Friday, May 23, 2014

No Statistics Needed

I haven't written of our learning journey in a while. I am inspired to do so today though because of something I heard; an "alarming" statistic. Ready?
If a student is not reading at their grade level by the end of grade three, they have only a 25% chance of graduating. 

Are you not alarmed??!
I'm not.

I'll admit I felt a little surprised at first. Maybe even a little offended. Why you ask? Because this statistic is talking about MY children! After I digested it for a few seconds though; I realized that as unschoolers this study has nothing to do with my children or our values- it's rather arbitrary. I found myself asking a lot more questions.... Who did this study? What was their motivation? Was this stat designed to scare me, as a parent? Or to put pressure on schools and teachers? How does it apply to children with dyslexia, like my girl? And how does it apply to natural learners like us? And... does it matter?

It's funny, as a natural learning, unschooling family we trust the learning process to unfold as a part of our human nature, but occasionally we will read something or hear something about learning, or school or success that gets us thinking and talking. This statistic was one of those things.

Here's why this study doesn't scare me:
I know my kids best. I trust them to be the brilliant, learning creatures they were designed to be. Period. That means that if they learn something later than their peers, it's irrelevant. Conversely, they learn a lot of things before their peers, or even some things most people may never learn. Also irrelevant. Comparison, in my experience is fear driven, and only leads to negativity- even if one comes out ahead, negativity is often the result. Better to breathe and enjoy the ride.  Appreciate individuality. 
Fear is not a good motivation to learn anything. Joy and positivity nourishes learning! Not to mention, feels so much better- why not choose that?!

Next, this study is assuming we all believe that graduation equals success. Guess what? I don't buy it. Graduation does not necessarily equal success; it does not equal happiness. Graduation does not guarantee good communication skills, good relationships with people, good work ethic. Graduation definitely does not equal self-knowledge,(by far one of the most important things to develop, imo) or having a direction in life. It doesn't even mean having the basic skills one would equate with having graduated- reading, writing, spelling, and math. (Thankful for spell check, this high school grad's spelling is atrocious!!)

This study is designed to appeal to the group of people who value graduation as the standard goal for our youth. I am not one of those people. My goals for my learners are a little broader. My belief about success is a little different; success is knowing yourself, being confident- your strengths and weaknesses, your goals and dreams, your beliefs and values. Success is knowing how to be happy in life; how to have good relationships; how to breathe and enjoy the ride.

If my Learners graduate, it will be because they valued graduation as being an important part of their success. Certainly, it is valued by our culture as a starting point, and could serve some purposes. However, if they do not graduate, it will not be because they were "late readers", it will not be because we are poor financially (which evidently is also considered a risk factor), and it will not be because they have learning "disabilities". It will be because they have another way to measure their success; it will be because they know who they are and what they want. It will not be something that happens out of default; or fear driven by comparison to peers. As natural learners, their success will come from learning to work with their nature. Living joyously and true to themselves.

I have faith in our brilliant design. It brings to mind the words of John Holt:

"Fish swim, birds fly; man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to ‘motivate’ children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."

Just as I trust a fish to know how to swim, and a bird to fly, I trust my children to think and learn. I trust their designer to have given them gifts and abilities that will serve them well. No statistics needed. I can trust them to do the rest.


1 comment:

    Thank you for putting all this into words!! I absolutely needed to hear this today! We have basically taken a whole year to decompress and learn organically with no pushing and no stress, because my son was having such a hard time with his learning disabilities and OCD. One year later, he is much calmer, and while his reading may not quite be at the same "level" as others his age, he has learned many other valuable life skills! He WILL learn... I have absolutely no doubt about it. This is not a race. We're cultivating an environment of health and wellness with an emphasis on satisfying our curiosity. Sure, that doesn't sound like a school curriculum. But we don't care! We're looking at the future well past graduation age!! :)