While most schools continue to resist change, homeschooling families have abandoned the K-12 system and identified new, powerful, commonsense methods and goals for childhood education. Clark Aldrich has explored the practices of homeschoolers and unschoolers (those who eschew the structure or curricula of schools) and distilled a list of 55 ''rules,'' that are changing both the way children are taught and our vision for schools. This accessible book provides you with a path forward, whether you're a parent or teacher, a school administrator, or a national policy decision maker.
I first got to know of Clark Aldrich through an interest in the possibility of using videogames to practice behaviour in real life situations and that led me to subscribing to his blog Simulations
and then to buying his book Learning Online with Games, Simulations and Virtual Worlds
. When he started another blog called Unschooling Rules
, I was intrigued to discover that he's a homeschooler.
Not an "unschooler" I think, as I understand that term - and indeed I'm aware that some unschoolers are not exactly over the moon about his choice of title for his more recent blog and its consequent book - but it's a clever and eye-catching play on words, and whilst there are no "Rules" in real "Unschooling", perhaps the use of the term "Unschooling" in this case is a reflection of how its application has been expanded so that it now seems to have evolved into a description of a particular mindset rather than necessarily an act or activity.
In any event, this compilation of "observations and perspectives" is as penetrating an exposition of "what's wrong with schools" as I've seen anywhere, even if the author's unflattering comparison of what he calls the "education-industrial system" with how people learn in the world at large doesn't go as far as suggesting that schools should be done away with altogether. Or at least, not the idea of some kind of designated place of formal education.
He writes, "The premise of the future of education has to be that parents and students will be able to choose from a variety of models." And I would agree.
Nonetheless, there is much in this book that is highly critical of what schools can't teach, and of what they don't and sometimes won't teach; of the disregard schools have for what science (and personal experience) tells us about how human beings learn best, and of the back to front way schools often educate ("Animals are better than books about animals" was my favourite observation on that).
All of which I think is painfully relevant in our culture's new and unprecedented experience of educational opportunity, where every self-motivated individual with an internet connection is free to learn whatever they choose to learn whenever and wherever it suits them - the age of the "digital revolution" that has made schools the laggards of the education world and in need of the kinds of fundamental changes that Clark Aldrich explores through his ideas, often with the help of some wry and perceptive humour.
I do like this little book very much (which is why it features on my website!) and consider it recommended reading for anybody interested in the future of education, whatever form that might ultimately take. For "real unschoolers", I think it's a gift for biting back at the critics. It might however be a provocative read for parents with children in school who just want schools to be better than they've become.
"But it will not be the governments, or their school systems, or others of their institutions that will drive real innovation in reconstructing childhood education. It will be, as it already is, the homeschoolers and the unschoolers."
For more information about this book, please visit The Blog of Unschooling Rules