Philosophy

Children are natural learners A fundamental premise of unschooling is that curiosity is innate and that children want to learn. From this an argument can be made that institutionalizing children in a so-called "one size fits all" or "factory model" school is an inefficient use of the children's time, because it requires each child to learn a specific subject matter in a particular manner, at a particular pace, and at a specific time regardless of that individual's present or future needs, interests, goals, or any pre-existing knowledge he or she might have about the topic. Many unschoolers believe that opportunities for valuable hands-on, community-based, spontaneous, and real-world experiences are missed when educational opportunities are limited to, or dominated by, those inside a school building. [edit]Different approaches to learning Unschoolers note that psychologists have documented many differences between children in the way that they learn,[3] and assert that unschooling is better equipped to adapt to these differences.[4] [edit]Developmental differences Developmental psychologists note that just as children reach growth milestones at different ages from each other, children are also prepared to learn at different ages.[5] Just as some children learn to walk during a normal range of eight to fifteen months, and begin to talk across an even larger range, unschoolers assert that they are also ready and able to read, for example, at different ages, girls usually earlier, boys later. In fact, experts have discovered that natural learning produces far greater changes in behavior than do traditional learning methods, though not necessarily an increase in the amount of information learned.[6] Traditional education requires all children to begin reading at the same time and do multiplication at the same time; unschoolers believe that some children cannot help but be bored because this was something that they had been ready to learn earlier, and even worse, some children cannot help but fail, because they are not yet ready for this new information being taught.[7] [edit]Learning styles People vary in their "learning styles", that is, how they acquire new information. However, research has demonstrated that this preference is not related to increased learning or improved performance.[8] Students have different learning needs. In a traditional school setting, teachers seldom evaluate an individual student differently than other students, and while teachers often use different methods, this is sometimes haphazard and not always with regard to an individual student.[9] [edit]Essential body of knowledge Unschoolers often state that learning any specific subject is less important than learning how to learn.[10] They assert, in the words of Aleck Bourne, "It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated", and in the words of Holt: Since we can't know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try t teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever must be learned.[10] It is asserted that this ability to learn on their own makes it more likely that later, when these children are adults, they can continue to learn what they need to know to meet newly emerging needs, interests, and goals; [10] and that they can return to any subject that they feel was not sufficiently covered or learn a completely new subject.[10] Many unschoolers disagree that there is a particular body of knowledge that every person, regardless of the life they lead, needs to possess.[11] Unschoolers argue that, in the words of John Holt, "[I]f [children] are given access to enough of the world, they will see clearly enough what things are truly important to themselves and to others, and they will make for themselves a better path into that world than anyone else could make for them."[12] [edit]The role of parents The child-directed nature of unschooling does not mean that unschooling parents don't provide their children with guidance and advice, or that parents refrain from sharing things they find fascinating or illuminating. They believe in the importance of using their experience to aid their children in accessing, navigating, and making sense of the world.[4] Common parental activities include sharing interesting books, articles, and activities with their children, helping them find knowledgeable people to explore an interest with (anyone from physics professors to automotive mechanics), and helping them set goals and figure out what they need to do to meet their goals. Unschooling's interest-based nature does not mean that it is a "hands off" approach to education. Parents tend to involve themselves, especially with younger children (older children, unless new to unschooling, often need less help finding resources and making and carrying out plans).[4] [edit]Criticism of traditional school methods According to unschooling pioneer John Holt, "...the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don't know." Proponents of unschooling assert that individualized, child-led learning is more efficient and respectful of children's time, takes advantage of their interests, and allows deeper exploration of subjects than what is possible in conventional education. Others point out that some schools can be non-coercive and cooperative, in a manner consistent with the philosophies behind unschooling.[13] Sudbury model schools are non-coercive, non-indoctrinative, cooperative, democratically run partnerships between children and adults, including full parents' partnership, where learning is individualized and child-led, and complements home education.

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