Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Unschooling; accepting your child's learning path

As parents, it is sometimes difficult for us to see the value in what our kids are interested in.
Where will it lead them? we wonder anxiously.
But following an unschooling philosophy often means accepting that you might not always like or approve of the 'educational path' your child might be on!

For instance, my daughter watches hours and hours of America's Next Top Model. I get seriously annoyed with her; I get to see too much of the back of her curly hair! I can't help worrying that not only is she 'wasting' good time, she is filling her head with nonsense and being exposed to an unhealthy models of womanhood that are harmful to a growing girl's body image.

So what do I do? I want to stop her but then I take a moment to think this through:
She is obviously gaining something of value from this. But what? I listen and look at the program over her shoulder and see that indeed there are things that are worthwhile.
The models visit Paris, London and exotic lands- so she gets a glimpse of the landmarks of the country as well as some cultural exposure (beautiful Indian saris, foreign animals etc).
Competing models get to test their mettle, are challenged by being photographed with snakes, dropped off dizzying heights, buried in the earth.

Then there's the actual grueling competition which I find degrading to the competitors: but it shows the stress that modeling really is-how much you actually have to put into attaining a thing if you really want it. The pettiness of other wannabee models! Is this what any sane person would really want to put themselves through, we ask ourselves?
They have to endure extremely uncomfortable physical situations; they have to conquer fear they have to persevere. It is a lot of self-discipline; and too be self-disciplined is a good thing isn't it?
We get the chance to discuss other issues that are important to me as well: cancer causing cosmetics, slave labour, exploitation of women, consumer culture etc etc .

Obviously it's more than the fashion-which is after all fun, and colourful and artistic. I value traditional art forms, she appreciates art in fashion and design. To each her own, I guess.


Anonymous said...

We are unschoolers but my son is always playing video games.
I don't see how he is learning anything from this!
What should I do? Should I trust that he will eventually do other things??

Bob Collier said...

My (always schooled) daughter used to watch hours and hours of CSI, a show I can hardly bear to watch myself because I find it too graphic. Her interest led her to take a degree in Forensics.

Paths are tricky things. I think they're probably only visible in retrospect. Sometimes we think we can see a path but really it's a template.

My now 14 year old son has been a gamer since he was three and out of school since he was seven and videogaming has been without a doubt his major passion. He is doing other things more and more now. It's been a gradual process and seemingly quite natural as other interests have emerged.

What I know about what he's been learning is that he has a far greater awareness of the world at large and how it works than I did when I was his age (by which time I'd had about 10 years of schooling). That's on top of the eye-hand skills and strategic thinking skills that come from the actual gameplay.

I think Marc Prensky is good to read for parents who are concerned about videogames. I found him very reassuring when my son was first out of school and wanted to do nothing but play videogames.

rfs said...

HI Bob, thanks very much for this helpful comment. So many parents worry about 'brain rot' and what is going to happen to their child's future if all they do is game or watch tv. Not to mention weight gain!!
Here is a talk on by Jane McGonigal about how gaming can make the world a better place:

rav143rab said...

*Paths are tricky things. I think they're probably only visible in retrospect. *

very true,,,

to quote JK Rowling " When it comes to death and darkness, it is the unknown we fear".....

Adding to this, I say it is the fear of unknown that keeps people (parents, society, individuals) off the beaten path.....

like in the Hindi movie *3 idiots*,
"no one knows what is in store for us in the near future, so keep chasing excellence and in times of doubt --- tell yourself that *All is Well* ;-)

rfs said...

@rav143rab-I agree. The familiar is safe so that's what we tend towards!

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