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Thoughts of a modern-day mother

GAYS MILLS - It’s hard to believe that it’s almost the back-to-school moment. It’s one of those major time landmarks like Christmas. I mean, how many times in the last month have you heard “Can ya believe the kids are already heading back to school?”

Although Thatcher attends daycare, which we call school, I have noticed (thanks to the wonders of Facebook allowing me to peer into EVERYONE’S personal life) that some communities and bigger cities have 2K for students. Which sparked my interest and wonder of what they do all day? Is it structured like regular school or is it play and motor skill building crafts like our daycare? I’ll have to dig into that when I have the time…

It seems as though these days there are endless amounts of ways to school. They vary from traditional brands of brick and mortar public schools to alternative styles of learning or even what one might imagine as a structured home school set up and then there are some you may not expect.

One concept that has occupied my curious ponderings is un-schooling.

Un-schooling seems to be gaining in notoriety with both supporters and critics.

According to trusty old Wikipedia, Un-schooling is considered “an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Un-schooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosities.  Un-schooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child.”

Reading that description made me imagine children on the frontier—learning trades, chores, and responsibilities around the homestead.  It put it in perspective for me. This style of learning isn’t exactly new, but perhaps it has just fallen out of favor until more recently.  Apparently the term un-schooling was coined in the 70s by John Holt, who is considered to be the “father of un-schooling.”

The philosophy behind the whole movement is that children want to learn. “From this an argument can be made that institutionalizing children in a so-called ‘one size fits all’ or ‘factory model’ school is an inefficient use of the children’s time,” Wikipedia noted.

Although widely celebrated and a form of education loved by many, it is of course not without it criticism.

One of the biggest concerns and criticisms of the practice is socialization and subsequent isolation because the students aren’t exposed to many children on a regular basis. However, it seems as time goes on, and more families become interested in this movement that perhaps groups will form and un-schooling will continue to evolve and more and more social opportunities will present themselves.

Another struggle I’ve observed in an un-schooling Facebook group I follow seems to be screen time. Many parents feel like limiting their child’s screen time would go against their leadership of learning, but also struggle with the social pressures of “not letting your kid turn into a screen zombie.”

It will be interesting to me, to look back in 20 or 30 years and see the difference in groups of kids who were traditionally and alternatively schooled in all of the different avenues that are available today and see what kind of outcomes there are.

Before I had my own kid this was all idle pondering and it was so much easier to make a solid conclusion about what I thought was right for all the children of the world. Now, more and more I can see that every kid differs and with that every schooling opportunity differs.

As it stands, looking at my own two year old, I can’t see home schooling be the right choice for our family. Thatcher is strong willed, brave, social and thrives when he has routine. However, he has a few years before the big yellow bus would be making a stop in front of our house, so who knows what could change between now and then. One thing I do know is that there is no reason that child-led learning can’t go hand-in-hand with traditional education, if you present your child with an opportunity to take as much interest in the world around them as they can.