Do unschoolers hate schools?

Some do and some don’t. I’m in the camp in between, it depends on the learner more than anything else, I dislike the lottery parents feel they are forced to play when selecting a school (if they even have that choice) and ending up with teachers that may or may not be kind to children. It can work beautifully (for the few who fit in or desire to be there) or it can be a disaster. Most of the time, the risk of disaster is just too high for unschooling parents because they remember their own not so groovy experiences.

MY STORY
I hated primary school, the teachers were babysitters for the most part. Plenty of my questions went unanswered due to being off topic. I only remember feeling like an idiot for remedial English classes and feeling like I was above others for advanced math classes. The in between was pathetically boring, hopelessly uninspiring, the rewards and real life uses for our education were distant and unseeable, it felt like make work for gold stars, (woo hoo! so useful those gold stars were, why do we belittle kids effort like that?)

High school was different, my overall nerdy was valued and I had some amazing teachers and mentors;
One who though classes outside for geography were the way to go (by far the most excursions happened in this class).
A tech drawing teacher that included visits to the wood and metalwork classes to see designs being built, our schematics being used.
A biology teacher that was more like a friend, (I remember ice pops in the science office and just chatting about random stuff).
A physics teacher who hung out with us during breaks chatting theory and encouraging us to mess around with real life physics… with cars in empty car parks!
A chemistry teacher who let me mix stock solutions for the labs of other classes, helped me find my work experience placement and trusted me to mark younger students papers when she was tired and pregnant.
A math teacher who told us the most hilariously lame math jokes and crazy riddles.

TEACHERS
This brings me to the idea of teaching. What is a teacher? To me it is simply someone who passes information between generations, much like a human version of a book or the Internet. They are a generalized or topic specific mentor. However, to others they are figures of authority. They have power over children. They are the perpetuators of the educational system’s indoctrination. Teaching isn’t loaded for some and is for others. It’s down to personal experience with that concept.

Power struggles and resentment never came into my school life with my teachers once I hit high school, fear was only around exams which is above the schools control (something I believed was a necessary evil at the time) and the people I talked to consisted of teachers, administrators and other students of all ages, without any issues. But I’m not so blind to think it was or is like that for everyone.

SCHOOLS
There’s bullies, arbitrary controls and peer pressure built into that system. Confidence can get broken in a moment and not return for years, there’s friendships and relationships, there’s distractions and emotional investment, there’s exams, grades, assignments and heavy textbooks, there’s lots and lots of lost sleep with study. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it can break people. I think I was just lucky.

Unschoolers (and home schoolers in general) challenge the notion that kids need this environment to learn. To be honest, looking back on it, schools are not ideal places for absorbing the most information even if you are lucky and survive it. You study, you pass and you move on to the next exam. It’s too stressful to retain all that information with everything else that is going on.

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Schools are also false communities, they take one age, one demographic children and pit them against each other for grades and other extrinsic rewards, they pay no thoughts to the realities of how varied learning can be and the much higher value of intrinsic reward in the learning process. They disrupt flow with change in classes which can make the absorbed learner quite frustrated. (I suffered from this a lot all through my schooling.) Even in the more communal classrooms, students are expected to all behave in the same way. What if your kid is quiet? What if they are the loudest? What if they like or don’t like groupwork? What if they need to move to think? What if they want to stand up or sit on the floor to learn? What if they learn best by doing, not taking notes. What if the content of the curriculum is of no interest to them? Will it ever be of interest to them? Will they need it in a decade or two’s time when they enter the adult world? Who decides what they need then and do they even care if they are wrong?

Handwriting class is a good example, why? We scrawl notes that only require a few to read, print is required on forms, we type or voice almost every other form of communication so being forced to learn perfect letter formation on the lines in Victorian cursive is wasteful yet schools all over Australia dedicate plenty of time to teaching it. In essence, schools fail students because they put classroom management and current economic climate over the needs of the individual learner preparing for adulthood many years into the future.

THE ACT OF TEACHING
The obvious follow on question from there is does one need to even be taught if current schooling methods are so far from learners needs?

Humans can absolutely survive without it in a schooled sense. The concepts everyone seems to care about, (reading, writing and basic math) come in their own time to children who have their intrinsic motivation intact and are immersed in a learning rich environment. It just happens, they can’t avoid it much like learning to talk or walk, it’s part of our daily lives. But if we think ahead, those skills are not where humanity is unique. We are uniquely creative beings, those skills are merely tools to express that. Creativity is something kids are born experts at.

Kids may not need to be taught but some might want to be to master more complex tasks. It’s like a useful shortcut. It’s convenience. Like any convenience it has a cost, (a decrease in respect of what one learns in this case.) Being taught is like a sometimes food for learning. One wouldn’t eat convenience food all the time for your health, teaching is the same for learning, it can (if used all the time,) damage intrinsic motivation which is part of a healthy learning diet. On the flip side, we only live so long, if we want mastery of something then standing on the shoulders of others to attain it is the path of least resistance to successful mastery.  That is where teaching comes in along with any other tool used to access information faster than figuring it out individually. Teacher, mentor, facilitator, static information access and learner are all part of the one movement of information, I don’t think they can even be separated,  It has been like this for most of humanity in one format or another, we would all be sitting here discovering wheels without that process.

We often also feel the need to teach, I believe this desire stems from our genetic memory, to pass on to the next generation. The entire animal kingdom does this, humans are no different. The how for us is what is askew. We would do it naturally but that would look nothing like what mass society describes as teaching in schools.

UNSCHOOLING AND SCHOOLING
Unschooling is defined by John Holt as living as if school doesn’t exist. That isn’t necessarily the institution itself, it’s just a building after all, and humans can be natural learners anywhere. It’s more about the mindset of modern schooling and the motivations behind that system of mass indoctrination.

This mindset is as follows:
Adults forcing (denying them an exit) a child to learn (by being passive in their education) a particular set of facts (designated by someone unknown as important for their life 15-20 years into the future) in a particular way (likely not suited to their individual learning style) inside an institution (a false construct of a community where segregation is based on birth date, demographic or even gender) via a teacher (whom is from the learners perspective, an arbitrary individual that has power over children and their life choices) for particular hours of the day (which may or may not align with the learners natural capacities to absorb information) while adhering to behavioral standards (which pay no heed to culture or individual personality.)

So after all that, can an unschooled child attend school and still be an unschooler?

This might sound contradictory but yes they can, provided there is an exit strategy and they have made that well informed choice themselves.

An unschooling parent would first ask the child why they wanted to attend. They would then actively listen to the answer. Based on that answer a parent could then try to satisfy the child’s needs via alternate means, with anything from after school classes, more or less group activities to on line study. If the child still feels they wish to attend there is no real change in trust or respect, every effort has been made to allow them the freedom of that choice. The parent must then allow them to choose and if school is where they are at so be it. They are living as if the schooling mindset does not exist and by their own choosing are willing to take on the constructs of that system knowing they can stop at any point.

That freedom is theirs continuously. They are trusted in their actions and they are respected to do as they please with their own education. This is why I can say it depends on the learner more than anything else with regards to my like or dislike of schools as an unschooling parent. It isn’t my place to decide that for my children. That’s pretty much it.

Thanks for reading, from Becca.

Unschooling means your child is the boss right?

The extremely short answer is no. But I’m also not the boss of them either.

Something that not many get until it smacks them in the face is that unschooling is a family way of life, I don’t think it ever should have been associated with the phrase “child-led” because it isn’t the kid is boss scenario, that would be like reinventing the wheel over and over.

We guide and mentor our young for a reason and have done so since the begining of our existence. Having said that, there is no better teacher than experience.  Decision making needs practice and unschooling to me means you are on equal footing with your child in the decision making process to give them practice at using their opinion, thoughts and instincts for the greater good wherever the opportunity arises. That process works best if it is excecuted with very honest needs from both parties that are not founded in a schooled, controlling, manipulating or any kind of conditioned mindset. Some things need to be done, some things we generally don’t like doing, very few of those things with a bit of creative forethought cannot be solved to the point where both parties are comfortable with the outcome.

So how does one achieve this?

What unschooling families need, (just as much as the rest of society I guess,) is the time and space to think creatively. Rushing is the enemy of honest, clear and concise decision making in everyone. When we are rushed through that process we find ourselves either manipulating and controling to get a quick answer or being manipulated as is the case for children most of the time. It’s such a waste of natural trust which is a perfect tool for natural learning as it feels safe, it means our kids can get on with their job without that worry.  There is no need while they are learning the ways of the world to put that extra pressure on them, they have plenty of time. Unschooling provides a flow of trust and encouragement in their primary relationship without that need to rush through life.

Humans are not as grand as we think we are. The rest of society could probably do with a dose of slow down too, especially if we want the inner voice of ourselves and of our children to show through the high speed crazies of the world. We no longer have the upper hand on speed or time so there is no point pursuing that end. The digital age has surpassed us, we must focus instead on our creativity with passion and purpose, that which makes us us. That takes space to think and time to process. The rewards are worth the wait. šŸ™‚

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Journal 52 – week 2 Just Be

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I’m trying out mixed media. It’s hard not being neat and inside the lines. There are really no lines here lol.
The process was really different creating this page so I thought it would be cool to document it.

1. Wide brush with blue and white poster paint, fairly dry brush.

2. Glue (I normally hate glue but this wasn’t too bad with a gluestick) torn paper on the top and bottom edges. Then some circles of tissue paper the kids and I had punched out ages ago.

3. Dry

4. Roller stamp flowers, stickers and embellishments.

5. Watercolour flowers and paint white bits on circles.

6. Dry again also known as coffee time.

7. Go to town with every glitter pen you can find writing on circles, flowers and randomly listing hobbies that I really love doing including journaling now hehe šŸ™‚

8. Glue more hand made paper on for title and hit the copic markers to blend it all together.

9. White out pen to write the quote (I wrote it a few years back but almost lost on my old blog, not lost now, even the spelling mistakes were all meticulously copied over to my journal.)

10. Breath and go wash hands cause it’s weird having glue and paint on them instead of ink and a lap full of pencil shavings.

Middle miss is still working on hers, we did them together. Was fun. Needed some time just with her. šŸ˜‰  Anyway, hope you enjoy. It’s such a great fun play space on a blank journal page.

Journal 52 – week 1 Pathways

It’s a long road, this post is about going home. Full circle journeys are so weird. I’m avoiding the temptation to think why did we leave in the first place. I know why, to breath and process. Kiall and I were together at 19 and 20 years old, we had a child when I was 21 and the rest is a roller coaster of jobs, no jobs, two more kids, school and going against the norm with no school, moving, wedding and life. It was full. No time to take a breath, well at least it felt that way. Leaving was a breather. A space to process the last ten years of our lives and work towards better things, finding the place we really wanted to be as parents and as adults. We are not there yet but we have started and that’s always half the battle. Most people figure all this out in their 20’s. We were young parents then. This coming decade, with the kids getting older is now for us just as much as it is for them. We have goals and aspirations some big and long term like Kiall getting his pilots licence, others small like growing more of our own food. I have every ounce of stubbornness imaginable so we will get there eventually.

We now have some dates in mind so it’s feeling more real. Latest leave date is early July after the tax is done. We will have 5 fortnights on the road arriving in WA by September. (My birthday is the only one on the road hehe, I like that lotsa) This gives us enough time to sort out pets properly (including the right gear for traveling with a dog,) recover the money we lost with the repairs to the car, save up for emergency money, get the right insurance, leave this house on good standing and set the car up well enough to make it a comfortable and easy journey. Roughly 6 months of serious planning, spending, saving, clearing out etc.

It was ironic that the prompt this week for journal 52 was pathways. This is what I came up with. A river heading west and this poem. Hope you like it.

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The Sharing Debate

My gosh I find it so facinating that there are so many ideas about sharing and young children.

On one hand there’s the idea that learning to share should be forced from a young age. Then at the other end of the spectrum there is this idea that forced sharing is entirely damaging.

I don’t agree with either. As always we run a middle ground.

For us sharing is sometimes a necessity as well as a giver of happiness, I don’t buy three packets of the same coloured pencils even though I have three children who use them, I can’t afford to do that. There’s experience in it for my kids to learn to take turns and share at any age, even I share respectfully with them. We all do art together and share those supplies, it’s more fun that way. Aside from impractical things like underware lol, almost everything in this house is shared like this.

My 11 year old shares his tech with his three year old sister. He doesn’t have to but he likes to see her happy so he does even though she’s a bit rough and he knows we can’t replace it if it breaks. He trusts her and holds her happiness over the value of a possession, new or otherwise. When friends come we share, and if we have the capacity to help a stranger with something, we share then too. (Shirts off backs to strangers have happened in our family.)

I’m the weirdo that would loan out literally anything to a friend. Car if they needed it, money if we had it, food I have given plenty of times. The perceived value of this stuff is not equal to another’s happiness and a dear relationship.

Sharing is caring. If you care for the other human, to make them happy you share and experience things together, if you do not have an unhealthy attachment to possessions this would make you happy too. I find encouraging attachment to possessions is the same as encouraging materialism. Stuff is not precious, people are.

As adults we share public transport, libraries, roads, parks, hospitals, police services, schools etc, you pay for those so you could claim part of it is yours. (It’s roughly 11 km per aussie person for roads if anyone is interested) If you recieve government payments you are even sharing money. I’m wondering why it is that even though that is forced sharing we are ok with it if ownership and autonomy over stuff is so important? I think because it works out better that way.

Sharing usually works out better. One can help others, its less of a burden because of its inclination to minimilisim, one can find joy in giving, it can strengthen friendships and entire communities, lotsa warm n fuzzies. When a parent allows (and seperate themselves from the learning opportunity of) a child who feels justified that their possessions are of higher value than a friendship. It does the reverse. They decide on their own that it’s ok not to help others, they decide on their own that people are less if they have less, they decide more is better and in the long run they decide community comes after autonomy with regards to possessions.

Is it possible for a small non-coerced child to share possessions? Yes. It is. It’s a learning curve but provided non excessive attachment to possessions is modeled consistently, it is possible. Excessive fear of loss of possessions isn’t something one should humor in good faith that it will change. It’s just stuff, not the end of the world, that is the reality, just go look at a dump at how much we consume that disappears from our lives daily. It doesn’t really disappear. Less is more.

I also find it really hard to either force/guilt any one of my children to either share or deny a sharing opertunity to them. If I can give or share it I will and they, more often than not, do the same because we encourage them to do so.

I remember I tried to set up a shared science toys library for homeschoolers in the area. I got the idea from the shared and gifting economy books I was reading at the time. Some people got it others missed the point. “Where did you get that and we need one” was the most common response to the idea… not what I was going for.

Minimalisim lends itself to sharing, intentional communities are based on sharing but it seems that the majority miss the point just like this. You do not need one of everything, you need trust and relationships in your community. This starts when you are very small. Practice is as always key.

Iā€™d also like to add that possessions are not the same as ones own body. Bodies are not objects. That difference should be made abundantly clear to a child well before pretty much anything else. I used to ask my children if I could change their nappy or put warm clothes on them. Respect of the body is not the same as generosity of possessions.

Possession are not alive, they don’t need you and the vast majority of times you don’t need them all to yourself.Ā  I believe this is what should be modeled by parents for their children. Hopefully they catch on in a sharing saturated environment.

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