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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Unschooling Rules Scorecard 2012

Unschooling Rules is a list of 55 ideas, derived from my interviews with homeschoolers and unschoolers, to evolve how people imagine and evaluate education.  Over the next decade, these ideas will trickle up and become more accepted, as they move through the various categories of:
  • Crazy talk: Ideas are viewed as dangerous and subversive to education.
  • Let me think about that, just not now: Ideas are not rejected out of hand, but not seen as overly relevant either, and not prioritized.
  • Yes, but be realistic: Ideas make sense, but are just incompatible with how school is structured.
  • OMG! Thought-leading breakthrough: Ideas are realized to be transformation to how education is delivered.  Foundations tend to put money here.
  • Pilot ready:  Ideas are considered close to mainstream.  Academic PhD organizations such as the National Science Foundation put money here.
  • Standard Operating Procedure: Ideas are accepted and widely implemented.
Given that, for the sake of comparison to future years, I thought I would put forth this baseline and scorecard for end of 2012.

Standard Operating Procedure
None of the Unschooling Rules ideas are currently thought of as common sense and standard operating procedure.

Pilot Ready
Food continues to be understood as a key to successful learning, as well as a microcosm of learning and education itself.  Computer games are also being better understood as the template for a new kind of educational media. There is a frustration with the lack of practicality of most skills taught.    Finally, math is being looked at less as rules to follow in a pure, perfect bubble world and more as tools for interacting with the real world, from science to entrepreneurship.

Unschooling Rules:
15. If you care about learning, start with food.
21. Is it better to be “A Great Reader” than “Addicted to Computer Games”?
18. One computer + one spreadsheet software program = math curricula.
5. Don’t worry about preparing students for jobs from an Agatha Christie novel.

OMG! Thought-leading breakthrough
The role of a four -year, boarding college has shifted, from being thought of as absolutely necessary for a productive, creative life to increasingly being challenged on all fronts.  Inverted classrooms  where students work as groups and do background learning individually, are being explored.  Portfolios (and badges) are trumping transcripts.  Technologies are shifting from being the enemy of schools to a possible savior.  MOOCs and other radical and exciting new approaches (including homeschooling)  are being explored.  The idea of educational diversity as inherently being valuable is gaining some acceptance.  And new models of testing are being expanded and prepared to be implemented (through such efforts as PARCC).

Unschooling Rules:
49. College: the hardest no-win decision your family may ever make.
9. Sitting through a classroom lecture is not just unnatural for most people, it is painful.
17. Listen while doing.
46. The future is portfolios, not transcripts.
45. Tests don’t work. Get over it. Move on.
55. The only sustainable answer to the global education challenge is a diversity of approaches.
26. Biologically, the necessary order of learning is: explore, then play, then add rigor.
16. Embrace all technologies.

Yes, but be realistic
Curricula still remain bloated.  The role of true customization is still thought of as a theoretical nice-to-have rather than  necessary for all education systems.  21st century skills such as leadership and project management are understood to be desirable but there is no clear path to developing and evaluating them.  STEM projects are driving a build rather than consume mentality. 

Unschooling Rules:
2. Focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic.
33. In education, customization is important like air is important.
12. Internships, apprenticeships, and interesting jobs beat term papers, textbooks, and tests.
4. Twenty-five critical skills seldom taught, tested, or graded in high school.
23. Build more, consume less.
37. Feed passions and embrace excellence.
47. Keep a focused journal.
19. Have a well-stocked library.

Let me think about that, just not now
We collectively are still in the "School doesn't work.  Let's do more of it" mentality  The barrier between schools and the productive world remain as impermeable as always. Few or no politicians or other leaders have a vision for education.

These ideas are not seen as worth exploring and prioritizing:

Unschooling Rules:
10. Animals are better than books about animals.
6. Avoid the academic false dichotomy of “The Cultural Literacy Track” or “The Vocational Track.”
8. What a person learns in a classroom is how to be a person in a classroom.
13. Include meaningful work.
14. Create and use periods of reflection.
1. Learn to be; learn to do; learn to know.
3. Learn something because you need it or because you love it.
7. Throughout life, everyone unschools most of the time.
11. Use microcosms as much as possible in learning programs.
20. Read what normal people read.
50. Outdoors beats indoors.
51. Walk a lot.
42. Grouping students by the same age is just a bad idea.
48. Use technology as assessment.

Crazy Talk
School as day care remains the standard moodel.  A directive leadership model still dominates.  School is still set up to evaluate students along a narrow, bell-curve model.

Several "rules" on the list, including "36. Fifteen models that are better for childhood learning than schools are (such as community plays and pick-up sports)" has lost ground over the last decade, once being Standard Operating Procedure.

These ideas are not yet considered acceptable:

Unschooling Rules:
24. Teaching is leadership. Most teaching is bad leadership.
25. Expose more, teach less.
22. Formally learn only what is reinforced during the next 14 days (you will forget everything else anyway).
27. The ideal class size isn’t thirty, or even fifteen, but more like five.
53. Parents care more than any institution about their children.
54. Children should be raised by people who love them.
41. Socialize your children. Just don’t use schools to do it.
43. Minimize “the drop-off.”
44. Increase exposure to non–authority figure adults.
36. Fifteen models that are better for childhood learning than schools are.
34. There is no one answer to how to educate a child. There may not be any answers.
28. One traditional school day includes less than 3 hours of formal instruction and practice, which you can cover in 2.
29. Homework helps school systems, not students.
30. Every day, adults are role models of learning (whether or not they want to be).
31. Avoid the Stockholm syndrome.
32. Schools are designed to create both winners and losers.
39. Five subjects a day? Really?
35. Be what schools pretend to be, not what schools are.
38. Children learn unevenly, even backwards.
40. Maturing solves a lot of problems.
52. Under-schedule to take advantage of the richness of life.

This is 2012.  I am very optimistic that 2013 will see many of these ideas move up.

Unschooling Rules was published by Greenleaf.

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