There are no classes, no teachers, and no tests.
There is still reading and arithmetic, but kids are expected to learn these skills through the course of everyday life. Basically, children are given control over their own education – with no specific curriculum.
Welcome to the world of ‘no schooling’. Otherwise known as, un-schooling.
60 Minutes investigated this new trend in schooling last night, and spoke to Rachael Clark – a mother who has chosen un-schooling for her children.
“It’s allowing my children to learn naturally through their passions and what they enjoy to do,” Rachael explains. She says that her children learn reading, writing, addition and multiplication through “everyday life”.
“It’s very much about teaching them how to learn themselves. So rather than just giving them some facts, teach them how to find those facts and also how to solve problems,” the kids’ father, George says.
Un-schooling would seem like a – to put it frankly – totally bat-shit crazy idea to a lot of parents. Australia has a comparatively excellent education system, and a free education is something that many around the world can only dream of.
Not only do un-schooling advocates reject the idea of attending a school, but – unlike home schoolers – they reject the idea of a curriculum all together.
When you learn a bit more about the Clarks, it becomes apparent why this arrangement might suit them.
Rachael and George’s eldest daughter, Jemima, has Asperger’s – and she was struggling in a traditional school. She was angry, frustrated, anxious and her self-esteem was low. The system wanted her to fit in – but she didn’t.
The Clarks say that once removed from the traditional school system, she began to thrive.
They then decided to withdraw nine-year-old Milly from school as well; and their son William has never been inside a classroom.
The Clarks are just one family in Australia trying out un-schooling – but there are others. According to the SMH, more than 50,000 Australian children were home-schooled last year but there are no accurate figures on how many kids are un-schooled each year.
In rural Victoria, Carleen Sing un-schooled all five of her boys. They have all gone on to successfully achieve other things, including tertiary degrees and trades.
Joel has a PHD in Information Technology. Dion is a social worker with teenagers. Tali is at university studying music. Liam works with horses as an apprentice farrier. And the youngest, Erik, wants to go to university to study music as well.
But even for the five Sing brothers – whose accomplishments are remarkable – there were setbacks to un-schooling.
As 60 Minutes points out, most children who attend traditional schools learn to read by the age of six. Carleen Sing says that her children struggled, with reading in particular, and learned when “two of them were 11 and 12, another two were 14, and Liam, at 19, still finds reading quite difficult”.