Monday, July 11, 2011

Unschooling didn't start with my children. It started with me.

I just realized that I am the original autodidact. Unschooling didn't start with my children. It started with me.

I can recall the first time I ever questioned the opinion of an author. It was an epiphany for me. I was about 13 when I found myself in disagreement with what the writer was arguing (can't even remember what it was).

I was awestruck that I could disagree; that I could challenge the authority of the printed word ("it's printed so it must be true.")

When I understood the power this gave me I got really heady. I was off.The feeling of audacity, of daring that came to me was unequaled in my experience. What else could I challenge? What else didn't I agree with?

But even before this, I was already on my path to self directed learning.

At age 12, having moved from Britain to Africa and determined to go to a French speaking school instead of the anglophone school, I spent all summer studying verbs in my Becherelle-although in the end I did not end up going.
Instead I was made to go to an awful school that I regularly avoided going to.

It was a sketchy affair. I  attended infrequently and unwillingly-being traumatized at the conditions I found there. With well over 70 people per classroom and the classroom at that being nothing more than a mud hut with a corrugated roof and an enormous hole in the wall where the red dust of the dry season swept through. Let's just say that going to the toilet didn't happen too often either-horrifying as it was to my tender British sensibilities!

Instead, I spent a lot of time at home taking care of my baby sister while mother worked.

Suffice it to say that I spent many, many an afternoon pondering about the ways of the world. I read religion trying to find answers there. I studied mathematics and physics and at high school dropped out of organic chemistry failing to understand it . At that point I was expelled for poor attendance.

Not a problem. I was used to doing my own thing anyway. I studied math and my mother hired a tutor to help me with further maths for my 'A Levels.' In short, I think I always have been self directed learner so no surprise that here I am encouraging and promoting self direction for my daughters and for others.
What about you? When did you become an autodidact?


Drana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crystal Jeffers said...

I think I always questioned authority, and those who thought they new better. When I was in high school I finally had enough. I quit going. I simply went and did things more entertaining to me and then my parents found out and decided to put me on "independent" studies. This is where I "graduated" and got a diploma. I graduated 6 months before my class even though I only was on independent studies for about a year and a half.
My ideas on learning changed from that point on.

Drana said...

I came to realize I was a self-directed learner in the 11th grade, although, I knew I was just going through the paces long before that. The internet was just getting popular in the public and I wanted to create for this new media, so I sought out the knowledge and learned to web design. I went to College after graduation and found that the programs available were not ready to teach the skills I needed for "The Real World". It was very liberating to step out from the norm of compulsory education. Later, I started unjobbing by freelancing my web design work ( I like how you said it's no wonder I promote self-directed learning. I identify with this article, very much. THANK YOU

Anonymous said...

Unschooling yourself as a parent-do you have any advice on this?

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rfs said...

@Crystal and @Drana,-many thanks for your comments. I wish I could hear from more people about this. I am so interested in knowing how people arrive at being self directed learners and autodidacts. So many different ways!

Wom said...

In some ways I've always been one, in that I've always been a critical thinker and very self-motivated. But at the same time, I loved the school part of school--I loved assignments, and classes. While i was never afraid to challenge my elders, it wasn't until I was in my PhD program that I really started to see the institutional aspect--the pressures, the jumping through hoops, and the being graded, which never ends. I got tired of being a "good little PhD student", and, inspired by Virginia woolf's example, decided to try to live outside the educational system. It was liberating & sometimes painful. Sometimes I'm like Lisa simpson: "please grade me!"

These feelings about school are resurfacing now that my oldest daughter is entering JK. She's not keen on going I'm happy to let her stay home,but my feelings about school are so strong-- I feel somewhat grief- stricken by the possibility that she won't attend if we do decide to unschool.

This comment is getting long! But I must tell you that I love your blog and that I'd love to hear some tips for parents in my position. I love the idea of unschooling, but I'm anxious about what such a life will mean for us-- financially & in terms of my own career ambitions & need for personal space. I guess, partly, it's just so hard to visualize.

Anyway, thanks for the blog & your show!

rfs said...

@Wom-Thanks much for a very detailed comment. I have responded in my new post and hope you will find some kernel of sense in it! Warmly, Beatrice

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