This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every moring: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion saith my soul: therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3: 21-26

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Unprocessed Child –Living without School by Valerie Fitzenreiter

This book’s very nature invites me to discuss point by point the things I agree and disagree with. (I promise I won’t do that—but it will involve a lot of editing and self-restraint.) One moment I was nodding in complete agreement with the author —saying “I did that!!” “Exactly what I have been telling everyone else.” and the next I wanted to fling the book as far and as hard as I could because the sweeping stereotypes and assumptions were so obvious.

The author is heavily influenced by A.S. Neill who founded Summerhill School and wrote the subsequent book with that title, and by John Holt, pioneer and champion of unschooling. Neill, I was not terribly impressed with, John Holt I think was a visionary.

This was a book of contrasts for me to read. Ms. Fitzenreiter is the parent of a single daughter. I think she is not very open to the fact that children are individuals and while this obviously was hugely successful for her daughter, I don’t think that this is a manual that needs to be followed to a T. I would recommend that homeschoolers read this book to understand the perspective, but I would not recommend that this be the only book a homeschooler, especially a new homeschooler or potential homeschooler reads.

This is a secular, liberal book. This is the antithesis to the Pearls and the Maxwell/MOTH people. A quote by the author on p. 55 “In a home where a child is free to grow and learn at her own pace, discipline is an unwelcome intrusion into the lives of the members of the household and totally unnecessary.” Ms. Fitzenreiter argues that no bounds other than keeping a child from harming themselves or others should be placed on a child. As a mostly grace-based parent and eclectic schooler, I am often in closer agreement with her than most of the world, but sometimes do see benefits to a few rules and restrictions.

This is the second time I’ve read this book. I was so conflicted the first time I read it, I waited a long time and read it again, just to see there was some predisposition of mine that kept me from whole-heartedly embracing Ms. Fitzenreiter’s theories. As I read it the second time it was apparent that this is a Utopian book. There is no doubt in my mind Ms. Fitzenreiter and her daughter Laurie were very successful with this method of living and learning. But there are some issues that leave me wondering if the total lack of discipline and complete unschooling may work better 1) with girls, 2) with only children & better yet with, 3) only children who are girls. There are just some things that would not work at our house.

Again, this was an interesting read. There are many valuable suggestions and ideas to ponder and possible put into practice. It is as much a parenting book as a homeschooling book. I think any parent would benefit from reading it, but I would definitely recommend that it not be the sole authority on homeschool or parenting for anyone.

This is the last book I will be reviewing for the Spring Reading Thing that was hosted by Katrina of Callapidder Days. I will be posting a wrap up post soon.


Christi said...

Like you, I got distracted by books not on my list. Oh well, I enjoyed them anyway!

Have a great day!

Jenny in Ca said...

good review, you covered all the points I would have wondered about. I agree with your thinking about only children, I've read a few homeschool books that described a wonderful, unschooling lifestyle-and the kids turned out to by brilliant, but almost all of the books described life with one child...two at the most. I think when you are raising a crowd, setting your home up for spontaneous learning moments goes out the are just trying to survive at some point!
thanks for the review