Google+ Authentic Parenting: Unschooling and Interests

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unschooling and Interests

When one explains unschooling to people who are not familiar with the concept, most often, one comes across the point where one explains that children learn the most when they are interested in something (the same goes for adults).

A response to this is often
a) how can you find you're interested in something if there's no curriculum to show you the possibilities
b) school opened me up to interests I never knew I have

In effect, these remarks are quite demeaning for the parents of these unschooled kids. I know most often people don't think of them as such, they just don't see any other way, since they were raised in the system, and probably have never challenged themselves to think out of the box. Furthermore you can't expect everyone to be knowledgeable about the mechanics of selfdirected learning. Thus we camnot blame them for these ignorant and even hurtfull remarks, for they do not know any better.

But how then does one acquire interests without schools or curriculi?

Image: Mykl Roventine on Flickr
Interest need to be sparked by something to occur. For schooled kids, these sparks are indeed often generated by the course material, as they spend about 60 percent of their waking hours in school and often spend the other 40 either doing homework or being washed out from the tedious school hours. (these percentages are just a rough measure and do not represent any scientific study, if you have numbers for these, feel free to add them in the comments below)

Unschooled kids are not at school and do not follow curriculi. However, they do not just sit there doing nothing all day. They play, they go for walks, they do various activities, they enjoy nature, their friends, their parents, their siblings, they linger in the garden, they wach tv and play video games, they read, they go on shopping trips, they run errands with their parents, they meet people.

For an unschooler, a trip to the doctor's office might spark an interest in genetics, or biology or medicine or...
A walk in the park might get them interested in birds, or different kinds of flowers, or the mating behavior of lizards, or geology, or the history of the hotdog.
A swim might make them want to learn about fluids, or fysics or coagulation...

And if interests don't spark from life itself, they can be helped along by parents. We can bring stuff in the house and have it lingering around for eager minds to pick up (or not).
If we would be worried that our kids aren't getting enough astrofysics, we can get them a poster of the starsystem, or some books about astrofysics, or star shaped stickers.
This is called strewing and every parent does it, intentionally or not.

Thus saying you need school to spark interests is a little short sighted. It is as if you assume that unschoolers keep their kids locked up in a room with nothing but tv and video games. Well, actually these might spark interests too, but if you still believe school is acountable for all interest in all children all over the world, then I think this conversation might be lost on you.



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