We Don’t Need No Education…

From Outside Magazine

At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet of standardized testing and indoor inactivity is choking the creativity right out of our kids. The alternative: set ’em free.

In early September, in a clapboard house situated on 43 acres just outside a small town in northern Vermont, two boys awaken. They are brothers; the older is 12, the younger 9, and they rise to a day that has barely emerged from the clutches of dark. It is not yet autumn, but already the air has begun to change, the soft nights of late summer lengthening and chilling into the season to come. Outside the boys’ bedroom window, the leaves on the maples are just starting to turn.

School is back in session and has been for two weeks or more, but the boys are unhurried. They dress slowly, quietly. Faded and frayed thrift-store camo pants. Flannel shirts. Rubber barn boots. Around their waists, leather belts with knife sheaths. In each sheath, a fixed-blade knife.

By 6:30, with the first rays of sun burning through the ground-level fog, the boys are outside. At some point in the next hour, a yellow school bus will rumble past the end of the driveway that connects the farm to the town road. The bus will be full of children the boys’ age, their foreheads pressed against the glass, gazing at the unfurling landscape, the fields and hills and forests of the small working-class community they call home…

There’s a name for the kind of education Fin and Rye are getting. It’s called unschooling, though Penny and I have never been fond of the term. But “self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning in the context of their own unique interests” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so unschooling it is.

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It is already obvious that unschooling is radically different from institutionalized classroom learning, but how does it differ from more common homeschooling? Perhaps the best way to explain it is that all unschooling is homeschooling, but not all homeschooling is unschooling. While most homeschooled children follow a structured curriculum, unschoolers like Fin and Rye have almost total autonomy over their days. At ages that would likely see them in seventh and fourth grades, I generously estimate that my boys spend no more than two hours per month sitting and studying the subjects, such as science and math, that are universal to mainstream education. Not two hours per day or even per week. Two hours per month. Comparatively speaking, by now Fin would have spent approximately 5,600 hours in the classroom. Rye, nearly three years younger, would have clocked about half that time.

If this sounds radical, it’s only because you’re not taking a long enough view, for the notion that children should spend the majority of their waking hours confined to a classroom enjoys scant historical precedent…

Complete story here

One Comment

So easy for us freethinkers to agree with, but still, there’s something disingenuous about the piece. I smell independent money, sophistication
and education in the parents’ backgrounds. Playing at farming on property you’ve bought, probably working hard at it, and getting a living wage, finally, from the real estate investment.
Not denigrating the idealism, here, just calling attention to the very unlikely possibility that this “unschooling” would be logistically possible for the vast majority of ordinary economically stressed families, even assuming that they were otherwise traditional (solid marriages, etc.).
The social fabric of our time is full of holes, shiny patches, whatever you choose to flesh out a metaphor of social deterioration. Sure, Waldorf (and Montessori, etc) are superior philosophies, but usually practiced in full-on daytime “real schools”, and in Ukiah, oversubscribed. They, in turn, are in need of some serious “unschooling”.
Meanwhile, the plodding, dreadful conventional schools, public as well as private and “church”, continue to perpetrate their violence of “socialization” on the masses of increasingly brain deadened kiddies (except for those individual shining stars who win scholarships, plaudits, etc., while obediently serving the conservative cause of maintaining an “oh-so-good status quo).
Bottom line, without that nice farm, that Huck Finn world of freedom, how do we “unschool” the hundreds of children from compromised families, families for whom economic insecurity is the norm, or for whom the cultural background in assorted fractured ways will not support the growth of free spirit in a growing human (child)?