Monday, March 31, 2008

Thinking about Unschooling

First of all, I think there are many successful ways to provide a child with an education.

Chesterton says:

Of course, the main fact about education is that there is no such thing. It does not exist, as theology or soldiering exist. Theology is a word like geology, soldiering is a word like soldering; these sciences may be healthy or no as hobbies; but they deal with stone and kettles, with definite things. But education is not a word like geology or kettles. Education is a word like "transmission" or "inheritance"; it is not an object, but a method. It must mean the conveying of certain facts, views or qualities, to the last baby born. They might be the most trivial facts or the most preposterous views or the most offensive qualities; but if they are handed on from one generation to another they are education. Education is not a thing like theology, it is not an inferior or superior thing; it is not a thing in the same category of terms. Theology and education are to each other like a love-letter to the General Post Office. Mr. Fagin was quite as educational as Dr. Strong; in practice probably more educational. It is giving something--perhaps poison. Education is tradition, and tradition (as its name implies) can be treason.
An education is whether consciously or not shaped by what the educator thinks is important enough to transmit and the methods used for the transmission. The way I think about it, the more thoughtful and humane the choices are, the better chance there is that the results will be good.

Furthermore, in the homeschool, education can and often is, validly, a seasonal thing. That doesn't mean necessarily snowmen in January and beaches in July -- it means that homeschooling can shift, ebb and flow. Melissa's Tidal Learners analogy is good here. The dynamics are subtle and like life choices, one may not be "superior" to another. It is surely noble and valuable to be a transplant surgeon, say, but surely we don't need 200 million of them? Isn't there a niche for computer game designers, monks, chefs, philosophy professors? Perhaps there doesn't need to be a training school for pickpockets, and most of those who read my blog would probably agree there is no need for a school system that aims to achieve uniformity and unthinking compliance. I wish that a large percentage of the bureaucratic middlemen in the school system would find something more productive to do.

My guess is that in the best of all possible worlds, there would be diversity, not uniformity, in educational "styles". And this is how I finally decided to run my homeschool, because I was really pounding my head into the wall trying to find a perfect "system" and pour our homeschool into it like a mold. Ugh, what terrible mixed metaphors, but maybe they express the state I get myself into sometimes ;-). Anyway, I realized we didn't seem to fit perfectly into any system.

Even radical unschooling. That was one that I chased like St Elmo's Fire. It seemed the most directly Socratic in method to me; it still does. It seems more like Christ and His disciples than any other system. I still dream about opening my eyes and suddenly seeing how it all hangs together. I can't do it someone else's way, though. I wrote about parenting that it was an expression of love and therefore personalistic, unique, irrepressible. I see homeschooling as an extension of parenting (indeed, as the Catholic Church says, I see ALL educational choices, whether public school or parochial school or homeschool, as an extension of parenting). As you see, I see the family as a kiln where philosophy is heated and refined -- "philo" meaning love and "sophy" meaning wisdom. Like Michele, I believe in Family Centered Learning.

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