Struggles with school

i wanted to my son to experience unschooling, which is a challenge in an urban environment as it is when my own connections are not with the urban environment we are presently in.

but, i was going to have my son to attend a Freeschool (this would have been
a compromise with his mother in a seperate houshold who wants him in
public school) but she is not comfortable with the Freeschool.
here are her concerns about what he can’t receive at Freeschool:

  • he needs structure
  • needs social skills for strong relationships
  • she does admit that public school doesn’t have enough
    extracurricular activities
  • doesn’t want him switching from program to program (she says that
    public school is a safety net, as in it’s been around forever and is
    not going anywhere)
  • public schools are good resources (they are everywhere)
  • that he needs the experience of public schools and their all their
    diversity and hardships to ready him for the real world (basically
    that anything besides public schools is full of white kids from middle
    to upper class liberal families and therefore is not reality)

she would consider using the Freeschool as an extended growth
experience (as in some kind of afterschool or summer/winter break
program i think) but i’m not sure they can accomidate that, and it
sorta defeats the purpose of me even wanting him to attend Freeschool.

he is in public preschool right now (that she signed him up for
without consulting with me first). but i do want him to attend the
Freeschool when he is five. we are going to try to work through this
in court mediation but might end up in court so PLEASE any support
would be so much appreciated!

thank you everybody and take care! Ian

I also have a preschool age son and I also am looking for a freeschool or the like.Are you in Portland? If so where is this freeschool

yes, we’re in portland. here is the freeschool link:
i believe we may have met, did you all come one morning to our radical family co-op meeting and we happened to all be sick that day?

Hi yes tis I who came to your house on sick family morning.Thanks for the info on the school

Fiver, if your ex is worried about structure, maybe she would be okay with a Montessori type program? I went to a Montessori preschool and loved it. It had structure, but also gave me the freedom to express myself, which public school absolutely did not.

Also, I don’t know what the public school situation is like up there, but here everything in public school revolves around the standardized test they have to take. Schools have cut out things like art, music, and recess so they have more time to prepare for it, and they are starting school earlier and earlier every year for the same reason (the test happens in February). Kindergarten lasts all day and is much more academically oriented than when I was a kid. Needless to say, my daughter will NOT start Kindergarten this Fall ;).

On the issue of socialization and “the real world”, maybe you could show your ex this article on homeschooling and socialization:

It brings up some good points (I think) on the limitations of public schools. How often have you been scolded by a teacher for talking or passing notes in class? How many classes have you been in where the teacher changed the seats around so that friends wouldn’t sit next to each other? I mean is public school really such a great place to learn socialization? Also, I can’t count the number of times I heard a teacher say something like, “It’s okay to do that here, but in the real world…” And can you really learn about diversity in a group of people the exact same age as you, especially if you’re not supposed to talk to them?

Good luck! I hope everything works out.

I’ve gone to Montessori, home schooled, private schools, and public school… and I have to say if I’d had an adequate social network, home schooling would have been the best, but unfortunately for me, it actually was more isolating.

Montessori was awesome (grades 1-3) except that the school was understaffed. But the first Montessori school I tried before that was a nightmare. As long as you pay attention though, Montessori could be a decent compromise… but the ones I went to turned into ADHD dumping grounds (poor kids…), so just be careful. Then again, I lived in Florida, and experimental/not-the-usual ANYTHING isn’t exactly widely supported there. Portland is probably much more promising for that. I’d give it a try though. I did learn a lot in a much more expressive way.

I’d try to stay out of public school during the younger years at least, though it was less crushing than the prissy private schools (social nightmares). I spent most of my time in public high school finding out where you could get away with crawling under the fence to escape, tricking the attendance system and sitting in the flowers in the drainage ditches with my insane boyfriend :-X Useful skills? hrrrmmmm

Mar could you relate your ideas of an adequate social network in relation to homeschooling young children?

Montessori was awesome (grades 1-3)

I was traumatized when I had to start public school in the first grade. My teachers in the early grades did not like me. I always got into trouble for “not following directions.” Unfortunately, we have “good” public schools here (translation: performs well on the FCAT) so there’s not much in the way of alternatives.

I think I know what Mar is getting at regarding isolation (but correct me if I’m wrong). I would love it if we lived in a neighborhood where I could send my kids outside for the day to play with other homeschooled children living nearby and they could run around making forts and hunting crayfish in the stream, only coming home for meals and to do an hour or so of schoolwork. Unfortunately, if I want my kids to see other people, I have to drive them somewhere. Which means they have to spend a significant amount of time with only each other for company. It makes me sad, but I don’t know what to do about it.

Yes - when I was home schooled I lived in the middle of nowhere. I had no friends there and my family drove at least 40 minutes to any of their friends and farther to most of mine. There wasn’t even much wilderness nearby, at least not that I was allowed to go to on my own. I think I saw my friends literally three times that year, and had almost no social network whatsoever. If I’d had neighbors I liked, places to go, people to see (my age or not), it would have been at least fine and could have been great.

I know other people who were homeschooled, some of which turned out fine because they had real social lives despite it, and unfortunately some of which acted like annoying ignored children. I’m all for home schooling if there REALLY WILL BE regular social interaction with all ages and getting away from the house, but unfortunately I’ve seen that fail to happen a lot of times.

The socialization question: People get confused about this a lot. They think it means “making friends” and “learning to interact with other kids.” For some reason, these activities have in recent decades been referred to with the umbrella term “socializing.” Actually, socialization (slightly different word, you’ll notice) means learning the social mores of your culture. If you look at the work of Jean Liedloff and others who have observed traditional cultures it’s pretty easy to figure out that adults are expected to socialize children into the practices of the culture. How do they do this? Simply by being in proximity to the children and reinforcing their behavior: we do this, we do not do that, don’t do it that way.

A school environment is so different from what children have traditionally had as a cultural learning environment to be almost something from another planet. The child has proximity to one adult at a time, in a room of thirty other kids. Contrast with the tribal environment where there are easily as many adults as children and usually more (given the low forager birth rate). What we have here is a situation where children lack the reinforcement they need from the adult because the adult simply doesn’t have time. What’s left for socialization purposes? Other kids.

Now what sane society would expect its children to teach one another about how to properly behave within that society? By definition a person who knows how to behave properly in a culture is an adult. They are recognized as such by their people. But if the person is defined in the society as a child and obviously doesn’t know how to behave properly then they have no business trying to teach other kids how to behave either. Yet that’s what we have in the school environment.

If you needed to understand why children in “advanced civilizations” turn out to be so childlike as adults, there’s the beginning of your answer.


The social interaction question: This is different from socialization and simply involves spending a lot of time around others who share your culture, language, etc. Adults need this, and kids need this. This is the part that makes homeschooling problematic. We’re a social animal, as y’all know, and we thrive best around others of our kind, both in a species sense and in a cultural sense. Our kids do too. Different people interpret the same culture in different ways so the more perspectives a child gets on their culture, the better-rounded that child usually turns out. Not to mention all the psychological benefits otherwise, etc.

But I’m not convinced school is the answer to this. It is only a partial answer and here are a few problems with it.

  1. It is an artificial pseudo-social environment where the kids largely run the show, the adults are isolated from one another and overwhelmed with responsibility for too many children during classroom hours, and arbitrary rules hold sway concerning when people may talk and when they must keep silent. It is impossible to have healthy social interaction under these circumstances.

  2. While all the people attending a school share the common culture of being civilized, (a) each individual person attending that school comes from another kind of home-based and family-based culture that often is not shared with their teachers/students/classmates and (b) wow, what an unfortunate thing to have in common, the experience of being mentally enslaved for someone else’s benefit. Because, make no mistake–school is all about the enslavement of a mind. It springs up universally in civilized cultures and the most successful schools are the most degrading, the most demeaning, the most hierarchal and controlling and the least likely to leave children with the ability to think.

And yet… It is hard-wired into the human animal to want social contact, and this need is strongest in children. Yet civilization does its level best to keep us divided and apart from one another, leaving us only with its structures to participate in if we want social contact–and its structures pervert social contact and twist it to suit civilization’s purposes.

I really think the best environment for kids to have social contact with one another in civilization is a playground next to an unstructured park. That’s not a bad place for adults to hang out either. It is not an optimal solution because it comes nowhere near replicating the tribal environment, but it’s a start.

Impossible to say what to do in the OP’s case, though. His child’s mom just wants what she still thinks is the best for their child, or the best they can manage given the circumstances. I also must admit bias in that I think that absent abuse and neglect, the parent who risked the most to bring the child into the world ought to have the most say about the child’s upbringing, and I suspect that was a common attitude among wild humanity, especially given what we know about the prevalence of matrilineal culture before the advent of agriculture (or, as in the case of North American indigenous, pre-Contact). But there is no clean, neat answer here that is best for everyone. Mothers have the right to raise their kids; fathers have the right to raise their kids; kids have the right to know both parents; and both adults and kids have the right to a sane culture. But we can’t have the sane culture yet so that skews everything else.

Some of my more positive socialization experiences came from an adult friend of my parents who came to visit a few times a year from Wisconsin. He liked kids (although never had any of his own) and proactively included us in whatever was going on (usually fishing and socializing). He was one of those rare old souls. He was very interested in native culture too. I think that if he were still alive (he died from an alcohol addiction and depression) he might find some kindred spirits in rewilding.

But anyway, that’s off-topic.

I was also socialized (in a sense) by music when I was growing up, written by adults for adults (so in a way it is like being around adults talking back and forth). I played songs like Moon River and Stevie Wonder hits on the piano, and my parents liked to listen to soft rock by Paul Simon, James Taylor, etc. All of the complexities and nuances of life were much more present in that music than in the kid’s music that was also available (although I didn’t mind that either).

He liked kids (although never had any of his own) and proactively included us in whatever was going on (usually fishing and socializing). He was one of those rare old souls.
Imagine if the majority of the people in your community were like this dude, just hanging out with the local kids, can you imagine how expansive that would be for the kids? I'm sure the guy must have realized how much easier it is to hang out with other people's children, and how well children react to adults who are actually interested in them. I'd like to respond to Fiver's original post:
he is in public preschool right now (that she signed him up for without consulting with me first). but i do want him to attend the Freeschool when he is five. we are going to try to work through this in court mediation but might end up in court so PLEASE any support would be so much appreciated!
Perhaps something that may work well as a compromise would be to let your son try both the Freeschool and the public school, and possibly other alternatives, and simply find out what he likes best. You really can't tell which he'll choose. I helped raise a kid for three years and we started him in a really cool alternative kindergarten, and it didn't work too well, so he tried the public school, and he actually liked it better. I thought he would hate the public school, but he made some good connections, and liked the direction. To push a child through any institution that they don't want to be in can be so harmful. I still reel at my wounds of having been pushed through public schools. I hope the mother understands the major critiques of compulsory education, maybe you should turn her on to [i]Dumbing us Down[/i] by John Taylor Gatto.

Mugwort, wow, maybe he had more of an influence on me than I thought! I don’t think I’ll ever have any kids of my “own”, but I think they’re great to hang out with.

To push a child through any institution that they don't want to be in can be so harmful. I still reel at my wounds of having been pushed through public schools.

When I was 16 I fantasized about “quitting” my high school and go to a fine arts high school in Minneapolis. I wanted to focus on my interests in creative writing, math, visual art, and (at the time) small engines. I was well aware of what it would mean to move away and be far away from my family and familiar friends, yet I decided it would be worth it. But my parents deceived me into thinking that if I were “smart” about my future, I should stay put–they told me that I wouldn’t get into college if I went to an arts high school! I was, essentially, coerced to comply with their will.

I would not recommend to anyone to take their child’s education into their own hands while ignoring the child’s wishes. If a child cares enough to request how he/she wants to learn, that in itself is something to be very proud of, and parents need to trust their children’s self-directed instincts… even if, especially if, their request doesn’t look like what you think is a “good education” (my mother’s words) – whether you think a “good education” is traditional schooling, Montessori/Waldorf/, homeschooling, etc.

i was a teacher for many years…now retired.
i have lost faith in public education. today it exists to make ‘good consumers’. we are ‘dumbing down’ our kids in public school.
i always taught an enriched program and encouraged kids to think and question everything. i often got in trouble for ‘colouring outside the lines’.
i think that public school could be a useful element in a child’s education, but not alone. it’s easier in urban centres, due to the extra resources, like museums and galleries and sush.

i would highly recommend:

the teenage liberation handbook:how to quit school and get a real life and educationby grace llewellyn

it is aimed at older kids, but is an excellent book for ideas.

it i

Nice recommendation bikerdruid! I second it.

Third!!! :smiley: Dat book rocks!

what do you all think of statements such as these (regarding unschooling):

“I think structure is very important for children as it provides security for them.”

“I do think a set structure (or “routine” if that word feels better) as far as eating, sleeping, hygiene, getting outside, etc is important, with the understanding that you can always talk about it and do something different for a day or change it if it’s not working for you”

as rewilders, what are your opinions on “structure”, “routine”, and the like? especially societies views and practices of these concepts?

I have noticed that my family has a structure .It just happens to not be the cookie cutter structured schedule that a lot of other folks follow.I feel like structure kinda evolves and ebbs and flows through our lives.

so more organic ‘rhythm’ than concrete ‘structure’.