The Joy of “Unschooled” Youth

I have just returned from a weeks holiday away in a beautiful part of South Australia sharing time from Boxing Day through past the New Year with my two growing children, close friends and their family. There are many fun things I will remember about this time away and the laughs, food and antics we shared, but it was a reminder about the amazing “unschooled” youth that has me reflecting most.

As a teacher, a parent of primary aged children and as an adult it is easy to forget the joy that a young child or “unschooled” child experiences and the exploration they instigate. I have spoken previously about the machinated practice of schools (see The Power Game) and this time away was a reminder that young children naturally seek answers, create problems to solve and ask questions that may  or may not have answers, all without ever setting foot inside a classroom.

I watched as young children giggled, laughed, guffawed and explored the beach.  I saw them take risks, make mistakes, and try again. I heard them challenging each other, asking for help and advice. The best part though, not a “no, that’s too hard” or “you can’t do that” to be heard in reply to a child’s idea from any adult. I was so blessed to witness two beautiful parents and the way they engage with their young family. I was impressed by the way they supported their natural inquiry, never suggesting that it couldn’t be done.

Whilst  we all (adults included) had immense fun burying small children, seeing the buckets of sea creatures collected, building elaborate sandcastles complete with tunnels, motes, bridges and Hobbit homes built into the facade, it was a comment made by the grandmother of a 5yo that struck me.  She said of her freshly “schooled”  grandson that “he used to be such a dare devil, he would try everything but now he goes to school he is much more resistant to try things” (paraphrasing). Now whilst you might suggest that as we grow older we understand the consequences and the risk involved in certain acts, I can honestly not imagine how a child of 5 would grow such wisdom in such a short period of time. We know that schools play a role in restricting and inhibiting our risk taking and natural creativity through the conformity to classroom management and getting through the curriculum. (seeSir Ken Robinson TED talk Schools Kill Creativity).

We need reminding that it is innate to question, to explore and to test. As parents, as educators as friends and family we should value this human quality and we should always endeavour to foster it.  Next time a small child, a student, a friend or a peer asks “Can I?” or “Can we?” take a moment to think before it is an automatic “No” because we are too busy, or it is a bit hard.  You might actually be missing an opportunity.

Whilst writing this post I also read this from Will Richardson in Born to be Taught?

Why, I wonder, do we stop seeing kids as creatures who were born to learn and, instead, start seeing them as born to be taught?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we changed our mentality from “Can we?” to “How can we?”

Upon return from my break and back to digital technology, my Principal (@LunnissTony) also shared this TED talk which further endorses our need to foster creativity. Check out  Beau Lotto and Amy O’Toole – Science is for Everyone (here or below via YouTube) as he explains that “the best questions are the ones that create the most uncertainty”.

Abbey buried at the beach

Buried to the waist and planning her escape!

The fun that can be had at the beach with a shovel, a couple of buckets and six young imaginations.

The fun that can be had at the beach with a shovel, a couple of buckets and six young imaginations.

This is young Yasmin. She is exploring how she can bury her own feet and mums after seeing her cousin being buried. She experimented with different ways of getting her feet out including: digging them out with her hands, wriggling her feet out slowly and kicking and shaking her legs.

Yasmin in the sand

Kate and Yasmin at the beach

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