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Monday, April 9, 2012

Natural Learning: FAQs 3

In homeschooling, isn’t there the danger of the child being exposed to only one viewpoint, that of the parents? Since there are diverse actors in school, aren’t there are likely to be diverse viewpoints?
I am extremely wary of thrusting my opinions on Isha. I think of Kahlil Gibran’s words everyday “You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.” I remember how many children of hippies of the 60s rebelled against their parents’ ways and returned to the corporate world and joined the rat race. Having said this, I don’t understand (and don’t agree to the extent I understand) how children get exposed to varied viewpoints at school! I think it is quite the opposite. Schools everywhere thrust the modern-industrial-technological viewpoint onto the children. Isn’t this why you have an entire civilization saying ‘Yes’ to big dams, GM foods and nuclear power plants? Those of us who reject this model of development do so not because but ‘in spite of’ our schooling. And then where is the time for children going to schools to actually sit down and think for themselves? Their lives are so packed with stuff to do!

If you think you don’t want to influence the way your daughter thinks, your neighbour is probably doing it, or her friend or the TV.
So true! I believe that very young children (until the age of five) do not have an evolved sense of discerning what is healthy and what isn’t. It is impossible to and undesirable to completely protect her from what I think is unhealthy. But I do try to keep her away from that world, of violence, revenge, blame, mindless entertainment, etc. as much as possible.

In an unschooling framework (in a rich and diverse ecosystem, which, I have maintained throughout my case, is very essential), there is more scope for the child to actually get exposed to varied viewpoints, even within the framework of a healthy world. At two-and-half, Isha spends time in different living contexts (people’s homes, farms, etc.) and is exposed to so many ways of living. Some places have TV, some don’t. Some kitchens use firewood stove, and some induction stove. In some places, you eat sitting on the floor, and in some, you sit at the table. She uses the western and the Indian toilets, and the open too when in farms. Some people travel by car, some take the bus. Each of these come attached with a certain set of values that she is constantly being exposed to.

But not thrusting my opinions on her does not mean that I don’t share mine with her. I absolutely do, and would like to. I actively share with her why I do or don’t do certain things, why I am concerned about certain things like using plastic bags, for instance. I show her piles of plastic garbage on the street as we walk by them. We stop there and watch it for sometime, and tell her that I feel sad to see cows eating plastic. She has seen it herself many times. But, I’ll be careful for her opinions on things to be arrived at on her own accord. I’ll do all I can to facilitate that process, however imperfectly, and document and share the process with everyone as honestly as I can.     

As parents, don’t we have to know everything to be able to take on homeschooling? How can one person do the job of several teachers at school?
One person need not know everything to teach a child. Actually, if anyone told me that they knew everything that their child needed to know, I’d find that quite scary!

There is a saying that ‘it takes an entire village to educate a child’. In the early years of a child's life, it is enough to just be open, loving, caring and awake to how the child flowers in her own unique colour and fragrance. Patiently answer the child’s questions which begin with ‘What is this? What is that?’ Without being prodded at all, the child will automatically ask for help in learning to name things, actions, people, animals, etc. In the next stage, when the child starts asking ‘Why?’ questions, patiently answer whatever you know. If you don’t know the answer, say ‘I don’t know. Let us find out together. If you find out, let me know.’ This teaches us and the children a lot of humility and opens us up to the process of wonder and exploration.

As adults, we are all equipped with the knowledge about where to look for information about something, whom to ask for help, etc. That knowledge is often simply rusted because it hasn’t been used in a long time. Bring it back to use. In a natural learning process, we don’t sit with any predefined agenda. We walk with our children in the forests and wait for questions to unfold. We go to a farm with our children and learn from the farmer together. We visit the museum. We watch the night sky, wonder together and visit the planetarium if necessary.

It is good to stop thinking of a teacher as the one who knows everything. We have come to think this way because when we were in school, we saw teachers downloading a lot of information onto us all the time. We thought ‘Wow! She knows so much!!’ But all it was was just information. Replace this image of a t-eacher, ‘the information downloader’ with the new T-eacher who loves to explore together, share whatever she knows with a lot of enthusiasm and willingness, feels no shame in saying she doesn’t know. Just tag along with the child, and you will begin a new phase in learning so much all over again. You will learn to wonder and question. You will come alive all over again. 

And yes, it is worth giving up your job for this experience of a lifetime.  And yes, each one of us is capable of being such an alive teacher and participate in a collaborate process of knowledge generation and sharing.

If children are homeschooled, won’t they become clingy and less independent?
Actually, in reality the opposite is true. Young children are not emotionally ready to stay away from parents, especially in a place which breeds fear. When they are put in an environment where they are repeatedly hurt, shamed and threatened (of course, all in the name of discipline) over and over again, they actually grow up to become insecure adults. A child who has had all her emotional needs met in a healthy way, who has felt safe and secure, loved and held without judgment, grows up to become an independent confident and happy adult. This has been proven over and over again. Read another post about this at Secure Base : Confidence = God : Vulnerability

Will homeschooled / unschooled children be employable?
Even the run-of-the-mill IT companies these days hunt for enterprising, intelligent, confident, self-reliant and smart candidates. And we’ve proven time and again, how schools produce exactly the opposite kind! Children who don’t go to school have a wider choice of occupations to choose from, and have more time to train in them without having to waste their time, energy and resources on things that are not relevant to them. And, getting labeled as ‘failures’ in things they aren’t interested at all in the first place.  

Why not gather all parents with the same vision and run a school?
It is not a bad idea. But, it is a limited idea. John Holt puts ittghbh very strongly “It’s not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It’s a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life.” I strongly agree with him. And that’s why I think living and learning communities consisting of entire families who are alive to doing, questioning, rethinking, learning, growing, loving and sharing, is the best possible option. Read Living is doing is loving is learning. Part 1 and Part 2

Are you saying that education is the personal duty / right of a parent than a social duty / right?
Education is indeed very much a social duty / right. I keep repeating in my posts that ‘it takes an entire village to raise a child’. But today’s society has become a slave to the ‘state’. The ‘state’ is a slave to the modern economic thought of ‘more, bigger, faster is better’, valuing everything in terms of money. So, I am being forced to take charge of my child’s education. My dream is to co-create a new society that is free. I will then, happily hand over the duty back to the society.

Hasn't schooling helped many poor people escape poverty? How is the unschooling option relevant to them?
Stay tuned for my response to this one....

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