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Thursday, August 4, 2011

How We Can Unlearn Our Students

A recent news story on CNN entitled "Unschoolers learn what they want, when they want," brings many questions to the forefront of any educational reform to the public school system. These Sudbury schools allow students to follow their curiosity and internal drive for learning in a way that puts life experiences at the pinnacle of the learning paradigm.

At a time when public education is experiencing further budget cuts, there are many things needed to restore public confidence and prevent more families from deciding that it is in their child's best interests to attend alternative or private schools.

Our students should be driving their own learning. The Ontario Curriculum is a foundation of knowledge and baseline content that should serve as a springboard for inquiry and experience in the pursuit of cultivating 'self-directed learners.'

Unschooling is a terrific climate to better meet the interests of our naturalist intelligence students (in Gardner's multiple intelligence theory). It is also a terrific opportunity to differentiate the environment and process for our students in a differentitated instruction teaching model.

So why can't we - in public school's - adopt approaches such as this and experiment with our own approaches to instruction and learning? Well, we can. There are many teachers out there that will quickly step forward as testers of these models and 'guinea pigs' for these educational experiments. With the right combination of support, funding, time, and even modeling, there are incredible prospects to revamp and retool our public education system's model for learning.

If we are to show the public that their options for private and alternative schooling are not 'cutting edge' or 'revolutionary,' but rather, that they mirror our public schools - only with a hefty price tag - not only can we restore confidence in our system, we can also meet the needs of our students in exciting and inspirational ways.

Unschooling holds that there needs to be an undoing of our school's work. Let's re-school the unschools by showing them that we are also ready to move forward and meet the 21st century with vigor and curiosity ourselves as leaders and educators.

Given the right publicity and media attention and we could have more families opting in to their right to a publicly-funded education; instead of footing the bill to find a service that they feel fills a void. We expose and address that void; we will gain the respect and momentum of a public shifting back to our classrooms with confidence and trust.

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