A Child’s Perspective on Unschooling

Today whilst driving in the car, my 13 year old son started to chat about how irrelevant he believes high school to be. He said something like, “Well, once you’ve learned the basics in primary school, why do you need to be in high school to learn all the other stuff? Why not learn what, how and when you want to learn? You don’t need to go to high school to learn stuff!” We talked about some of the possible reasons why governments and educators want teenagers to go to school and stay at school for as long as possible. We thought it was probably because they don’t trust that people actually want to learn, and that they thought it might keep them out of trouble, rather than “just wandering the streets”?

He thought perhaps primary school was more relevant than high school, because he can see the benefit of knowing the basics such as reading and mathematics, and wondered if primary school would be a quick way to learn those things.

I delighted, then, in telling him and his sister (who was also in the car) the story of the children who learned the entire primary school maths curriculum in 20 contact hours and we talked about how quickly you can learn something if you really want to learn it. 😉 He thought about it and agreed that primary school is as unnecessary as high school for learning things you want or feel the need to learn. (I’m not saying that unschooling is going to be the best choice for all families, but rather that school isn’t essential for learning.)

We went on to discuss the difference between learning something because you want to, versus trying to learn something because you “have to”, because you are being taught and tested on it, and we came up with a caricature in our minds to show the difference, as we see it, between schooling (either at school or at home, where the emphasis is on teaching rather than learning) and unschooling (where the emphasis is on learning rather than teaching). The picture was in two parts. Firstly, a school child with the top of his head sliced open (hence why it’s a caricature and not real life!), a teacher spooning in the information, and then the information coming out through the pen during testing time, possibly to be mostly forgotten forever after. The second half of the picture was of an unschooled child eating yummy “food” that is assimilated into his body and becomes part of him, which demonstrates a child happily exploring and investigating whatever he is interested in.

Tonight my daughter decided to draw a picture to represent her thoughts about what we’d been talking about. I figured it was pretty cute, so decided to share it. 🙂

A Child's Perspective

As Joyce Fetteroll so eloquently says,

“Teaching is putting information in; learning is drawing information in.”

Instead of teaching and testing, look for the learning! You will find it has been there all along! Instead of force feeding and over-stuffing, possibly ending up with a child who is simply no longer hungry, make delicious “food” and enjoy it together (or alone) and watch their eyes light up with delight as they savour the flavours of foods they have chosen.

A child who is force fed with knowledge she either doesn’t want, doesn’t see the need for, or doesn’t desire at that time, is a child who can sometimes decide that learning is “boring”, hard or irrelevant.

A child who is granted the freedom to follow his interests, learn what he wants to learn as he goes about his life, and spend an abundance of time with a parent who has eyes wide open to the abundance of learning that is happening, is a child who is likely to see learning and living as one entwined entity that is interesting, appealing and as natural as breathing.

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