What is Unschooling?
by Earl Stevens
“What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge,
– George Bernard Shaw
It is very satisfying for parents to see their children in pursuit of knowledge. It is natural and healthy for the children, and in the first few years of life, the pursuit goes on during every waking hour. But after a few short years, most kids go to school. The schools also want to see children in pursuit of knowledge, but the schools want them to pursue mainly the school’s knowledge and devote twelve years of life to doing so.
In his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year award (1990), John Gatto said, “Schools were designed by Horace Mann … and others to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population.” In the interests of managing each generation of children, the public school curriculum has become a hopelessly flawed attempt to define education and to find a way of delivering that definition to vast numbers of children.
The traditional curriculum is based on the assumption that children must be pursued by knowledge because they will never pursue it themselves. It was no doubt noticed that, when given a choice, most children prefer not to do school work. Since, in a school, knowledge is defined as schoolwork, it is easy for educators to conclude that children don’t like to acquire knowledge. Thus schooling came to be a method of controlling children and forcing them to do whatever educators decided was beneficial for them. Most children don’t like textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, rote memorization, subject schedules, and lengthy periods of physical inactivity. One can discover this – even with polite and cooperative children – by asking them if they would like to add more time to their daily schedule. I feel certain that most will decline the offer.
The work of a schoolteacher is not the same as that of a homeschooling parent. In most schools, a teacher is hired to deliver a ready-made, standardized, year-long curriculum to 25 or more age-segregated children who are confined in a building all day. The teacher must use a standard curriculum – not because it is the best approach for encouraging an individual child to learn the things that need to be known – but because it is a convenient way to handle and track large numbers of children. The school curriculum is understandable only in the context of bringing administrative order out of daily chaos, of giving direction to frustrated children and unpredictable teachers. It is a system that staggers ever onward but never upward, and every morning we read about the results in our newspapers…..
CAN IT WORK IN THE REAL WORLD?
If unschooling can’t work in the real world, nothing at all can. People will say “How will they learn algebra in the real world?” Is there algebra in the real world? If not, why should it be learned? If so, why should it be separated artificially from its actual uses? “Why?” should always be the question that comes before “What?” and “How?” There is a Sesame Street book called Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum. There is a “things under the sea” room and “things in the sky” room, but still each room is just a room in a museum, no windows, everything out of context. Then he opens a big door marked “everything else in the whole wide world” and goes out into the sunshine. There is unschooling.
NOT JUST FOR KIDS!
The way adults tend to learn things is the way people best learn—by asking questions, looking things up, trying things out, and getting help when it’s needed. That’s the way pre-school kids learn too (maybe minus the looking things up), and it is the way “school-age” kids can/should learn as well. Learning is internal. Teachers are lovely assistants at best, and detrimental at worst. “Teaching” is just presentation of material. It doesn’t create learning. Artificial divisions of what is “educational” from what is considered NOT educational, and things which are “for kids” from things which are NOT for kids don’t benefit kids or adults. Finding learning in play is like the sun coming out on a dank, dark day.
(courtesy of sandradodd.com)
More on Google (http://www.google.com/?q=unschooling)