Children with loving parents who enjoy them, play with them, and offer guidance and suggestions as they explore their environment will be healthy, emotionally well-adjusted, and psychologically advanced.
Learning happens naturally, and much more meaningfully, when it is driven by the learner’s personal motivations.
Today, many parents and educators are rejecting the myth that people need to be schooled in order to learn. They are replacing an outdated, Industrial Age schooling model of education with a new learning one fit for the Imagination Age—the new era beyond the information age when creativity and ingenuity will be our key cultural and economic drivers.
With unschooling, learning is tied to young people’s interests. Sometimes that learning will involve what we think of as “academic” topics, and sometimes that learning will consist of topics that don’t resemble school subjects at all, like skateboarding. But it is all learning.
Teachers must conform to arbitrary expectations in the same way their students do. The only difference is that teachers can quit.
Unschooling can lead to deeper, more meaningful, more authentic learning because it is driven by the learner, using the varied tools around him. In a new, networked world with information at our fingertips, a set curriculum may actually hold us back.
What’s the best way to master language? Years of research provide the answer: It’s not with drills or computer programs, but with daily conversation that gives the child motivation and allows time to respond. When children interact with real people in a social context, they are motivated to express their needs, thoughts, and feelings. Nature has programmed us to learn language through social relationships.
As schooling becomes even more standardized and test-driven than when we were kids, and the academic pressures on children mount, more parents are questioning this cookie-cutter approach to education. They may be witnessing in their own homes and neighborhoods the striking correlation between decreasing childhood free play and increasing mental health disorders in young people. They may be dismayed by schooled expectations that now push kindergarteners to read, and they may be concerned that as instruction ousts play—and recess diminishes—more young children are being diagnosed with attention disorders and put on potent psychotropic medications because they can’t sit still and focus—at five. These parents may see how their children’s creativity has waned and their enthusiasm for learning has dwindled, replaced by extrinsic motivations and a determination to simply make it through the day without bullying or condescension. Learning for the sake of learning disappears.
Children are natural learners. They are born with the drive to explore and synthesize their world. Their childhood curiosity and exuberance lead them to learn and discover, to make connections and deepen their knowledge, so that they may gain essential skills. This inclination to learn, along with a passion for discovery, does not magically disappear at a certain age. Our industrial model of schooling systematically diminishes a child’s natural curiosity and ability to self educate. Educators have long known this to be true.
Schooling is about control whereas unschooling is about freedom.
Assessment has several roles. The first is diagnostic, to help teachers understand students’ aptitude and levels of development. The second is formative, to gather information on students’ work and activities and to support their progress. The third is summative, which is about making judgments on overall performance at the end of a program of work.
We all have a wide range of natural aptitudes, and we all have them differently. Personalization means teachers taking account of these differences in how they teach different students. It also means allowing for flexibility within the curriculum so that in addition to what all students need to learn in common, there are opportunities for them to pursue their individual interests and strengths as well.