Is Unschooling Our Path to Real Inclusion?Posted: July 2, 2013
Schooling. Achievement. Ability.
Of course my children would go to school. And of course they would rock it. That is what you do. That is what I did.
I’m not sure anymore.
My issue lies more with the path, rather than the destination. The process of learning to read, write, do math, learn how science, history, art, all intersect is very worthwhile. I’m not trying to sound anti-education here, but the very structure and method of today’s mainstream classroom education seems very problematic to me.
Instead of sitting in a classroom and learning history for history’s sake, what if a child learned history during the course of exploring her sudden interest in pirate ships? What if a child learned math during the course of his sudden interest in why flower petals often follow a certain number sequence? What if a child honed her writing skills after deciding to write a letter to her local paper, objecting to its coverage on an issue near and dear to her heart?
This doesn’t only apply to older kids, of course. Young children learn how to count raspberries stuck on their fingertips, they learn to read because they are interested in other modes of communication, physics from bouncing a ball. I could go on forever.
These ideas are at the heart of unschooling. Nothing new at all. However, now I’m looking at schooling (or unschooling) through the lens of a parent who has a child who does not have an equal place in our public education system. I’m looking at our path to inclusion.
I’m starting to wonder if the arguments about inclusion are destined to fail because at heart, schooling is a very ableist enterprise. It seems an awful lot like our current schooling systems emphasize ability for ability’s sake, achievement for achievement’s sake. Such is the nature of tests, grades, and assessments. There is so little emphasis on the process and rather a lot given to the end product.
What if, instead, a child learned what she needed to learn simply in order to do what she wanted? What if abilities weren’t achievements in and of themselves, but they were merely tools to explore the world? With that thinking, what would it matter if a child learned to read at five years old or ten years old? Would it matter that a child didn’t communicate as the majority of his peers did?
In the case of unschooling, changing the emphasis to process rather than end product has the potential to circumvent the need for “special needs” education. The very idea of “special needs” predicates the definition of not-special, or, I’m loathe to say, “normal” needs. And when schooling is entirely geared towards achieving a certain level of competency at certain abilities over others in a prescribed time frame, some kids will be shut out. Making education about fostering learning according to each individual’s desires and natural aptitude rather than reaching a preordained level of ability is very, very appealing to this mama.
I know. There’s a lot more to it. We have, after all, enrolled Mouse in a Spanish immersion transitional kindergarten class next year. I am NOT anti-school. I think there are some amazing things going on in schools today. Still. The more and more I think about it, the more appealing unschooling looks for all of my children.
To be continued (after I do a whole lot more obsessive research). I leave you with a picture of the children in question. (Notice LP’s comb over flapping in the wind.) xo