So, I was thinking about the tough position teachers are in (as I wrote about yesterday), and I wanted to offer some ideas for solutions.

First, though, I need to speak to my fellow unschoolers. We all believe in the process of unschooling and therefore have taken steps to ensure that our children receive its benefits. These steps necessarily include pulling our kids out of school. They also include creating a tight-knit unschooling community within the homeschooling community, culminating in conferences, blogs, Tweeting, traveling, etc. In a very profound way, we have to separate ourselves from the greater culture in order to give our kids what we believe is the best form of education.

However, in doing that, we extract ourselves from making any kind of difference in the school system. We have said, and rightly so, “I want my kid to have the best education possible, and therefore I will not be involved with institutionalized schooling.” And now, our way of thinking cannot easily be found within that system. I know that I, as a former educator, have little or no interest in going back to teaching in the traditional sense. And so, who is saying what we are saying WITHIN the schools? To my knowledge, only a very few, but outspoken, people.  

The only way that kids in the greater society will experience the benefits of the unschooling philosophy, is if we inject it back into the schools. And the people who need to be thinking about this is teachers. I believe that moving the school system at large toward a freer, more child-centered format will only happen from the ground up. In fact, I can tell you that no matter what educational policies are passed and no matter how many standardized tests are issued, the actual substance of what happens in the classroom is entirely determined by the teacher.  I often threw the curriculum out of the window in order to follow my students’ interest (even if, at times, that meant playing a card game). It’s the teachers who determine the policy, not the other way around.

And so, let’s begin this process. Let’s start to infiltrate the minds of the teachers. Hey, if we get administrators and curriculum writers on board too, that’s great. But, it starts with the teachers. The first thing is to have educational philosophy discussions with teachers you know. This can be scary, but don’t be confrontational. Just start talking about motivating kids. After you’ve had a conversation or two, maybe send them an article about unschooling.  Let the discussions continue and once you feel like they are starting to see your point of view, begin talking about the actual steps they can take in their classrooms. 

The point is, we cannot sit back and be idle about the system. If we are, and it keeps going the way it’s going, we may soon see homeschooling become illegal in the US and Canada, as it is in some of the more socialist countries. We have to speak up for kids’ rights now before that idea becomes completely derisory in our society.

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3 Comments on "Grassroots"

  1. craphead
    05/11/2009 at 3:01 pm Permalink

    I do agree…. and yet I don’t feel very motivated to do anything or to talk with teachers. But at the same time, if I ever go back to teaching at the college level, it will certainly be different than what I did before.

    I think that one thing that can help open up a dialogue between unschoolers, homeschoolers, and teachers is making sure that we talk about the problems with Schools, making it clear that the problem is not (always) with teachers. Some individual teachers may suck, true, but for the most part they are doing it because they love kids and love to inspire them. The way most Schools work prohibits that passion.

    I am concerned that most teachers are also not in a position to affect change. Long time teachers have probably had the passion beaten out of them. Newer teachers are probably afraid to upset the apple cart, so to speak. I guess that leaves the people who have been teaching a while and have not lost their passion?

  2. Wendy Priesnitz
    05/11/2009 at 6:01 pm Permalink

    Thanks for this post. We have an article coming up in January on this very topic. It’s so important that progressive homeschoolers/unschoolers help import our ideals into the public system. It is, after all, the “education” system and school is just one way of educating…and an antique one at that.

    Regards, Wendy Priesnitz, Editor,
    Life Learning Magazine and Natural Life Magazine

    P.S. My Life Learning unschooling blog is here:

  3. Cassi
    05/11/2009 at 7:32 pm Permalink

    First, interesting name! I’m looking forward to delving into your blog. So far it looks honest and witty. Second, I agree that it’s hard to get motivated to do this. In fact, it’s much easier to just stay in our safe sub-culture and let the public schools be damned. But, unfortunately, that will affect us down the line since our homeschooling rights are being threatened daily and if we don’t change the cultural ideals as a whole, we’re screwed. Third, the new, passionate teachers actually can do something. They can change what happens in their own class. And, they can get together with other passionate teachers and discuss ways of making bigger changes. They already do this, it just may be that unschooling principles are either a) not on their radar, or b) considered radical and unproven (which, in a public school setting may be true). Also, I just came up with another way in. The way I was introduced to free schooling in general and Summerhill School in particular, was in a philosophy of education course during my M.Ed program. All of my education courses allowed for lots of discussion time. It was very refreshing to talk to other teachers and hash out ideas. If unschooling could make its way into masters programs (which may be more useful than undergrad because they consist of currently teaching teachers who want to become better), perhaps we can get ourselves into those discussions and start the infiltration process.

    Thanks for your comment. I’ll be looking forward to the January article on this. I think you have a position of really making an impact and of inspiring others in our community.


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