There is a revolutionary train of thought out there, and has been since the 1970’s, but it is just now gaining attention of the media is unschooling. It differs from the traditional methods of public school, private school and home schooling, in that there are no grades. no tests, no teacher directed activities, no standard currilula and it seems to be fun. In addition, there is no bullying, no harrassment, no pressure to succeed, and no extreme pressure to pass state issued tests.
The philosophy behind the school is that the mind is a ‘tabula rasa’ or a ‘blank slate’ and the child is born with a natural curiosity about the world and a desire to learn. The learning takes place in play, in games, in nature, in socialization, and in household chores. All activities are facilitated by adults. The unschoolers believe that the child will have a knowledge base which he will continue to expand upon even in adulthood and one need not worry about how they will succeed.
As in all new philosophies, there are criticisms which should be examined. One is that children seem to need competition and this is no different for the gifted and talented. Putting a lot of work into a paper and getting an A is work paid-off. The child feels good because a recognized expert says that the work is of excellent quality. He/she has validation from an outside source. Another criticism is that children will not always do as they are told. This is the truth. Children go through stages and in some of these stages, the child wants nothing more than to vegetate. Another stage, is when the child prefers the company of his peers and not his parents or their friends. It is a necessary part of the child’s developmental process in becoming independent. Another criticism is that the child will not graduate or go to college. This criticism is putting the ‘cart before the horse’. The criticism is that there are no objective standards which outsiders can use to see what is the child’s ability, aptitude or even interests. It is all somewhat subjective.
In my opinion, unschooling is not schooling at all, but old fashion interaction between parent and child and would be of special interest to parents of gifted and talented children because of their need to be challenged and their great curiosity but only from birth to first grade and then used as a supplement with caution not to cause resentment against the regular, more traditional schools.
Interested parties in unschooling should contact the North Star Self Directed Learning for Teen in Hadley, Massachusetts.