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  • John Pilkington

Un-schooling is a thing!

"School" comes from the Greek "skhole" which means leisure, or free time. Kids think its a crazy origin, and they have a point. However, only the wealthy could afford to let kids so-called "waste time" in learning intellectual stuff instead of contributing to the daily needs of the family, while the kids of the poor were needed for the grind of daily survival.


In typical aristocratic manner, skhole morphed to mean "intellectual discussion," no doubt sounding more suitable than plain old free time.


Traders and the professional middle class tended to have their children learn the family business from within, and felt little need for intellectual pursuits. However, when they saw the advantages of learning, traders and others wanted the same chance for their own wealth growth, but were working, and so tutors and schools appeared as a service to fill the gap.


Given that kids went to a specific venue, skhole became "place for discussion." It seems to me that practical business people preferred "discussion" without the fancy intellectual!


In English, "school" emerged to mean "learning by experience," and it was a very practical approach. The Industrial Revolution demanded levels of workers and administrators who needed specific schooling to be ready to fill an ever-increasing number of jobs, and that is what our own system is based on.


We have, though, become way too results orientated and conformity demanding. Learning is often by rote, rules, veiled threats, and expectation of conformity. Discussion and exploration have been sacrificed at the altar of results and set thinking.


A disclaimer is needed here! There are many excellent schools that are deepening the learning process and experience, and many kids are well served in those great schools. There are, though, other options for some kids.


In “Psychology Today” [2014] Dr Peter Gray published findings regarding those who he called the “Un-schooled.”:


They reported “remarkably little difficulty” with academics at university

  • With no classroom experience, they scored straight A’s and earned honours

  • The possessed information and skills needed for college success  

  • They reported an academic advantage as they were “not burned out” by schooling

  • They had learned, as un-schoolers, to be self-directed and self-responsible

  • They were intent on making the most of what the college had to offer, rather than being caught in social scenes and parties 

  • An unusually high percentage were pursuing careers in the creative arts, including fine arts, crafts, music, photography, film, and writing

  • A high percentage [53%] were entrepreneurs. 

Again, its so important to note that the route of traditional schooling under good schools is great for those who thrive there. Research does not depict whole-sale failure of what has been a sound system, but it is easier to instill certain cores via smaller, focused groups than in a classroom with so many more kids.


Have you considered if your child's experience of school is right for them? Have you looked into other options?

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