Saturday, March 05, 2011

Unschooling Rules?

Who is this book for? Who is the audience? 
 That's the first question to come to my mind when I opened up the pdf file for the Unschooling Rules:55 ways to unlearn what we know about school and rediscover education.
 Is it written for people who don't know anything about unschooling? Is it for people who know about this strategy for educating and who want to show case how good a job unschooling does?

After reading this short, concise work, I think the author Clark Aldrich would have done better to name the book Unschooling Schools or Unschooling Lessons:What  teachers should know or Transforming the classroom with Unschooling.

Turns out the book is aimed at people who have numbers of children in their care. If you are thinking of starting an alternative school the book is for you.

In an ironic choice of wording,  Unschooling Rules is more of a handbook, a curriculum for how to educate kids better. Using the knowledge garnered from unschooling proponents, Aldrich describes how 'self-directed learning' theory can be applied to a school setting/ or to a group of kids situation.

For the most part, Aldrich does a very satisfying job of summarizing the unschooling philosophy in a very simple, clear way.
But there are paragraphs where I'm thinking, "Yes. But no."
Take this:

Whatever learning activities adults want children to perform, they have to model themselves. If they want children to read novels, they have to read novels. If they want children to do science experiments, they have to do science experiments. If they want children to write blogs, they have to write blogs.

Unschoolers understand that 'modeling in order to influence' is inauthentic and kids know.
They know when you are doing something for 'their own good.' You, the adult with a young person or young people in your care should not do a thing with the goal of trying to 'get' them to do that thing. Do it because you love it.
There are so many pursuits out there- why restrict kids to what YOU think is the most worthwhile?

Here is another idea that does not fit with unschooling philosophy:
Math must be part of a critical core curriculum. It is one of the few subjects, along with reading and writing, worth making mandatory. No one should enter the productive world, nor can they make good life decisions,without a deep and comfortable experience with math.
This is an opinion:Aldrich's opinion.

Still, the author offers useful ideas and tips that not only those new to unschooling can learn from, but even the seasoned unschooling practitioner can make use of.

However, there remains a perfect tool and context for math for the many people who do not share that passion. And that is a good spreadsheet, which can be created with Microsoft Excel, which many people have on their computers.

The built-in math functions of a spread-sheet have accurately captured a range of abilities necessary for planners, decision makers, and scientists to use.
Finally, spreadsheets allow for accessing in-formation visually through symbols as well
as graphs. Will Wright, the brilliant creator of SimCity and e Sims, mused in a conversation we had if it wouldn’t be better initially for a person to teach math without showing any numbers at all!

Aldrich has grasped the fundamental of unschooling with the idea that less is more when it comes to education:

The truth here is that for schools, getting out of the way may be the best thing they can do. Students,
left alone, will build things. They will create unique,surprising ways to meet specific needs that only they understand (even if the need is to enable an elaborate prank).

In short, a useful book.


Andrea Q said...

Thank you for this review! I had planned to buy the book, but I think I will wait for the library to get a copy.

rfs said...

@ Andrea Q- thanks for commenting. I love your hand made bags!

Anonymous said...

Page 91: Under "Fifteen learning models for communities and individuals to consider that are better for childhood learning than traditional schools lectures, papers, tests, grades, and transcripts", the author suggests "World of Warcraft/facebook/blogs: learn to DO and learn to BE remotely."


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