Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unschooling: Where do they dig up these "experts"?

I've heard a lot of ridiculous things said about education, but this one takes the cake.  In Australia's Sydney Morning Herald's article Unschooling truly in a class of its own an "expert" is quoted as follows:

''Children on their own without external intervention will never learn to read and write or do mathematics, the three most difficult things that any child will ever learn,'' he said.
''That is why we leave these things to well-educated professionals. That is why we no longer go to witch doctors for medical issues or try and fix our cars, fix faulty electrical systems ourselves.''

Okay, let's take this one piece at a time....

"Children on their own without external intervention will never learn to read and write or do mathematics"

Really?  I think we've all known people who apparently learned to read before they started school when they were 3 or 4.  These days such things would probably be attributed to preschool or possibly an iPad app, but in past generations like my own apps didn't exist and preschool wasn't nearly so common.  What about those people?  What about unschoolers who have have shared their stories of their children learning to read naturally?  Or the story of illiterate Ethiopian children who learned to use and even hack tablets given to them?  
And what's so difficult about math?  The concepts are pretty easy and are part of daily life.  If I have 1 thing and you have 1 thing, when we put them together we have 2 things.  If I have 3 things and give you 1 thing I only have 2 things left, etc.  It's not rocket science after all.  For goodness sake my daughter picked out a little preschool math concept workbook for $1 at the store yesterday!  She did it in the car for fun.

Reading, writing, and mathematics "the three most difficult things 
that any child will ever learn"

Really?  I'd say the most impressive thing a child ever learns is how to walk or talk...this "expert" would probably agree if we lived in a society where children went to school at 6-months-old to be taught those things too.

Meanwhile there are so many more difficult things to learn out there!  What about children who learn to play instruments?  Children who build robots?  Children who dabble with computer programing?  Ask the young teen that invented a solar powered water purification system if learning to read was more complicated.  Personally I found learning to knit at the age of 7 or learning to code HTML at the age of 15 more challenging than learning to read when I was 5.

''That is why we leave these things to well-educated professionals."
Well he might...but I don't!  I am certainly educated enough to answer my child's questions, provide resources, purchase materials, request books from the library, and seek out any help they might need.  My daughter didn't need a "well-educated professional" to sit with her while she read the first Bob Book this morning...she didn't need a professional to count to 100 with her in the car...or a professional to print off handwriting sheets of her name and the names of family and friends per her request....she just needed her mom.  All she needs is a loving parent to listen and follow her lead.

"That is why we no longer go to witch doctors for medical issues..."
I get the feeling this fellow is the sort that would consider a homebirth midwife a witch doctor...but that's a whole other issue.  
Honestly, that is one hell of a jump!  There is a lot between witch doctor and modern medical professional....there is also a whole range of "medical issues" and some of them don't require a doctor, witchy, or otherwise.  For instance a cold is not cancer.  I can deal with a cold without professional help.  If I break a leg I'll see a doctor.  If I sprain my toe I'll tape it up and keep walking.  If my child wants to be a doctor they will go to medical school, but if they want to sing the alphabet song or write a business letter I've got it covered.

"...or try and fix our cars, fix faulty electrical systems ourselves.''
Wait...what?  Apparently I've been doing this all wrong!  I guess I shouldn't change my own oil ever again, huh?
My father is a marine mechanic.  He's not an auto mechanic, an electrician, a contractor, or a plumber....but that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to do all those things.   I'm not a mechanic, an electrician, a contractor, or a plumber either, but that never stopped me from helping my father with all of those things!  When one of the walls in our home was rotting out I helped my father tear it out and rebuild it from scratch.  Yes, we even ran electricity to it!  I also helped remodel the kitchen and bathroom.  After I graduated I got a job doing wiring for a government contractor.  Why the heck can't we do these things ourselves?!  No, I can't replace a transmission myself (my dad probably could, but might not own the appropriate tools for the job...), but there are a lot of other basic repairs and maintenance I can handle on my own.  My husband is an IT guy and still figured out how to pull apart our dryer and replace the motor when it was on the fritz.

Personally I think this "expert" needs to be a bit more self-reliant.
Here's the thing:
There is nothing magical about education.

This is what we need to get through our thick skulls.  Learning does NOT have to be separate from daily life.  Learning does NOT have to be presided over by professionals.  Learning does NOT have to take place in an institution.  Learning does NOT have to be tested, graded, tracked, and recorded.  Learning does NOT have to be a chore!

And thus I am going to go read my child a book about the solar system because she asked me to.  :)

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