Thursday, April 8, 2010

Imagine; A World Without School

It was a typical weekday evening. Dinner and dishes done, we returned to our computers and television. Reading online, surfing aimlessly, trying to do as many things as we can at the same time, get tired and go to bed. And exactly at that moment, I chanced upon a television show that made me sit upright and take notice. The show filmed four different families and their radical methods of Homeschooling their children. Now the concept of Homeschooling I am familiar with, but not these radical methods.

One such method was Unschooling. A concept I have been playing back and forth in my mind since then, being extremely unable to make a decision about whether I like it or not. Forget like, whether I understand it or not!

Unschooling. Has anyone heard of it? I had not till I watched the show. Coming from India where the story does not stop at enrolling your child in a good school but spills over to how well your child does in school year after year after year. Competition is high and the child must achieve. That is what we are taught every day. But with Unschooling all that changes.

It is a fast growing, radical form of educating your child at home, where there is no fixed curriculum and the child learns through life. He reads when he wants to and plays when he wants to but learns through living each day. It focuses and relies on the fact that a child is innately curious and wants to learn things on its own. So therefore, no tests, no structure but lessons learnt.

Which brings us to the obvious question. Huh?

Unschoolers say, you do not teach a child to eat. As he reaches a certain age, he knows what he wants to eat and puts food in his mouth, swallows it or chews it according to what needs to be done. You don't teach him that, he figured it out himself. Just like that, there are lessons all around, that the child can learn. Let him do it at his own pace.

So you ask, what about Maths and Algebra and Geometry? How does he learn concepts? Unschoolers say, do not take the Math out of daily life. Math is everywhere. Children learn about counting and amounts when they go grocery shopping. For instance, if they are baking a cake, they learn about quantity and measurement. Algebra through painting a room, money and currency by playing Monopoly.

Or how about history and culture and what is right and wrong? Play building blocks or build a city out of Lego Blocks. Children absorb what they see around them, on TV, their neighbourhood and imitate the same. That is the culture they live in. Museums and family trips can teach them about other cultures. Expose them to new things that they can choose to absorb or discard. Unschoolers believe children do not need to go to school to learn about authority, discipline and manners, they can do that right at home!

Still confused? I sure am! Go ahead read more about it. For me, personally, it was fascinating that India has finally decided to do away with Class 10 board exams and finally implement Right to Education for all children, but on the other hand see parents across America do away with concepts like school and try their luck with radical homeschooling methods.

Will India follow? I have my doubts.

(Rati Ramadas has worked as a journalist for 4 years and covered education for the greater part of that. Education and new methods of schooling has always intrigued her. She loves writing short stories and hope to publish some someday.She blogs and rants about day to day life and travels at Odds and Mi)

Image Source : Rob Shenk

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