The other evening one of my LLL coleaders came over with some materials for a video project we are working on. She used to be an elementary school teacher and I’ve gotten the feeling over the years that she thinks pretty highly of schooling (there are lots of homelearners in the LLL community here).
As we were sitting together, Daughter wandered in and asked if I would play “division cards” with her. She had bought a few sets of flash cards several months ago, totally of her own accord, and she has made up various games with them. I told her I was busy with my friend and that we’d play later, so she wandered off.
My coleader said “She actually wants to play with math? Wow, that’s wonderful!”. Her attitude seemed to be one of pleasant surprise mingled with disbelief. I had to laugh to myself. I guess she is so used to school culture that it hadn’t occurred to her how things might be different for unschooled kids.
This experience prompted me to make a short list of “secrets” about children and learning that one discovers with unschooling:
1) kids who have never been to school don’t distinguish between “learning” and just living their daily lives; reading a book about history is no different than playing a video game or colouring a picture – all are done because that’s what the child felt like doing at that moment in time
2) kids who have never been to school don’t get exposed to a culture where kids are rated according to scholastic acheivement; thus it never occurs to them to use labels such as “brain” or “jock”, etc. There is no sense of self-consciousness about being “smart” (thus my Daughter’s confusion at the slogan on her Brain Quest cards: “It’s OK to be Smart!”)
3) kids who have never been to school aren’t exposed to the idea that Math is “hard” or only for smart kids; they don’t distinguish between “fun stuff” (e.g. karate class) and “stuff you have to learn” (e.g. social studies or history)
4) kids can find any subject interesting and enjoyable when it is done on their own time, at their own pace, and at their own initiation
5) when you are exposed to unschooled children your whole attitude towards kids changes; our society views children as naturally lazy and unwilling to learn – most don’t believe that kids in a completely self-designed educational program would ever learn all they need to know; once you’ve witnessed unschooling you see children as endlessly curious, willing to work hard to reach self-established goals, and driven to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to participate wholly in society
It’s truly an amazing experience to see what children are capable of when they are allowed to learn naturally, the way they are designed to learn. This is one of the most wonderful aspects to unschooling, the feeling that you are witnessing processes that few people ever get to see.