Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Interesting Concept

Have you heard of unschooling? Here's an excerpt from the article that link goes to:

Unschooling isn’t a new idea. Thinkers from Socrates to Jean Jacques Rousseau have touted the benefits of letting a child’s interests lead their education.

But it was John Holt who penned the term ‘‘unschooling’’ in the late 1970s. He inspired some families to abandon the school system for a looser approach to education.

Recently, the idea has been catching on. Estimates are hard to come by, but within the roughly 1.1 million home-schoolers in the U.S., it’s clear many are being unschooled.

Very interesting. I can see where the "unschooling" method would definitely not work for some kids, but for others it could be just what they need to really excel. I wonder if it would be possible to find a working balance between the two opposite ends of the education spectrum.
Maybe a system where half to three quarters of the school day is normal, structured academics - "the three R's", as it were - and the rest of the day is (not teacher led, but supervised) free exploration of a student-chosen area of interest.

Maybe this could be done in a private school - I'm pretty sure there are too many obstacles for it to be attempted in a public school setting. There's no way to have 25-30 kids in a class each following their own path of exploration, and still have proper supervision, not to mention covering the costs of all the supplies that might be necessary to allow real exploration of so many possibly diverse ideas, or the issue of parent permission.

But, even with all of that, as with homeschooling, I still think it could be a worthwhile endeavor, for someone who is properly equipped to do it right. Done poorly, homeschooling, unschooling, or for that matter, traditional schooling, can be pretty much useless, but done right, either schooling method can be a very good thing. The article about unschooling mentions:
... some universities like Stanford and MIT have welcomed some of these unconventional students.

For Roya Sooroshian, getting into college wasn’t a problem. She’s been unschooled since the fourth grade. She passed the high school equivalency exam at 15.

That's fairly impressive.

So, read the article if you haven't already, and tell me, what do you think?


Blogger GUYK said...

If I had kids of school age today they would be home schooled....for several reasons.

The first is that in Florida the public schools are at best just inadequate. They are run by the teachers unions who dictate that a kids ego is more important than learning. Classroom discipline is nil and kids who do want to learn have to do it on their own at home anyway.

The second reason is that I believe that kids should be able to learn at there on pace although a set of standards has to be set including time lines. But it just doesn't make any sense to hold a kid back until the rest of the class catches up..

The third is that the public school system has become an experiment in social engineering and has forgotten that the primary objective of the school is to teach
the basic of the three 'Rs'. I would want my kids to be able to identify the USA on a world map and know something about history, government, and basic economics as well as the maths and sciences..public schools just don't teach that..their ideas of social studies is "Mary Had Two Mothers"

8/31/2007 10:08 PM  
Blogger Just-Me-Jen said...

I dunno, Guk - I think it's not the teachers' unions that are so hung up on the ego thing - that whole precept comes from years of "experts" telling us all that it was wrong to bruise a kid's ego, & "Shame on you" was a terrible thing to say. And look how well that turned out. Kids are unashamed, but they're little hellions.
The state & all the rules they hand to the schools, without also providing the means to follow them, also cause some of the problem. Teachers aren't really allowed to truly teach anymore. They're too busy catering to the FCATs, and the No Child Left Behind act, and whatever else the state hands 'em.
I seriously considered home schooling my kids when they were little, but I decided that I wasn't equipped to do it right, and they'd miss way too much, so instead, I put them in school, and did what I could at home to add to their learning. I agree that it would be ideal to have a way for the kids to learn at their own pace, but unfortunately, that's just not possible in public schools. How do you teach 25 to 30 kids at different levels, all at the same time?
I disagree about what's being taught, though. My kids have learned more about Government & Geography than they'd ever had learned from me (& I went to school in Massachusetts), and there's a huge focus on reading & writing, because of the FCATs. Math is starting to be added to that focus, and Science has been added to the tests, as well. So in that, you're right - social studies does seem to be falling by the wayside, but I can tell you that at least around here, they're teaching actual history & government, and economics (in high school), not "alternative lifestyles"...

9/01/2007 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Ordinary Janet said...

I'd heard of it but I read the linked article anyway. I don't know-seems to me there should be a happy medium between unschooling and traditional teaching methods. I'd advocate teaching basic arithmetic rather than expecting them to learn by themselves, but I'd show them how to apply what they learned to practical uses-such as balancing a checkbook and cooking. As for the other stuff...well, how often do we need to remember what year a battle was fought, besides in crossword puzzles? I remember being bored stiff in history classes in school because it seemed more of a date-memorization thing than actual learning about history. I became interested in history when I grew up.

We should remember how many of our historical figures-founding fathers and statesmen-grew up in isolated areas where there was very little education, and most of it was gleaned on their own. I don't see why a kid today can't do the same thing, especially with a terrific resource like the Internet. Some might argue that kids need socialization, but they can get that with sports or other groups outside the home.

This all depends of course on the parent's interest, because we hear enough about parents who don't care if their kid is doing well in school, let their kids run wild and not make them do homework, etc. I think an "unschooled" kid needs to have a watchful parent who's genuinely interested in the child's progress and has enough sense to step in if it seems the kid is goofing off instead of learning something constructive. Unschooling shouldn't mean that the kid can watch as much television as he or she wants.

9/11/2007 9:20 AM  

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