R.L. SAUNDERS

writer attempting real life in the middle of everybody else's vacation

Self-Directed Learning. At Midnight.

on January 9, 2017

“Mom, 13 plus 13 is 26. I mean it just makes sense because two tens and two threes.”

“It does make sense. ‘Night, Pal.”

“And take two tens away from 56. Bam. 36.”

“Bam, indeed. Goodnight.”

“Four times four? Sixteen just because four, four times. Get it?”

“Zzzzzzz.”

I DO CARE that my son is excited about numbers as awesome tools. I love that mental math is useful and fun for him, even if those light bulbs switch on for him in the middle of the night when, child, my lights are out.

I DON’T CARE whether or not he calls it “math” and I don’t care where short-term, short-sighted measurements would rank him among traditionally schooled eight-year-olds. Standardized tests given at school provide data that have almost nothing to do with what’s good for the measured. They do not measure math resentment and its effects. They do not measure the long-term outcomes of too much, too soon. They do not measure if and how solving equations by hand, especially through coercion, hinders mental math. And they certainly don’t measure things like personal responsibility or capacity for compassion or creativity.

I like that my child is not being measured for the benefit of a system that, at its core, is not most concerned with the real development of the children it consumes to keep itself alive. While I believe some administrators and teachers very genuinely hold that as their core concern (I know many and I like to think I used to be one of those teachers), we’re fooling ourselves at the expense of our children if we believe that’s enough.

It feels like many of us, both inside and outside the school system, are increasingly on the same page. If like-minded people work from all sides, we can help bring to the mainstream an essential paradigm shift about childhood and about how humans learn. That’s the goal, from my perspective. The goal isn’t to take advantage of the great privilege of choice by opting out, only to stop giving a rat’s ass about anybody else.

If you’re even remotely intrigued by what I’m always fussing about, or just want to make sure you still hate the idea of unschooling and free schools, check out the newly formed Alliance for Self-Directed Education: Self-Directed Education.

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