Does Unschooling Work?

Hvalsey_ChurchRemember Erik the Red, an Icelandic Norseman?  He took some Norse people and settled Greenland, not as hospitable as its name suggests, at about 1000 years AD.  Fascinating story.  They brought Northern European livestock and farming practices.  They settled in, bringing their religion, steep tithes, and bishops.  Greenland’s climate eventually became a bit more inhospitable due to climate change.  Frozen water routes made European trade difficult.  The Norse’s farming practices, both crops and livestock, suffered.  It is believed that the Norse adapted by eating more like the encroaching Inuits, but evidence of severe starvation and stagnation exists.  For 500 years (which sounds short till I realize my descendents have only lived in the United States for probably less than 150 years) they lived in communities on Greenland. Then, their two main settlements KUH-POOF.  Disappeared.

Some scholars think that the Norse disappeared because their environment changed and they refused to fully adapt, choosing to hang onto European identities.  When the end came, they ate their dogs while carrion-hovering flies swarmed in their rooms.  Others believe they slowly migrated out when the rare ship that pulled in to port departed, unable to cope with Greenland and its separation from European culture anymore.

It is fun to think about, isn’t it?  Would you have left on a boat after 350 years?  Or would you have stayed and starved, eating your emaciated cow?  Or would you have befriended the Inuit, finding a life-long partner to hunt and gather with?

Greenland’s old Norse bones are long dry.  Archaeologists are digging them up, bringing us new speculations.  I can’t help but think of the dying out of the original Norse settlements and compare it to our current education system, which has been around far less than 500 years.  Far less than 150 years.  We hang onto our brief past and educational system, tweaking it here and there, while the environment calls for extreme change and letting go.

Why do some people think that school the way they knew it is the only way?  The best way?  Why does anyone in society accept shoving more and more kids into one classroom?  Can they not hear the buzzing of the carrion-eating flies?

Barley and ruminant animals were not suited for or suitable for Greenland.  The current education system is proving its unsuitability.  Drugs, gangs, and violence like permafost, are seeping in.  Teachers have resigned themselves to the mire, giving up.  Common Core won’t help.  Computer labs won’t help.  Offering college classes for credit to high schoolers won’t help.  An ice age has hit and it’s time to eat seal and fish, giving up our milk and barley for sustainable nutrition.

Snow fortLet’s trade in our huge boxes called “school” for real, lasting education.  Where is the fear coming from?  Where is the inappropriate clinging to past tradition coming from?  Why are people afraid of the homeschooling movement?  Take it further, why are most people, even homeschoolers, afraid of unschooling?  Failure shows us there must be a different way.  WHAT is so scary about doing it different?

Today is the final post contributed by Corinne Jacobs, an unschooler.  Click here for the first installment in the series and here for the second.  Does unschooling really work?  Let’s look at what Corinne’s final statements.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic master are not the only concerns about unschooling…

…People wonder whether these kids will ever be able to attend college or get a job, how they will learn to socialize with their peers and whether their parents are just being lazy. Peter Gray’s study (also linked to in the first post titled I Didn’t Teach Them That,) answers the first two questions.

Unschooled children often do choose to join college and they do so by starting at a community college or by merit of their interviews and portfolios. They hold a wide variety of jobs, many of them in creative arts and STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields].

Unschooled children are by no means isolated from others in their community. They interact with kids their own age as well as those that are younger and older than them, and are therefore skilled at interacting with others in a normal social setting. (School kids on the other hand socialize in artificial settings where almost everyone is the same age.)

And finally, to the defence of those poor, maligned parents who choose to go the unschooling way – these individuals are incredibly involved in the lives of their children. As per the unschooling methodology, they take pains to give their kids exposure to a wide range of fields, foster a great learning environment and engage them in meaningful conversations. Whenever they notice their kids taking interest in a specific field, they go about providing them with the resources to follow their interests – whether through additional reading material, tools, classes, apps, and websites or interacting with experts in the field. They make themselves available to answer the questions of their children, and to look for answers to those questions they cannot answer. Any parent who does any less has either not understood the unschooling methodology or is merely using it as an excuse to be lazy about their kids’ education.  (emphasis is mine, Terri Fites)

Unschooling, when done the right way, does a lot more than teach kids to read, write and do math. Like the 8-year old who uses his free time making real clocks, and the 7-year-old who writes 1,000 word novels, kids who are unschooled continually show their parents they made the right choice in going the unschooling way.

Author BioCorinne Jacob is a wannabe writer who is convinced that kids learn best when they’re having fun. She is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. Corinne loves all things that scream out un-schooling, alternative education and holistic learning.

 

Conclusion

I think unschooling is a great tool.  I cannot see myself being a radical unschooler, but I definitely find that we leave large chunks of free-time in our days.  In this time, my children have taught themselves to knit, sew, make Barbie houses, make videos, and shoot bows and arrows.  Whatever your method of schooling, keep your mind open to the good, the bad, and the ugly of what you’re doing.  And, what do you think?  Concerning Greenland, would you stay, go, or integrate?

Terri

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