Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Free At Last!

The title of a book published by the Sudbury Valley School where students from preschool through high school age explore the world freely, at their own pace and in their own unique ways.

Sounds unschooly.

The book has some great snippets on learning through life. As does the website.

The whole time I was enrolled, I wasn't concerned about my education. I never felt I needed to create a "program of studies" for myself; I didn't ever again feel that was an important thing to do. I knew enough people outside of school to feel like I wasn't any worse educated than they were! I never asked myself, "Am I satisfied with the way I'm being educated?" I usually just came to school and tried to figure out what was going on, and if there was something going on that I was interested in, then I would do it. If there wasn't, I would go read. In general, I don't remember thinking, "Is what this person is doing ok?" I had the idea that it wasn't really my business what someone was doing. He was doing what he was doing and that was sort of the beginning and the end of it. The first thing I remember clearly spending lots of time doing was the Plasticene Village, a table in the art room taken over for full-time use for plasticene. On some days, I would do it from the moment I got there to the moment I left. I don't know how long it lasted, but it seems like it went on forever! We made houses and people; those were pretty basic. The more complicated things were machinery and stuff like that. You had to convince people your machinery worked, so you needed some superficial knowledge of how it ought to work, and you had to be able to point to where the different parts were. It was wonderful fun. All of us graduated many years ago, and it turns out that it wasn't a bad thing at all to be doing plasticene all day for a year or so! But I don't know how I would have dealt with that if I was a staff member then, and a parent said to me, "I can't believe it. My kid is playing with plasticene for a whole year. This is terrible." It's hard. I'd have to tell the parent, "Look, what's wrong with your kid doing this? He's having fun, he's probably learning stuff, although who knows what." I don't know how the staff dealt with it. From If you're doing one hard thing, it's not that different from doing another hard thing.

"Where do you work?"
"At Sudbury Valley School."What do you do?"
Doing nothing at Sudbury Valley requires a great deal of energy and discipline, and many years of experience. I get better at it every year, and it amuses me to see how I and others struggle with the inner conflict that arises in us inevitably. The conflict is between wanting to do things for people, to impart your knowledge and to pass on your hard earned wisdom, and the realization that the children have to do their learning under their own steam and at their own pace. Their use of us is dictated by their wishes, not ours. We have to be there when asked, not when we decide we should be.
Teaching, inspiring, and giving advice are all natural activities that adults of all cultures and places seem to engage in around children. Without these activities, each generation would have to invent everything anew, from the wheel to the ten commandments, metal working to farming. Man passes knowledge to the young from generation to generation, at home, in the community, at the workplace and supposedly at school. Unfortunately, the more today's schools endeavor to give individual students guidance, the more they harm the children. This statement requires explanation, since it seems to contradict what I have just said, namely, that adults always help children learn how to enter the world and become useful in it. What I have learned, very slowly and painfully over the years, is that children make vital decisions for themselves in ways that no adults could have anticipated or even imagined.
From The Art of Doing Nothing

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Why do you unschool?

On the Unschooling Catholics email list ( see sidebar for link..) someone asked - why do you unschool?

There are a myriad of reasons for choosing to unschool. And I hope to hear your thoughts.

Why do I choose unschooling?

I think unschooling works best for academics - unschooling encourages kids to follow passions and not learn just to pass tests.

I think unschooling is better for relationships - we really get to know each other and spend time together and question paradigms and seek joy.

I think unschooling is better for passing on our Faith - we share our faith in our day to day living and we live an open book life with our kids.

I think I unschool because unschooling works!

How does unschooling work?

Read How Unschooling Works.

Schooling works by pouring expertly selected bits of the world into a child. (Or trying to, anyway!)
Unschooling works by the child pulling in what he wants and needs. It works best by noticing what the child is asking for and helping him get it. It works best by running the world through their lives so they know what it's possible to be interested in.

And ~

That's how unschooling works. Kids build up knowledge about what interests them. They have a vested interest in understanding what interests them.
Unfortunately for new unschooling moms, what interests them usually doesn't look academic. It looks a lot like playing. (Play is how kids are created to learn!) Learning looks like video games and Harry Potter and making videos and reading and watching TV and playing with friends and pretend and chatting on line. It's really only after kids are grown and following their interests into college and jobs that we can see how what they did led to where they got. But the ongoing process doesn't look at all like school.