Lefty Parent

|

Circle of equals

Posts Tagged ‘Unschooling’

Coop’s Childhood Part 6 – Childhood’s End

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

long nook beachMy mom rose to the occasion after the divorce with my dad. Though she continued to have a great deal of unresolved anger towards him, and ongoing worries about paying the bills, plus other disruptions in her life, it seems it was perhaps the first real opportunity in that life to be truly on her own, and not pulled and tugged by parents, fiancée or spouse. She was beginning to learn to navigate as a completely autonomous person, including as a single parent, and I was just beginning to become sophisticated enough about this sort of stuff to notice, now that I had started to move her down from the former pedestal I had previously elevated her to.

She was getting enough in child support each month from my dad so she could barely, just barely, pay the bills if we lived frugally. And though some of the couples that had befriended her based on her status as a professor’s wife now distanced themselves from her as a divorcee, her irresistible extroversion and heart on her sleeve emotional honesty was beginning to win her a new community of friends and comrades. Our little household, now three instead of four, was definitely becoming the “Jane Roberts Zale Show”, for better or for worse.

(more…)

Unschooling in the Art of LIfe

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

northern-ireland-muralAs much as formal standardized education tries to turn it into a science, life, and the continuing human development which in my opinion is one of life’s most compelling narratives, is really more of an artistic endeavor. It is at its best the creation of a compelling narrative based on the uniqueness of a person’s soul and the life’s context that soul is unfolding and evolving in. It is not so much about following a procedure developed and “perfected” by others, or emulating another’s life successfully lived. It is more like a mural, ballad, novel, television series or other story told, reflecting the unique voice of the artist and their unique playing of the hand they are dealt.

According to Wikipedia, “science” is…

A systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

Whereas “art” is defined as…

A diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities.

Modern society has been all about science and its organization of knowledge in the form of technology, industrial practice and social engineering. We identify experts who develop the best practice and then we create an institution to share that expertly designed practice with others. If the governing bodies of a society think a best practice is particularly compelling and effective, we may attempt to apply it universally, even possibly mandating that everyone follow it for their own good, or at least for the common good.

(more…)

Republished: A Look Back from the Middle

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Eric ProfileRepublishing a recollection from our son Eric’s own writings about his development, “A Look Back from the Middle”, written in 2009, calling out some of the key developmental threads of his older youth after leaving school at fourteen and pursuing the unschooling path…

(more…)

Reincorporating Hunter-Gatherer Wisdom in our Society

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Stroller and SlingIn my previous piece, “Traditional Wisdom of Child Development”, I looked at how contemporary social scientists are rediscovering some of the wisdom of traditional hunter-gatherer societies, which were for most of our time on this planet the predominant human organizing principle and are arguably a more natural form of human community that the high-technology society that most of us humans live in today.

I got a handful of thoughtful comments on my piece, but I’d like to highlight one that I think was posing issues that really continue the discussion.  Amy Costello Wilfong wrote…

It’s not that I disagree with what you’re saying… but the immersion-type parenting you’re talking about is, quite literally, impossible for many people in modern American society. Two (or more!) incomes have become necessary to cover even basic expenses for families in many places, and I just don’t see that changing anytime soon. So the question then becomes, how can we accomplish raising children in an “immersive” fashion when we are forced to spend the vast majority of our time away from them? And how can and should teachers respect these basic principles of child development in the face of ever-increasing scrutiny, judgement, and standardization?

I think this is a well crafted “problem statement” for a key challenge we face as a society.  We (or at least our predecessors) have built a society where though we are free citizens and not slaves or indentured servants, many of us have to work so many hours to earn a living wage (if we can at all) that it constitutes a de facto indentureship.  Add to that that the massive scale of our society with the disenfranchisement and alienation it breeds, combined with perpetuation of ancient patriarchal “us and them” values, creates a subculture among us that is predatory toward out groups (“them”) particularly poor people, minorities, women and young people.  The latter in particular making it problematic for parents to let the “village raise the child”, sequestering kids instead in “schools”, institutions that paradoxically isolate kids from the dangerous real world while trying to prepare them for it.

So given the problem statement, what is the solution, or at least a path forward towards a solution?

(more…)

Unschooling in the Art of Self-Direction

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

From my own experience and what I’ve read of the wisdom of others, directing ones own life is not a science that can be taught through instruction but an art that is best developed from self-initiated efforts. Unfortunately, conventional school up to now has not been a good venue for young people to learn to direct their own development, rather serving mainly as a venue for the larger community (or maybe more specifically the state) to attempt to program young people’s developmental path. Looking back at my own youth that was certainly the case. Most of the developmental experiences that helped me learn to direct my own life happened outside of the classroom and outside of the context of school.

Directing ones own life is one of the most critical skills you learn in the process of “unschooling”, which Wikipedia defines as…

A range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. There are some who find it controversial. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities, often initiated by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.

(more…)

Unschooling in the Art of Writing

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

This is another chapter in my series of looks back at my own development and how I learned most of the skills that are critical to my life today outside of any school or other formal education environment. Based on the sum total of this reassessment, I have become a strong advocate for informal learning, what 1970s radical educator John Holt coined as “unschooling”.

Wikipedia defines “unschooling” as representing…

A range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. There are some who find it controversial. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities, often initiated by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.

Though the scope of the definition applies the term to learning by young people, I think it is applicable for lifelong learning as well. And this essay is about my own lifelong learning over five decades, mostly outside of any formal education setting, developing the skills and inclination I currently have as a writer.

(more…)

21st Century “Hybrid” Education

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Saw this recent piece in Ed Week, “Hybrid Home Schools Gaining Traction”, highlighting a trend which may turn out to be the new emerging norm for education as we get deeper into this new century. Stated simply using an environmental metaphor, the current “monoculture” of full-time year-round instructional school attendance may be gradually supplanted by perhaps a richer “polyculture” including an array of learning experiences – some classes, some self-study, some collaborative work, and more real-life experience.

(more…)

A Blue-Collar Girl in a White-Collar World

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

I am republishing this piece written by my daughter Emma and originally published on Daily KOS (click here to see on Daily KOS). Also some extensive replies Emma made to some comments she got…

I am (and to some extent, have always been) a writer, but my desire to become a novelist did not emerge until after I’d made the choice to drop out of high school and become an “autodidact” (someone who is self-taught — see My Experience With Unschooling). All I knew then was that being in a traditional school setting made me terribly unhappy (for reasons that could fill a separate blog piece) and that I’d always had a knack for creative writing. I had no idea what was in store for me, venturing out into the wilderness, leaving everything I was expected to believe about school behind.

(more…)

An Abundance of Genius

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

John Taylor Gatto was a teacher for nearly 30 years, including working with disadvantaged youth in urban New York City public schools. He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. That was the same year he wrote a letter announcing his retirement, titled “I Quit, I Think”, published in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal. In the letter he wrote that he no longer wished to “hurt kids to make a living”. He has since gone to a second career as a writer, speaker and advocate for unschooling, and I have read several of his books and heard him speak twice.

Maybe from years of being a talented teacher and trying to shock his students out of their classroom stupor, he has developed a rhetoric that is studiously and calculatedly provocative, including this statement…

I’ve come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us… I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.

(more…)

From Feminism to Unschooling

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Wendy Priesnitz

Just got through reading Wendy Priesnitz piece, “Unschooling as a feminist act” that was republished in the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) Education Revolution magazine. Wendy is a fellow comrade in the large circle of activists for education alternatives where AERO functions as part of the connective tissue among us. Within that larger group, Wendy and I share a focus as unschooling (what she refers to as “life learning”) activists. So I was intrigued by the title of her piece given the fact that I consider myself both a feminist and unschooling activist.

My take on Wendy’s thinking here, is that she sees a connection between feminism and unschooling because both challenge our society’s remaining patriarchal traditions and values that see men (particularly adult men) in the superior position to women and children in societal hierarchies of control, where “father knows best”.

Certainly our state-run public school systems in the U.S. can be viewed as hierarchical organizations with students (young people of both genders) under the authority and control of teachers (mostly adult women) who are then subject to a controlling hierarchy of authority above them. A controlling hierarchy that becomes more male-dominated, the higher you work your way up the levels of that hierarchy to the state legislators, ed secretaries and boards at the top of the pyramid. This is not unlike our society’s political, economic and religious institutions which continue to be male-dominated (though trending in a more egalitarian direction).

Writes Wendy in her piece…

It had never occurred to me that unschooling and feminism were mutually exclusive. In fact, I am quite certain that it, in all its label-defying glory, is the ultimate feminist act, for a variety of reasons on which I’ll elaborate in this article.

In my reading of her article I would summarize those reasons as follows…

1. Our male-dominated society devalues the child-rearing function including mostly relegating it to mothers and not paying the female-dominated childcare and teaching professions comparably to more male-dominated professions

2. Feminism took a great step forward empowering women to work outside the home, but if women are to be fully empowered, they should equally be empowered to choose to focus their lives within the home raising children

3. As empowered mothers, women should not play second fiddle to the conventional wisdom of mostly male societal experts who claim to know better than those mothers what is best for their children

(more…)