… and rediscover education.

Unschooling Rules

WHEW! what a title for a relatively slim volume. But don’t let’s it’s size fool you, this book by Clark Aldrich is packed with fact-based commentary on “traditional school” and “education methods” and why it ain’t working. According to the bio-blurb, Clark Aldrich is a “global education thought leader, labeled a guru by Fortune magazine. He works with corporate, military, government and academic organizations at both the board level and as a hands-on implementer.” Now, I’m not sure what a “global education thought leader” might be, but his credentials and acceptance by governments, media, and corporate personalities show me that he probably knows of what he speaks.

Aldrich’s mission is to try to fix an education system that is broken; this book has some information that just might work!

Unschooling Rules is a fascinating read for anyone involved in educating our youth. Here are the 55 “rules” that Aldrich recommends be implemented in our schools/education systems (whether public, private or home) in order to truly educate our youth:

  1. learn to be, to do, to know
  2. focus on the 3Rs
  3. learn something because you need it OR because you love it
  4. 25 critical skills remain untaught: ethics, leadership, communicaiton, adapting, etc
  5. schools prep students for jobs, not for educating the students
  6. avoid the split between vo-tech/college prep, just educate
  7. unschooling is the way we all learn, most of the time
  8. a student in a classroom, learns how to be in a classroom, not how to be
  9. sitting in a classroom is not a natural, comfortable place to be
  10. books about animals, plants, art are no substitute for being with animals, plants, art
  11. small, self-contained models of living things will work almost as well as being there
  12. on-the-job-training, doing the work is more beneficial than just reading about doing
  13. work must always be meaningful
  14. include time for reflection, musing over what worked, what didn’t and why
  15. healthy food options is a reflection of the overall environment; don’t skimp on lunch!
  16. research and use all technologies that will work for different students with different needs
  17. read-alouds, podcasts, audio-books will help the learning process while the student is doing
  18. use a good spreadsheet software for planning, creation, and execution of most math problems
  19. a well-stocked library, with good, true books and other media is worth it’s weight
  20. read living books, not textbooks (he terms this “read what normal people read”)
  21. use of any media (books, computer games, etc) should be balanced with real life experiences
  22. formally learn only what will be used, reinforced in the next 14 days
  23. allow students to build solutions, rather than handing them premade solutions
  24. teachers need to lead by example
  25. expose the truths by experience not just teaching
  26. to teach: explore, play, add increased activity/rigor
  27. ideal class size is 5 not 50
  28. traditional school day = 3 hrs of formal instruction which can be covered in 2
  29. homework doesn’t add anything to education, other than work for the teacher
  30. if you teach it, you should do it (read a novel if you ask the student to read a novel)
  31. avoid the Stockholm syndrome
  32. traditional schools are erroneously designed for some winners, some losers and most in the middle
  33. customize lessons/learning experiences to each student
  34. there is no one answer for how to educate each student
  35. be/do the mission statement
  36. at least 15 models that are better than traditional school (incl summer camps, internships, family trips, etc)
  37. feed passions and expect excellence
  38. children don’t learn linerally but may be all over the place
  39. five subjects each day, every day … really?
  40. maturity occurs at different ages, but will occur
  41. socialize your children — multi-generational, multi-racial, etc
  42. same age children all together just doesn’t work
  43. as parents, don’t just drop-off … stay involved
  44. increase exposure to non-authority adults
  45. tests don’t work
  46. future is portfolios, not transcripts
  47. keep a focused journal to help develop situational awareness
  48. try different assessment-tools, not testing
  49. don’t assume traditional college/university if for all
  50. outdoors beats indoors
  51. walk, talk, walk, investigate, walk
  52. underschedule to take advantage of living
  53. parents care more about their child/children than a system ever will
  54. children should be raised, educated by people who truly love them
  55. “only sustainable answer to the global education challenge is a diversity of approaches”

I’ve only given broad brushstrokes of Aldrich’s work — if it’s interested you a bit, please do check out this book. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with all these “rules” or his analyses … but many of them make perfect sense to me. I’ve seen the bad and ugly of education (both from the student-side and the teacher-side) … I’ve seen the great benefits in my own home and others’ of alternative education ideas and practices.

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