Current Weather
The Spy FM

Unschooled: How One Kid Is Grateful He Stayed Home

Filed by KOSU News in Education.
June 6, 2011

With summer on the horizon, many teens are looking forward to a break from school and tests. But for Sam Fuller of Albany, not much is going to change. Fuller is part of a rare minority of homeschoolers who call themselves “unschooled” — a more unstructured self-directed form of homeschooling. There are about 2 million registered homeschoolers in the U.S., a number that grows by about 10 percent a year. Sam’s family can keep Sam and his brother home by registering their house as a private school.

I didn’t have a reason to read until I was 10, so I didn’t. Eventually, when I did learn, it wasn’t because of a book, test, a teacher — or even because I was embarrassed I didn’t know how. I learned to read because of a card game I wanted to play called Magic the Gathering.

In order to play this new and exciting game, I had to be able to read about the different characters on the cards. I’m 16 now and I learn what I want to learn, when I want to learn it, and not always in the conventional ways. My mom had the idea to unschool me when she was a teacher, and I was a baby.

“I thought, here I have a 4-month-old baby and well, this is fine, how he’s learning now,” says my mom, Pam Tellew. “I don’t really see any reason that that has to change.”

Unschooling is like home schooling, except entirely self directed, with lots of support from my parents. When I got my first allowance of $2.50 a week, I remember calculating how long I’d have to save up to buy my next toy. Everything I’ve ever learned has been for a practical purpose or because I was interested, never for a test or because someone made me.

My 12-year-old brother Nicky has also been unschooled his whole life. He’s pretty shy; he likes reading fantasy books and watching South Park. Before last year, he wasn’t comfortable with groups of kids.

My mom will occasionally suggest activities, like going to the botanical garden, but Nicky will usually shoot them down with an immediate “no.” He’s bored a lot because he’s in-between interests, and yet he’s nervous about trying new things.

I had a similar problem when I was his age. It’s part of growing up unschooled. We don’t have as much pressure from school and friends telling us what to like, so it’s our responsibility to figure out how to spend our time.

My grandpa, Glenn Fuller, is one of the people in my family who had concerns about unschooling. “I didn’t think it was a good idea,” he says. “One of the reasons I was worried is that I was afraid your education might be a little spotty. The other thing is the social aspect of the thing. For example you couldn’t take part in team sports.”

Not having a social life is a big misconception about unschoolers. In our world, the idea that we are shut-ins who barely see the light of day is kind of a joke. Unschooled kids have their own networks and conferences. We go on camping trips and we hang out with friends whenever we want.

And the truth is, my Grandpa’s right, my education is spotty. Up until a year ago, I could barely spell. It was my own fault, because I was reluctant to take on the daunting task. Most parents would have intervened in this situation, but my mom says there’s a cost to that.

“When you force someone to do something, especially when they’re a child and there’s an imbalance and a power relationship anyway, they lose part of their will and their confidence that they know what’s right for them,” she says. “And I think that’s a pretty high cost for being a good speller.”

A few months ago my mom bought a book and we started working on my spelling. And I’ve also enrolled in my first community college class, with the plan of transferring my credits to a four-year college.

And although I acknowledge that school does work for some people, I’m incredibly grateful my parents decided to unschool me. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

11PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 6AM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

6AM to 7AM Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves

"Travel with Rick Steves" is a fun, hour-long, and practical talk show with guest experts and calls and questions from travelers. This weekly program is a lively conversation between travelers and the experts as we learn to explore our world smartly, smoothly, and thoughtfully.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center