Funschooling is based on the notion is that school should be fun in order to promote the most (or the best or most meaningful) learning.
Proponents say it’s the optimal way to learn. I don’t entirely disagree. I would clarify the statement, however, by saying that having fun can be an effective way to learn — some of the time, for some kids. Keeping in mind that different people learn in different ways, Funschooling could be the optimal way for a lot of people, but definitely not for all of them.
Advocates of Funschooling like that learning can take place in a variety of ways that are attractive to the child. This may include unstructured play, hands-on activities, studying concepts that truly interest the child, doing really cool projects, pursuing hobbies and more. While the children are having fun, they are thought to be learning a lot, too. And because the students usually select the activities themselves and the experiences are somehow meaningful to them, no doubt this could be very true. After all, every experience presents a unique opportunity for learning.
On the other hand, does all school always have to be fun? Is it okay to require students to study subjects they don’t really like? Can parents make homeschooled kids do lessons and activities that aren’t fun at all? It happens in classrooms all the time — can’t homeschoolers do it, too?
I have attended many parent meetings over the years but this question reminded me of a homeschool meeting I attended some years ago. The discussion was centered around course offerings and activities for the upcoming year and I was invited to talk about upper level course requirements in the state where I live. There were many ideas peppered throughout the lively discussion and it was a good group. It was clear that everyone in attendance had the best interests of all of the children in mind.
But I remember that meeting in particular because it was the first time I really sat back and thought about the motivation of families who seek outside experiences for their homeschoolers. There appear to be 2 differing philosophies on the subject, and in fact, 2 different camps emerged by the end of that meeting long ago.
One camp clearly prefers activities that they think their children will enjoy. That is, activities, lessons, classes and clubs that are fun. They seek out fun things and assume that the fun things will turn into learning.
The other camp disagrees. The folks in this camp say it doesn’t matter so much whether kids like the subject or not — they need to learn them anyway. That is, homeschooled kids should be required to study whatever their parents say — fun or not.
[And to be fair, there are folks in between. But everyone, it seems, tends to be biased more one way than the other.]
Do you think that homeschool learning should always be fun?
It would be nice, obviously. But it’s preposterous to think it could work for 15 or 18 years. Even for kids who really, really like school. In every household, with every child, at every age, there will always be at least one task, one class or one subject every child dislikes or just isn’t his or her favorite. Probably more than one even. Maybe several. It’s a universal phenomenon.
First of all, parents are parents, not buddies. It isn’t a parent’s job to make everything fun. Sometimes they can, but not all the time. Homeschooling moms and dads should not be required to turn every subject or lesson into a carnival of activities just to please every child, all the time.
Next, in reality, this kind of schooling can be exhausting. And not just for the parents. Kids need down-time, reading time, thinking time, alone time, and lots of different kinds of time. And though it isn’t my area of expertise, I am pretty sure that constant stimulation and endless fun isn’t always the right way to go. I am sure we have all met children whose parents keep them very, very busy — not good.
Most importantly, though, homeschool parents not only have the right, but the duty, to be sure that students eventually master basic academic and life skills. Whatever they deem those are. At minimum. Not everyone will do it the same way, because there are many ways to accomplish the same goal as well as different degrees of readiness in the children. However, parents who believe that homeschooling lessons always need to be fun seriously need to to think again.
While seeking solely fun experiences sounds great in theory, it results in leaving major gaps in every other un-fun area. And those gaps change from child to child. That is, if a child disdains writing, no writing may ever be learned. Or if a child hates penmanship, he may face a future with illegible handwriting. Or if child dislikes math, he may never pick up a math book, math experiment, math puzzle, or anything even remotely mathematically-related on his own. And the arguments about learning math in other ways really don’t fly. A kid can either multiply two 3-digit numbers or she can’t. And that isn’t something that can be learned (though it may be reinforced and parts of it may be illustrated) by having a checking account, buying products online, or building tetrahedrons out of paper.
There are some wonderfully devoted parents and very experienced educators — some experts even – who believe that kids will ultimately learn what they need to know, if and when they ever need to know them, in whatever context the things need to be learned. This may be true. But the reason those claims are true because the students encounter a need for the skill, and then learn it by themselves. Need is different from fun.
Being taught to always look for fun rob students of ever learning anything un-fun. There are other things they’ll miss, too. Like a good challenge. Or really hard work. Maybe reaching, striving, and going beyond the norm. The need for ongoing practice. Repetition. Disappointment. More repetition. Frustration. Drudgery. Coupled with satisfaction, confidence, fulfillment and pride. Rising above obstacles. Sticking with something until you finally get it right. Feeling a sense of accomplishment. And a whole host of other things.
Kids learn by making mistakes. Mistakes aren’t usually fun. Real life isn’t always fun. So school doesn’t always have to be fun.
What do you think?
[Photo: Free Digital]