My Response to: “Unschooling Isn’t the Answer to Education Woes – It’s the Problem.”

This is in response to the piece published in Forbes. Read the Forbes piece here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliewexler/2020/05/25/unschooling-isnt-the-answer-to-education-woes-its-the-problem/

I have no qualms with the first part of the title: “Unschooling Isn’t the Answer to Education Woes”, because it is true – it isn’t. And unschoolers do not make that claim either. But to claim that “it is the problem?” Now that, is taking the argument a little too far!

When I embarked on the unschooling journey with my kids almost 20 years ago, I thought (and still do!) that it was the best thing ever for children and families. Reason? Because kids get to have a proper childhood and families get to be like how normal families ought to be: being together, and doing things as a family: like playing, working, cooking, cleaning, learning. And I thought (albeit naively) that everyone could unschool their kids like we did, because it felt so easy and natural! With the recent emergency pandemic schooling which had “forced” children to be kept at home and parents having to take on a new role as their kids’ teachers, the world experienced home-based learning or home-schooling en masse – a first in recent history! The outcome? Some loved it so much they don’t want to go back to school! While others can’t wait for schools to reopen for the kids to be handed back to the professional teachers.

Tree-climbing was one of our favourite activities: it is challenging, utilises creative problem-solving and overcomes fear!

This is understandable, because how parents approach teaching and learning will determine how the kids take to it. For those who, over the years, have instilled in their kids the qualities of self-motivation and independent learning, by viewing learning as interesting, contextual and meaningful, they would have no problems learning at home, or anywhere for that matter. In fact, they love it! But parents who have little time or energy to look into learning as a form of personal growth and development, but instead look to it as a means to a better life in getting a good job for the future, will inevitably struggle with the idea of too much freedom in their children’s education. And hence, we see the cyclical suffering going round and round with no solution in sight. Or a solution that will quickly be thrown out the window because it doesn’t fit into what they can see for their children’s future.

The task of educators in educating for the future will be less of equipping students with the needed fundamental skills in order to get a job after they graduate, but more of amplifying innate talents and allowing them to flourish with preparedness for an uncertain and ever-changing future. And learning experts are predicting this change as we see it unfold before our very eyes in our current pandemic emergency.

So, the main reason why unschooling will not be the answer to education woes is not because it cannot work in schools, but because parents, teachers and educational bodies are slow and resistant towards changing the way they do education. This is evident from the way schooling is resumed after the lockdown – Nothing much has changed other than the enforcement of social-distancing and hygiene practices. Instead of looking into growing and expanding creativity through outdoor and nature studies and play activities, music and drama, or project-based collaborative learning, most schools are cutting them out. Which is a big mistake because creativity is the single-most important skill in the world for all business professionals today to master.

And what does it mean to be creative? LinkedIn Learning Instructor Stefan Mumaw, who has authored six books on creativity, has this definition: “Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.” Relevance means actually solving the problem, and novelty is being original in solving the problem. Creativity is solving problems in original ways. Education woes is not due to unschooling. On the contrary, it has everything to do with the rigidity of the schooling mentality that is adverse to creativity. When we stop settling for old solutions that worked previously and push ourselves to think of newer, better ideas, we will begin to move forward to a new future minus the baggage of the old. And to do that, we will need to unschool our minds to foster creativity that works to solve problems in novel ways.

We cannot begin to solve the education woes if we are not prepared to change our mindset towards what we want from education and how we want to do it. Ultimately, HOW we imagine life and work will determine what and how we want to learn. And be prepared for the rapid disappearance of jobs that we have always known, and the appearance of new ones that are beyond our imagination! The best people to understand this phenomenon will be those who have not been in the system of indoctrination – the young unschooled minds. We have much to learn from them if we desire to change the education landscape. But no one is asking them for their opinions. That needs to change. Speedily!

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