Jul 7, 2015

What are schools for?

The other day I received the following in my inbox, which started a discussion with a friend living in Greece, also following my case with the state laws, concerning unschooling. I thought it would be good to share her experience, to help all of us with our own thoughts. With her permission, this was her message:

" I am experiencing the school system and it's just pathetic. My oldest adopted daughter who is 12 has been going to frontistirio, school, oloimero, and gabbing tutors at home before we came to adopt her. She had no idea how to do BASIC math not that it's a problem cause I am not that way bothered, I'm an unschooling type. But with all that input in her life you would think she would have some knowledge. Xristiana I'm not kidding you, we couldn't hold a conversation with her without her stopping us at every other word to ask 'τι σημαίνει αυτό; (what does this mean?) the 'experts' just taught her like a robot. We put info in, job done. I couldn't discuss anything with her she couldn't understand common language or terms, didn't know where the Parthenon was or what is Africa..

We actually believed she was retarded. In the six months she has lived with us although slow in learning, she is a different child! She is reading and speaking in English!, she can do ALL basic numeracy, knows most of the countries of Africa because of a kids novel we read together, is using WORD on the computer, is reading the biography of Ann Frank and is reading roughly a novel a month, and is working through fifth year grammar (which I don't know but I'm learning with her). And she is ENJOYING learning. 

Our primary reason for doing all this is so she can cope at school else I wouldn't have done so much with her so soon. But golly if I can do that with a teenager with so many gaps and four other needy kids to take care of WHAT IS THE .... SCHOOL DOING??????"

I believe that the primary difference in this 'accelerated' learning in my daughter as with my other adopted and biological children is this. Learning is fun, it's part of every day life and it is almost weaves into everyday life. We learn geography through mapping our trips, tracing where the characters in our favourite books came from, receiving postcards from friends in other parts of the world. We learn history, geography and social justice by reading a newspaper and DISCUSSING, researching, considering opinions. We learn maths through cooking and baking and playing games like monopoly. We ask the kids to navigate and take us places so they learn to engage their minds when on trips and be observant. 

But we also do other things like let them play play play because most learning comes through play and exploring. We value relationship and have common rules for all. There is no hitting but we hold family meetings to discuss breaking of rules or kids feeling upset. As parents we try to give our kids room to explore and express so that we can facilitate their learning according to their interests. 

I have a 12 year old who is on his third computer coding program, has designed his own App, has earned his own pocket money for two years through his own business project ( using math, budgeting, computer skill,marketing, customer service, research, etc) and at 9 years old organised a fundraiser on his own for a children's charity. He is teaching his younger siblings and asks if I can get him Rosetta Stone courses ' to learn some other languages for fun mum to pass time'. He is not gifted in the way the world thinks. He is a normal lovely preteen boy who enjoys learning. 

His 7 year old brother is just learning to read in TWO languages simultaneously and has already completed 2.5 years of primary school maths yet just joined conventional school for the first time four moths ago...and hates it. 

Both my boys hate it . They say it's dull, uninteresting, boring, teachers scream all day, kids are naughty all day, other boys talk about girls, fashion, smoking and porn. He has not much in common with them. They come home sobbing because the teachers kicked a stray dog or the other kids were mean to it. 

School manages to kill all passion for learning, social skills, compassion because it becomes an arena for the survival of the fittest. And my adopted girls who have done school for three years, were like robots, unable to process thought, unable to express thought, opinion. They were used to being told what to think and what to feel.

My question is When you look at my kids and their social skills, volunteering, giving to the community, home skills, life skills and academics TELL ME HOW SCHOOL CAN BETTER THAT BECAUSE MY FRIENDS, THE PITIFUL EVIDENCE TELLS ME OTHERWISE.."

Well my friend, you seem to have said it all!

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