"What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.
That is the goal of every parent who ever lived. To ensure that their children pursue knowledge and make use of it to create a future that the parents want for them. In the first years of a child's life, we see that this pursuit goes smoothly and continuously without any hindrance or obstacle. It is when the child starts going to school that we see this process dwindling and finally come to a standstill. The schools, in their zeal for thrusting knowledge onto children, make them pursue the school’s knowledge and ensure that the children commit more than a decade of their lives to this pursuit.
When John Taylor Gatto was giving his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year Award for the year 1990, he famously said, "Schools were designed by Horace Mann ... and others to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population."
Hence came the concept of unschooling. But before we elaborate unschooling, let’s take a look at our contemporary education system and see why we feel the need to unschooled our children.
THE TRADITIONAL CURRICULUM
Unschooling is something that negates the traditional way of delivering the curriculum. The reason is that the traditional way of teaching is based upon one assumption that renders everything that it does useless. The assumption is that children are dumb creatures who cannot learn by themselves and for them to pursue knowledge, they have to be made to do it.
That is the reason why you will find that most children that you talk to prefer not to go to school or do their school work. Since seeking knowledge is synonymous with schoolwork in a traditional setting, this leads us to believe that children don’t like to, or don’t want to, seek knowledge. Hence, you will see, that the contemporary system of education is the perfect method for controlling and managing children and forcing them to digest whatever the educators think is knowledge and thus, beneficial for them.
Feeling that this approach is not enough, we have recently started seeing the word ‘unschooling’ being thrown around. We hear it in conferences, we read it in blogs, and we hear podcasts related to it.
But what is it exactly? And how is it going to help our children prepare for the future?
Unschooling is an educational philosophy that provides children more freedom than other traditional learning methods and prepares children for the rapidly changing and uncertain future that we know is coming fast. It refers to natural learning that comes naturally to a child. Children are born curious, and if we let that curiosity thrive, we see that they are not the idiots that we had assumed them to be but highly-intelligent soon-to-be adults who can take care of their own needs and can learn whatever they put their minds to.
The beauty of unschooling is in the search for answers. If we allow the curiosity of children to develop and guide them towards the right direction, we will see their thirst for answers increasing day by day and the joy that they feel when they find what they were looking for.
First, it’s a form of homeschooling. But there’s no easy answer to that except in comparison to regular schooling. There’s no one way to do unschooling, and people who do it often do it for many different reasons in many different ways.
MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN UNSCHOOLING AND SCHOOLING
There are only a few of the differences that you will find between schooling and unschooling:
- Schools have fixed classes and everyone must adhere to them while unschooling offers more freedom.
- In schools, the goals of learning are pre-decided by educators while unschooling puts the children in the driving seat and they come up with learning goals themselves.
- In schools, knowledge is handed down by “more learned” people to the students while in unschooling the students are empowered to find and learn knowledge themselves.
- Schools have set curriculums and specific books or learning materials. Unschooling literally offers a world of knowledge. Children can learn from anything—the library, internet, siblings and elders, museums, people who work in the industry or anything at all. They are not restricted.
- Schooling is structured and unnatural while unschooling follows a natural sequence and can change anytime.
- Schools teach students to follow authority no matter what. All the decisions are made for the students by someone else. In unschooling, the students make their own rules depending on their own needs and want. They become thinkers and problem solvers. This makes them more confident in themselves.
- Schools have a set pace of learning and that pace doesn’t change for anyone or anything. Unschooling allows the children to pick their own pace.
- Schooling happens in an environment that is detached from the real world and unschooling happens all the time, everywhere.
Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's mentor, and friend, said:
“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less "showily".”
WHAT HAS UNSCHOOLING GOT TO DO WITH THE FUTURE?
While schooling is still stuck in preparing the students for the present (or the past), unschooling is the only way we can prepare our children for a future that is undecided and ever-changing.
Let us look at our lives. 20 years back, did we know we would end up where we are right now?
Did we know what kind of economic conditions we will meet when we entered the market?
So how can we use the same method that was used to prepare us for the present and think that they will work for our children’s future as well? Smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices have become rampant in our lives. We are becoming more and more dependent on technology. And that is just the start.
If we can’t predict the future how can we prepare our children for it? How can we say what is the ‘right curriculum for them?
The learning and regurgitating of facts and skills in schools will not enable them for what the future has to offer them.
Here’s how unschooling can prepare our children for their future.
Unschooling doesn’t teach the children, it allows them to learn how to learn. It enables them to teach themselves. This way they will be ready to learn anything that is required of them in the future.
Schools prepare kids to follow instructions like good employees. Unschooling enables children to take charge of their own learning and make their own decision. Instead of creating robots, we can create entrepreneurs. It allows children to figure things out for themselves and use their intellect to solve problems and find out solutions.
When all is said and done, the fact remains that we need to prepare our children to act on their own and not be dependent on others for each and every decision. They need to be ready to change with the changing times and find out new opportunities around them. Unschooling can cater to these needs better than any other system of education.
John Snow is a lifelong learner and believes that it should never stop. He is currently working with Webilistic and growing with the company. He has worked with clients around the world and loves to help them out any way he can. He loves to write and share his experience and views with the world.