Yes, it’s that time of year, Back to School this and Back to School that. I’ve read some really good blog articles this week that espouse very common sense ideas about education and academics. I’ll see if I can track them down and share the links.
Meanwhile, I’ll tell you a little about unschooling. You may or may not have heard of it. You may or may not agree with alternative methods of schooling, but give it a listen before you make up your mind. Unschooling generally refers to self paced and self directed learning. Think about a baby. Does the parent force him to learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk or talk? No. Does a parent encourage those activities? Yes. A child will learn those skills at the appropriate time on his own developmental scale as long as he has positive, loving interactions with those around him who model those skills and gently encourage him. Unschooling is a continuation of that kind of process, allowing a child to learn what he needs to when he needs to or what he’s interested in when he’s interested in it. Parents provide a loving, interesting environment which promotes a child’s curiosity and they support him when he has an interest to learn more about a subject or activity.
It doesn’t mean that parents have to know everything in order to be able teach their children. Instead, it means answering them when you are familiar with the answers to their questions and if you don’t know the answers, then showing them how to go about seeking out the answers. Teach them how to teach themselves, how to gather information, how to go about learning a new skill or subject. You’ve all heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Alright, I can practically hear you saying, “I’m pretty sure my kid would never pick up an algebra book if he wasn’t forced to.” And you may be right. I have a feeling that most kids who have been forced to go to school for eight or nine years would not pick up an algebra book if they were all of a sudden given a choice. A whole lot of kids who never went to school would probably also choose not to pick up an algebra book. Whether a child is schooled or unschooled, they may not even need to learn algebra unless they want to pursue a career which requires higher math. I believe that when a person has the desire to achieve a skill, he will find a way to learn that skill. Here is a link to a short article about whether or not learning algebra helps you think better. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/07/does-algebra-help-you-think-better My thinking is that for some people, yes, learning algebra does help them think better, but for others being forced to learn algebra stresses them out and does not help them. I believe that if those same people were allowed to explore algebra without being forced, then they might benefit from that exposure. I believe that people who know that they’ll need algebra because their chosen career requires it will learn it.
It may sound too simplistic, allowing kids to learn what they want when they want, but I’ve seen it in action and at least in our family it worked well. It’s late and I’m too tired to go into any detail. I’ll save our experiences for another post, but here are those links I told you I’d try to find. I hope you enjoy them.
And if you are considering any kind of homeschooling or unschooling, you may want to check with your state to see if there are any requirements. I do not know if this site is up to date, but it could be a start for you to gather information if you are interested: http://www.hslda.org/laws/