It’s the beginning of September and for many Canadians that means sending the kids back to a formal classroom. But as Stacy Stein writes, “a parallel universe exists where kids don’t do homework, don’t take tests and don’t worry about grades.” Stein’s article on “unschooled kids” has been widely read and commented on in recent days. Today’s From the Comments starts with thoughts from readers on “unschooling” and then moves to reader comments on NAFTA and Maxime Bernier.

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Robyn Robertson and family unschool their children.


What's not to love about this concept? Curriculum is not restrictive, as it is in the traditional school system. More hands-on learning. Scheduling flexibility. Kids can be socialized by joining teams, sports, etc. outside of school. More family time. All the power to the families who are able to live this well rounded and fulfilling life! - Meroe

I and my siblings were "unschooled". It was a disaster, socially and academically. Without systematic and organized curriculum, we ended up with huge gaps in our knowledge, especially in areas like mathematics. As we got to be high-school aged, some of us did a few distance courses, but none of us graduated high school, and as a consequence we found a lot of doors closed to us. I wanted to go to university when I was younger, and though intellectually gifted, I lacked basic prerequisites and study skills, and I found myself without a lot of options.

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Socially things were even more difficult, especially for my siblings, some of whom have never moved out of home. It took me the better part of my 20's to make up the difference, and it was not easy. I lost out on a lot of opportunities along the way.

I firmly believe that attendance in some kind of structured setting with provincially sanctioned curriculum is critical. We do not allow unqualified laypersons to practice medicine or repair passenger aircraft. Teaching is not that different. We owe it to our children to have competent educators. It's not about what parents find fun or appealing. - JP Beauchesne

Why does everything these days have to be one extreme or the other? - whengoodmendonothing

The common thread here is that at least one parent is available continuously to take possession of the process. For young families living in or near large metropolitan areas this is a huge luxury that they cannot afford. - allvodi

Many school boards these days have stopped teaching basic skills like cursive writing or times tables, so it is hard to make the argument that home schooling, or unschooling, or whatever you want to call it, somehow leaves out critical learning outcomes.

Some parents may be very capable teachers, and some kids are natural learners and so they may do just fine, or maybe better than a structured school classroom. One size does not fit all. However, some parents may not teach their kids the necessary skills to make their way into the employment world, so it could be a failure for them. Without some means of testing, it does potentially leave children to be experiments. Unfortunately no one will know the outcome until well after their "education" is completed. - Helppleh

What else readers are talking about today:

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NAFTA talks set to resume with key dispute resolution system at centre of table by Adrian Morrow

I don't believe that Chapter 19 can safely be relinquished while the U.S. backs out of supporting the World Trade Organization. I was aware of the U.S. panels' rebuttals this year in favour of Canada, but I would not trust a fair ruling on the next softwood lumber dispute, as just one example. No Chapter 19? No WTO resolution possible?

It is reckless to put on rose coloured glasses and think that Canada can depend on the U.S. for fairness in ruling on charges brought by the U.S.. Who knows how U.S. courts get shaped in the near future. Even if you foolishly disregarded any potential for appointment of judges biased toward the U.S., why in the world would there not be an impartial arbitrator of disputes in such an important arena? - Cowtown Guy

I also agree that a Chapter 19 provision is essential. Especially considering that the U.S. is also simultaneously advocating , and acting on, withdrawal from the World Trade Organization. The WTO arbitration panels have seven members each elected for a four year term. The U.S. has been blocking new appointments as terms have ended leaving only four judges currently. Another retires in September and two more at the end of next year at which point the appeals process will come to an end. What is the meaning of a NAFTA trade deal - regardless of agreed-upon terms - with no dispute settlement mechanism, no WTO, and Donald Trump in the White House? - arzoonee

Poll finds 17 per cent of Canadians are open to supporting Maxime Bernier-led party by Bill Curry

Reactionary populist movements emerged from within 'big tent' moderate centre-right Parties or coalitions across Europe and the US over the past 4 decades. Typically, the spark for such an emergence was a charismatic leader and the fuel was a significant slice of the population feeling deeply anxious, frustrated and angry because it sensed social and economic trends were bypassing and leaving them without the respect & influence they were due. Such movements also build support by publicly promising to defend from the rich and connected, those that struggled (and off-stage promising to favour the rich and connected).

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While the bulk of those attracted by such movements had earlier supported conservative Parties, many had been politically inactive or had supported a liberal or social democratic Party.

Bernier, with the likes of Kevin O'Leary and prominent activists from Reform, Wildrose, CAQ and Bloc backgrounds, could build such a movement and crystalize it as a Party drawing support in Quebec and on the Prairies primarily from the Conservative Party but also from the politically inactive and some disenchanted Liberal and NDP supporters. - bob adamson

It won’t matter unless Bernier can form a party, appoint an executive, form 338 riding associations, hold a leadership convention, hold a policy convention and raise millions.

All within the next year. - Free Me

I suspect it would be a lot higher than 17% if there actually was a party. - Puma2

I am sure the majority of Canadians would support a party that has a common sense approach, creates jobs, reduces taxes and focuses on the well-being of the majority of Canadians - if Maxime can do this - he may give all the other parties a run for the money in the next election. - Chileanmafia

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From the Comments is a new feature designed to highlight interesting and thoughtful contributions from our readers. Some comments have been edited for clarity. Everyone can read the comments but only subscribers will be able to contribute. Thank you to everyone furthering debate across our site.