Posts Tagged ‘intellectual curiosity’

My post about unschooling elicited a response from an unschooler. I was excited to have the chance to talk to her, so I asked her to answer some questions about what her life is like. She, Idzie, gave some very thorough answers:

1. How old are you currently?
Nearly 18.

2. As a high school-aged unschooler, what is a typical day like for you?
Well, there really is no typical day! Each day is truly unique, but I’ll try and do the best I can for a description of a nearly average day. Unless I have something particular I want to do that requires I get up early, I don’t. I find I’m more alert and feel better if I don’t get up before I’m actually rested, which means I sleep to 10:00 some days, 12:30 others. It really all depends on how late I decided to stay up the previous night! After breakfast/lunch (depends how early I decided to get up!) I usually go on the computer for a while, check email and other messages (responding when necessary), sometimes doing a bit of surfing, researching something that catches my interest, debating various subjects on discussion boards, or browsing art online. After I tire of that, I’ll either read for a while, spend time with family members, or run errands. If I choose to read, the book(s) I’m currently reading could be anything from teen novels to serious non-fiction (some favorite subjects recently include deforestation, anarchy, civilization, and education, unschooling and alternative learning specifically). If I spend time with family members I’ll quite likely end up enthusiastically discussing some of the issues I’m passionate about, which have lately been anarchy, human and animal rights, and writing/literature. If, instead, I go on errands, that could be anything from a trip to the library, to picking up my sister from somewhere or other, to buying food. I usually like to help with choosing food, since I’m an avid cook! The evenings are spent with friends (and spending time with friends often includes discussions on politics, human nature, and other fascinating things, as well as the usual immature banter!), or sometimes watching documentaries, science shows, and mysteries, reading more, or writing.

3. What kind of opportunities did you have that you wouldn’t have had as a regular high schooler?
The biggest opportunity I see myself as having is simply freedom. I would certainly not have been able to choose my own curriculum, if you can even call it that, had I been in high school! Having not had all of my time taken up with school and then homework, I’ve been able to follow interests that I’m truly passionate about, to develop creatively and as a true individual.

4. What was different about your curriculum compared to someone who is home schooled?
Lack thereof. Unschoolers have no set curriculum, and only use textbooks etc. on their own terms. Homeschoolers, on the other hand, virtually always have a curriculum set by the parents, with little or no input from the student, and that curriculum often very closely follows what you’d find in a regular school.

5. What is your favorite academic subject?
English. I love writing (both poetry, short stories, and non-fiction) and reading everything I can get my hands on!

6. Do you volunteer? If so, how regularly? Where at?
The three years before this one, I did an average of 70 hours a year of volunteer work. Some things I’ve done include: Serving lunch to seniors; running games for children on special days organized by local boroughs/suburbs/towns; running short lessons on the most basic principles of flight on an aerospace day organized for elementary school children from all over my area; helping out at a Free The Children toy drive; volunteer staffing at a summer camp; and collecting food for the Salvation Army. In part because of all the community service I’ve done, I’ve received both the bronze and silver levels of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award. Sadly, I left the organization that I did much of this community service through, so am currently looking around for new places to volunteer, since I really miss it…

7. What are your plans for the future?
I have too many plans to choose from! I love cooking so have considered becoming a vegetarian or vegan chef. I’m also very interested in natural healing, so have considered pursuing a career in that. For the near future, I plan on finding more volunteer opportunities, getting seriously involved in environmental activism, traveling, and getting a job so I have the money to travel! I also definitely plan on continuing to write. I already have a regular column published in a homeschooling magazine, so hope to continue having my work published there, and I’d also love to someday have my poetry and short stories published.

8. Have you ever attended a regular school (public or private)? If yes, what did you like less about the school compared to unschooling? What did you like more?
I attended kindergarten for half a year, which hardly counts. A couple of years ago I considered going to high school, but decided against it. I don’t regret the decision, as I really think I’ve been happier outside of the school system than I would have been in it!

9. If you plan on having children in the future, do you intend on having them be unschooled?
Most definitely. I would not even consider sending my children to a regular school unless they specifically wanted to be there.

10. Do you feel as though you’ve missed out on any opportunities you could have had if you had been in a regular school? (I hope the word “regular” doesn’t offend you. I just don’t know how else to word it.)
The word “regular” certainly doesn’t offend me. I’m well aware that my path in education is far from “normal”! I don’t really feel I’ve missed out on anything positive, although I do feel I’ve missed out on the negative aspects associated with the school system. Because of my involvement in the Canadian Cadet movement, I was even part of a marching band for a time, and competed in several sports tournaments!

11. How did your family learn about unschooling?
My mother learned about it at a homeschooling conference when I was very young, I believe.

12. What are some of your hobbies or interests?
Writing, great books, poetry, anarchy, social rights, environmentalism, ultimate Frisbee, natural medicine, sustainable living, Irish mythology, Native American legends, civilization, politics, photography, impressionist art, music, vegetarianism, cooking, nature, animals, paganism, spirituality, the beginnings of Christianity, trash hunting, fashion, radical unschooling…

13. How do you meet people/ make friends?
When I was young, my family was heavily involved with the homeschooling community so I met people through that. As I got older, we drifted away from that, since most homeschoolers go to high school when they reach that age. I’ve met tons of people through cadets, and I have friends from there, as well as those I’ve met simply because they live near me, or are friends of friends. Oh, and just this past year I attended Not Back To School Camp, which is a weeklong camp for more than a hundred unschoolers! So I met a bunch of unschooling people there.

14. Anything else you’d like to add?
Hmm… I can’t think of much else I’d like to add… I want to make it clear that I’m not your picture of an average unschooler, since there is no average unschooler! Because the whole thing with unschooling is that people live their lives the way they want to, not by a path set out by school, each person’s life is entirely different. I’m happy with a more relaxing life, and spending time mostly with close friends and/or family, yet I know unschoolers who are hardly ever home, and spend tons of their time in group activities! It really does depend a great deal on the individual.

I’ve never talked to an unschooler before, so the opportunity to hear about Idzie’s life was thrilling, and she was more than willing to answer my questions. From what I can tell, she is very much in love with learning. She’s like a normal high schooler in most senses; she plays sports, surfs the internet, sleeps in, and chatters with her friends. Contrarily though, she seems to spend a lot more time focused on the intellectual aspect of life than most high school-aged teens do. That’s not to say that there aren’t public school kids out there who regularly engage in conversations about politics, history, environmentalism, etcetera, but for the most part, high schoolers have a very limited frame of reference. Because Idzie doesn’t have a high school curriculum to stick to, she has this thirst for knowledge, which I’m sure many young people would crave were they in her position. Idzie learns because she wants to. She learns what she wants to. School for her isn’t a chore, but a choice. This is what I mean by intellectual curiosity. She has made her education personal. Unschooling provided this opportunity for her, but I believe there is a way to make students in schools thirst for knowledge in the same way. The difference is that schools have teachers who can lead students on their educational journeys. Teachers can inspire students to learn. And that is exactly what I intend to do.


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I can only complain about standardized testing so many times before the steam runs out. Therefore, I feel no shame in straying a little from my predetermined subtopic. I am still following the same theme of “promoting intellectual curiosity” though, so fear not. The subject today: home schooling.

My inspiration comes from a high school-aged friend of mine who recently made the switch from public schooling to home schooling. Instead of attending a monopolizing seven hours of school a day, she simply collects her assignments from her teachers and completes them at her own rate. Without having to attend her classes, much of her time is freed up. How that time is spent is her own choice.

In my experience, the majority of people have a somewhat negative view of home schooling. It is a common belief that while home schooled children often excel in academics, their social skills are lacking. This assumption is understandable, considering home schooled children have less opportunity for socialization with peers. . . or do they? According to an article I found through Google News,

“Many families today are active in home school groups, such as the Britt Home School Group, where the children meet for several hours each week or every other weeks for a shared class, art, music or a special party or field trip.”

With these opportunities, students are probably allowed more time befriending others than is allotted at public schools, of which rigorous academic schedules leave little room for socializing.

The benefits of home schooling are practically boundless. As mentioned before, children who are home schooled often do not have to devote as much time to school. Aside from that, they are forced to learn how to prioritize their tasks, how to motivate themselves, and how to learn directly from a source, such as a book or computer. All of these are essential life skills, but they are often unlearned until after high school. It seems as though home schoolers have a leg up on the competition.

As of 1990, a study done showed that test scores from home schoolers easily met the 80th percentile, according to this website.

I hold home schooling in high esteem. I used to have a pretty distorted view of it, and I wish that I had been more informed about it when I was actually in school. If I had known the details, it probably would have been an option I would seriously have considered. It would have freed up more time for me to learn about what I want to learn about, rather than what information is imposed on me. If there is one thing about school that has left me most distraught, it is the idea that my teachers assigned me books enough to deprive me of any opportunity to read out of pleasure. If I had been home schooled, l also may have had the illusion that learning was a choice. Even if I had a set curriculum, I would have been able to expand upon the ideas that most interested me. And that, my friends, is what I mean by “Intellectual Curiosity”. I put a heavy emphasis on it because many people learn only what they must. Society would be a lot better off we could feed the fire of intellect, if we could teach people how to teach themselves simply by following up on what interests them. As corny as it is, even if that idea touches only a few people, it will be worth it, because in turn, those people will effect others and, indirectly, the whole world will change simply by a chain reaction. I truly believe in the idea that knowledge is power. When you think of it that way, a teacher becomes a sort of superhero, saving the world one homework assignment at a time.

Home Schooled Students Excel in Life, Academic
by Mary Loden
The Britt News Tribune
14 October, 2008
Full Article

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Having endured a long thirteen years of required schooling, I feel like I have earned the right to say that education is not what it should be. On a lighter note, I can say that I learned more than what was necessary for my educators to teach me. For example, I learned quickly that many teachers aren’t cut out for the job, but that doesn’t stop them from barely trying. I also learned that even the most creative teachers are usually uninspired by lesson plans that revolve around standardized testing. Also among my lessons: a student can barely try and still succeed. (This is a lesson I’m recovering from in college. It’s a hard habit to break.)

As you can tell, my view of education is pretty dim. But alas, I’ve chosen to enroll myself in a university, so I must have some faith in the system. Here is what it comes down to: I love the freedom that college promotes. I can choose what classes I want to take. I am encouraged to wander out of my safe zone, whereas in high school, we had strict guidelines we were “encouraged” to follow. (Although, I will say I do believe this is because the more time that I waste, the more money the college will make off of me.) In high school, I never strayed from the recommended curriculum. I took four years of English and math, three years of Spanish, three years of social studies, three years of science. I hardly took the classes that actually interested me. Looking back, I would say the thing I regret most about my class choice is neglecting the opportunity to take art. I felt that because I was in choir, colleges would look down on me if I was enrolled in two “blow off” classes. I never would have taken an art class as an opportunity to slack, though. I genuinely wanted to learn how to create art. I missed my chance, though, and all because of the restraints I felt were imposed on me.

That’s the thing about high school: any free will that a child is afforded is discouraged. I found it difficult to really take advantage of my education when there were so many guidelines. It all seemed pretty pointless to me. So I’m here to stick it to the man. I realize that when I’m a teacher someday, certain things will be expected of me. I will meet those requirements, but I fully plan on implementing lessons that really light a fire for students. I chose my blog title (Make it EPIC) based on the goal of encouraging students to take learning into their own hands. My current classes inspire me to the point that I walk away with mental lists of everything I want to learn about that is beyond what is required of me. I can hardly keep up! Learning has become exciting. It has become an adventure. It has become mine. I hope to teach high school students this concept someday.

In the meantime, I will be griping about one of many issues that I believe stifles this enthusiasm toward learning: the dreaded standardized testing. It seems as though teachers do not have enough time anymore to teach about the things that really matter because they must conform to the limits of standardized tests. This is a blow to intellectual curiosity of both teachers and students.

I realize that standardized tests have their perks. Schools can get more money if their students are performing better. But what kind of system is that? Shouldn’t the role of an educator be to teach a child so that the child may excel, rather than to teach the child so that the school might? It all seems pretty twisted to me. I am aware that schools also need to make sure students are measuring up to their peers. If that were the sole reason for giving students standardized tests, I would be much more sympathetic. That’s not the case though.

To continue my case against standardized testing, I will staying up-to-date on news related to the issue. I have subscribed to several RSS feeds, which as as follows:

The Washington Post (education section only)
New York Times (education section only)
Google News Query: Standardized Testing
Academic Search Premier

Feel free to rant and rave along with me! This is only my first of many. Now tell me how YOU feel.

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