Another important aspect that is often missing from lists of suggestions is to test the effectiveness of a teacher.
Hotly debated topic
Education methods has been a hotly debated topic for thousands of years. In ancient China as well as in Victorian Britain people had their own ideas about what was the best method and what approach was not suitable.
One thing they did agree upon was that it was the schools that needed to change. Today, some people think that it would be better to change the students’ biochemistry and we do indeed have the drugs to do this, for example drugs for ADHD.
Schools are places where children. . .
One of the aims with education is to prepare children for the life in society. Children should leave school with skills so that they can, for example, enter the job market. A problem is that we do not know what the job market will look like in 20 years. So it is tricky to know what skills a child would need.
Schools should be places where children can exercise their capacities for discovery, learn to master skills such as reading, writing, and calculating as well as learn real-world skills. But rather than respecting variability school increasingly respect it less.
The idea behind standardized test score is that schools should be designed to turn all children into creatures with particular characteristics. Yet, instead of assessing the children, should not the tests judge how well schools educate children in general? The quality of teaching and learning that takes place should be measured directly rather than relying on a single measurement of the children.
Let us now return to the quote and the concept unschooling.
Carol Black says that today’s utopian school crusader aim to teach “eco-literacy.”
“A free child outdoors will learn the flat stones the crayfish hide under, the still shady pools where the big trout rest, the rocky slopes where the wild berries grow. They will learn the patterns in the waves, which tree branches will bear their weight, which twigs will catch fire, which plants have thorns.”
She continues with saying that instead of teaching children about nature we send children to school where they are taught what a biome is and how to use logarithms to calculate biodiversity. Carol says that many children lack the motivation and interest to learn about biome and the day after the test they forget all about it. Instead a child who learns to find wild berries will never forget this information.
Map of terrestrial biomes aorund the world by Ville Koistinen
Although it may be easy to agree that to know the world, you have to live in it, it does not necessarily follow that the best conditions for preparing children for adult life is created by letting them run freely in the wilderness.
Carol says that
“Some of our children, it turns out, are more like pigeons and squirrels, and some are more like bears. Some of them adapt to the institutional walls we put around them, and some of them pace till their paws bleed.”
Yet, regardless of what sort of child we are talking about the desire to learn has less to do with the presence of some beautiful wild flowers in the forest. The core of unschooling could be about so much more.
Thus, we suggest that it is not necessary to link some of the ides behind unschooling to playing freely in the woods.
Losing connections with nature
Today, children are increasingly losing their connections with nature. The lack of connections can be seen in their lack of words. The beautiful book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris is a quest to reconnect young readers with the natural world.
But is the reconnection with nature all that is required?
David Attenborough’s Tv-serie Planet Earth 2 devoted a whole episode to urban wildlife. More and more children grow up in urban areas as compared to rural areas. So maybe we need to value these animals and plants as well. Animals living in cities and built-up areas are just as fascinating to study.
To teach children to observe their environment and to use all senses to understand and admire nature whether it is in the woods or in urban parks can be used as a stepping stone to invent and solve problems and ultimately to create a better environment and develop a desire to care for the environment.
The loss of words to describe nature is less important than wild play and wild imagination.
Teaching in a test free environment
Teaching children is a test free environment where they can choose subjects can be done in a more mainstream classroom. Finland is made some dramatic changes to their education system, for example, they have replaced subject with topics or what the Finns call phenomenon teaching. A more collaborative approach is also taken, where students are working in smaller groups to solve problems.
In Finland, early years education is a place that is dominated with play-based learning.
A complex problem
Education is a multifaceted problem but t is also a fascinating area to explore. Return to the quote and think dive into your vision of the school in the future.
- What skills do you think is important to teach children?
- What aspects of unschooling do you want to embrace?
- What aspects of schooling do you think can be embraced better by relying on another approach? What approach and why?
- Which points are irrelevant when you talk about education?
Thanks to Astrid Algra for drawing our attention to the quote at the top of the post!