Thursday, July 24, 2014

Self-Determined Education, Unschooling and Activism

I sometimes think about self-directed learning, unschooling and autonomy in education in terms of ‘quiet’ activism. It’s about advocating for our children's freedom to learn as they want to and helping them to take responsibility for being in the world, right from the beginning of their life and on. Unschoolers and practitioners of autonomous education are actively demonstrating another way to attain education. We are redefining the way education is understood, what it means to be educated, what learning in an atmosphere of freedom looks like; that it can be done.
This can feel uncomfortable; especially when we ourselves are still deschooling our minds, trying got rid ourselves of doubts, mistrust in our children's ability to learn, uncertainty about if we are doing it right, if it will work....
Not surprisingly, many unschoolers are living lives under the radar, by no means attempting to influence others or trying to prove ourselves. But there are also a significant number of us who continuously seek to 'up' the noise level; writing about, documenting and advocating for unschooling lifestyles and philosophies. The results of these activities are seeping into the mainstream conscience, both indirectly and directly.
It might be a little ambitious to say that it is a movement as yet, but there is certainly an enormous interest in the concepts and ideas of unschooling (I had over 10,000 downloads of my book in the 5 day free book promotion).
Parents are catching on that there is this thing happening, and it sounds pretty intriguing and it makes sense and how do I get some for my kid? Educators are frustrated at the exploratory and creative limitations set for their students by the powers on high, and crave more freedom in learning within the classroom--and outside of it. They know that their charges are getting shortchanged.
When it comes to the traditional understanding of activism (being engaged and about engaging in social and environmental issues), unschoolers have a fantastic opportunity to be get involved and participate in creating change. It is fitting because unschooling is the epitome of justice and respect towards some of the most vulnerable in our society, children. Why not extend that concern to include other vulnerable and oppressed groups? Unschoolers can become strong, world citizens at any age. It is never too late to discuss justice issues, local politics, environmental concerns, and to bring your children along to events, meetings and activities.
I am very interested in hearing from readers about their experiences with social justice, environmentalism, and anti-oppression work/awareness in their unschooling practices. Do you think that you are stronger citizens because of your unschooling lifestyle and believes? Do you think unschooling has opened areas of inquiry into justice issues? Tell me!

On TV!

I think both unschooling and deschooling are about creating and reclaiming places and events for adults and children of all ages to live and learn together.
- Susannah Sheffer and Pat Farenga,“Reflecting on Growing Without Schooling” Vimukt Shiksha 2002


Laura Grace Weldon said...

I agree. I see homeschooling/unschooling as part of a shift happening, moving us from power-over to power-with, from separation to connection, from rigid strictures to authentic self-determination. As we demonstrate what it means to freely educate, we help others see what's possible.

As for activism, my kids have been passionate about getting involved. I can't imagine they'd have the same persistence if they'd been assigned a certain number of volunteer hours.

beatrice ekoko said...

@Laura Thanks for the comment. "We help others see what's possible." Nicely put.
So with activism as in social justice, would you say that you had any influence over your children's engagement in this area?

Execumama said...

There is definitely a synergy between unschooling and activism, Beatrice. For my family (husband and two daughters, 10 and 8), the unschooling shift made it very difficult for us to continue to operate in muted spaces in the other aspects of our lives.

We stopped supporting the systems that went against our beliefs in some pretty radical ways. We got rid of our house (the wicked mortgage trap in the U.S.), our truck (which made it easy for us to walk less and drive/pollute more), we stopped spending the entire year in the U.S. and spent more time in lazy towns in Jamaica (where my husband and I are from) meeting fishermen, touching animals and plants (not just reading about them), eating real food (and not GMO chemistry), and lifting the fog of the American Dream.

Now, our daughters are so much more aware of their voices, and their ability to use their voices to address concerns that they face, and that people in the world face every day.

They have seen poverty through the eyes of children their age, and they see that these children are more than just "poor people".

They are people. With goals and gratitude and big hearts just like them.

I feel that unschooling opened us up to not just inspire change, but to incite it as well.

beatrice ekoko said...

@Execumama: Thank you for such a heartfelt comment. Wonderful, refreezing perspective!

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