unschool

Learning to Learn

I have been in school for a ridiculously long time.  I went from 3 year old kindergarten through the 11th grade before getting my GED and immediately starting college.  Then I went on to get my A.A.S. and B.A., and now I’m a semester away from having my Master’s.  And I barely remember anything that I’ve learned.

I’ve always been an autodidact.  My interests were never really those that we were taught in school.  In second grade I used to hide in the library reading nonfiction books during our twice-a-week library period because we were only allowed to check out picture books.  Not much has changed.  I still spend hours each week researching the things that I’m passionate about.  I do this even though I’m in school and should probably devote that time to working on the stuff that “counts”.  Which leads me to my point….

The most important lesson that I’ve ever learned, was how to teach myself — how to conduct research, how to think critically to determine a source’s credibility, and the foresight to know whenever I need to seek out others who are more knowledgeable then I am and who can take me under their wing.  I understand the importance of school for specialized sectors of society — I want my doctor, for example, to be extremely well-educated in his field.

On the other hand, I don’t think school is the end-all-be-all of education.  The education system now is especially failing us because of the pressures of high stakes testing.  This hurts me deeply because my background is in education.  I’m about to graduate with my MAT, but it breaks my heart to see the focus being more on teaching students WHAT to learn rather than HOW to learn.  I know from my own experience, and it is supported with research, that the things we are intrinsically motivated to learn are the things that we remember.

I hope that I can bring my own positive attitude about the internally motivated desire to learn into my future classroom rather than my cynicism about our obsession with assessment.  It is my dream to show young people how a thirst for knowledge and an inquiring mind are two of the most important catalysts for success in this world.  As a mother I do this each day with my child, and I look forward to showing my students this in my future career as a teacher.

It can be so daunting to decide what type of education–homeschooling, unschooling, private school, public school–we want our children to have.  At the end of the day, if we as parents remain totally involved with our children’s education and make sure that they know how to seek the resources to answer their own questions, I believe that ultimately we and our children will be alright.

Please share your thoughts.  Do you homeschool, unschool, or send your children to school? How do you feel about the education system in the U.S. today?

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Unschooling by a Former and Future Teacher

My background is in education.  I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was 11 years old.  I used to read textbooks for fun.  As a tween.  What the hell was wrong with me?!  I knew I wanted to teach high school, but went back and forth between wanting to teach English or history.  I actually taught preschool for one year and quickly realized that I do not have the patience, creativity, or coloring and cutting skills necessary for teaching that age group.  I ended up deciding I wanted to teach history, which is what I completed my B.A. in last month.

Ironically, I do not want my child to attend school.  My husband and I have both talked about it many times.  We absolutely do not want our child going to school where we presently live.  I’m not totally opposed to her ever attending any school, but I detest the way the public education system emphasizes testing and rote memorization.  There are also no private schools in my area except the one that I attended which is (a) supported by evangelicals and teaches fundamentalist Christian doctrine as fact and (b) isn’t even accredited.  So, yeah, we’ll definitely be passing on that one!

This has put me in quite the odd position.  My daughter will be 4 in November.  I’ve decided to do what I’m calling unpreschool.  I’ve been researching and creating activities for my daughter to do according to her interests.  In the process I’m having to deschool myself.  I’m also simultaneously studying academic theory as it applies to teaching secondary school, and looking for a job as a high school history teacher.

If I don’t go insane from reading information from two very different perspectives, I will be immensely proud of myself.  And probably reward myself with a glass box of wine.