Unschooling in Latin America?
It is virtually non-existant.
But that’s ok.
In general, it is difficult to accurately describe how unschooling works to anyone, especially here in a Latin America. We find that the cultural attitudes surrounding the concept of schooling is pretty consistant. The belief is that school promises the only way out of a cycle of poverty and one must not question what is being taught, or even if it has value. The story is sold and the parents accept this belief as if it were an absolute truth.
But, schools provide more than just “education” in the communities we’ve lived in.
And we acknowledge that.
We’ve witnesses over and over schools participating in the public cultural and religious traditions like the numerous parades and public ceremonies that express a unique heritage and demonstrate community and belonging. I honor this value and see it has a place in any society.
But could there be an alternate to education? A new way of thinking about learning?
There is also a cultural role difference, in my observation, within communities that are economically challenged.
I have also noticed that in general, the parents role is a more hands-off approach in many of the economically challenged communities, as the focus becomes making ends meet for their families. I am not implying that the local families we’ve come in contact with do not love thier children, quite on the contrary, as the family bond is so important in Latin America, much more so, than what I’ve experienced in the Untied States. My observation is that there are many other realities to focus on, as basic as making sure there is food on the table each and every day.
On our journey, we have only come across the most amazing people, families and children and for the most part, they are as curious about our lives as we are about theirs. However, what I am sharing is the cultural beliefs that arise as we share our choice of lifestyle, time and time again.
For most in Latin America, Western education is perceived as a privilege and equates the only key to upward mobility and / or creating a better life. This collective belief is the most difficult obstacle to overcome when speaking to families about our natural learning or our unschooling choice. The questions I am most often asked are:
“Why don’t I put Miro into a local ‘collegio’ (school for children his age), here in Peru?”
“Aren’t I concerned about Miro’s education?”
“So you mean, you teach him at home instead?”
“Unschooling” simply is not part of the cultural understanding here yet.
Most that we have spoken to believe that the only way to learn anything of any value is by going to school. That’s a difficult belief to overcome and an obstacle in sharing the value of natural learning.
And we listen, and respect their points of views, we can only hope that there is cultural exchange happening and perhaps we’ve planted a tiny seed of understanding that might, someday, blossom into a new understanding. I search for a glimmer of recognition that learning can happen anywhere, anytime and anyplace, with or without school. By sharing our experiences and not being confrontational, we hope that this new idea of “natural learning” opens up a door for a greater future exploration among any who are interested.
We are not here to convert, we are here to peacefully live our lives and share through example. We learn from the cultures we encounter and give gratitude for the experience we create together and hope the encounters enrich each others lives.