relatively late in the evening or because I insist that they learn Latin--things that some might not deem necessary).

 

You obviously know them better than we do and I don't know if you spend an hour a month with them or three hours a day or something in between.

 

I do have to say a couple of things, though--I would take her confessions to you with a bit of a grain of salt. I called my dh the other day crying because I was convinced that my six year old would never get through the Ordinary Parent's Guide. Sometimes when we're stressed out or are just in vent mode we don't present things completely accurately. My son WILL get through OPG, I was just frustrated and tired. If her kids do have learning disabilities (and it's not always perfectly obvious to outsiders--my six year old has a seizure disorder that affects him in ways that aren't apparent to many) she might feel an extra set of anxiety when she vents to you. Also, if they have LD they might *not* be able to handle a rigid curriculum and something like TJE might work better for them--that's the beauty of homeschooling, not having to fit a square peg into a round hole.

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I have a friend who I met because we shared a common interest in WTM but I have gone to do WTM and CM and she is unschooling. Her daughter is a good reader, self-taught. The other kids aren't old enough to be schooling yet. Her reason for unschooling was that she had all these grand ideas but when she sat down to teach her daughter French, she was interested only for a couple days and didn't want to do it. I would say that is an issue with knowing how to lead and motivate your kids, which is a life skill.

 

So instead she drags her kids to all these activist events that she is involved in and such. I am sure they are exposed to lots of things, but it certainly isn't the kind of organized and methodical education I would choose. Yes, there are subjects my ds might skip if it were up to him, and there are some we have dropped, but if I just did what I wanted to do and never did anything I didn't want to do, our house would never get cleaned and my family would have nothing to eat. Such discipline is a part of life, and the earlier you learn it, the better, I think.

 

If I am excited about a book we're reading, I talk about it and how much fun it is, but her response is generally, rather than being excited for me, she lists all sorts of excuses for why she doesn't do anything with her kids. If someone was going on about this great food dish they loved and it had ingredients that I hate in it, I would say something that supported their enthusiasm without necessarily saying I loved it myself - I wouldn't tell them why I hate all the ingredients in their fabulous dish.

 

I know there are successful unschoolers, but my impression of them is that they are very self-motivated and do a lot of educational things that don't seem like education. But how some people choose to unschool utterly mystifies me. I would be horrified too if I saw a 12-year-old "mery Crismis" - I mean, that is something you see written everywhere that time of year. {Deep breath.}

 

So I totally feel your pain, but I agree that confrontation is probably not the solution. Just do well with your children and hope that your success may inspire her to do more and support every ounce of effort that your sister makes. If you alienate her, you have very little influence over her. Cultivate and use what influence you have, and leave it at that.

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Unschooling is actually a very active type of schooling. The parents are actively involved in guiding and encouraging learning, but the child leads the way in terms of HOW that learning happens. Most unschoolers I know are very involved in hobbies, clubs, passions, exploring life, volunteering, church, etc. The skills stuff does sometimes come later than for traditionally schooled but it turns out it doesn't take that long to learn skills, like spelling, math, etc when you are older. You don't have to do the repetition that is necessary when starting off very young (with review ad nauseam every year).

 

When your oldest is 5 all the world seems so bright! When you have a 12 year old who can't spell Merry Christmas, it often is a downer for one's self esteem! I had a 12 yo like that. Probably at 12 he couldn't spell Merry Christmas to save his soul! He was diagnosed with LDs though. But in spite of the fact that he can't spell, he is wonderfully intelligent, witty, kind and talented. So spelling really isn't the litmus test for success.

 

And something I've discovered about unschooled teens is they really take the bull by the horns. If you give a teen control over their own education, they will fly! And you don't have to deal with that pesky teenage rebellion (most of the time.)

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OK, after reading this whole thread, this post seems to me to describe a far different situation than the original post.

 

She just starts confessing to me when I call her. It seems that now that my oldest kid is 5 and I've started homeschooling, its like she feels guilty around me, I guess because I do things differently than she does. ?? She confesses how she doesn't like teaching so she doesn't teach, she doesn't hold school, her kids are way behind, etc. She did do K12 at the beginning of this year but it required too much of her, so she quit....

 

They came to visit me about two years ago and the oldest, dd12, wrote "mery Crismis" (Merry Christmas) on our chalkboard before leaving.

 

She has now started to say they have learning disabilities, but I HIGHLY doubt it. I think she is putting the blame on them instead of herself. :mad:

 

 

The examples of the dd12's inability to write is sending off alarm bells for me. I think all the responses you have had that discussed late reading etc. didn't seem to be describing this age of child.

 

If, as her sister, you are hearing confession than I would take that as perhaps a plea for help. Your previous post sounded more like you were just giving us your passing observations. I would just ask her about all these things that are concerning her (and obviously, you) and see if you can offer any assistance. Your sister may have indeed started wondering if they have learning disabilities and now she feels in so deep with her method that she can see no way out. You also wrote that you had no desire to learn about a TJE. I'm not sure if you meant that, from what you're witnessing, you don't like the look of it as an educational method, or if you meant rather that you don't want to take the time to find out what she is doing. Either way, to help your sister I think it would be a good investment of time to get yourself at least somewhat knowledgeable about it so you can help her to assess her situation.

 

Anyway, I've stayed out of it the last 10 years and will continue to do so, I suppose. Thanks for the advice!

 

At this point, I think you should tell her what you think you're hearing in her voice, tell her that you love her and ask her how you can help her.

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I don't know what state she is in, but GA requires you to include reading, language arts, math, science, and history in your curriculum. The amount each day or week is not specified, but they are supposed to be included each year.

 

I will be honest. People in those situations really concern me because those are the people who bring homeschooling under such scrutiny and further regulation. It's really not fair to the rest of us.

 

I have 2 sisters and we are all very close. I would get involved if it were me, not in a condescending way, but a helpful way. I would do it for my nieces and/or nephews if nothing else. Lead her to resources that can help. I would take confession as a sign of wanting help as well. She needs to at least cover the 3 R's, as all children need that. Is she depressed or have other health problems? Depression could cause her to not be effective or motivated with it all.

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I have an older sister who is a radical unschooler. She started when her middle child didn't want to go to pre-school approximately 14 years ago.

 

Here's what happened to her 3 children:

She took her oldest child (ds) out of ps in 3rd? grade. He went back in 8th grade by his choice and was ahead in some things and behind in others. While he was radically unschooled, he worked towards getting his private pilot license (he was too young to actually get it, but he completed everything necessary for it). He also played video games incessantly. He did well in high school and went to Lehigh for college. He dropped out in his sophomore year. There are mental health issues that are heartbreaking.

 

Her middle child (dd) was radically unschooled for ever. She didn't read until around 9. She did listen to tons of books on tape. She has many interests, volunteered several places, and attended cc and local uni before leaving home for college this year. She has interests in philosophy, fashion design, and some branch of biology. The college she is attending (can't remember the name) has some sort of interdisciplinary program that sounds like a triple major to me. This dd never took an ACT or SAT. She only applied to schools that didn't require it. My bil, who I gather didn't buy into the radical unschooling so much, worked with her on math, reading, economics, and spanish as I understand it.

 

Her youngest child (dd) went to school in 5th grade by her choice. She's extremely social. She was ahead in some things and behind in others. She's doing fine in high school now.

 

They are also filthy rich and travel extensively. They have the financial means to allow their children to follow any and all interests they have. They live in NY where the state laws are stricter than I've ever had to deal with, and she's always been able to satisfy their requirements.

 

My sister and I rarely discuss homeschooling.

 

I am a Type A personality and could never ever radically unschool. I don't think my son would do anything but play video games all day long. And, while my sister can find something educational about video games, I cannot. He would be involved in team sports by choice, but that doesn't happen until after 4pm around here. OTOH, my relationship with my son is not at all close. Adversarial is more like it. Is that a good thing? My son is not an independent, motivated learner. Is that my failing?

 

My opinion:

There's More Than One Way To Do It.

and

Don't try to take out the speck in your sister's eye and ignore the log in your own.

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Since your dc are all young, you might find an inroad by asking what she recommends you do. She may be accomplishing more than you realize. As the others said, TJE is actually pretty rigorous and takes effort from mom to help them schedule and accomplish. They set self-study goals and work through things. If you turn the conversation toward her recs for you, it will probably be better than grilling her. Also ask about test scores. (If I do this, how will our test scores be?)

 

Does your state have homeschooling laws? She may be doing more than you realize and just not wanting to overwhelm you.

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Ok, well your responses definitely make me feel better about the situation. I guess I just don't understand unschooling.

I don't ask what she does during the day, I don't give advice, and I don't tell her what my kids are doing unless she asks. (I'm very non-confrontational). She just starts confessing to me when I call her. It seems that now that my oldest kid is 5 and I've started homeschooling, its like she feels guilty around me, I guess because I do things differently than she does. ?? She confesses how she doesn't like teaching so she doesn't teach, she doesn't hold school, her kids are way behind, etc. She did do K12 at the beginning of this year but it required too much of her, so she quit.

My advice was that I know of self-teaching methods out there, but they do have to know how to read first... Are they really reading or not? I don't know. I don't get to visit often at all, maybe once a year. They came to visit me about two years ago and the oldest, dd12, wrote "mery Crismis" (Merry Christmas) on our chalkboard before leaving. It is frustrating to see intelligent kids NOT be intelligent. She has now started to say they have learning disabilities, but I HIGHLY doubt it. I think she is putting the blame on them instead of herself. :mad:

Anyway, I've stayed out of it the last 10 years and will continue to do so, I suppose. Thanks for the advice!

 

I would be concerned as well since it sounds like she is doing a dis-service to her kids IMHO. I think child-led learning has many pros but they still need guidance and to at least learn the basics of reading, writing, and math IMHO. It is very hard to get anywhere in life without the basics.

 

As to how to approach the matter, I would handle it gingerly. If she is your sister, I would be more apt to gently address it somehow. I understand the posters saying it is none of your business and such, which is true. However, when she says that kids are way behind, then that might be a starting point for a conversation.

 

To clarify, I do think neglect is everyone's business so to speak. I do not think it is ok not to teach children anything in the name of unschooling.

Edited by priscilla
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Sue, I think you're onto something there. The harder we try (do this, even if you hate it, do it because it's good for you, do this...), the more vain we feel with our rigor and the less joy we have. The op has a 5 yo. She hasn't homeschooled enough to have perspective on how things work out, how little it REALLY takes to nail the most important things, and how much flex there is. As long as the dc can read, do math, and write, everything else is a matter of opinion about how much should be covered, in what way, etc. I'd cut them a LOT of slack.

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I think there are two different situations, and it's not clear which this one is:

 

* Sister is happily radically unschooling, may not want advice/criticism, and children are learning some quantity of things at their own pace.

 

* Sister is overwhelmed/swamped by homeschooling and/or other aspects of her life and is seeking help from her sister now that she is also homeschooling.

 

If it is the former, any criticizing or offering to help should be done carefully, and with a great deal of gentleness, and no real expectation for changes.

 

If it is the latter, she should also be gentle but try to help her, because her help is being sought.

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More info on TJed (from this board's Julie in Austin): http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2008/05/a-thomas-jefferson-education/

 

She addresses some of the problematic ideas from TJed, such as "inspire don't require."

 

His ideas are pretty untested. When he wrote TJed, I think his oldest kid was about late elementary age.

 

A lot of subjects take disciplined, consistent effort to learn. Our brains only absorb a small amount of new information at a time, because our working memory is limited. In order to retain things like spelling or math (for children for whom such things don't come naturally), you have to review and repeat so it gets into long term memory.

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But if she were my own sister, I would definately initiate a talk with her about your concerns and possible alternatives. You're her family, not a stranger; you can take liberties that a friend or stanger can't.

 

I agree with this whole heartedly. If she is showing concerns maybe its time to start asking her questions. She is your sister and you should.

 

If she doesn't like 'teaching' then maybe homeschooling isn't for her at all. I mean unschooling does require some type of teaching even if its student lead. Maybe going to a brick and mortar school would be a better option for the kids if it really isn't her thing, and there's nothing wrong with that either. Everyone has their limitations. My sister has 5 children , she had to put her younger two in brick and mortar school because she felt she couldn't homeschool 4 children this year. That was her choice and its working fine for her. She was able to put them in a Montessori charter school and they are doing well.

 

Maybe by her telliing you she doesn't like to 'teach' maybe she is feeling trapped and really doesn't want to homeschool to begin with.

 

I agree though. See if you can help her in anyway. If she feels she can't do what you do. Tell you if she's interested you can help her or show her. I have no idea about the Thomas Jefferson curriculum but it is a good time to get yourself familiar with it.

 

If her son is struggling with writing maybe suggest to her that you could sit and help him a bit. But don't be the sole source, if she is willing have her sit in on what you are doing. I don't believe that a person can just learn to write without being taught by someone else( I don't know of any games out there that teach writing ... if there is someone let me know because teaching my children to write is mighty difficult for me these days), higher levels of math would be difficult to learn on your own unless you have a child that just absolutely LOVES math( I don't know to many kids who do though). At least that is my opinion. If you had let it up to me to learn math I on my own as a child I would have never of attempted to learn it at all because I struggled with math as a child. But I do have a better understanding of it as an adult.

So there has to be some level of teaching going on at some point even if you homeschool. Call it what you want, teaching, leading , assisting. It really all means the same thing.

 

I would just let it out in the open and say " If you don't like 'teaching' your children do you think putting them in school maybe better?" But then that is just me. That is something I would ( and have) said to my sisters. If she has these feelings they need to be addressed.

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And remember, you know what the phone call might mean far more than any of us. I have a hs friend that I 'pour my heart out to' whenever I feel overwhelmed, or think my kids aren't learning fast enough etc. Last year I told her how much we were struggling with my ds6's reading...that I thought I was doing a terrible job teaching him, didn't think I should hs, etc. That wasn't something I'd tell just 'anybody', but wanted to get off my chest, kwim? I had actually forgotten I had even told her until a few months later she asked, "So how is reading going? Is he still so far behind?" I laughed and told her, "No, he caught on and it's going great now! I LOVE hsing!" So is possible that you are only hearing what is going wrong at her house, and not the positive? I don't know, since I don't know your sister.

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There's a big difference between YOU observing and thinking it doesn't look like your idea of school, and HER telling you she thinks they're behind and she's struggling and hates it, etc. If she's ASKING you, then give her advice. In the first post it sounds like "she unschools, is that neglect?" which is no. With the update it sounds like a very different situation where she feels like something is wrong. If she's asking for help, then give it. If she's happy with unschooling, let her be.

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I think there are two different situations, and it's not clear which this one is:

 

* Sister is happily radically unschooling, may not want advice/criticism, and children are learning some quantity of things at their own pace.

 

* Sister is overwhelmed/swamped by homeschooling and/or other aspects of her life and is seeking help from her sister now that she is also homeschooling.

 

If it is the former, any criticizing or offering to help should be done carefully, and with a great deal of gentleness, and no real expectation for changes.

 

If it is the latter, she should also be gentle but try to help her, because her help is being sought.

 

She may be seeing you do a more organized approach and is wondering how you manage to do it since the thought of "teaching" turned her off from such things. But "teaching" may simply be a barrier she could get over if she had some guidance or found the right examples.

 

I would feel free to talk homeschool with her, but always respect her right to homeschool her children as she sees fit and never ever be condescending to her.

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One thing I have learned in my yrs of homeschooling is that discussing homeschooling with other homeschoolers usually reveals more areas of disagreement than agreement. I avoid talking about homeschooling IRL unless someone specifically asks me a question or an opinion on something.

 

The reality is that no homeschool looks the ssame. Just based on the discussions on this board, there is more disagreement in how to teach certain subjects than there is consensus.

 

My older sister started homeschooling 3 yrs after I had started. Her oldest is 18 months older than my oldest. I can tell you that we absolutely agree on NOTHING about homeschooling. It became a taboo topic for her to discuss with me b/c she was always trying to tell me how incredibly awesome her kids were doing with her approach (which is the polar opposite of mine. She hands her kids their curriculum and simply leaves them to do it, check, learn it.) and why I was "wrong" in my approach.

 

Okie dokie......they are her kids. She is free to educate them the way she wants. But.......so am I. Now that our kids are older......the proof of which approach worked better for these specific children is absolutely apparent in how they are fairing as teens and adults.

 

All the commentary in the world isn't going to make a bit of difference IMHO. She has been at this for a while and has children much older than yours. Focus on your own children. You'll make plenty of your own mistakes. But....they are your children and you'll figure out how to cope with them the best you can. Which approach was better for the kids........only time will reveal. This is one of those areas where opinions will only end up harming relationships. (In reality.......it is no different than family telling me I am ruining my kids b/c I am homeschooling or how dispicable it is that I am having another baby........it is none of their business and they don't have a clue about the reality of what goes on in our home.)

 

FWIW.......homeschoolers that do not adequately educate their children are quite numerous. It is something that you will run into more when your kids reach high school age.

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Even the most motivated homeschooler may sometimes feel like a failure and feel the need to confess their failures to a safe person, i.e. another homeschooler. Her assessment of her family may be accurate, or it could be way off.

 

If she really seems to want help, ask her what areas are a specific concern or are making her fear LDs. She's already let you know what programs work best for her - programs that are more self-teaching like MUS. For instance, it sounds like her oldest needs to work on spelling. Why not recommend Megawords? It is almost completely independent and will also improve reading skills, if that is necessary. No judgement is necessary - just deal with what the kids need right now and keep moving forward.

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I have a friend who homeschools 6 kids ages 1-14 with ONE book. Not one curriculum, ONE BOOK. It looks so much like she is not doing anything - and her kids do have deficits; however, her oldest dd did well on her state test and she is meeting guidelines for the state. Her dd learned the things on the test somehow, so you can't really judge a book (even just ONE BOOK LOL) by its cover.

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Even after 20 + years of homeschooling. I don't pretend to understand some methods. But I would never, ever put my nose in another parents , even my sibling or adult child, business. We as a homeschooling society will lose something very dear, if we start regulating / reporting the lack of, or how others teach. Thank goodness I live in Texas, we have no laws per se.

 

It is a parents right to choose how, when and with what, to teach a child.

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It is a parents right to choose how, when and with what, to teach a child.

But one also has a duty to respond to a cry for help from another human being, not to mention another homeschooler and one's own relative, IF that's what it is, right? If that's what it is, then I don't think we should WITHHOLD help. Similarly, I don't go out of my way involve myself in other people's marriages, but if someone comes to me with specific/alarming issues requesting assistance, I'd be concerned and try to help that person.

 

I think the OP should tell her sister she is supportive of her desire to homeschooling and respects her parental authority, but would like to know if they could bounce ideas off each other and help each other out, or something like that. The OP could even go to her sister for ideas, as part of suggesting that she's not a know-it-all, since her sister has been homeschooling for a while. That way they start a constructive dialogue.

 

I have a friend who homeschools 6 kids ages 1-14 with ONE book. Not one curriculum, ONE BOOK. It looks so much like she is not doing anything - and her kids do have deficits; however, her oldest dd did well on her state test and she is meeting guidelines for the state. Her dd learned the things on the test somehow, so you can't really judge a book (even just ONE BOOK LOL) by its cover.

What's the book?!

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I think there are two different situations, and it's not clear which this one is:

 

* Sister is happily radically unschooling, may not want advice/criticism, and children are learning some quantity of things at their own pace.

 

* Sister is overwhelmed/swamped by homeschooling and/or other aspects of her life and is seeking help from her sister now that she is also homeschooling.

 

If it is the former, any criticizing or offering to help should be done carefully, and with a great deal of gentleness, and no real expectation for changes.

 

If it is the latter, she should also be gentle but try to help her, because her help is being sought.

 

Thank you for making this clear. She is definitely option #2. I have no doubt unschooling can work, even though I don't understand it. From what I have learned about unschooling from this thread, I'm pretty sure this is not what unschooling is supposed to look like. She's not doing ANYTHING. She doesn't expose them to anything educational, from what I can tell. I think TJE is a method she agrees with, but doesn't implement, and uses as an excuse not to do anything. Again, I see her about once or twice a year, but talk to her about once a month.

She's not asking for my help, I don't think. She knows what she is doing is wrong, she knows her other options, we've talked about homeschooling a lot in the past. She is the one that introduced me to TWTM!

When I say she doesn't like teaching, I don't mean standing up and lecturing, I mean helping her kids learn... anything.

It's hard to explain what she does and doesn't do because it doesn't make sense to me when she explains it either.

Some days she talks about how she just wants to put them in school and that her husband is the one who wants them home. Other days she sings praises to TJE and in the same breath worries about how far behind they are and how she should do more. Some days she is determined to do school everyday and not let distractions interrupt, but most of the time she gets distracted and does nothing.

She has had problems with depression, I know she is overwhelmed, her husband is only home on the weekends b/c of work, they don't have much money, she just has problems. This has been going on for a very long time.

We have a great relationship and I don't look down on her or anything, I just feel sorry for her, and mostly for her kids.

Advice is not something I think will help much at this point. She has had advice from the whole family. Her kids need some serious help catching up and she knows that. She needs to NOT homeschool because of her emotional/mental condition, IMO. At the same time, it's her family and her life and she has the right to do whatever she pleases. They ARE getting fed and loved. She's not abusive. Just emotionally unstable.

 

As her family, we have debated whether or not to call authorities on her, or if that would even help? I don't know the laws for her state (GA). We have opted not to call, of course, but still I wonder. It seems like she would almost prefer the option was taken out of her hands and was forced to put them in PS. She feels too guilty to put them in PS herself, but she doesn't want to to school them herself either.

 

Maybe I do need to be a little frank with her and just ask her what she needs from me. If I lived there I would be more than happy to tutor her kids and help her out.

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But one also has a duty to respond to a cry for help from another human being, not to mention another homeschooler and one's own relative, IF that's what it is, right? If that's what it is, then I don't think we should WITHHOLD help. Similarly, I don't go out of my way involve myself in other people's marriages, but if someone comes to me with specific/alarming issues requesting assistance, I'd be concerned and try to help that person.

 

I think the OP should tell her sister she is supportive of her desire to homeschooling and respects her parental authority, but would like to know if they could bounce ideas off each other and help each other out, or something like that. The OP could even go to her sister for ideas, as part of suggesting that she's not a know-it-all, since her sister has been homeschooling for a while. That way they start a constructive dialogue.

 

 

What's the book?!

 

 

Another thing I have learned is that those who wish help or suggestions from others, WILL ASK FOR IT !!!

 

I would converse with her in a non threatening way, or take a vacation and spend some time with them. But even then I wouldn't confront her with my opinion of educational neglect. It is one way to burn a bridge for sure !! Most homeschoolers don't take lightly to saying they are neglecting their children.

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Most homeschoolers don't take lightly to saying they are neglecting their children.

 

I haven't told her she's neglecting them. This is what she tells ME. It's very uncomfortable; I try to stay away from the topic actually because I don't want to make her feel any worse than she already does.

I called her yesterday to ask her about McGuffey Readers and how she uses them because I remembered she bought them a long time ago. She never used them and sold some of them. I told her that I was going to use the second reader for copy work soon. She thought that was a good idea and thought maybe that would help with her kid's spelling... then she just went on and on about how neglectful she is with their education.

 

Anyway, it's frustrating, but I do keep my opinions to myself. That's why she still talks to me about it. I just don't see a way I can help her.

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She could use my online phonics lessons and spelling lessons.

 

Also, there are some computer programs for teaching phonics. I like read, write and type followed by Wordy Querty, it's a bit expensive but could be used by all of the children. I also like Phonics Tutor frequent words.

 

You could also teach her children a bit over the computer--DimDim has free web conferencing.

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She has had problems with depression,

 

 

Yeah. I was going to ask if that was a possibility.

 

I'm a tactics sort of person, so here's my thoughts. If she were my sister, and I had a speaking relationship with her, I'd suggest that she take a new approach than what she's calling "unschooling/TJE." Sort of as a break, to freshen her perspective. For that break, turn off the TV, and read to/with her kids for a solid two weeks. Games (not video) at night, but only after reading some astronomical number of books during the day.

 

No proof, but, TV makes me and others I know with mild depression more depressed. It's almost as if the electromagnetic field sucks the life right out of me!

 

And reading a lot can help someone "escape" a bit of their own reality while not actually doing all that much. And games, well they're just fun and bonding.

 

Good luck finding an answer. But, I doubt involving the authorities would be the ideal solution.

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I haven't told her she's neglecting them. This is what she tells ME. It's very uncomfortable; I try to stay away from the topic actually because I don't want to make her feel any worse than she already does.

I called her yesterday to ask her about McGuffey Readers and how she uses them because I remembered she bought them a long time ago. She never used them and sold some of them. I told her that I was going to use the second reader for copy work soon. She thought that was a good idea and thought maybe that would help with her kid's spelling... then she just went on and on about how neglectful she is with their education.

 

Anyway, it's frustrating, but I do keep my opinions to myself. That's why she still talks to me about it. I just don't see a way I can help her.

 

I understand how hard it is. And commend your strength in supporting your sister. I am sorry if you felt that I didn't support you, I do !! There really is no way to help her, until she asks for it ! You might just talk about your day or what you are doing, if she is interested. Maybe she will find some wonderful new ideas through you.

 

My step daughter radically unschooled while she was on the road with her husband, a truck driver, for years. She just put her sons in school. One is disabled, the other is working very hard to catch up. She is glad now that they are in school, but she still sees what she did as right for her family at the time.

 

Even though I thought she was neglectful, and our family even had the talk many times about calling the athorities. Her sons are now both in public high school, by their own choice, and doing very well. I never pretended to understand, but I did lend a non judgemental ear and shoulder.

 

It is a very hard line to walk sometimes. But my basic belief is that it is a parents choice, that is something we can't tread on without endangering homeschooling itself.

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