23 July 2012
unschool monday :: a different paradigm
I received a lovely message from my friend, Polly, last week. I haven't replied yet as I've been mulling over what to say (in amongst nursing sick owlets). The question she asked is one I often get, so I thought I might answer here in case others find it helpful (hope you don't mind, Poll!)... Polly wanted to know what we loosely base our education system on and what are the guidelines or benchmarks by which we know our owlets are 'achieving' for a certain year...
I could say what we tell the education department when we register each time... That we are aware of the curriculum and have contact with schooled children the same age as our children. That we nudge them along in the right direction in order to keep up. I could say that we have purchased various workbooks and forms of curricula to peruse and strew if we need to. I could demonstrate that the owlets are often ahead in various areas where they are expected to achieve and perhaps need some more nudging in others... But really, that is not what we are doing here. When we actually break down what unschooling is and how it works, we are working on a completely different paradigm.
There is no benchmark for an unschooled child. Unschooling seeks to nurture the whole person and the child's vision of herself. What I want for their future is not important. We are seeking to nurture people who are interested in the world around them and everything in it. We are nurturing curiosity and a love of learning through living their experiences. A question or a thought process comes up, we explore it and all of the many questions that come from it. We follow that thought until it becomes another one, and so on. If I set a list of rules and benchmarks for an owlet to achieve, we move to a different method of learning. We begin to tell them what to learn. This method may be perfectly suited to other owlets, but, so far, not mine. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if they sat a NAPLAN test, but really, I can see that the things they are learning about are often quite different to what they learn in school. They learn things as, and when, they need and not always to a specific timeframe. The basics, like reading, writing, arithmetic... they happen along the way, naturally, as they follow their interests. They need to learn more, as part of living. The other stuff, if they are exposed to it and show interest (usually they will), they learn as par for the course... Our job is to help make life interesting and expose them to as much stuff as possible, following their interests along the way...
So... What happens when an owlet wants to go to school, or uni and they need to prove they can achieve certain benchmarks? If one of them is keen to go, they will do the work necessary to be where they want to be. If I were to want to take up study or work somewhere, I'd do the work to make sure I was on track. If I needed extra help in a certain area, I'd ask for it. Maybe I'd hire a tutor..?
How do I know the owlets are getting an education that is well rounded enough? It is well rounded enough for them. They are becoming the people they want to be. The people they already are. I'm here to help them access it. If there are gaps, they'll find them and fill them. Really, they will, and they do!
Some reading on the basics of Unschooling. What it means, how it works.
John Holt - What is Unschooling?
Research on Unschooling
Pam Sorooshian - I Live Therefore I Learn : Living and Unschooled Life
Earl Stevens - What is Unschooling?
Thanks for reading along with Unschool Monday. If you have a question for me, or one of the other participants on the linkup, ask away! I'm happy to try and answer here next time. If you feel like linking up, it'd be lovely to have you on board and see how unschooling happens at your nest. xx