Do unschoolers use workbooks and textbooks?
Do unschoolers use workbooks and textbooks?
It all depends on why you're asking! ;-) Rephrase the question as "Do unschoolers use coloring books?" and perhaps you can see the problem with the question.
Do unschoolers use coloring books? It sounds like a dumb question because parents don't normally see anything special about coloring books. Unschooled kids don't use coloring books. They color in them! Or they ignore them. Or fold them into paper airplanes. Whether an unschooled child "uses" coloring books or not depends on whether the child likes them or not.
But there are a few reasons the question gets asked:
1) Since unschooling is basically not schooling, it often sounds like anything used in school is off limits to unschoolers.
2) Because their kids like workbooks.
But kids can "like" workbooks for different reasons. And it's why they're choosing them that's important.
If someone understands unschooling, then there isn't a reason to ask if it's okay if their kids like workbooks. It's like asking if it's okay if their kids like coloring books.
But if a child was in school and is convinced that school ways are the only legitimate ways to learn, they can be choosing workbooks for reasons other than because they like them. And then if the mom finds that kids choosing workbooks is comforting to her fears, she will want to hear unschoolers say "Sure, it's fine. Unschoolers do workbooks."
So bottom line the question isn't "Do unschoolers use workbooks?" The question is "Why is the child choosing workbooks?"
If, on the other hand, the question is "Are workbooks and textbooks and curriculum damaging to unschooling," the answer is "It depends."
It depends on whether the mom trusts unschooling. It depends on whether the child trusts unschooling (or is for some other reason oblivious to the supposed "right" way to learn.)
So, why is the child using workbooks?
You can't say NO worksheets. If your child WANTS worksheets or asks for worksheets then you are not unschooling if you DON'T allow him/her to explore that medium. Do not give worksheets IMPORTANCE or make them the ONLY thing in their life, but denying a child worksheets would be the same as denying them TV or books wouldn't it?
The principle of unschooling is that children can learn by living life. It's what we're trying to help people understand.
Unless someone is really really careful about how they word their answer about workbooks, then someone is going to grasp at that answer as an unschooling stamp of approval of a schoolish something that eases their fears.
My gut feeling is that if someone understands unschooling then they don't need to ask whether workbooks are okay or not. It'd be like asking whether coloring books are okay or not. Do you see what I mean? If someone asks whether workbooks are okay and explains that their kids like workbooks then there's something about unschooling they don't understand and saying yes is likely to be damaging. (I usually say "It depends," and go onto a long explanation.)
I just think instead of trying to condemn any one ANYTHING as not being unschooly maybe it would be better to add that in certain circumstances it's okay.
I don't try to condemn any one thing. My goal is to help people understand the philosophy unschooling is based on so they can see the answer for themselves. (That's not a quick enough path to the answer for many people though.)
The subject of workbooks just isn't a good one to understand the principles of unschooling from. There are too many pitfalls. I really wish no one would ask about them until they understand unschooling well enough. And then they won't need to ask. They'll know!
I still do not get what the fuss is all about. Instead of excluding material which might help you or your child why not include it all?
No one would disagree with what you're saying. But it isn't the actions that make something unschooling. It's the motivations. And that's what the fuss is about.
If a parent sees a resource as a means of moving the child from where he is to where the parent wants him to be, then it's not unschooling. If the parent sees something as a way of helping the child get from where he is to where the child wants to be then it's unschooling.
It can get a bit gray depending on the parents' and children's understanding of learning too. If someone is taking a class because it appeals to them then it's unschooling. If someone is taking a class because they think it's the only way to learn something properly then their thinking may be closing in or skewing away from unschooling.
(Sometimes a class is the only decent option, like martial arts for example. But an art class can provide aspects of learning about art (like seeing how others interpret the same assignment, hearing how someone else views what you're doing) that learning in other ways don't provide as well.)
No one can really tell why someone is doing something based purely on what they're doing. If unschooling were describable and definable purely through what people do, it would be easy to explain and get! We could just give people a formula. But it isn't. It depends lots on what's going on inside of someone which is why we need so many words to talk about it!
If what he wanted was structured math lessons, that wasn't unschooling.
This statement is confusing to me. IF a child asked for math "lessons" .. wanted to do work books, maybe have a tutor ... ALL of their own accord, their own desires, their own yearning to "learn more".. it wouldn't be unschooling?
I think what's confusing is that the child you're describing clearly doesn't want to learn math. He wants to jump through what he thinks are the necessary hoops to get into school.
If he wanted to learn math for the sake of math then he wouldn't be distracted by the cat and everything else that wandered by. There wouldn't be any tension trying to keep him on task.
As Sandra succinctly put it:
It has more to do with why people are doing what they are doing and what they believe about it than WHAT they are doing.
If a child thinks he needs to do a workbook in order to learn something, then he isn't unschooling. Even if he asks for the workbook. But if he does workbooks for fun like puzzle books or video games or cartoons, picking them up when he feels like it, and the mom doesn't value them more than anything else the child enjoys doing, then that's unschooling.