Unschooling structures: shape and focus

by Lilia Efimova on 16 December 2015

One of the things that is on my thinking radar now is what I call ‘unschooling structure’ – the things that help to shape and focus learning. In particularly I’m wondering about providing kids with an exposure to and participation in practices of the society (thinking in terms of Lave&Wenger here). For me those have an immediate connection with two challenges that I see:

Shape. Letting go predefined curriculum and learning goals kind of assumes that kids are exposed to practices essential for living in a society. However, this exposure doesn’t come by itself. That’s worth a separate post, but so far I’d like to point that strewing as an unschooling practice is pretty artificial, especially in contrast to learning of kids in hunter-gatherer societies as Peter Grey describes when talking about free learning (the book, review and discussion that touch on what I have in mind). Here I bump into the same thing that I encountered when Alexander was a few months old: a lot of our current practices are conceptual, technology-mediated and are difficult to observe for a child, also because “adults work” and “kids learn” are two different worlds.

Focus. Here I come from my personal challenge to keep focused on boring/routine/difficult parts of an interesting and dear to my hart project. There is a lot to dig out there, but one of my assumptions is that the energy (and developing a skill) for being able to persist working on your goal through real difficulties comes from observing and experiencing practices where things just ‘have to be done’, because it’s a cultural norm or matter of survival. (Here I should include a link to not written yet post about kids’ household tasks; project-based homeschooling also fits here). The other part is nested in my mind under mindfullness umbrella: doing what has to be done because of choosing it is different from pushing yourself hard through the work (which I think might lead to burnout next to getting work done :)

The whole thing above might look like I forgot about freedom, choice and motivation of a child in the picture – those are the ‘defaults’ in some sense, so I don’t address them here. It might be also worth noting that all attempts of theory-building here comes from practical challenges of figuring out what sort of learning environment our kids need to thrive and how to help them go through difficult patches on their paths.

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