#0022 Conservatives and progressives think differently (part VI)

I closed the last post with a comment about the 1-room-schoolhouse model of education. To many readers, it probably seemed like an outlandish statement to make in this age of Facebook, Twitter, androids & iPhones and the ever growing crop of gadgets and  convinces emanating  from our techno-savvy world; that rolling back the calendar to 1900 Midwest America might be a move worth considering. I’m not saying that we should, I am saying that we can glean a valuable lesson from some of the realities they, in those times were forced to live. The illogical, cumbersome and uncomfortable environment of the 1-room-schoolhouse in all of its rudimentary educational form had some elements about it that were extremely effective when the education of all the children in the environment was job one. The condition in the 1-room-schoolhouse that seems the most inconvenient and cumbersome for the teacher is that she was one person and she was supposed to teach all of the kids in the whole school at the same time. I will use the pronoun she in referring to the 1-room-schoolhouse teacher because this in the early 1900s teaching was one of the few jobs commonly available to women.

They say necessity is the mother of invention; faced with such a challenge as these teachers faced they were forced to get creative fast. She figured out that she could use some of the older children to watch over the youngest ones while she was working lessons with the intermediate grade levels. As she did this what automatically started to happen was these older kids, instead of just babysitting the younger ones, began to teach them their lessons. The teacher found that this technique worked, in fact it worked so well that it became an integral component of this teaching model. It became commonplace that some of the children, typically the older children who seemed to have a natural affinity and aptitude for teaching would be utilized to teach–the younger students at first–but eventually the older students as well; even students of their own grade level. As this began to materialize, these young teacher apprentices, in effect became another teacher in the room. If a teacher had two or three of these teacher/students working with her, the whole teaching dynamic would be dramatically changed. Not only were the younger kids getting the information they needed in their studies, the interconnectedness of the students went to a higher and much more positive level. If the goal is to actually teach the children information and skills rather than simply drilling them for tests; then lots and lots of possibilities avail themselves which would otherwise remain unavailable.


The closest thing to this that exists in the modern-day education culture is homeschooling. In the homeschool model young parents teach typically their own children and maybe the children of friends. The statistics say that the typical homeschooled child’s aptitude runs an impressive 1.5 grades ahead of his/her public school counterpart. Homeschooling is a phenomenon that exists and its effectiveness is tangible and it’s measurable. The teachers in this model are not trained educators; they’re the parents of the students. Why is it so effective? The teacher’s #one goal is to provide their students with a quality education—the best education possible, in fact. These teachers are more private tutor than teacher. They care about their students and they have a personal relationship with them. Because this is the case, the students, by and large, flourish. The homeschooling model and the 1-room-schoolhouse model are both R-Directed in nature. The public, charter and private school models are all, to varying degrees, teaching-to-the-test models. This model is, almost by definition, L-Directed in nature. In the educational world, there has been much research and development in the area of alternative models of education. Many of them have shown to be very effective with some even being incorporated and used albeit on very a limited scale. The homeschool model is one of these and it is one of the more controversial ones out there (mostly because of its relative popularity and success). Its critics are quick to point out that homeschooling, despite its statistics which seem to indicate its success potential, taut it as being a fluke and very impractical as a model to be taken seriously. Regardless of these claims, homeschooling has been on the scene since the 60s. The homeschooling model incorporates varying philosophies and techniques; one such is called Unschooling and natural learning.

 Unschooling and natural learning

“Natural learning” refers to a type of learning-on-demand where children pursue knowledge based on their interests and parents take an active part in facilitating activities and experiences conducive to learning but do not rely heavily on textbooks or spend much time “teaching”, looking instead for “learning moments” throughout their daily activities. Parents see their role as that of affirming through positive feedback and modeling the necessary skills, and the child’s role as being responsible for asking and learning.

The term “unschooling” as coined by John Holt describes an approach in which parents do not authoritatively direct the child’s education, but interact with the child following the child’s own interests, leaving them free to explore and learn as their interests lead. “Unschooling” does not indicate that the child is not being educated, but that the child is not being “schooled”, or educated in a rigid school-type manner. Holt asserted that children learn through the experiences of life, and he encouraged parents to live their lives with their child. Also known as interest-led or child-led learning, unschooling attempts to follow opportunities as they arise in real life, through which a child will learn without coercion. An unschooled child may utilize texts or classroom instruction, but these are not considered central to education. Holt asserted that there is no specific body of knowledge that is, or should be, required of a child.

Both unschooling and natural learning advocates believe that children learn best by doing; a child may learn reading to further an interest about history or other cultures, or math skills by operating a small business or sharing in family finances. They may learn animal husbandry keeping dairy goats or meat rabbits, botany tending a kitchen garden, chemistry to understand the operation of firearms or the internal combustion engine, or politics and local history by following a zoning or historical-status dispute. While any type of homeschoolers may also use these methods, the unschooled child initiates these learning activities. The natural learner participates with parents and others in learning together.[citation needed]

Another prominent proponent of unschooling is John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down, The Exhausted School, A Different Kind of Teacher, and Weapons of Mass Instruction. Gatto argues that public education is the primary tool of “state controlled consciousness” and serves as a prime illustration of the total institution — a social system which impels obedience to the state and quells free thinking or dissent.

Homeschooling: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

So what does all of this have to do with religion or God or any other spiritually-related thing? Everything. We will get into the relevant connections between the L-Directed natures of both traditional education and Christianity in the next and final posting in this series. If you’ve been following this series from the beginning and have been intrigued, then please don’t skip over the above Wikipedia article: Unschooling and natural learning. You might want to keep it handy as a reference for the next post.

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