Saturday, September 14, 2013

Who Thinks Unschooling Can Really Work?


Living in Arizona, we are very familiar with the practice of homeschooling.  The state approves, the colleges welcome homeschooled kids and there hasn't been a problem with too many kids not knowing how to socialize with their mainstream peers.  But "Unschooling" is a different animal.  I have read articles and blogs touting the benefits of unschool, and it all sounds pretty darn good.

However, having had children and grandchildren of my own, plus the input from teachers, other parents, the media, and kids themselves, I am just not convinced that unschool can work on a large scale.  There are too many parents out there who can't even figure out how to feed their children a healthy diet, let alone be guides and mentors in a lifelong learning adventure.  

The purpose of school in the first place is to prepare children for life in the future.  We start them out, generally, at age three, and they continue on for 15 years, learning what people have been learning for the past 100 years.  How much has your world changed in the past 15 years?  Are you doing your job the same way it would have been done 50 years ago?  If we cannot predict what the world will look like when our children are adults, how can we possibly know what to teach them now?  In my opinion, the most valuable skill I learned in school is how to learn.  I have always been curious and interested in a multitude of subjects, and now, with the miracle of the internet, I can find out anything I need to know.  Learning how to learn is one of the primary goals of unschool.  Parents should make it a priority to teach their children whenever there is a "teaching" moment how to find out the answer to a question.  Here's an example:  my 4 year old granddaughter is like many other little girls and into "princesses."  One day I asked her if she wanted to see a picture of a real princess.  Her eyes lit up and she was in my lap.  We Googled Princess Kate and Prince William, and then went on to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.  She is learning how to learn.  

Kids learn how to find out what they need to know.  They are prepared for any future.  If in the future the things we know now are obsolete, then the person who knows how to learn will be ready to learn what is useful in his world.  Our school model was created to turn out good employees, particularly on assembly lines in an industrialized world.  School teaches kids how to follow instructions, stand in line, eat when you are allowed, play only when the clock says it's time, and most of all, school teaches that the kids don't know anything - the teacher has all the knowledge.

Did you ever wonder how Socrates learned?  How about Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci?  Did Jane Austen get a Masters in Literature?  For most of human history learning has not taken place in a classroom.  And think of the progress humankind has made up til now.  Our system of education needs to adapt to the information age, and parents need to be the leaders in preparing our kids for their future, not our present.


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