The Tennesseean, Nashville, Tennessee, 31 January 2007, Unworking dreamy but unworkable
Unschooling, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a trendy education technique used by a handful of home school parents. They let their kids decide what they want to learn and when they want to learn it. If the kid shows no interest in reading until they’re 9 or 10, fine, say the unschool advocates. If today the kid wants to make Valentines instead of memorizing the solution to three times seven, well that’s perfectly acceptable.
In other words, they’re training children to believe they can do anything they want, whenever they want. … And when they grow up (will they ever grow up?), would you want an unschooler assigned to your project team? I think not. Thus, for the sake of equality and fairness, I give you unworking.
Steve Jones is chief operating officer of the X-Treme Sports Group in Nashville, … Teamwork, he said, is “everything.” And there’s no room for former unschoolers who want to unwork on a given day.
“If we get a weak link, we have a problem,” Jones said. “My gut reaction would be to say, ‘Does that mean you want to unemploy?’ “
I’ve heard comments like this before, but in connection with the freedom associated with homeschooling: “My kids have to [insert disliked activity at school], so I don’t see why your kids don’t have to do it, too.” Those who want everyone to follow the same path they do, or did, don’t get it.
Unschooling (to me) is not about being lazy, it’s about following your passion. When we’re working at what we want to work at, we often work at it longer and harder than we would do about something we didn’t care as much about. I’m reminded of an excerpt from Free At Last, a book about the Sudbury Valley School that was first published in 1987.
In this part of the book, a group of children want to learn arithmetic, and the adult tries to talk them out of it by saying that they aren’t the ones who want them to learn the arithmetic; the various ‘pressure groups’ around them want them to. The children disagree, and they and the teacher strike a bargain (as was usual at Sudbury).
They were high, all of them. Sailing along, mastering all the techniques and algorithms, they could feel the material entering their bones. Hundreds and hundreds of exercises, class quizzes, oral tests, pounded the material into their heads.
Still they continued to come, all of them. They helped each other when they had to, to keep the class moving. The twelve year olds and the nine year olds, the lions and the lambs, sat peacefully together in harmonious cooperation — no teasing, no shame.
Division — long division. Fractions. Decimals. Percentages. Square roots.
They came at 11:00 sharp, stayed half an hour, and left with homework. They came back next time with all the homework done. All of them.
In twenty weeks, after twenty contact hours, they had covered it all. Six years’ worth. Every one of them knew the material cold.
Unschooling’s not about doping off, it’s about finding where you want to go, and going there.
posted by Valerie — who has been unworking all morning