Is Unschooling aka “Hackschooling” For You?

February 8, 2014 in Education & Learning, Green Living, Spiritual by Tara

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Do you feel like our school systems are in the Stone Age? What if learning was individually catered to you and not the masses? Have you ever though of different ways to learn and experience life? What if there were no rules or tests to tell you that you were inadequate? What if your individuality was able to shine? What if…you were happy?

Welcome to unschooling.

Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in maximizing the education of each unique child. – Wikipedia

Unschooling has been something I have been fawning over ever since I learned about it 5-6 years ago at an Amy Steinberg concert in the backyard of the Lovejoy family’s house in SC. (Check out this article Kelly Lovejoy wrote on the “3 Stages of Unschooling“) It is not like homeschooling. It is quite different, in that it does not go off of the regular school curriculum. With homeschooling you are pretty much learning what is learned in school, except you are home. “So then how do the children learn when unschooled?”, you may be wondering. Well that is up to the parents and children themselves. Something that can be rather productive or unproductive depending on the family. There may be some lifestyle changes for parents when opting to do this, though every situation is really quite unique unto it’s own. There is a lot of information online to help guide parents through unschooling their children. And there are many classes and experiences to have outside the home. The world really is your oyster in this case. Anything is possible when you are the creator!

Please take a listen to how 11 year old Logan LaPlante puts it all into perspective in his endearing TED Talk. It really is a delight to hear it from a child actually living the experience for himself.

Growing up in a Montessori School myself, and then later to attend public school, art colleges, private dj lessons, watercolor classes, multimedia classes, a certification course in special f/x makeup and prosthetics, a raw nutrition certification, bellydance classes, drumming classes, fire workshops, ecstatic dance yoga and so on – I have to say, it was when I was doing what I was was interested in and passionate about in these years, that I was in my glory. If everything had been focussed on just that – on what I enjoyed and loved, it would have been a wonderful ride. Am I ok with where I am at now? Sure. However, I would have loved the opportunity to be unschooled! (Granted, information was not as easily accessible then as it is now with the plethora of knowledge on the internet.) I continue to learn now, yet on my terms. Following the beat to my drum and my interests. Even as an adult, I would consider myself an unschooler on some level. I’m always exploring and following my dreams. It is so freeing and productive to live my passions and not be molded by some institutions cookie cutter itinerary.

Now, I understand that to find out what your interests are, you have to hear about them from somewhere, right? Well, that can really happen anywhere, at any time. I do not feel that school has to be that place. Especially when you learn about something (say anything beyond basic math) and have to keep learning about it for years on end, even after no interest is sparked. Am I saying school is bad? No. Yet I think there is room for massive improvement. As an artistic, creative person, I could have passed on a lot of my classes and filled them with something more fulfilling to MY needs. Out of all those years, there are only a few classes I am thankful for and enjoy in my memory bank. Had I been unschooled…well gee, what a dream come true that would have been! I’m sure I’d have buckets full to be thankful for today. There are so many things I would have rather been learning about.

Here is a lovely short video narrated by Alan Watts. It really seems to hit home on the topic at hand.

Without getting too detailed, I feel that schools are focussed on and tailored to producing a certain kind of student, with specific kinds of jobs in mind. Jobs really do seem to be the focus instead of considering a child’s happiness, wellbeing, self esteem, emotions, etc. Where are the classes on that? Ya know, the ones with no wrong answers? I do not feel schools open a child up to the broad spectrum life has to offer. Classes are force fed and required without any leeway to really give a child the freedom and imagination to explore themselves. Unless they are lucky enough to have these interests: History, Math, Science, English with the occasional Music, Art & Gym class. Do we really need to take all these classes till the 12th grade? This is my take in a nutshell, feel free to introduce a child to these things and of coarse tell them some basic things they will need to get by in life and after that, if they want to keep going, encourage that. Otherwise, don’t push something on them that they really don’t like. For instance, how many days does the average person use geometry and calculus? I know I don’t. This is wasted time to people with other interests. How about I stick some people in a makeup class for 12 years and when you fail the classes you can’t move on to that big league college? Please tell me how this makes sense? And why is it that the youth of today have to wait till they go to college to even choose “their” interests? Even then, are they really individually tailored to? When I went to an art college did I really have to pay $1k a class to find out that most of the classes I took my first year were not an area of film I wanted to study? Would I have taken film editing, acting, film history, etc? Probably not. My video production class was really what I was interested in (thanks to one of the few classes that are up there in my memory bank- the tv production class I took in high school). That is what lead me to a future job I enjoyed as a Multimedia Specialist. Am I still a Multimedia Specialist? No. My interests have changed and they change with a lot of people. Sometimes it takes time to figure out and sometimes we have more than one interest. I’m living proof of that today.

Don’t get me wrong here. I understand that if you want to be a doctor for example, you are going to “have to” take some classes. Certain requirements are needed in some fields. But not all of them and surely not up till the 12th grade.

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Back in college, I would rather have my parents money and my student loans spent on more makeup, painting, video production, special f/x makeup and prosthetic classes. Gosh, how I missed walking by the painting classes in college and hated I couldn’t major in both. That is the one thing that has stuck with me since I was a baby, is my passion to paint. I appreciate the intro into all the classes I took in college and it’s nice to be put in others peoples shoes (in my case it was the film industry) you may work with at some point, but not with that kind of price tag. I’d rather have some kind of holiday a year where you have to do a co-workers job or something. The reason my college said they did that, was to help you narrow down your interest as a film major. But what if you already know what your interest is? Again, wasted money…and a lot of it.

I personally believe wholeheartedly in the freedom and exploration that unschooling offers. I feel that it allows children to enjoy life (isn’t that what we are all here for anyway?) and when it comes time to earn a buck, they can do that by doing what they are passionate about and what brings them joy. (The world would be an amazing place if everyone did what they loved and every purchase you made or service you had was from someone who was living their bliss.) I’m not saying unschooling is the only way. However, I do feel it is the way a child can fully explore who they are without being forced into things they do not enjoy and have no interest in. Think of how you feel when you have to watch a movie you don’t want to or listen to a boring conversation topic. You just want to run, and maybe sometimes you do walk away. It’s sad for me to think that some kids feel they are not smart in school. When in fact, every child has some spark within them, you just have to help them find it. They are amazing at something and we should let them be! Ever kid is not going to like math. That does not mean they are not smart and it surely doesn’t mean they won’t “make it” in the world. It just means they don’t like math.

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I had this dream a few years ago about having a different job every year, doing something I enjoy and not necessarily having one career. I still like that idea and as my life plays out I want to make sure I pay attention to all the different ways I would like to express myself, not only in my careers but also as who I am as a being on this planet. I love dreaming about doing it all!

I know for sure that when and if I have children, unschooling will be the route we go. I absolutely adore the idea of quality time spent with our children and as a family. What a gift to give our children, ourselves and all of humanity; the freedom to live our own passions, all of them!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or personal experiences about all types of schooling and unschooling. Please feel free to share.

I’d like to leave you with this quote I found on a tapestry in a restaurant the night I began to write this. How fitting.

“Success is not the key to happiness; happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Buddah

With an Abundance of Love, Light & Laughter,
Tara

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