Mar 1, 2016
Why I don't "teach subjects"
In the beginning of our unschooling life, I used to worry about doing the "right thing", doing "enough", doing it at the "right time", since I was new to this. In addition to all this, choosing to unschool in a country where it is illegal plus NO ONE has ever even heard about it, was a risky and daring decision. I found that I was practically alone in my search, my thoughts, all my attempts, my trials and errors.
Gradually, and through the years, a lot has changed...in our lives, not the legal or social status.
Now I realize that teaching specific subjects to a child, the way it's done in text books and in schools is totally boring (for both of us) and is totally useless and unnecessary. Neither our minds nor our lives function that way!
Nothing is sequential and additional, piling carefully, one on top of another. This method of gradual adding/showing/ learning, might be useful for something that you decide to become devoted to and serve, something you want to specify and expertize in, but not to show you the world, its meaning, its complexity. It definitely doesn't work according to a child's mind and needs.
A child thinks like a parallel not a sequential processor (in computing), as do right brained individuals. Children enter a world that is filled with information, which they want to absorb, discover, experiment with, know. We speak to them in perfect language and that's how they learn to speak. We don't start on day one with the alphabet, thinking that they won't understand us unless they conquer the rules.
My first ever French teacher must have known all this. I remember her coming into the classroom, on that first day. We didn't even know her name, just that we were going to begin French. She started bombarding us with all these phrases, sentences, conversation that only she understood, without adding or explaining a word in English. At first we thought it was funny, so was her pronunciation (to us). Then we got frustrated because she wouldn't explain or answer our questions in English. But by the end of that first hour, we went away with the correct French pronunciation, quite a few phrases to take home with us and a renewed self-esteem for our accomplishment. That was the only year that I learned any French...the pronunciation remained.
The truth is that we are always suddenly and holistically faced with life. And we pick it up as we encounter it, as we go along. Nothing is separated, nothing is disconnected from each other. Besides, by the time you go through the sequential processing, most of the information (and the text books) are already outdated. Science has moved on, technology is constantly new, history needs to be rewritten with new discoveries, and so on and so forth.
Our moods are not always the same, our energy levels depend on our interests, on our involvement in real life. Our interests change as we mature, while we try out different things, explore many different realities, people and circumstances, all providing learning grounds, in real life settings. It doesn't sound like the current school system...
To the normal kids around her, my daughter might seem uneducated, when they want to find something to compare their programmed, planned out life, as they have learned to do. But then, no one is testing her in her life, evaluating her with marks, tests and useless questions that don't mean anything to her.
We follow her interests but also our life's circumstances. Everything that we experience, all our relationships, all that we do, visit, read, watch; everything, is an opportunity to dive into discussions, research, building, fixing, exploring etc. Our days are free and always unpredictable. She plays a lot, while learning to co-exist with others, to respect herself and others, and above all, learning to think for herself.
Most often she surprises me with knowledge I didn't even realize she possesses. Precisely because she is not forced or pushed into anything, she is very observant and devotes herself to whatever it is that she is doing; whether playing a game in which her imaginations rockets unchained or whether she is reading a science book, watching a movie or documentary, visiting the planetarium or a new beach, watching the stars or setting up a play to explore her emotions and information she has received.
The connections in her mind happen naturally and she will surprise me with her mature conclusions and/or her complex questions that are often difficult to answer. Her vocabulary is way above her age because she had the opportunity to follow her own interests, as well as exist in normal settings, in real life situations. We have been reading loads of books through the years, making our house look more like a library than anything else, since libraries are scarce in Greece, especially in small towns like the one we live in. We have totally escaped the silly drilling and childish exercises that the other children still have to complete at school. There is nearly no structure and planning (yet), as we find that one thing leads to another and we end up looking into and also connecting many subjects into one afternoon or outing.
She is caring and considerate, passionate with whatever she is learning/making/discovering and she is fascinated by life. I must admit that she is the first child I see who is totally happy, enthusiastic, eager to experience her day, EVERY day! She doesn't compare herself to anyone else, and wonders why the other kids don't have time to play. When they do, she gets on with all of them; of all ages, sex, color, any language that they speak. They seem to find a way around all obstacles and I know that it's mostly her doing, because she doesn't know what shyness means, she doesn't have anything to defend, she's not in competitive mode.
The more I experience unschooling with her, the more I experience life with her, the more I am persuaded that this is the natural way to learn. That's also the way I teach my students; the adults that need deschooling...
All this separating, testing, sequential thinking, striving to prove, programming life in a consecutive and ordered execution mode, is making people miserable, depressed, ill and always searching for the next goal....as they were taught in school. But our minds (and life) are parallel processors too and the one cannot be separated/isolated from the other.
Time is connected, everything happens together, in parallel, simultaneous ways and it is all relative to each other. Science agrees and will discover more in future but textbooks and most of our western societies are still running on past programming, outdated information, unable to change their way of thinking. Of course if that happened, the whole establishment would have to come down and rebuilt from scratch, leaving behind our unnatural methods that lead us to dead-end roads and a lot of destruction, frustration and lack in all areas.
I know that I have barely touched the subject of not teaching specific subjects, and especially for someone new to unschooling. It is not something that can be described or analyzed but rather experienced and known first hand, as we choose to free our minds of old ideas and liming ways of doing things. Many parents and young adults are waking up to this need and are taking the responsibility to un-educate themselves and re-think learning, life, parenting, co-existing in harmony.
We share our knowledge, findings, we change our programming, thus freeing our children, the next generations, by healing our own lives.