"Unschooled" Kids and College

What we've been reading, watching, and thinking about at Alpine Valley School this week.


This week the Smithsonian Magazine published an article about the unschooling movement and how it relates to college admissions. Do Unschooled kids get into college? Do they do well once they get there? (Spoiler alert: Yes!). Though Alpine Valley School is different from unschooling (we have a system of government, for example) a lot of the information in this article pertaining to self-directed learning applies equally to our school. Check it out here: "Unschooled" Kids Do Just Fine in College.

 

Here's an excerpt: 

Unschooling—child-directed learning—is “the final and most extreme frontier in the broader cultural shift toward 'child-centred' parenting,” says the Globe and Mail. Unlike more traditional homeschooling, in which parents "try to replicate the formal curriculum of the school system in the home," says University Affairs, unschooling "encourages kids to do pretty much whatever they want with their time.”

The idea is that children are, by default, keen learners. If something strikes their passions, the thinking goes, kids will pursue it to the end, picking up intellectual skills and self-motivation as they go.

The question that's always posed to unschooling is whether kids who learn in this way are set up to succeed when confronted by the structured, organized, hierarchical society that awaits. According to new research, described by Luba Vangelova for KQED, it seems that—contrary to what skeptics might assume—unschooled kids do just fine when transitioning to more traditional colleges.

In a survey, psychologists Peter Gray and Gina Riley found that of 232 families who unschooled their kids, 83 percent of the children went on to study at a post-secondary institution:


Almost half of those had either completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, or were currently enrolled in such a program; they attended (or had graduated from) a wide range of colleges, from Ivy League universities to state universities and smaller liberal-arts colleges.


Quotes of the Week:

what we learn in pleasure we never forget.png

A Survey of Grown Unschoolers:

Continuing with the "do unschoolers grow up to do okay?" theme - here's another article from Dr. Peter Gray (of "Free to Learn" fame) where he surveyed a multitude of adults who either attended a school like Alpine Valley or were unschooled at home and found out what their lives look like now that they're grown. Here's the article: A Survey of Grown Unschoolers.

Here's an excerpt: 

The results of that survey led us to wonder how those who are unschooled, as opposed to their parents, feel about the unschooling experience.  We also had questions about the ability of grown unschoolers to pursue higher education, if they chose to do so, and to find gainful and satisfying adult employment.  Those questions led us to the survey of grown unschoolers that is described in this article and, in more detail, in three more articles to follow.

Survey Method for Our Study of Grown Unschoolers

On March 12, 2013, Gina and I posted on this blog (here) an announcement to recruit participants.  That announcement was also picked up by others and reposted on various websites and circulated through online social media.  To be sure that potential participants understood what we meant by “unschooling,” we defined it in the announcement as follows: 

Unschooling is not schooling. Unschooling parents do not send their children to school and they do not do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They may, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child's learning. In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.” 

The announcement went on to state that participants must (a) be at least 18 years of age; (b) have been unschooled (by the above definition) for at least two years during what would have been their high school years; and (c) not have attended 11th and 12th grade at a high school.

The announcement included Gina’s email address, with a request that potential participants contact her to receive a copy of the consent form and survey questionnaire. The survey included questions about the respondent’s gender; date of birth; history of schooling, home schooling, and unschooling (years in which they had done each); reasons for their unschooling (as they understood them); roles that their parents played in their education during their unschooling years; any formal higher education they had experienced subsequent to unschooling (including how they gained admission and how they adapted to it); their current employment; their social life growing up and now; the main advantages and disadvantages they experienced from their unschooling; and their judgment as to whether or not they would unschool their own children.


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Alpine Valley School will be hosting an informal meet and greet beginning at 9AM! Come and learn more about self-directed democratic education in the Denver area by touring our facility, meeting our staff members, and chatting with graduates of our program. Space is limited, so please  reserve your spot  if you plan to attend!

Alpine Valley School will be hosting an informal meet and greet beginning at 9AM! Come and learn more about self-directed democratic education in the Denver area by touring our facility, meeting our staff members, and chatting with graduates of our program. Space is limited, so please reserve your spot if you plan to attend!

Marc Gallivan