There are several differing accounts as well as theories on this, but I’ll reserve my post to discussing my personal view on the topic. The following is a repost from my response to a discussion on a message board. That being said it specifically addresses certain point that were made. However, I feel overall it accurately summarizes my responses to some probably typical critiques:
I think there are plenty of parents who could do a better job of teaching their children than SOME teachers out there. I know there are lots of wonderful teachers who deserve major kudos. That being said, I personally think that I could teach my children a lot more than some of the teachers that I have personally had, and I think that unschooling makes many important points. What is the purpose of learning advanced math that you will never use for example? It is obviously important that the parent has a plan for what they are doing and that you create opportunities for learning rather than hope the children will want to figure something out themselves.
I think it is very narrow minded to think that the “traditional” public school model is the only way to raise children into intelligent, responsible, contributing members of society. Given high drop out rates (in some areas) isn’t it more important that children draw upon their natural desire to learn rather than being forced into some superficial system? And even if the unschooling “fails miserably” there are still a multitude of formal options that children can decide to pursue once they are older. It’s not as though they will never be able to recover from their parents’ “neglect.” It’s not like our public school system is #1 in the world either.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there was a school system like the one we have in place in Lincoln, Washington, Locke, or Paine’s time. Seems to me that it was the parents job to teach their children things. I understand it was more so a function of raising the children in the family profession, but somehow, society managed to move forward and advance. JMO.
Rousseau’s Emile in particular comes to mind. I think people are more frightened of the prospect of all of us hippies educating our children and turning them into nonconformists…