LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #25 | November 16, 2013
NOVEMBER’S THEME: Unschooling Beings
I hope you are enjoying your November so far! I had a great time at the mini-conference in Maine earlier this month and have since been prepping for our upcoming vacation—that’s always fun!
This month’s topic came out of a thought that recently crossed my mind: Because we’re not trying to fit them in a box, unschoolers encompass the whole range of being human. Meaning all learning is encouraged and supported, not just “academics.” That led me to think about what learning looks like; not for studying, not to pass a test, but learning to accomplish our own goals.
ON THE BLOG … so far this month
When you’re new to unschooling, this is a great thing to focus on. Think of this deschooling time as a season of Saturdays and, as you’re spending time with your children, notice how they gather information from the world around them. Challenge yourself to be open to whatever you see. Don’t try to filter your observations through learning style labels: drop any preconceived notions of what learning “should” look like, and discover what it does look like, for your children.
By giving your children the space to play with how they process the information they gather, by being a responsive partner in the dance of questions and conversations and silences as they piece together their unique picture of the world and how it works, you are helping them explore and discover how they like to learn.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: How schools kill creativity
So far this month I’ve been looking at the many ways people, including unschooling children, learn. Not only is learning is so much bigger than the academic topics that conventional schools focus on, but there are real consequences to the systemization of learning.
One is that the connections between topics are lost as a result of breaking life down into subjects. This impedes the student from building and connecting their personal view of the world because they don’t encounter how history and math are connected, or science and philosophy. The world as presented seems cut and dried, this and that, math and reading. Students don’t get comfortable with the big, beautiful, complicated connectedness of the real world.
Standing hand-in-hand with that is the school system’s unerring focus on getting the right answer. It’s all about what to think, not how to think. As a result, students soon learn to memorize—they’ve already been told the answers. That’s learning, right? For full marks on the test, be sure to give the same answer as the teacher, and get it using the same process as the teacher.
As Ken Robinson points out so well in his TED talk, schools kill creativity.
What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.
And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.
And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.
Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it.
Another big way unschooling differs is its focus on living, rather than graduating.
If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.
If a student’s learning style doesn’t mesh well with the teaching style of the education system, they are left feeling “less than.” Less intelligent. Less skilled. Less able. But they aren’t “less”; they are just different. Unschooling values all kinds of learning, any topic of interest.
We know three things about intelligence: One, it’s diverse, we think about the world in all the ways we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.
There’s those different learning styles that unschooling integrates so well.
Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity, which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value, more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.
There’s the drawback of artificially dividing the world into seemingly distinct subjects.
And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct.
Meaning different for each individual. This is where unschooling really shines. We aren’t trying to fit our children into a system, we are helping our children explore themselves and world and their place in it.
Obviously he’s not speaking about unschooling, but I love how, as academics interested in alternative education explore how children learn and point out problems with conventional education system, we see that unschooling avoids them. That’s because we aren’t looking to create a system and apply it to children—we’re looking at our children and supporting them.
If you’re interested in hearing the whole talk you can find it here: How schools kill creativity
Note that if you’d prefer to read the transcript, there’s an option there for that too. 🙂
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
As you are learning about and living unschooling, try to take some time this week and notice how your children are learning. What makes them shine? Both the topics they love to pursue, and the ways they love to dig into it. How do they like to process information? Whether you’ve been unschooling for weeks or years, it’s always interesting to touch base again with this fundamental piece of unschooling: learning.
Have a wonderful weekend!