Letters to the Editor

Radical Unschooling

The article on "unschooling" ["School's Out Forever," by Lauren Kern, April 20] was very interesting. The tone set by the reporter was sort of an admonishing bemusement, with the continual reminder that the Furgason children can do whatever they want, so they play Pokémon all day. Yet several times mention was made of reading books, writing books and e-mails, and other things of that nature. They must be spending some time doing that.

A lot of time is wasted in school. Believe me, it isn't easy herding even a few kids for a day, let alone 25 or 30 of them. In a public school classroom, it inevitably is going to take a lot more time to teach anything, and then it is often rote learning, which is not going to stick.

Miss Fallon is almost always amusing. Here she goes again, saying that home-educated children should be required to take the TAAS test, just like all other children in the state. Oh, excuse me, Ms. Fallon, private school students do not have to take the TAAS.

And Fallon is certainly wrong about the Furgason children -- they will never be a burden on society. Why would they be, since they're not now? They are resourceful and are not likely to wind up at McDonald's. But if they do, so what? I would much rather have them taking my order than some of the dull-eyed kids I have to deal with now. I'm confident that they would get my order right, and there's no dishonor in that.

Marie Angell


As a home educator, I read your article with a sense of almost shock. From what you wrote, the description of Mrs. Furgason as a radical hippie seems apropos, if you gave an accurate picture and didn't focus on the abnormal just for its shock value and potential to stir up trouble for all homeschoolers in Texas.

You wrote: " 'One of the problems with homeschooling,' says Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, 'is programs like these.' " Fallon has never met the Furgason family, but she thinks their educational philosophy is "absolutely flaky" and a disservice to their children. "We went through some of that garbage in the '60s with the 'Well, the child will tell us when he's ready to learn' and turned out a pack of illiterates," she says.

The educators of the '60s produced far fewer illiterates than the '80s, '90s and now the '00s are producing. If you'll honestly open your eyes to see the dumbed-down high school graduating classes of the last few years, you'll see what I'm talking about.

Charlene Smith

Cove, Texas

"Apparently the child had other things he'd rather do that were competing for his time. He may think it's [great] when he's nine or ten, but it may not be quite as much fun when he's 30 and going, 'Do you want fries with this?' "

I thought this comment by Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, was rather ironic. Don't public schools turn out the majority of our burger flippers?

While I do not think unschooling is the best form of education (I am a homeschooler), I do think that the children who are raised in such an environment are far less likely (as a percentage of all students taught that way) to become welfare dependents or work in low-end jobs than their public school counterparts. I think public schooling often hinders the growth of the minds of its students, while unschooling at least stays out of the way.

Becky Smith


The unschoolers miss the point completely. Young people need tough but caring teachers and tough intellectual challenges. What may have turned some parents to unschooling were too many unimaginative, uncaring teachers in their own lives who prejudiced them against formal education. I fondly remember those elementary, junior high, high school and college teachers who thought enough of me to make me think. The rest I have forgotten. Little can equal the adrenaline rush of solving a tough problem -- good teachers know that. I pity those poor kids. As the saying goes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Pat V. Powers


Have you ever read the Essential Elements of Education, the basis of what is supposed to be taught in the public schools? I have, and the things that those Furgason kids are learning are a lot closer to the spirit and the letter of the law than many of the tired, worn-out "courses" taught in the system.

Michele Murphy


I am a homeschooling parent of three children. This is our eighth year of homeschooling. We began with a strict curriculum of texts, tests, etc. We now are happily unschooling, a transition that took place and was finalized after our third year of homeschooling. My oldest daughter, who is 20, is enrolled in a private college and is doing well. My other two are still homeschooling.

Your article implies that by unschooling, the results of the student will be less than that of a structured curriculum. School official Fallon states: As for a boy like Justin who doesn't read until the age of 11, "we assume he's five grade levels behind his peers and that remediation is critical."

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