Sunday, July 29, 2012
Why I Unschool
Unschooling: A step further in self-directed learning.
It’s early winter and I’m a volunteer at the local elementary school. I have high hopes of becoming a school teacher and want to gain some hands-on experience. Inside the classroom, 28 little children sit in their chairs, working on their ‘paper cutting skills.’
I glance up from supervising a child when a most wondrous sight catches my eye: snow flakes are softly falling outside the window. Great, fluffy flakes float gently down from a purple sky. It brings to mind a cherished snow globe I had as a child. It was a famous landmark – the Eiffel Tower I think – encased in a plastic dome. When I shook it, the little white flakes would descend in a swirling mass, to land at the bottom. Then I’d do it all over again. The toy would amaze and amuse me for hours on end.
It’s a magical world, but the teacher has a different opinion. She hurries over to the window where the children are already gathered to watch the snow fall. Swiftly, abruptly, she draws the curtains closed. “The children are getting distracted,” she says.
The suspicions I had been harbouring about the nature of schooling and how it might actually prevent learning are being confirmed in this very classroom. These curious minds are missing out on experiencing falling snow. They don’t get to observe, engage, or be awed by it. Judging by the looks on their faces, they know they are being cheated but can’t do anything about it. Instead, under the teacher’s management, they must return to their seats and complete the assignment before the bell rings. At that point, they will move to the next learning opportunity that’s been prescribed for them.
My hand hovers uncertainly over my pregnant belly. Is this what awaits her?
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