Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

A Peek at Student-Led Learning

Today, school started in our local public district. However, I still had three children at home. ((My oldest elected to stay in public high school, which is fine and meets his needs for the year.))You see, after much contemplation and soul searching, we have chosen to give our children the chance to pursue their own interests and have a voice in their education. Ideally, this would occur within the system.  But for now, it’s not really an option.

I’m all for advocacy, but in the meantime my little people are growing up. I can’t in good conscience work at a personal learning school, intern at an inquiry based school, and also be involved in an innovation zone while still placing my children in a traditional classroom. Although our school does not start for another two weeks, we are easing back into the year by spending some time learning each day. (What a great practice for all of us, huh?)

We spent 2 hours this morning together, without a decided plan.  I just stipulated that they needed to be learning something. (This is a huge leap for me, and something I’m testing out after reading Deschooling Gently.)

Here are some things they chose to do this morning:

Chicken Egg Production Chart

I think the biggest surprise for me was how easily something like collecting chicken eggs can lead to a discussion of fractions (10 of 13 chickens laid eggs… 10/13), probability, ratios, bar graphs, formulas, and the possibilities of shared documents. There was also reading and writing.

Another surprise was my inability to adequately express why it mattered that we say “I” instead of “i”. I didn’t resort to “I said so.”, but my best argument was so that other people can understand you and think you are educated…. uhm, since when did I become such a snob? Educated? That’s the best you can come up with, Julie? I obviously need to rethink this. It’s not that people couldn’t understand the word. It’s that it looks bad or improper or uneducated or wrong. Why is that? ( ee cummings, anyone?)

Learning opportunities abound. Unschooling is becoming less and less of a ‘bad word’ in my mind. Children need access to tools to learn, a la Sugata Mitra, and mentors to help them along the way.

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