Deschooling Ourselves: Learning on the Job

Deschooling Ourselves: Learning on the JobDo you want to help your kids to learn experientially and through their own motivation? Are you looking for procedures for living a school-free lifestyle? The “methods” you are searching for reside in your own deschooling process. That is to say, we can model the necessary attitudes and behaviors while we discard our own need for third-party instruction and approval. We can explore and become confident in our own self-directed, informal learning. We can teach ourselves how active learning works, by experimenting, noticing how other families do it, disregarding our misconceptions and assumptions, applying what we know, stumbling occasionally, muddling through, then arriving at an understanding of the life we want to live with our children.

You might be inspired – not to mention de-stressed – by a book I’ve reviewed in the July/August issue of Life Learning Magazine. In Don’t Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything, Kio Stark shares advice from a variety of adults about how they learn from real life, rather than in school. One of the recurring things her interviewees advise is to ‘fake it ‘til you make it.” Again and again, they share how they have accepted jobs for which they weren’t totally “qualified” but learned as they went along. (Sounds like parenting!) They admit to making mistakes, but say they learn from those too…all while being successful at what they are doing because they are passionate about it. I’m betting that you’re passionate about trusting your children to learn! Likewise, I am guessing that you’re just as passionate about deschooling yourself, if you haven’t already done that work (and I wonder if we ever totally complete that process).

One of the many things I value about the contributors to Life Learning Magazine is their honesty in sharing their personal deschooling processes. In the 2013, we published a couple of pieces by parents who share the lessons they have learned as they’ve learned to trust their children’s learning abilities. In “What I Learned In One Day At Kindergarten,” Christine Williams writes about how she tried to send her son to school for what she admits were all the wrong reasons, then began listening to his message. She writes, “I had underestimated how deeply my public schooling roots ran, feeding my uncertainties that were growing stronger as my son grew. Why couldn’t I just trust in his innate ability to learn, surrender to his interests, and facilitate his talents?” Why, indeed? When we weren’t trusted as children, we find it hard to take the leap of trust in our own children.

In another article in the July/August 2013 issue of Life Learning Magazine, “Working on the Omelet,” Ellen Rowland muses on the similarities between cooking without a recipe and helping kids learn. She shares two pieces of advice from her mother: “Anyone can follow a recipe, but you’ll know you’re a really good cook when you can create a meal based on instinct with what you have on hand,” and “If the kitchen’s a mess, that means you made a great meal.” Ellen writes, “These bits of remembered wisdom and the lessons I learned in my mother’s kitchen have not only helped me with my own cooking, but have served as great metaphors to guide our family on the path to unschooling – a messy, creative, mistake-laden path.”

There is no recipe, nor are there any hard and fast rules for living as if school doesn’t exist. There are some basic principles, and then it’s about learning on the job while being role models for our kids. We give them a hugely inspirational gift when we model self-reliance and determination, as well as trust in and respect for both our abilities and theirs.

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