When I think about unschooling the kids, I worry about the doors that may close because of it. I worry that they won’t be able to be part of the ‘System’ if they want to be. For instance, if they aren’t taught specifically how to pass tests, maybe they won’t be able to pass the kind of tests that would get them into the best universities, if that’s what they want to do – unless those universities can see past test results and see the person, the learning instead. Apparently more and more universities are doing this and way back when, Cambridge did with me – but I think I was very lucky with the individuals I met at Cambridge and that not all professors are like that there at all. It may have had something to do with the fact that I was applying to read Philosophy and that I was genuinely passionate about it. Perhaps the Philosophy Professors were also the kind of people to think a bit more ‘out of the box’ about applicants? I’m not sure. One day, I’d love to find the people concerned and ask them.
Anyway, what I think I should be thinking more about is the doors that will OPEN if the kids learn more naturally. I came across a place called the ‘Purple Thistle’ centre in Vancouver, Canada http://www.purplethistle.ca/thistle_about This place sounded a bit like my husband’s Environmental Faculty at York University in Toronto, where he did his Masters. Most people studying in this Faculty were what you might call ‘hippies’. They collectively ran an organic, vegan café. They wore recycled clothes i.e. from charity shops or handmade clothes. They smoked quite a bit of weed and so the stereotype went on. My husband and I didn’t fit the stereotype although we did have a lot of sympathy for a lot of their views.
The centre describes itself thus, “We are an alternative to school for many (a deschooling centre) – but you are totally welcome here if you are in school, college, university or some kind of training. We won’t think ill of you at all if you are in school” and “We are not a school (although we are often mistaken for one). We’re not even a nice school, or a democratic school, we are rethinking the idea of institutionalizing youth entirely”. The centre is somewhere that if we ever were to live in that area in Vancouver, our kids might spend some time. I found my husband’s Faculty quite intimidating because I felt that we weren’t living enough of the values we both shared, whilst they were. This was for many reasons, some very valid, some not. So somewhere like the ‘Purple Thistle’, would have intimidated me as an adult in my 30s, let alone a teenager. And yet, I’d have so much wanted to feel like I belonged. Our kids though, especially if we unschool them, giving them a deep understanding of our values about social justice, caring for the environment, the importance of critical thinking skills and given their opportunity to decide so much of this for themselves means that they could feel very comfortable at the ‘Purple Thistle’. They will hopefully not just feel very confident in their world view and but feel they are consciously living it and feel that their views and their actions are in harmony which is a very peaceful feeling.
I think that unschooling will open more doors for the kids than it may shut. And it may well not shut any of the conventional doors anyway, if they choose they want to go through them. I think unschooling will, above all, help the children to have the confidence to follow their true selves and how many people do I know who do that? Not many, I’m afraid. Furthermore, I think unschooling will help them follow their true selves whilst having a conscious awareness of how their personal actions effect the wider community in which they live which is the only way to live if one wants to contribute to a better world.
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