Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich

This contribution toward education undermines the traditions and models of the current "educational industrial complex".  The book encourages parents to take control over their children's education and take advantage of the explosion of new technologies and social networks.  It attacks traditional school as antiquated, inefficient, and too expensive.  According to the book, traditional school caters to the common denominators and not to the individual, tests don't work, and homework is a waste of time that could be utilized for 'real learning'.  The concept being a "drop off" parent can be devastating to a child's development and the author encourages that care givers be those that love the child like a grandparent instead of a hired nanny.

The author is a believer in observation and discovery and informal outdoor education (one learns so much more at a summer camp then during a whole year at school).  He believes that observing animals as microcosms is more valuable than listening to a teacher drone on about societies.

Mr. Aldrich encapsulates and conceptualizes learning to three directions: Learn to be, learn to do and learn to know.  These three concepts will guide anyone's curricula of study.  We want our children, for example, to be good citizens, morally and ethically aware.  We want our children to be able to do things, developing skills to succeed.  Knowledge is required for both.  If one would use these three concepts as their guide one will discover traditional school is not at all necessary.

Mr. Aldrich claims that our grandparent's generation got it right when the core learning consisted of 'reading, writing and arithmetic'.  Those three areas are essential to success in life.  One needs to be able to research a subject of interest, one needs to be able to correspond socially and one needs to be able to make purchases and balance a checkbook.  He encourages projects likes creating a business or creating or planning an event to replace classroom learning because that is what happens in real life! The amount of time spent learning literature is waste for most and should be only be encouraged to those that LOVE literature.  Calculus should be part of History and only a math subject for those that show LOVE of mathematics.   Math should include 'the spread sheet' as a requirement because it is essential in every business.  He claims the ideal classroom size is 5 students not 25.  The interaction of 5 is so much more intimate and real then organizing 25 people.

This book is really for those committed to homeschooling, those willing to devote much time to the development of one's child's growth.  Those parents willing to remove their child from the common educational industrial complex and allow the child freedom to explore the world on one's own terms. [My wife and I pulled our children out of their elementary school one year to homeschool them until we were satisfied that the school changed sufficiently.  That year we connected with an accredited Charter School, homeschooled them and admittedly our children learned more in one year then their previous years of schooling. Socially, however, our children felt they suffered, they felt isolated from their friends and missed the school culture to which they were already accustomed and they were happy to return to their school.] Although Mr. Aldrich would like to see a major change to traditional school, he understands that the majors changes he encourages are not going to happen in the near future.  His ideas nevertheless should be taken into account by every educator.

I am personally taken by his three concepts of learning (to be, to do and to know) because they immediately remind me of a Torah education of the most traditional kind.  A Torah observant person learns to Be a good Yehudi, he learns to Do the mitzvos and is devoted to (as the Rambam says) KNOW Hashem.  The traditional Yeshiva model fits perfectly into Mr. Aldrich's conclusions about education.  Traditional Yeshiva students are actually well educated for success because they have mastered the skills behind learning to be, learning to do and learning to know!  With the conclusions of Mr. Aldrich, one should not be so quick to dismiss traditional Yeshiva education.

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