Responding to doubters
My friend will say things like "I guess I just wonder that if you have no benchmarks or external ways to measure progress then I'd personally be concerned about whether he was getting basic academics at an age-appropriate level." I just don't know how to get her to understand.
Unfortunately most people are full of misconceptions about how learning happens. And they draw reasonable sounding but erroneous conclusions from those misconceptions.
I like Dawn's answer of showering her with access to information like books and websites and articles. Your friend is feeling uncomfortable with your decisions. But it isn't your obligation to justify your decisions to her. It isn't your obligation to educate her. Her hostile questioning -- e.g., saying in various ways that you can't possibly be right -- is saying you do owe her an explanation because you're obviously not operating on all cylinders to care so little about your child.
Of course telling her that her questioning sounds that way sounds hostile ;-)
You could say you'd be happy to answer some of her questions if she can turn off the assumptions that unschooling can't possibly work. By assuming unschooling can't work she's saying you're an idiot for blindly believing in something impossible. You could answer her questions more effectively if she assumes there is an answer to her question but she just can't conceive of the answer because she doesn't know enough about how unschooling works.
I've been thinking about this thread, and while I completely understand everyone's responses, I just wanted to leave open the possibility that this friend could come around to a more unschooling friendly perspective if her questions were answered. I know it must get really old hearing the "can'ts" but isn't that a necessary step in a way?
Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. I can see how it came across that way.
Actually I was speaking to the feelings that being questioned stirs up in us. When we're put on the spot about our beliefs, we often feel we need to enlighten someone. There's a driving force inside us that says we need to make them understand so they can stop thinking bad thoughts about us and about our families and about our choices.
But if someone can let go of the emotions questioning stirs up -- not necessarily not feel the emotions but let the emotions exist, accept them, but detach ourselves from the control they try to wield over us -- a person can get to a healthier place.
If someone questions us we can choose to give them information or not depending on whether it seems a useful use of our time or not. But if we can accept that their emotions and reactions and mental place aren't ours to control, we can be more at peace with ourselves. We can be at peace with doing what we feel is right without taking on the burden of expecting the world to change for us and because of us. We're releasing the information for people to use as they will, not expecting a change in anyone in return. They are where they are for a reason. We can give them the information to change, but it isn't in our power to change them. It's entirely their choice to hold onto the place they're in or seek out what they need to get to a new place.
So when they ask did you do school today how should I explain it to them?
I'm thinking your need to respond "properly" probably comes from feeling unsure about what you're doing. You feel you need others to understand and approve of what you're doing.
But if you turn it around and realize that what they believe to be necessary to get to the goal of educated child is wrong, then you'll feel less need for them to understand and approve. "Doing school" today would be detrimental to his learning. So when they are seeking reassurance that he "did school" today, realize that they are asking to be reassured about something that would be wrong for your son.
Maybe think of the question in terms of "Did he have his coffee today?" You don't need to set them straight that he doesn't need coffee ;-) Just reassure them that he got what he needed. Because what they're really asking is "Is he learning what he needs?"
So to the "doing school" question you can answer with what you did, perhaps in schoolish terms. It isn't lying. It's providing them with what they're really asking about. And you can feel confident that even if he played all day in a mud puddle that, yes, he did learn what he needs today. :-)
When they ask the socialization question you can ask how public school kids learn to relate to people who are not the same age as themselves.
That's a really good point!
And it applies to other aspects of unschooling too. It's so easy to get defensive about homeschooling and unschooling as though we need to prove how it's just as good as public schooling. But it's better!
How will PS kids find the time to explore their interests and discover what's important to them?
How can they learn how the world works when they are shut away from it in an environment that resembles prison or boot camp more than real life?
Anyone else have any questions parents choosing PS should ask themselves?