Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I am a huge believer in the philosophy of unschooling. To sum it up:
  • Children learn best through play and when they are self motivated.
  • God designed kids to learn this way and we are only doing them a disservice when we replace "play" with "forced learning".
  • The knowledge of this world is extremely diverse and enormous. The belief that there is a certain order we need to teach it in or the possibility that if we cover stuff in order we could teach "it all" is downright laughable.
  • Every human being has unique gifts and talents. It is ineffectual to teach everyone in society exactly the same things in exactly the same way.
  • There is no subject that cannot be self-taught using internal motivation! (I consider myself an unschooled nurse. Most of what I learned I read on my own of my own accord. I didn't even buy the textbooks in nursing school, but I got a near perfect score on the board exam).
I don't oppose all teaching. Handwriting and math equations are the two areas I heavily teach. But most other stuff is best learned as it comes up in life. Today was a great example of a spontaneous lesson, so I thought I'd share it with you.

My five year old had two different buckets for trick-or-treating. He thought that one would hold more candy and I thought the other would hold more candy. So I suggested an experiment in which we put small blocks in one to the top and then transfer the blocks to the other one and see which one would hold more. This impromptu lesson on designing experiments, testing scientific theory, and measuring volume, was better than any planned lesson could ever have been because it was motivated by a real question.

(And for the curious... I was right, but my five year old son refused to believe the results. ha ha. Which is OK. He still learned the lesson on how to test a theory).

I diagrammed sentences growing up and loved having that knowledge. I've never used it as an adult (other than occasionally doing it in my head for fun). Part of the shift of unschooling is the shift of "education" being the priority. If your goal in life is to be an elite professor at a university the public school system is set up to begin you on that track. But how many children does that apply to? One in ten thousand, maybe? Everyone's goal in life and track is going to be different and gathering trivial information-which is the sort of thing Public School places value on, is only applicable to a very few.

If on the other hand the information is needed or desired than the opportunity to learn will present itself- as in the case of a foreign language. If you're taking a trip to Italy, you'll naturally prepare by studying Italian. And on that subject I took two years of it in highschool and remember pretty much none of it.

But then there is the question: isn't there value in the learning process? In having a child sit and read and study? And unschoolers would say yes, but that can be acheived by following your passions too.

And finally there is the question of common societal knowledge. If we all just study what we want won't we have huge masses of the population with gaps in their learning- say- uninformed of the periodic table? To that I say: maybe. But anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that unschoolers are far more knowledgeable than public schoolers as a whole. If the unschooling philosophy were extended to everyone I'm not so sure that it would continue to carry out. I think that a huge part of the success of unschooling lies in the supportive learning environment that parents create.

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  • At 1:23 PM, Blogger mimi said…

    Love your thoughts on unschooling!!


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