Saturday, August 18, 2007

OLM - Keeping a Record of Unschooling

I've mentioned lots of times the reason I write on olm. It's my way of keeping my eyes open for the beauty in our lives, recognizing the magic. Acknowledging that our lives are well-lived.

I'm often really enthusiastic about our days. When Maddie comes upstairs dragging the box of magnets, or sees the iron filings that are sitting on the shelf in the kitchen, and says "Magnets, Mommy!" I feel pleased that they are so eager to discover their world. Or when we head downstairs to look for a game or toy, and Trev sees the microscope, and suggests that we take it upstairs for investigations.
Or even when, like yesterday, Maddie and Trev drug in the large box from Trev's room that houses the Dinosaur Expedition set from Playmobil, with the chainsaw for breaking ice, and the snowshoes, and the tool box with various equipment.
And painting, and stories, and making movies in the sandbox, and doing tricks on the tramp, and turning over rocks to greet the rolypolys, earthworms, and centipedes.

I see it all as learning.

The other day I looked at it from somehow a different point, and thought... I wonder if people read here and just think that I'm crazy. That there is no evidence in our day-to-day engagements that we are learning anything or solving any of life's puzzles.
So I took a second look at my posts, with the purpose of scrutinizing from another perspective.

It probably doesn't look like much.
Probably looks a lot like playing. Asking silly questions. Maybe it looks like not much of anything.

I worried about it for a little bit. Not how it appeared to others, but in the sense of "am I wrong in thinking this is enough?"

Today I came across Gatto's The Seven Lesson School Teacher, which I've read before, but did a quick perusal of today. Here is a rundown of that gem.
"Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do at the time, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. The license I hold certifies that I am an instructor of English language and English literature, but that isn't what I do at all. I don't teach English, I teach school -- and I win awards doing it.
Teaching means different things in different places, but seven lessons are universally taught from Harlem to Hollywood Hills. They constitute a national curriculum you pay for in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what it is. You are at liberty, of course, to regard these lessons any way you like, but believe me when I say I intend no irony in this presentation. These are the things I teach, these are the things you pay me to teach. Make of them what you will."

Here are his 7 lessons - for a review of them, visit the link.
1. Confusion
2. Class Position
3. Indifference
4. Emotional Dependency
5. Intellectual Dependency
6. Provisional Self Esteem
7. One Can't Hide

It is the great triumph of compulsory government monopoly mass-schooling that among even the best of my fellow teachers, and among the best of my students' parents, only a small number can imagine a different way to do things. "The kids have to know how to read and write, don't they?" "They have to know how to add and subtract, don't they?" "They have to learn to follow orders if they ever expect to keep a job."
Only a few lifetimes ago things were very different in the United States. Originality and variety were common currency; our freedom from regimentation made us the miracle of the world; social-class boundaries were relatively easy to cross; our citizenry was marvelously confident, inventive, and able to do much for themselves independently, and to think for themselves. We were something special, we Americans, all by ourselves, without government sticking its nose into our lives, without institutions and social agencies telling us how to think and feel. We were something special, as individuals, as Americans.

It's a great read, if you're interested.

It's statements like the above, the "what I really teach in school" that affirm the wisdom of my choices in our (my family's) learning and discoveries.
Along with other ideas, such as Albert Einsteins words "Imagination is more important than knowledge", and the wise words of so many great leaders regarding education and rote learning.

So, with the reminder of these things... I am suddenly greatly inspired by Mr. Einstein's sentiment.
Where would we be - as a forward thinking race of humans - if all of our discoveries were given to us through text and regimented step-by-step learning?
What if we all followed the rules, and thought exactly as we were taught? What if we were all full of the same facts and figures? What if we all were filled up with memorized data, things that were prescribed to us generation after generation?

There is no room for outburst. There is no room for discovery, even.
It takes imagination to move ahead. And guts to drag others with you.

Where would Mr. Einstein have been had he been a good student in school? Had he not been irreverent but properly respectful of others' knowledge and theories? He wouldn't.
He wouldn't have been - at least as we know him.
None of them would.

So... here is where I coast smoothly and confidently back into my comfortable position in thinking that I am doing pretty well by my children.
Well, comfortable isn't the right word, exactly. As I quite often don't find living this way particularly comfortable, as is demonstrated by this post.

But I do find it a happy life.
My children are joyful. They're intelligent (even brilliant, I'd say). They are curious. Inventive. And they certainly are in possession of fine imaginations.

It's ridiculous to me to think that the answer would be to sit my children down at the kitchen table for hours each day, pouring over texts with them, telling them all while "this is how we shall expand your imagination" and "this is the way you will learn to be curious".

My children will learn by discovering. By exploring. By laughing and loving. By playing.
They'll learn because it's a beautiful and brilliant world in which they truly live.


whimsigal said...

Such a great post. I love the Seven Lessons from Mr. Gatto. His story is more evidence of why school is wrong and I wish my parents would read it. My dad is the one who made the comment I mentioned on my blog and he just doesn't get what we do.

I love reading your posts. You really I read everything you write and sometimes I don't make a comment because you've rendered me speechless. You really know how to illuminate an issue and you should write a book, friend. I'd be first in line!

Kim said...

Isn't this the same author who wrote "Dumbing Us Down"? I have that book and although it is a little extreem (like I don't think all PS's are as bad as he portrays them to be, especially in small towns like ours), it was a real eye opener for me. I read it several years ago. It sounds like this is one I might like to read. Every once in a while, I read books like this to remind me that I do not want my children in an institution that is run this way.
Again, good post. Love you lots!!

Laura said...

Ah heck, I couldn't even finish reading this post because - get this - my oldest is going to school! I'm trying very hard to be optimistic and hopeful, and so far we've had a good experience with them (it hasn't started yet - HA). But I feel my tension rising already. Send energy.