TUCSON (KGUN-9 TV) - Kids skip out on school. They're truants, little criminals right?
Not so fast.
There are some kids who never step foot in a school and don't follow home schooling guidelines either. It's a movement known as "unschooling." And in Arizona, it appears to be legal.
9 On Your Side wanted know more about it. One Tucson area family agreed to talk about their experience with it.
Lisa Cottrell-Bentley and her husband Greg are parents to Zoe, age 13 and Teagan, age 9. Lisa explained to 9 On Your Side anchor Jennifer Waddell how "unschooling" began for them. "It all came about because of Zoe. When Zoe was first born, she was a brilliant infant, but by the time she was a year old she could say 104 words and by the time she was three she was reading books all on her own."
The Bentley family is letting their children decide how, what and when they learn. Not *home*schooling - unschooling - as in none at all. They also wanted to avoid paying thousands of dollars for home schooling curriculum.
They are "radical" unschoolers, which means they take the unschooling principles, as established by John Holt, one step further.
Not only do Zoe and Teagan not go to school, they don't have strict bedtimes, strict eating schedules or chores.
But don't you dare call them uneducated.
Zoe, for instance, can tell you anything you want to know about rocks. She even has a website about them that she built. How did she learn to do such a thing? "Well my parents helped me figure out how website editing worked," she said. "And I made the background myself actually and the banner here."
Zoe is also a blogger for NASA and has already aced a class at Pima Community College -- all with no form education, no curriculum, no homework, and no tests.
Her 9 year old sister Teagan is not far behind. She's also a wiz on the web, and loves ballet.
Even so -- how is all this legal?
9 On Your Side put that question to the Pima County Superintendent's office. A spokesperson said parents just have to submit an affidavit, following the same rules as home schoolers. The office admits that it does not monitor what happens once it processes the paperwork.
What about college? Unschoolers have to provide a portfolio of their work plus SAT or ACT scores.
Sam Gubernick was an unschooler and he's now a senior at the University of Arizona.
Gubernick explained to Waddell how he got in. "Everything I needed to know I'd already learned. Going to college was pretty easy and high school isn't as necessary as it always sounds."
Back to the Bentley family: Waddell asked how the family would respond to critics of what they are doing. His response: "It works for us. It may not work for everybody but our kids learn all they need to know and it's a great joy to have them around."
The biggest critic of unschooling is State School Superintendent Tom Horne who does not in any way support the idea. But for now, the option remains on the table for Arizona parents who care to give it a try.
Great bit on unschooling... there is video of it on the kgun9.com site.