In my collection of articlesÂ from this summer, I have twoÂ about unschooling.Â One isÂ from July andÂ I saved it in hopes ofÂ more like it, but there weren’t.Â The other is fromÂ this morning’s newspaper.
- Media Shift, PBS, Arlington, Virginia, 14 July 2006, â€™Never Let Schooling Get in the Way of Your Educationâ€™Â Â Â Â Â Â All of this [homeschooling his son for a year] came back in a rush when I began working recently with one of my MIT Comparative Media Studies graduate students, Vanessa Bertozzi , on a project dealing with media practices within the “unschooling community.” More than anything, her project brought home to me how much the introduction of digital and mobile technologies had expanded opportunities for informal learning.Â Â Â Â …Â Â Â Â
Media Use in the Unschooling Community
Historically, the unschooling community was highly anti-technological, seeing computers as tools of the bureaucracy. But, as Bertozzi’s research suggests, these attitudes have shifted as the unschooling community has embraced new forms of participatory culture and online community.Â Â Â Â …Â Â Â Â
Fans, Gamers, and Poets
Of course, many of these unschooling principles also apply to other digital communities, where people gather to share information or discuss issues which are important to them. University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education Professor James Paul Gee calls such informal learning cultures “affinity spaces.” Affinity spaces offer powerful opportunities for learning, Gee argues, because they are sustained by common endeavors which bridge across differences in age, class, race, gender, and educational level, because people can participate in various ways according to their skills and interests, because they depend on peer to peer teaching with each participant constantly motivated to acquire new knowledge or refine their existing skills, and because they allow each participant to feel like an expert while tapping the expertise of others.Â Â Â Â …Â Â Â Â
The Harry Potter and anime fan fiction writers, the Civilization players, and the Wondering Minstrels would be surprised to be discussed as “unschoolers.” As far as they are concerned, they arenâ€™t participating in an educational activity at all. They are simply having fun and exploring topics that matter to them. But thatâ€™s precisely the point. As we talk about informal learning or “unschooling,” there are no rigid boundaries between school and the rest of what we do with our lives. Learning is driven by passion; we follow our interests where they lead; we engage with others who share those intellectual and recreational pursuits; and in the end, we master complex content.
- Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri, 31 August 2006, The world is a classroomÂ Â Â Â
[The Becks and Mattinglys] are “unschoolers,” a small but growing group of homeschooling parents who free themselves from nearly all the trappings of school. They teach, but they do it without set lessons, textbooks or multiple-choice tests.Â Â Â Â …Â Â Â Â Unschoolers know that plenty of parents, teachers and other homeschoolers think their approach is wrong-headed. To them it represents a lack of rigor in education, the very thing many think has failed students in the past.
But unschooling advocates feel certain of the benefits. Among their claims: That students learn more quickly and retain knowledge longer when they lead the way. That children learn more acutely through life experiences than through textbooks, seatwork and testing. That their understanding is more complete when concepts arenâ€™t separated into subject areas.Â Â Â Â …Â Â Â Â
Thereâ€™s no official count of area unschoolers. Patrick Farenga, president of Holt Associates, a national unschooling advocacy group, said the phenomenon continues to grow and unschooling families now make up 10 percent of all homeschoolers.Â Â Â Â …Â Â Â Â
“If you imagine a really good Saturday, thatâ€™s our life,” Beck said.Â Â Â Â …Â Â Â Â
The new unschoolersÂ Â Â Â Child-directed. Life learning. Holistic. These are terms used by unschoolers. They arenâ€™t brand new.Â Â Â Â
Child-directed. Life learning. Holistic. These are terms used by unschoolers. They arenâ€™t brand new.Â Â Â Â Suzanne Rice, associate professor of education at the University of Kansas, called unschooling â€œa phenomenon with some pretty deep roots in the philosophy of education.â€
My only quibble with the second article is the characterization of unschooling as something “new.”Â Â Patrick Farenga and Holt Associates are mentiond in the article, but not the unschooling magazine, Growing Without Schooling, founded by John Holt, and published from 1977 to 2001.Â Home Education Magazine, first published in 1984, has also published many articles on unschooling.
Unschoolers have been around for a while.Â I suppose its a credit to the method that they’ve blended in to the Greater American Culture so well.