[permaculture] is unschooing effective? responsible?

KNat knat at sprintmail.com
Thu Jul 20 10:44:42 EDT 2006

Jenny Katz wrote:
> Everyone,
> What would permaculture say about this? Make slow and small changes in the
> system? Or what? I'd love your opinions.
> Jenny
The chapter from A Pattern Language (thanks Steve for leading me to read 
this) has a wonderful description of permaculture education and it is 
what our family did for homeschooling. Children stay connected to the 
whole community and develop with guidance from experts that nourish 
their interests. In our model, parents keep children near them as they 
work and teach, by example, interaction skills (which reading and 
writing just naturally flows out of .) As the children interact with 
more diverse adults they expand their language to include the technical 
vocabularies of specialized fields and when one field peeks their 
interest they work alongside a smith of that trade. In my son's case it 
was math and music so he hung out with retired engineers that  people 
forget to listen to too often in this society- math doesn't get old and 
elders with a passion for it can explain why the special vocabulary (and 
that is all Math is) is beautiful. He learned history by interviewing 
elders at homes and day centers they were forgotten in and helped them 
write memories their children had never dreamed to ask for. My 
daughter's passions were different and she did a joke book of what 
people remember as funny from childhoods of different decades. It still 
gave her a real sense of how humans age and find joy. That's 
permaculture. Timelines of people's stories needed research on life at 
the same time in other places, then other times. Then other governance 
structures. My son, reading his own work, learned to edit and  write for 
different audiences by experiencing different audiences- political 
advocacy, newspaper articles, poetry festivals. Society has always 
offered him an audience because he had something to say and didn't know 
children aren't people yet and he'd have to wait. It is not the same as 
some people's version of homeschooling to produce hot house flowers that 
excel on the same scales of questionable value. Unschooling is 
permaculture. It is a community educating a child. That's why we chose 
permaculture for a school model to try and form a community around a 
school. Historically, "school" was where one went when one had "leisure" 
time to develop themselves. It presumed other life skills were learned 
elsewhere. A place that supported philosophers who could share mental 
knowledge with passion. A way to apprentice thinking arts. It was for 
the student driven to those masters the same as the student craving 
blacksmithing. Trade schools developed around tradespeople students 
flocked to for their skills. Today "school" needs to have many types of 
experts or serve as a referral service to where such expertise is. Too 
often the only masters to learn from are people who "teach."
But any of us need to realize the other real learning is in summer camps 
now. The students who will excel in other than teaching are now studying 
fencing, crafts, nature lore, or working on farms. They may be enjoying 
music or foreign language immersion. They may be engaged in family 
interaction of a wonderful or stressful kind. This is the season for 
those studies. Some are studying video games and television watching. 
Children don't have an off season and "school" only does 6 hours of 180 
days of their education/year. 1080 hours- including lunch and hall time 
to study societal values displayed by like aged peers and select adults. 
That's of  5840 study hours (8760 hour year less 8 hrs sleep.) Seems 
silly to me to evaluated them only on their teaching/testing skills. So 
much more study is in other areas.
The kid you walk by today could learn from you. Share your passion. That 
would be permaculture change. "We are the ones we've been waiting for."


"In a society which emphasizes teaching, children and students-and 
adults-become passive and unable to think or act for themselves. 
Creative, active individuals can only grow up in a society which 
emphasizes learning instead of teaching."
    A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander, p 100 (Volume 2, Center 
for Environmental Studies)

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