Great School Debate: Dayna, Joe, Unschoolers

To School or Not to School?

"I think it's cruel and disrespectful to put a child in school," says Dayna. She and her husband, Joe, have three kids, and consider themselves radical unschoolers. "We feel that schools are like prisons, and children deserve more freedom and respect than schools provide. We don't believe in forced learning of any kind."


Joe says, "My feeling about public schools is that it is not the best environment for a young child. I was a C average student. The reason I dropped out of school is because I couldn't conform to their expectations."


Dayna is proud of the knowledge her kids have attained. "Devon knows so much about nature, he knows so much about the ocean. He knows way more than I did at his age," she says. "In school, people only let you learn what's on their curriculum. As radical unschoolers, we do not punish our children. We don't believe in punishment. In our home, we don't live by rules; we live on principles. They can have lollipops whenever they want. Because we don't limit what we eat, they never overeat. Bedtime is when our children get tired."


Dayna also feels that children should have the same rights as adults. "I that children are people too, and they're the most discriminated against people in our culture today," she says. "We're not raising worker bees here; we're raising free-thinking entrepreneurs. My unschooled child will hire your honor student."

"That's pretty harsh on traditional schooling. You don't think there's much place for it at all. Zero place, in fact, right?" Dr. Phil asks Dayna. 

She replies, "Well, I think it has to do with free will and free choice. If a child chooses to go to school, that's great. If my son or daughters choose school, I would totally support it. But if it's against their will ""

"But how can they choose it if they're not exposed to it?" Dr. Phil interrupts. "You're not giving them one year of unschooling and one year of traditional schooling and then letting them choose."

Dayna explains that her kids have the option of checking out what goes on in the school system. "They know what goes on there. They have friends that are in school, so they talk about it."

"But they've never experienced it, right?" Dr. Phil inquires. "So, it's not really a fair choice. You can either leave Mom and Dad who, 'I've never been away from their side,' you say, and go up here with a bunch of strangers in school. So, you pick. That's kind of stacking the deck against school, isn't it?"

"Our kids are pretty young right now, so we don't say that you can go or you can't. We just live life right now how we're living," Dayna responds. 

Addressing Joe, Dr. Phil says, " Are you worried you're running your own agenda here, because you didn't have a good school experience, right?"
"I wasn't great at certain subjects, but I was excelling at others. So, where math and science came easy, computers came easy, it was harder to read and write, and, of course I picked that up later."

"But at this point, you say learning is not the goal. You say living is the goal, and learning is the side effect," Dr. Phil observes. 

Dayna answers, "Learning is the goal all the time. They learn 24/7. They learn all day, every day. It's kind of a belief in how children learn. It's the belief that children learn when they're internally motivated, as opposed to somebody else's agenda. Education is not the goal of unschooling."

Dr. Phil shares his concerns. "Do you worry that by not providing structure and goals and some kind of timeline,  so they can experience themselves master some things, meet some goals " that they're not going to be ready to compete in the outside world?" he asks. 

"They don't watch TV all day, and they don't eat junk all day because we don't have limits on it. It's really different when you don't have limits," Dayna points out. "Now, I know a child
may decide to watch TV all day if they generally have limits, and they're taken away and told they can do whatever they want. But where TV is just one of many choices in our house, it's just like any other choice that they would make. They maybe watch an hour a day, if that ... It's our job to provide them with nutritious food. And so we do that. We buy all the nutritious food, and they choose what they want to eat. But we still have some structure."


"But you said they set the structure. They decide what they want to do," Dr. Phil notes.

Dr. Phil explains that parenting can be divided into three distinct stages. "One, there's dependency. They're totally dependent on you as infants. You have to feed them, clothe them, carry them, protect them in every possible way. And second, you go into this preparatory phase, where as parents you're preparing your children to function in the world, because the third stage is performance," he reveals. "Are they going to be prepared to compete with those who have dealt with that all of their growing up life, when your children have not?"

Dayna replies, "We're in the real world every day. It's kids in school that are in a building all day, kind of away from the real world."


"But your kids don't work against deadlines," Dr. Phil points out.

"They have their own deadlines. They set their own goals," Dayna replies.