I started on this journey less than a year ago and called it homeschooling. This was an alternative to the unaffordable private schooling available in Los Angeles and before I started getting on my soapbox about just how ineffective our public educational system is. I knew we had a bad experience but I had yet to cultivate an entirely new self directed learning pedagogy that now resembles "radical unschooling." I am not interested in my kids becoming obedient factory workers who can blindly follow orders and can regurgitate disconnected meaningless facts that were determined necessary during the Industrial Age. School is where you go to kill creativity, squash the natural desire to learn, where curiosity gets punished and where imagination gets medicated. Sit down. Don't move. Be quiet. Memorize this. Take tests. And definitely do not question anything. Ummm, no thanks. Not. Ever. Again.
All day long I get a barage of computer science lessons and the history behind each iteration of each coding/scripting language, comparisons of operating systems, IDEs, APIs, developers, evolution of iOS devices, jailbreaking, etc. I had heard about the need for a mentor for gifted kids and though I understand the concept I was left wondering how to go about seeking one out. I think until the child discovers his/her passion(s) that is more than a passing phase finding the right mentor seems futile. I am not sure a generalist mentor would make sense...at least not for us. There needs to be a shared passion and enthusiasm between child and mentor for there to be a real match. Prior to realizing L's passion for all things programming I never sought out a mentor as I didn't really understand what I was looking for. Until last night, I probably still wasn't sure how the mentoring relationship works but based on L's google hangout last night with his new mentor, whom I love, I am starting to get it. I try to listen, or rather, I am forced to listen but I certainly do not speak the same language as L and I certainly cannot guide him. Last night I facilitated a tech conversation between 9 year old L and his new 20 something year old mentor who were both speaking the same language. It was eye opening for me and I think quite satisfying for L to have a real person who can really understand him, answer his questions, make wonderful programming suggestions and inspire him. None of this would have happened if he were still in school. Radical Unschooling has opened up more possibilities and discoveries and has awakened his unquenchable tech mind.
My nine year old learns all day, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Weekends and holidays do not interrupt organic desire driven learning. He designs his own education. He is a hackademic. He learns what he wants to learn, when he wants to learn it, how he wants to learn it and for however long he wants to learn it. What glorious freedom to let him satiate his own mind. I am just here to provide him with the necessities and a little guidance and support. I am NOT his teacher. He doesn't need one. He can learn anything for free online and through books. My "regular" friends do not get it and the biggest question is always how will he ever fit in and be able to get a job. I guess when you have a child who wants to make a difference in the world and is creating and producing and learning every day you do not really think about whether someone is going to hire him to clock in and out. If I wanted that for my son then he could still dredge on in public school and never learn to think for himself. He is an out of the box thinker with an undeniable drive to learn. I have set him free.
Disrupting the educational status quo may not be for everyone but hopefully there are enough of us out there to change an antiquated pedagogical system and get people to notice that self-directed, online learning can and will educate our children. We need passionate, inspired, creative and tech savvy kids. We need the next great inventors, entrepreneurs, visionaries, scientists, artists, and influencers that think differently and will change the world.