School is a damaging, depressing and harmful institution. I truly believe that in time we will look back on it with the same shock, horror and disgust that we inflicted it on our children as we now look back on atrocities like slavery or the holocaust.
With that qualifier out if the way, it’s also important to understand education as a broad spectrum rather than simply schooling vs unschooling.
There’s intensely academic schools, rigidly rule-following, structure-imposing schools, Steiner schools, Montessori schools, democratic schools, free schools, homeschooling and co-ops as well as unschooling families (real life all day every day). Of course there’s dozens of alternatives distinct from each of these.
Within each of them, there’s a hundred different conceptions of what each looks like in practice. Different levels of control and coercion, different degrees of student-lead and interest based learning, different amounts of hoop jumping, different amounts of boredom and depression.
Similarly, there’s a wide (infinite) range of kids. Their personalities, needs and interests and far more diverse than the broad range of educational options can cater to.
What I’m trying to say is that schools are like politicians. They all suck, but some suck more, do more harm and have a worse impact than others. But particular ones can be more or less suitable. Often this suitability is marginal, yet still ultimately preferable.
It isn’t necessarily a spectrum of ‘best’ to ‘worst’ either. I see it as a spectrum of most tightly controlled and coerced, to the most free.
As a die-hard anarchist and libertarian, I’m inclined to equate ‘best’ with ‘most free’.
Do What Best Suits the Child
But there are circumstances where freedom is not realistically achievable, possibly due to underlying issues. If freedom isn’t reinforced with values, problems can arise. Educational freedom requires respect for property and works best with a strong family connection. The child needs to have their needs met. Things like access to a wide range of mentors, friends and masters at the child’s topics of interest.
There are circumstances where it genuinely makes sense for both child and family to do something other than what they know or feel is ultimately best.
Because nothing is permanent. One method of education can function as a transitional period. Where child can reorient after a bad experience somewhere along that continuum. It’s about what works for the family – primarily the child. If it requires inching toward freedom instead of taking the plunge sometimes, so be it.