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View Diary: Beyond Grades and Honor Rolls (18 comments)

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  •  I appreciate your thoughts... (3+ / 0-)
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    leftyparent, FloridaSNMOM, angelajean

    I was right there with you at one time.

    My point in this diary is that there is indeed a completely different way of learning that what is traditionally structured.  Most people are unaware of it, I was.  I want to put this out there to inform and educate about this approach, an approach that challenges commonly held assumptions.

    The assumption that for efficiency and cost we must put students into classrooms by age level.  I now believe that we sacrifice too much of people's growth and development by doing this.  We need to find a way to open this up.  One way is by acknowledging that indeed, we are all different, not standard, with different needs.  We could still use a school campus but with self-directed learning there is no need for pre-structured classes.

    I am very aware of the difficulties, what I want to do is open up thinking and dialogue and creativity around change.  I no longer think it ethical to know that what we are doing is not the best for the students there, but decide we will keep doing it anyway because it is easier or seems to cost less.

    Finally, you say that the process should be, for all intents and purposes, self-guided. The obvious question is this: how many young people possess a level of maturity sufficient to guide themselves through this process? I happen to know a young man who, much like the example in your diary, thought that "civics wasn't interesting"...until his parents pushed him to enroll in AP US History and Government. He's now pursuing university studies in public policy and government - but had he been "self-guided", he never would have taken the class that ignited his interest.
    Again, my point is that I think most people do possess the level of maturity needed to be self-guided when they have grown up in an environment that fully supports them being self-guided!  We have to start somewhere.  Most young people are treated throughout their youth as if they are not capable, no wonder they seem not mature.  We reap what we sow.  I know it's hard to grasp when we haven't seen it on a wide scale; that was another point of this diary, to say it is indeed possible and talk about examples.

    I also am no longer swayed by examples of pushing someone into something they later decided to pursue.  There are a thousand other things that could have been chosen, who knows which other one might have been pursued? How do we know what is right for another person?  We can make suggestions but we don't know.  I think the time better spent in helping them to get in touch more with themselves, with their own interests.

    Please take a few minutes to browse unschooling on the web.  Read a few articles.  It doesn't work in a linear, lock-step way.  As has been mentioned, the world is our resource.  I don't know much about art, but other family members do and were there for our daughter when she got interested in it.  She was interested in continuing to learn a language so signed up for a community college course but didn't like the structure of that either so ended up going with a friend to Canada to volunteer on an organic farm to learn more French.

    We need to think outside the box, but mostly we need to really listen to our young people, we need to look at them as the real, authentic, independent beings they are.  We need to see our role as supporter and facilitator, not as taskmaster and controller.

    Yes, I know that is minority thinking right now.  I hope to see that change.

    •  I don't dismiss all aspects of unschooling... (0+ / 0-)

      ...nor do I dismiss homeschooling out of hand. (Yes, I understand the differences between the two.) In fact, I'm basically the product of self-directed learning; I had public school teachers who provided me both opportunities and materials matching my abilities, rather than my age. I didn't complete a collegiate degree, but I'm coming up on 20 years as a software engineer with a Fortune 100 firm. I think my own life experience has given me a fairly good grasp on the strengths and weaknesses of self-directed learning (50 years of hindsight, eh?)  and you'll note that I'm not debating the validity of the general premise.

      When it comes to expanding the notion to the greater student population, however, the points you don't seem to acknowledge are these:

      * Everything you've held up as a significant factor in unschooling requires a significant investment of time and/or resources by the parents.  We have millions of parents who, even if they had the inclination, have neither the time nor the resources to implement even the basics of unschooling.

      * Most educators I've known (and they number in the hundreds) name the lack of parental involvement as the biggest single roadblock to student success in primary and secondary education. (Ironically, my acquaintances among college/university faculty tell me that "helicopter parents" are becoming a significant problem in their efforts.)  You seem to assume that all those disinterested, consumerist parents will suddenly ripen and flower in an unschooling environment. As someone who comes from a long line of educators and has seen this problem from all sides (student, parent, educator) throughout my life, I'm fairly certain that such will not be the case.

      Believe me, I'm all for many elements of self-directed learning. A huge factor in my children's success to date (3 of my kids are attending college/university on full-tuition scholarships) was the fact that I and my wife fed their interests and talents outside of school and encouraged them to "take a swing" at opportunities that came their way, even as we reinforced the importance of material they may not have found particularly "interesting."

      The interesting question isn't really whether self-directed learning could be a better approach than its traditional counterpart; I think it clear that it IS better for some students, and I'm glad that you're finding success with your family. The real questions are how we can either integrate aspects of self-directed learning into the classroom, how we can motivate parents to take their place as active shepherds of their children's education, and how we can best reach those kids whose home environments aren't conducive to either approach.

      The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

      by wesmorgan1 on Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 04:20:46 PM PST

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      •  Unschooling schools (2+ / 0-)
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        FloridaSNMOM, angelajean

        Are you familiar with the Sudbury Valley School and others like it?  Many unschooling families obviously prefer no school at all, but other families are happy with this model that is an onsite community with an unschooling approach, coupled with a democratic process for running the school (all students and staff have one vote each) and a grievance process for school rules.

        I would love to see this model in the public arena, but with the assumptions and rules of the public model it is not possible. I would have sent my kids to one.  I would like my tax dollars to pay for one.  I would like to see funding to research it.

        I think it would cost a lot less than the public system and be more successful but with the assumptions I discuss in the diary it is unlikely to move forward any time soon.  I want that discussed.

        I agree with most of your last paragraph. Did you see the story Children Thrive in Rural Columbia's Flexible Schools?  Poor children, often of migrant workers, can work at their own pace so that when they are absent for months they don't fall behind or drop out altogether and they are not as likely to develop bad feelings about how they are doing.  I love reading this kind of out-of-the box thinking.  This program is not the standard, it addresses a need and is allowed to do so.

        •  The sad thing is that 'flexible school' isn't new. (1+ / 0-)
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          FloridaSNMOM
          Poor children, often of migrant workers, can work at their own pace so that when they are absent for months they don't fall behind or drop out altogether and they are not as likely to develop bad feelings about how they are doing.  I love reading this kind of out-of-the box thinking.  This program is not the standard, it addresses a need and is allowed to do so.
          You just described the one-room schools in which my great-grandfather taught. He was a "rover", covering multiple communities in south central Kentucky on horseback throughout the year. (An aside: Back then, Kentucky teaching certificates included the holder's subject-matter test scores; if multiple itinerant teachers showed up, they had something of a "score-off" to decide who would teach, or if duties might be split..) As one might expect in a poor, rural community, he had few regular students; kids would come in when they could--when their farm work allowed--and "pick up where they left off." This went on for years in some cases.

          Been there, done that, could do that again...

          I think that the "Academy" program at our public high school (mentioned in an earlier comment) is an interesting step toward giving students/parents more opportunities to self-direct, albeit within the context of the existing class offerings/structure. It's already showing progress in the "match abilities, not ages" area, in that qualified freshmen students are now taking courses formerly reserved to juniors and seniors.

          (I don't think I mentioned this earlier - I'm the brother, son, nephew, first cousin, second cousin, grandson and great-grandson of career educators whose areas of work have basically paralleled the development of the US educational system, from 1800s one-room schools to current elementary, high school and university classrooms. While I chose a different career path, I spend a great deal of my time designing and delivering what goes by the buzzwordy label of "technical enablement." Teaching is, as they say, in our blood.)

          The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

          by wesmorgan1 on Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 06:37:06 PM PST

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      •  "lack of parental involvment" (2+ / 0-)
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        leftyparent, reconnected

        I was a very involved parent when my son was in public school. But not with his classroom because that was disruptive to him. I was involved with IEP meetings and trying to keep up with how he was doing when I got few and not very detailed reports from teachers. I was VERY involved at home, but they rarely sent home more than spelling and math worksheets. I never knew what they were doing in Science and Social Studies (my son has language/speech issues so it was harder to find out from him) so we did our own Science and Social Studies that likely had nothing to do with the school.

        If the schools want more parental involvement, then they need to be more forthcoming with what our kids are DOING. I can't include videos and field trips to support what they are learning in school if I don't know what they are learning in school. It's also a lot harder for me to catch things they are having trouble with if I don't know what they're doing in the first place. One of the things I like about home schooling is I can be looking through the TV guide and go.. "Oh look, the History channel is running a show on x tonight! We'll put that on for Bit, she's studying about that next week!" I could never do that when they were in public school. I could put it on but I didn't know if it would help them beyond just their natural curiosity and wanting to know.

        I don't consider volunteering with the PTA or bringing in cookies parental involvement. I want to be involved with his education, not go to social engagements to deal with the parental clicks of the much more wealthy than me.   Now I was a reading tutor for a couple of years with the school's program. It wasn't a program my son ever needed, but I was still happy to do it.

        And, by the way, that's while I was working full time (though I stopped when I started going to school myself).

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 05:19:32 AM PST

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