The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.
-- George Bernard Shaw
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
-- Albert Einstein
Often people are skeptical about homeschoolers who claim to be able to become educated without suffering through hours of schoolwork. Sounds suspicious -- how can you learn without suffering? If you don't hammer math through their thick little skulls, how will they learn it?
I've been educated through unschooling throughout my life, and am now in a public college (and doing well above average, for what little that's worth). So I know some of the problems of unschooling. There aren't many.
I never have let schooling interfere with my education.
-- Mark Twain
My parents bought us good books, told us what we were expected to do, and then let us do it (or not). This may not be the most pure form of unschooling
, but when I couldn't learn to spell or write, it was okay. When I decided not to learn geometry and algebra (after giving them a fair chance) it was okay. I was told what to learn, but not forced to learn it. I think that this can be safely called unschooling.
My parents still had to do a lot of work. Before we gave up on it, we spent an hour or so working on spelling each day. I needed every bit of math explained multiple times. I read on my own a lot, but one of the main reasons I bothered to read was because I knew that anything I didn't understand could be explained by my own personal tutors. I'm sure my parents could come up with a long list of other educational chores that they had to do. This is probably the biggest (if not the only) problem with any type of homeschooling. The parents really need to be involved.
I hated school so intensely. It interfered with my freedom.
-- Sigrid Undset
I can tell you right off that I had a good childhood. I am very glad I didn't have to go to a public school. I learned a lot, and I liked learning it. And I don't think I missed anything worthwhile because I was homeschooled.
But it did mean that I came into college unable to type, write essays, do algebra, or spell words well enough for the spell checker to recognize them. I also wrote 3's, 7's, C's, N's, and Z's backwards.
All of this was a problem, but I handled it. I am glad my parents didn't try to force me to learn this stuff. Adapting to college may have been harder for me than it was for others, but being (functionally) stupid didn't slow me up a bit. The first semester I did only a little above average on my tests. After that, it was all A's. This is not because I'm smart; this is because I liked learning. While I was surrounded by classmates who thought the teachers were expecting us to learn too much, I was annoyed that we still covering stuff that I had read about in 'highschool'. When the professor tried to pass off a few facts as giving us understanding, I went and read what I need to actually understand. I liked learning, and apparently that's unusual. (I didn't like that I had to learn an insanely complicated spelling system and start writing my letters facing a certain direction, but I got over that).
When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all.
-- Paul Simon
My main point being that, yes, unschooling may cause children to be unevenly educated (I overeducated myself in science and reading, and not at all in writing and arts. But it all balances out in the long run), but it doesn't matter. I would rather know what I want to know than what everyone else knows, and it's never too late to learn to read, write, or calculate.
Your parenting methods may damage your children emotionally, socially, or physically, but if you can avoid those, you did a good job! Really, there's nothing else to worry about. As long as you are willing to share what you already know with your children, they will take it from you, and their education will be at least as good as yours. Not because they are guaranteed to learn what you know, but because they will value knowledge as much as you do.
To be fair, I should mention that the public schools around here are terrible. But I would advise homeschooling anywhere in the world.