Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Power of Unschooling

Reading a post by Idzie Desmarais on her blog called Unschooling is Forever there was a comment in response to this post about a boy who resented his mum for not having prepared him for entry into high school.

I was reminded of a kid I know for whom something similar happened. Only after the shock of 10 pages of math homework at worn off and the realization that his spelling and note-taking was not at 'peer level,' this bright, motivated, very confident, very well loved young man took on the responsibility (with his dear mother's support) to tackle wholeheartedly these shortcomings- which he did not view as obstacle but instead as challenges.

He too, might have felt a little dismayed at his mother's not having prepared him for entry, but he got over it quickly because he realized that he had chosen to enter school. It was his decision and instead of feeling 'behind' in these areas and so disadvantaged some how, he drew upon the many wonderful and empowering skills and qualities he developed under that mother's thoughtful guidance, nurtured through unschooling.

These were qualities such as self directed learning, curiosity and perseverance which are far more important in the long run than learning a bunch of facts or even proper spelling. These later, as the young lad is finding are easily picked up; the other kind need plenty of time to grow.

In the end, the best thing that unschooled kids learn is that they are trusted to learn what they need to and want to-that they CAN learn, WHEN and IF they want to.


Anonymous said...

This is okay but what about the kid being behind? I am concerned about the fierce competition that is out there! Those other kids get a head start in the academics as well as learning the ropes of how things work in an institutionalized setting while our unschooled kids miss this opportunity. How can we make it possible for them to keep up while at the same time give them freedom to pursue their interests?

Kristen Wheatley said...

Well said!

I too saw that comment on the post and found it interesting that it was from a friend of the child's mother. Does she really have the whole story? I have yet to meet a high school age unschooled child who cannot spell "easy words" as she put it. Those I have met have an unmatched curiosity, desire to learn and have reading, research skills, and yes even math skills far above their schooled peers.

A rich learning environment and the opportunities available to most unschooled children provide everything that is needed. I don't see unschooled children "missing" any opportunities as suggested above.

I understand the concern of some people but in my experience schooled children don't get a head start on anything.

As you said, the tasks involved in schooling can be easily picked up, but the rich experiences provided to unschoolers that foster a child's confidence, natural ability to learn, and desire to learn take much longer.

rfs said...

@Anon-Worrying about 'the competition' your child will face 'out there' and trying to guess how that will look is not what unschooling posits. The point of unschooling is not about making them keep up with an institutionalized curriculum that the others are following. Rather, unschooling is the opposite-supporting the child in what they want to learn/are interested in-and the many shapes and forms that takes.I hope this helps.
@Kristen-thanks for your comment. Like you, the unschooled kids I know are extremely audacious in their learning.
I've had people worry that unschooled kids are missing out on the locker experience, or the school band, or the prom, equating these with wonderful childhood/youth memories and "They won;t have these memories!" I'll have to write a post about that some time.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite delighted that my children are now missing all the fun of the institutional life and the violence condoned by schools.

I am always surprised by people who think that anyone progresses by means of competition when it is co-operation that delivers the best results for most people.

There are only so many places at the top of a pyramid therefore most children, no matter how competitive or 'ahead' in academics or sports or whatever will not be top grade. To think otherwise is to fall for the myth that tells us we can be famous/ successful/rich while the real fame/success/riches are kept for the 'elite' or already powerful in society.


rfs said...

Good point Danae!

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