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From: tam w (
Date: May 25, 2008 at 10:29 pm PST

Hi. This is my first time here. I wandered by after a few years of staying off of boards like this for a bit of inspiration. The post on unschooling your highschoolers was the first one I saw. I must say that I relate. When my kids were little I started out homeschooling them. Over the first few years we slid more and more into unschooling. The more I read the more sense it made to me and the better it sounded. I read Gatto, and all the issues I could get of Growing Without Schooling, The Teenage Liberation Handbook, a LOT of stuff on the site by Sandra Dodd etc...etc... It all sounded great. So, thats what I did. It seemed at the time to be the best decision. I surrounded my kids in enriching activities. They were in theatre groups and volunteered at museums, we travelled to nursing homes doing shows, they took music lessons and karate lessons and anything else they were interested in. Throughout all of this they never showed any real motivation of their own. I would read about these other kids who spent their days starting their own businesses, or reading all of the classics, or basically just keeping themselves occupied with fairly admirable pursuits of their time. My kids, on the other hand, spent most of their time on the computer chatting with their friends, on the phone chatting with their friends, and hmmmm...oh, that's right, out with their friends. Lets not forget sleeping. This was actually fine when they were young as their best friends were unschooled as well and with the natural enthusiasm of children and the support of four unschooling enthusiastic adults we were able to channel their energy into alot of exciting and interesting projects. However, it was rare indeed (although admitedly not unheard of) for any of these projects to be completely child lead. They enjoyed the things we did immensely but ALWAYS needed that push to get them started AND to keep them going. I guess that I just figured that as they got older they would outgrow that. Everything that I read on the subject spoke of these kids that were alive with a thirst for learning. The examples in the books always made these kids sound so motivated and interested. After awhile I started to feel pretty inadequate despite the fact that I truly surrounded them with the most interesting enriching enviroment that I could come up with and did my very best to "facilitate" their learning. Now they are almost seventeen and eighteen yrs. old. My eighteen yr. old just finished her first yr. of community college where her grades were average to poor. (she did, however, manage to get her GED without ever studying and score quite high) My sixteen yr. old is yrs. behind in math, and though she feels extremely self conscious about that she has never put any steady effort into learning it despite many many efforts on my part to help her. She reads sporadically, although she does know a lot about a lot of different things. We moved a few years ago and she never made any friends here really, so that has been hard for her. However, she has been allowed to go back to Philly every couple of months for two to three wks. at a time. In between, if left to her own devices, she would lie on the couch and sleep and watch t.v. all day. She did work for the last few months, and worked very hard I might add, to save up money for a trip to Europe to see friends of hers. Her sister went as well, although she didn't manage to save up any money, she pretty much spent it all (eighteen and moved out so there wasn't much I could say about it).Luckily they have a place to stay and food to eat. I suppose she just feels she will bum the money off of Meg if she needs any more. My point to all this rambling is this. . .I feel very let down. I feel that I failed my kids. I think that I kept them from reaching their full potential possibly, or that I should have been a lot stricter. I have two little ones at home still (12 and 9). They have been homeschooled/unschooled. I still believe in the basic theories and principals of unschooling. We still have a lot of days where I let them play instead of do "school" because I can watch what they are playing and see how creative it is. Maybe I'm just lazy. I don't know. All I was ever trying to do was give my kids the freedom to find who they were and what they wanted. I just kept waiting for that lightning to strike. One day they were going to get up and go grab the world. Maybe they will still. My oldest is a talented musician who reads philosophy and studies different religions and world cultures in her free time. She is also a bit of an artist. However, she is completely unmotivated to ever "work" at any kind of viable job or career. She wants to just float around "experiencing life" which is a bit unrealistic. She has absolutely NO common sense, makes consistenly poor decisions and seems unable of living beyond the moment she is currently in or taking responsiblity for any of her choices. My younger daughter (the sixteen yr.old) has shown an interest and talent for photography, drumming and art. She also has a pretty solid interest in unsolved crimes and stuff like that. However she has to be one of the laziest people ever born!!! On the other hand she has more COMMON sense than a lot of adults that I know and is one of the sweetest most caring teenagers I have ever met.She makes (for the most part) very good choices and shows a good intution about people. IF anyone out there actually managed to make it through this loooong rambling dialogue on unschooling I congragulate you, and thank you!!! My question, ultimately, is this: Why didn't it work??? Where is the motivation, the love of learning, etc...???? And even though my heart tells me that my little ones are fine (they are in fact very articulate, creative, amazing kids despite being a little bit behind academically in some subjects) do I throw unschooling out and start making them hit the books now??? And what in the name of God do I do about Meg (16) and helping/making her catch up enough in the next yr. to take her GED.I don't even know where to start witht that, especially the math... HELP!!! PLEASE!!! I'm VERY conflicted here!!

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