Saturday, June 2, 2012

Unplugged Education - It Is Not Homeschooling

For most of us, when we hear the word education, it automatically creates a mental image of school and books and papers and we instantly associate the term with school. Similarly, when we hear the word school, we think of books, teachers, desks, chalkboards and a building filled with students, sounds of bells, images of backpacks and busses and the cringing thought of homework and tests. Take it a step further with the term 'homeschool' and a vast majority of the population automatically associates that term with 'strange, weird, bizarre, outcasts, unsocialized, cooped up" etc... Some of us know better and hence associate the term homeschool with books and papers and grades etc - but minus the chalk boards and busses and building, and of course minus the 'homework'. For many home educators, this would be an accurate image for what homeschooling is for them - school at home. However, for a growing number of families, the word school does not at all describe what they have discovered or the lifelong learning they are enjoying. What's more, these are the families who have come to the conclusion that the word education is not synonymous with the word schooling. As a matter of fact they are two very different ideas.
As a home educating Mom in one such family, as well as an outspoken advocate for home education, I use a new term that I feel helps to better describe our style. What we do is not school. We learn independent of a system or a building. We learn outside the lines of time schedules or any intellectual or emotional restrictions. It's education for sure, but it is an unplugged state of being; unplugged from the system with which we are used to associating the terms education and schooling. It is Unplugged Education©.
This is more than academics. It is not home school because it is not school at home. It doesn't always happen inside the home (although it can) and it is not "schooling". It is learning more...more than math.
Unplugged Education is a philosophical concept. It means unplugging from the mainstream ideas and compulsory concepts that drive the cultural modern world and thinking outside the proverbial box.
What is the system?
Unplugging forces us to see the schooling system for what it is - a system! A system indeed, that manufactures products and those products are our children. It is a deliberate and artificial procedure wherein pre selected and categorized information is downloaded into fresh young minds. The spoon-fed information is superficial, narrow, lacks variety and does not consider individuality. Furthermore it is selected by an elusive board with vested corporate interest. (This is why we see corporate advertising weaved into textbooks and throughout the school programs).
The system treats a multitude of children as a single entity and perpetuates a very artificial, group-think ideology; which suffocates individuality and strangles creative expression. It casts out anyone whose style of learning differs from the pre-selected standardized methods and literally ignores potentially great creative intellectual genius - because they are those who could not conform. It is a system that demands conformity and denies originality. An alarmingly high percentage of all public schooled children in North America graduate from this system without being able to read. This massive number of children are categorized as 'learning disabled' and diagnosed with any variety of conditions such as ADD, ADHD or a dozen other creative terms invented to label children who are truly just very naturally unable to conform to unnatural procedures.
It is the very nature of the system to compartmentalize in this way, separating the easy conformists (smart kids) from the otherwise (disabled kids). The conformists are the good students and the non-conformers are the disabled or even worse, the "bad" kids.
This systematic murdering of individual creative expression and strangulation of natural human genius has damaged our modern society. The system is not working. It is failing. It is failing our children; it is failing our society, our nation and our world.
"I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior." - John Taylor Gatto
The system operates by using a very artificial procedure to manufacture obedient, trusting, consuming conformists. This procedure is called 'schooling' and the system is called 'school'.
Mark Twain put it clearly when he said "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education"
This procedure is performed on our children inside of a building which is built specifically to warehouse large quantities of children, separating them from their families for several hours per day for most of a year, for a minimum of 12-14 years (or more), during the most crucial years of their lives. They are kept, for the majority of the time, within the walls of this warehouse, effectively cutting them off from the outside world, the 'real world' which the system itself ironically claims to be preparing them for, leaving them alone and vulnerable to a pre-selected agenda fed to them by the systems facilitators. It is this procedure of schooling that is commonly and mistakenly likened with 'education'. However, the two concepts are absolutely not synonymous and are actually not intended to be. It is truly just a widely-accepted but incorrect assumption to think that the process of institutionalized schooling is the same thing as education.
The severing of the relationship between a child and their natural environment prevents any sort of true organic learning experience because it prevents interaction and exploration and experience in the actual 'real world'. Rather, it imprisons the children inside a capsule where they are privy to only a specific curricula chosen by some unfamiliar board, whose job it is to perpetuate a specified agenda. This curriculum is facilitated in a very specific manner and punishes those who attempt to deviate.
After a child spends the twelve or more years of his maturing life within this capsule and under this dogmatic procedure, they are - for the most part - neatly plugged in.
Those who do not conform smoothly are diagnosed with a disorder and given pharmaceuticals to help artificially force their assimilation. A small number of those who resist conformity and medications (thus are never successfully assimilated) are eventually categorized and labeled as hopeless cases, misfits, 'bad kids', truants, etc. Sadly in many cases these children begin to believe that they are indeed hopeless maladjusted, bad kids and begin to behave accordingly.
The good news is that there are still a significant amount of us 'misfits' who were somehow able to avoid this psychological trap. We have effectively disassociated ourselves without the collateral emotional damage. And it seems we are the ones causing the real heartache for the system indeed! We are growing in numbers - which is indeed good news - and we are spreading the message and inviting others to disconnect and 'unplug' from the systematic proverbial matrix. Once one gets a glimpse of how actual learning occurs within the real world, they feel an insatiable urge to shout it from the rooftops.
Homeschool means home-system-facilitation.
Home education, in most cases, is not schooling - It is learning. It is not "homeschool" either. In fact the term "Homeschooling" is not compatible with the Unplugged Education concept. In order to save future generations, thus our society, from a desperately bleak future of increased financial debt and spiritual dysfunction, I feel there is an urgent need for home educating families to begin dissociating from the school paradigm all together.
The system facilitates the schooling procedure primarily inside the warehouse. But the procedure itself can be found outside of that as well. It is estimated that upwards of two-million families in North America today consider themselves "homeschoolers". It is my guess that more half of those are probably not 'homeschooling'. They've simply adopted and thus continue to use this popular term. I'm not a fan of the word and dislike using it because it is an inaccurate representation of what we do. It also implies that we perform the schooling procedure; which is something we do not do.
However there are probably a great number of families that do in fact 'school' at home. These parents have instinctively recognized that something is amiss within the system - but haven't exactly pinpointed it - and are not yet willing to completely unplug. They perform this familiar standardized procedure because itis familiar and therefore comfortable. Schooling at home is effectively facilitating the system, in a different location. The problem with this is that while the children are not in the building, they are still being subjected to the same standardized and artificial methodology, hence will ultimately suffer its consequences. Not surprisingly, these families often experience homeschooling frustrations and find it difficult to organize, manage time effectively and struggle with behavior issues. While the home certainly provides a more positive environment for a child; if we simulate the same systematic techniques and standardized curriculum we are essentially perpetuating that which we instinctively sensed as problematic in the first place.
In some states, where state ordinance requires strict regulation of home schooled students, many families actually use school provided curriculum and adhere to the school district standards and submit to periodic school testing. Of course there are many other problems with regulation that I won't go into here but for the purposes of illustrating this point, let us realize that when a school regulates a home school family - it is ensuring that the family stays neatly plugged into the compulsory system; the system that is slowly but surely ruining our nation and our world by robbing little humans of their natural humanity.
John Taylor Gatto sums it up when he says "When you take the free-will out of education, that turns it into schooling"
When we make a deliberate choice to reject the school and then replicate that same methodology at home, it is both counterproductive and self defeating. School at home provides the family with the illusion that they are doing their own thing, while in reality the compulsory, manufacturing system is still powering the wheel. In a way, this is actually more detrimental because it is dangerously deceptive. The concept of replicating 'school' at home ensures the perpetuation of the paradigm by relying on the naivety and ignorance of parents who falsely believe that they are avoiding the proverbial clutches by simply not putting their kids on the yellow bus. But there truly is more to it than that. To truly disconnect - one must unplug. To unplug one must accept that education is not schooling. Learning includes and goes beyond paper and pencil academics. It is more than math. Life and learning are not mutually exclusive; in fact they are harmonically and organically, synonymous.
I strongly urge all parents to take a second look around from a new perspective. Step outside the proverbial box to truly see the forest from outside the trees; for this is the essence of the philosophy of Unplugged Education©.
For those of us who are unplugged, our intention is to pass on to our children the freedom to be who they are and learn about their world from their world without the walls of the classroom, without the boarders of a standardized curriculum and without the restrictions of the system.
In summary, Unplugged Education is not school at home. It goes beyond academics and is more than math. It is a bold and audacious step outside the box. It is making a choice to recognize the compulsory machine for what it is, and then unplug from it. It is a shift in perspective and a new broad vision. It is a new and wonderful life experience for the entire family. It is a disconnection from the artificial, manufactured schooling indoctrination and a reconnection to organic independent thought, action, and expression that is natural to humanity. It is not schooling - it is learning.
It is a new and yet ancient approach to learning that respects the natural balances of God and the Universe, and embraces an age-old wisdom instead of the modern artificial processing plant that is suffocating our humanity. You will not find this learning in any particular curriculum or a method. It is a conceptual understanding of natural human growth that utilizes life experience, exploration, hands on practice and interaction with a variety of people from whom to learn a variety of techniques, ideas and application.
There are no walls of curriculum, no system boundaries and no conformity. There is freedom to explore and appreciate all of the opportunities in the world that God and nature have already provided. We see it when we disassociate from our own indoctrination and adjust our perspective. We see it when we unplug.

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