I thought you all might like to see the assignment I just finished for my teaching class about my philosophy of education. I've copied and pasted it from my college discussion board.
As the unschooling mom of two boys, I would have to say the philosophy of education that resembles mine the most is progressive education. When I first began homeschooling Taliesin, I was not that familiar with what progressive education is - other than through passing statements about the Progressive Education Movement in my high school history. With what I did learn about, I assumed this educational philosophy led to uneducated students - those who graduated from high school and could not read or write. I have to say that observing and working with my sons and other children changed my mind. When we first began homeschooling Taliesin, I tried a very traditional, perennial, essential apprach. Those structured days often ended with Taliesin upset and me frustrated. That's when I discovered Home Education Magazine at the public library. Although a secular magazine, I was intrigued by what it called child-directed learning. I did more and more research. I slowly began giving Taliesin choices over how and what he wanted to learn. The more choices I gave, the more he flourished and learned. Then I discovered John Holt, the educator who coined the phrase unschooling. He began to make me think in different ways about education. I read in his first book How Children Fail about his observations from his own teaching experiences that children are sometimes too afraid to learn. He writes,
"The other day I decided to talk to the other section about what happens when you don't understand what is going on... I said, 'What do you think, what goes through your mind, when the teacher asks you a question and you don't know the answer?' It was a bombshell. Instantly a paralyzed silence fell on the room. Everyone stared at me with what I have learned to recognize as a tense expression. For a long time there wasn't a sound. Finally Ben, who is bolder than most, broke the tension, and also answered my question, by saying in a loud voice, 'Gulp!' He spoke for everyone... I was flabbergasted - to find this in a school which people think of as progressive; which does its best not to put pressure on little children; which does not give marks in the lower grades; which tries to keep children from feeling tht they're in some kind of a race. I asked them why they felt gulpish. They said they were afraid of failing, afraid of being kept back, afraid of being called stupid, afraid of feeling themselves stupid. Stupid. Why is it such a deadly insult to these children, almost the worst thing they can think of to call each other? Where do they learn this?" (How Children Fail, John Holt, pages 38-39).
Then I read his other books, such as How Children Learn and Instead of Education, in which he wrote, "The idea that everything important must be learned in school is very new. Until quite recently, most people understood very well that while some things might be learned best in school, others could be learned as well or better out of school and many could not be learned in school at all. They would have laughed at the idea that all knowledge and wisdom be found or put in classrooms and books. Even now, most of the people who think everything must be learned in school did not themselves learn there most of what they know" (Instead of Education, John Holt, page 10). I joined online discussion boards and chatted with unschooling parents. I researched Montessori schools, where children are encouraged to learn rather than feeling forced to. Perhaps, most importantly, I saw the results in my own sons. Taliesin went from not wanting to "do school" to learning and loving it. There are stories on my website, http://awalkintheparkunschoolinggroup.bravehost.com, and my blog, http://unschoolermom.blogspot.com/, about how Taliesin has thrived in a more progressive learning environment.
Perhaps the biggest criticism that I have found about the progressive movement is that is is rooted in relativism and and pragmatism. John Dewey was a well-known atheist. However, I learned many years ago that we do not have to agree with someone's beliefs in order to agree with some of their non-religious theories. I do not agree with Nathaniel Hawthorne's transcendental beliefs, but I love his literature and often find nuggets of truth within his works. Many argue that we are told in the Bible to train our children. While I do agree with this 100%, I also look to God, who is the ultimate Parent. God created us with free will. He gives us choices. He allows us to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. This is also what I allow my children. I do not want my sons to believe it is wrong to fail. They will get a wrong answer sometimes. They will not always succeed. They will not always come in first place. There will be things that they try that they will ultimately fail in. Such is life. Such is unschooling - learning from real life.
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