Sometimes, Unschooling Definitely Does Not Suck

Wed, Sep 22, 2010

General, International, Outdoors

Sometimes, Unschooling Definitely Does Not Suck

Today is one of those days when I love our unschooling lifestyle. Nature is all around us, all over this planet…so why, beginning with our school days, are we conditioned to turn our backs to it? Why do we huddle indoors instead, doing assignments and organized activities that we’re led to believe are so very important, so critical for our “success?”

Why not be outside, taking in the air? Looking at how the sky changes? Seeing what the wind does to the leaves in the trees, the waves on water, the goosebumps on your skin?

We are here in a Costa Rican village where people are poorer, where there are fewer goods and services, where literacy is kind of optional. It’s a given, locally, that very few people will go on to do higher ed. It is said, though, that the happiness index here is far higher than that of people in the U.S.

I once lived a cubicle-employee lifestyle. I once rushed in traffic to get somewhere on time rather than two minutes late. I once wanted upgrades to nicer dishware and fancier flooring in my home. I once cared about the model of car that I owned.

Take all of that away, and take your kids away from the mini-me, proto-rat race that our educational system cultivates, and you’ll be amazed at how you will stop caring about such status-y, material things.

Today, I am rocking a bikini on a tropical beach with my unschooled kids, their arms raised in a “V” in between the huge waves. Our village has no malls, no fast food joints, no paved roads, no higher ed, no library. No little league, no PTA, no playset structures. Is it a problem? Nope. Not once you get used to it. Not when you start looking at what there is, rather than what there isn’t.

What there is is a completely different outlook on life and what matters in it. By unschooling my sons here in Costa Rica, am I preventing them from someday attending Ivy League schools and becoming brain surgeons or CEOs?

Maybe I should go two towns over and ask some of the 50-year-old American CEO types having midlife crises, or the American medical retiree guy who tries to relax in his fancy adobe-themed villa, but ultimately can’t.

Nah, I’ll just skip it. I’ll just trust my instincts, the ones that told me to get my kids the hell out of the suburban American rat race.

Right now, the American work ethic, our Western notions of “achievement,” and the teachers’-balls-in-a-vice predicament otherwise known as No Child Left Behind can all go stick it.

¡Pura vida!

3 Responses to “Sometimes, Unschooling Definitely Does Not Suck”

  1. Ada Says:

    Homeschool Ninja,

    Thank you for asking. I guess your question makes me want to contemplate this question: What does “effective” really mean at the end of the day?

    Are my kids rabid notetakers? No. We only do writing tasks that are authentic. E-mails to friends, lists, the odd zine text to accompany pictures we’ve drawn. We don’t write postcards because there is no mail here.

    Are my kids doing science experiments? Not formally, but they are certainly taking in the natural world around them, and we are having a lot of discussions about the forces of nature, the life cycle of plants and animals, and geology.

    Are my kids reading a lot? Not after hours and hours outside. They read when they feel like it. So…is their reading at a progressively higher level like it would ideally be this year in an institutional school, with leveled readers? Maybe not. Do they read because they want to, because something interests them? Yes, indeed they do.

    Are my kids better mathematicians? I wouldn’t say so. We talk through story problems and I have brought some math flashcards and math exercises along. I try to find math all around us. We convert currency. We cook and measure. We talk historical time periods and calculate a ruler’s age at a certain time. We discuss distance, time, weight, and mass. But no, I wouldn’t say my kids are “trained up” to be ready for some No Child Left Behind state test. On tests like that, you have to deal with problems and questions in a rapid, random, and decontextualized manner. The natural world as we know it doesn’t ever, EVER, throw mathematical operations at a person like that. And if it does, I notice that those people just use calculators or cash registers.

    So….what DOES “effective” really mean? If my goals are to help my kids learn to enjoy life, avoid the rat race and its stressful effects, and live without consumerism and clique-ishness, then unschooling where we are right now is very effective.

    And I don’t have to drive in traffic behind some dope with a “My Kid Is an Honor Student” bumper sticker. How about putting on there what’s really going on—-”My Kid Has Proved to Be an Excellent Little Minion”?



  1. Homeschool Ninja - 23. Sep, 2010

    What do you think of unschooling? Is it effective?…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  2. Homeschool Ninja - 23. Sep, 2010

    Just a Bald Man . . . .: Is Unschooling Working?…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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