Originally Posted by Annie Mac
The other thing that confuses me: isn't unschooling something that parents would do anyway with their children? In addition to some more formalized education? It seems to me -- and again, correct me if I'm wrong because you all are actually living this -- that unschooling is all about allowing your child to follow their interests and learn generalized lessons from those interests as well as from life skills (ie teaching math by making muffins and measuring the ingredients), teaching them critical thinking skills (ie teaching them to learn, vs teaching them facts), and allowing them the latitude to be who they are in the learning environment. That all sounds great to me, but wouldn't you do those things anyway? Have I come up with an oversimplified version of unschooling? Again, this is an honest question, and implies no judgment whatsoever, but I'd love it if someone could explain these things to me.
My family's perspective on this is that we don't teach our dc how to learn; they have an innate ability to sort, analyse and conclude without our intervention. If you aren't sure if that's true, you can watch a young infant exercising the scientific method with a cup or a puppy without any formal instruction or any idea that we've named the thing s/he does naturally "the scientific method".
For us, the main issue is making sure that our dc are not limited in their exploration, that they are not impeded/hindered, because western society is far more geared toward limiting the choices and experiences of children than toward expanding them, though they typically use language that implies or overtly states the opposite. Just the fact that the most progressive schools set up their classrooms to mimic real-life environments indicates that mass schooling and society in general is not at all about actually stepping out of the way so children can actually learn through actual experience, which is how human beings learn.
Synthetic experience wins out in education, and in society at large. For this reason, it isn't possible to provide an environment like the way we learn in our family for only part of the time; the problem with that thinking is that if we are freely learning, then we are just living, and we don't truncate our life-experiences into 'educational' and 'social' and 'physical', etc...; these categories have no meaning in a free-learning home.
Just for a small and relatively insignificant example, it just irks dp and me that so many children think they are learning to play guitar with a popular video game, and feel like they've had a real experience with it. Mass schooling is like that all day long, every day.
My dp who is a guitarist (20+ yrs now) is floored that even though he tries to explain the difference, the children he works with (he's a youth services counselor) really don't understand it; they really don't even see a distinction between real and synthetic experiences no matter how many ways he tries to explain it to them. When he offered to play guitar with them (real guitar), they were super excited until they actually tried it and then they found it too hard and preferred the instant gratification of the video game.
I wish it were an isolated thing, but I've seen that mass schooled children in general have no idea what is
real, let alone that they are missing it. I am wondering how these children, my children's generation, are going to function in any real capacity as adults? There is so much dependency built into their education that I cannot even imagine how any concern about the real-world potential of unschoolers can be tabled with any integrity or understanding or both.
Lastly, for us , there is no 'learning environment"; there simply is an environment. Learning is like breathing. I am sure that I have never referred to our breathing environment
as though distinct from our loving environment
or our respecting environment
or any other innate and antural aspect of our environment or experience that can be distinguished but that only really works as a part of the whole. The whole takes precedence. The vocabulary of institutionalised schooling just doesn't apply. This is why USers and other HSers sometimes post here about how to put their dc's experiences into institutional educationese.
Originally Posted by DirtRoadMama
That's all just to say that some skills to take a while to learn, and it can be daunting to learn how to question a professor when you have never dealt with a formal teacher before, in my experience.
I'm surprised that mass schooling would be credited for expressed confidence and assertiveness; I've never been to or seen a school that prized such qualities in a student unless that student performed to such a high level that it was lauded in retrospect.
I think that people who are not hindered by 'authority' issues alongside their learning are far more likely to feel free to express divergences of thought and practice, but that's my opinion and experience, which may not be common amongst USers. A lot of HSers do mix authority issues in with teaching their dc, so I can definitely see the link there, but secular USers would seem to me to be far less likely to mix the two and they would then be less likely to shrink in the face of another human being who is supposed to be learning as well, such as a professor.
I did go to ps, and I don't have that issue even so; ps did really work at removing that understanding though. The teacher is the one who tells the student what is correct and should not be questioned generally, and especially not during class time. Without that power imbalance built into the psyche of the child, I think how s/he deals with people who assume authority will differ according to personality and other personal considerations rather than how the child was educated to that point.
Originally Posted by DirtRoadMama
But then, I don't know much about un-schooling. Is it common that the kids only learn what they want to learn? Or, is that a misperception?
Yes, they learn what they want to learn, but what they want to learn becomes increasingly very broad as they explore freely. Nobody has to make learning fun or trick them into learning so that they don't even know they're doing it. Bizarre. This is a reality of mass schooling- that children seem to shut down and not want to learn-, but not of free-learners, to my knowledge.
Originally Posted by Niamh
On the 'why are they threatened?' question, what I've noticed in my own life is that anything out of the ordinary is threatening to a lot of people. I homebirth, breastfeed, EC, and unschool. All of those things have been thrown in my face as 'You think you're better than me/a better mother/more intelligent/have better kids because you do ___' I never talk about these things with those who confront me, but they feel threatened by me doing them.
I wrote a long list and then deleted it for this - When you make a *concious* parenting choice, that choice can be incredibly threatening to those who 'go with the flow'. Without saying a word, without condescending behavior, without even knowing that they *are* being offended by your choices, those who you live around can become incredibly offended by your parenting choices.
Yes to this. We also don't discuss our decisions (except every now and then at MDC
) but find ourselves somehow in the midst of a conflict that began long before we were invited to join in.
It's (sadly) a decent built-in friend-sifting mechanism.