WithoutSchool.org : Homeschooling in India

Self-sustaining spaces owned by children

I am writing to propose a model 'Self-sustaining spaces owned by children'

Some of the aims, goals and expected outcomes of the model are

  • One more alternative to existing education systems, not only alternative for schools but also for universities too
  • Remove or reduce dependency on boards, exams and institutes of higher learning for children's career or livelihood needs while incorporating abilities for individual and collective well being
  • Remove or reduce cost of education and improve reach to more children

Almost a couple of decades ago I was contemplating on having 'Schools without adult teachers' for rural areas and for socioeconomically underprivileged societies. I was observing that in many places in these environments having adult paid teacher was merely a burden (for the outcome that created for present and future). So I was exploring having 'Schools for children and by children' and side effect would have been cutting major costs (like salary to teacher), improve reach, efficiency and value.

Trusting children to take control of their own learning and being was expected to take altogether different dimension from traditional teacher-student paradigm. Though I did not use the model, the exploration was partly responsible for current unschooling status.

Now I want to take it out of closet and exploring implementing as I feel the model can be useful especially for children living without school and can also be useful for moving children away from existing systems wherever needed.

Basic idea is very simple, no-brainer. Children should own the spaces. Young adults, teenagers should have responsibility for maintaining the space and younger children. Ownership and responsibility should keep passing on to young and the circle should continue .. just like normal circles in nature. Just like processes in organizations where people assume and later pass on responsibilities to keep systems running.

The spaces can be both physical and on networks. There already are some such spaces. We can have physical spaces in local areas in cities or towns where interested children (and families too) can collaborate. Grown children can keep taking responsibility of spaces while young children can just be or play in these spaces.

Children can use the spaces for following activities

  • Play, explore, learn, have fun, connect or just be
  • Learn together, build together, build resources, share resources. Lot of stuff is thrown and wasted by people (for ex electronics). This stuff can be collected, recycled, reused to build simple labs, studios and workshops. Even graduate level engineering stuff is possible with these simple labs.
  • Grow food and plants. Cook and feed. Sell food. Operate restaurant. Build permaculture, architecture. Recycle, build biogas plants, compost toilets.
  • Learn music, play music, create music, create band, publish music, albums. Dance. Drama, theater. Play games, develop games.
  • Make movies, videos, act, make documentary
  • Do research. Observe needs of society. Generate ideas, designs, actions, solutions, products to serve needs of society
  • Explore and build theories and hypothesis
  • Organize events, sessions
  • Work with govt bodies, NGOs. Explore ideas, actions to inflate love and deflate hate.
  • Connect with children from other spaces (including spaces from India, Pak, US, Afghan, Israel, Palestine, Africa, Middle-east etc)
  • Build systems, software to operate these spaces and maintain spaces
  • Explore and create career and livelihood opportunities for peers associated with spaces. Will organizations love to work with young adults graduating from these spaces?
(Note : Things which can get classified as enterprise, labor etc will be done by children aged 14+)

The local spaces can be linked online so that these children spaces are connected to each other and in turn can collaborate, share resources n knowledge and can have joint actions in spirit of co-operation than competition. Those children who may not be part of local spaces or are from remote areas can also be connected. Children also should have ownership of these linked systems and should be responsible for maintenance. Children should be running their own world.

The spaces can be from whatsapp, facebook, email groups, other online connecting systems to children/families meeting in parks, grounds, homes, buildings daily or occasionally, farm, studio, lab, workshop, restaurant, resort, forest, enterprise, NGO etc.

Being responsible for these spaces and their world in itself is expected to help children build important living skills. Children will have to build skills for real world co-operation, problem solving, resolve conflicts, democratic decision making, sustenance, being available, creative and lead to serve needs of young n old, and off course own well-being.

The spaces are not meant to boycott adults. Adult participation in spaces is encouraged, children should collaborate with adults, involve adults, employ adults for running their world. Adults should work with children and help the children, but basic rule is that adult should not take ownership of the spaces and ownership and decision making for spaces must remain with children. Adults should have dialogues, suggestions, requests, proposals, can help in decision making but should try to avoid forcing decisions for spaces. Where children are very young, adults can initiate spaces, take temporary ownership but hand over ownership at appropriate time.

These spaces are optional. This is not 'THE MODEL' but one of the models. Unschooling, homeschooling and many other models even without these spaces work just fine. If families do not have such needs, it is fine, it is not expected to be a rigid structure, just an optional add-on.

If families, young adults, teens see value in this, I invite to join. At this time my ability to contribute is limited, but will work more in near future to see that it is not merely a proposal but an action too. It is an open source, open contribution model, whoever wish can take it forward, I am not needed.

It can become connected 'Open University for Children, By Children'.

I invite interested children, young adults and families to write with interest, ideas, proposals, details of existing spaces we have.

Proposed by Muzaffar Shaikh  |  Connect on Facebook


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