The past couple of weeks I have been getting calls by parents as well as community workers on how to introduce the unschooling approach to their children and their community. They lament that the education systems here (the public schools, semi-public as well as independent schools) are seeing increasing numbers of students dropping out. Parents are worried for the future of their children. Community workers are worried about the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor. The former can afford private and international schooling, with all the rich resources at their finger tips. But the poor has nothing for them.
We need a complete mind shift to tackle the many issues that confront education today.
Asking the right questions is the right start. Ask not what education can do for me, but ask instead, what I can do for education! Parents who come asking about what curriculum and what exams to take, do not get it. It’s sad for their kids who continually get pushed into the various systems but end up learning nothing worthwhile.
So let’s begin by asking questions and here’s the place for you to do so! Here’s a recent one from a young mother:
Question: “How do you decide on the unschooling approach when there are so many approaches out there such as Waldorf, Montessori, IGCSE, etc?”
Unschooling to me is a natural approach to living and learning that fits my views and values of what education should be.
1. Parents take an unhurried approach to letting children be naturally curious and excited about the world around them. Why time or measure our children like they are in a race? Life is not a race! It is a growing process to be experienced, explored and expounded in various stages and with lots of love and understanding.
2. With the understanding that each child is different and learns at differing rates, there is no stress on children to start reading at a certain age, or get their numbers right at a particular stage. The important thing to do is to be present in mind and body with your child and to be actively involved in the most important element of learning – PLAY!
3. Unschooling is a way of life- not a philosophy or a theory by a person of authority. Parents get to explore the various ways to live and to learn and to play and to work. There are no absolute rules or systems that we need to follow. There are no prescribed books to read or study. There are no restrictions on what materials to use and the activities to do with our children. Thus parents will have to rely on the most essential element when making educated choices – our common sense!
4. Humans do all sorts of tests on animals. And humans see no wrong in testing humans too. But we are NOT animals. How can we allow our kids to be tested? And based on such a narrow result, we expect the conclusions to be conclusive!
5. To unschool is to unshackle the chains that bind us – the mindset that imprison us, the wrong views that mislead us, the fears that paralyzes us. Our children should not be additions to our world problems – they should be the creators of solutions to solve them!
We need more compassionate, all-inclusive and empathetic citizens to bring peace to the world. To me, unschooling is the antidote to the effects of schooling. That is the big picture that many fail to see. But to the few that do, it’s a very liberating life indeed. And we will never trade it for anything else that resembles schooling in any way!