Learning / Sex


by Carol Black & Neal Marlens

Many of us have difficulty explaining the concept of unschooling, life learning, or self-directed learning to those who are unfamiliar with it.  In an attempt to help unschoolers communicate their way of looking at things to the wider community, we have come up with the following helpful worksheet in two parts.


To understand how unschoolers view education, simply take these common and widely held beliefs about sex, and replace the word "sex" with the word "learning." 


1.  The desire for _______ is a powerful human drive which expresses itself naturally at the developmentally appropriate time.  It's important that young people are able to begin _______ when they feel ready and not when someone else pressures them to begin.

2.  If people feel scrutinized, measured, or assessed during _______ it can take the fun out of it pretty fast.

3.  It's not good manners to compare one person's performance in _______ to another person's.  Any kind of scoring system that uses letters or numbers to rate a person at _______ would be wildly inappropriate.

4.  While some people don't mind being watched, reprimanded, or threatened with punishment during _______, most people’s enjoyment of _______ tends to wane under those conditions.

5. When it comes to _______, people are all different.  Anyone who tries to tell you that one kind of _______ is "normal" and another kind of _______ is a "disorder" should be viewed with skepticism.

6.   Having a preconceived set of objectives can tend to take the pleasure out of _______.  Sometimes it’s better to just dive into _______ and see where it goes.

7.  Research shows that _______ performed for rewards such as money, food treats, praise, or trips to Disneyland is not the same as _______ engaged in for its own sake.

8.   The right to personal choice and consent in matters of _______ is fundamental to human dignity and happiness.

9.  Sometimes _______ that takes a long time is even better than _______ that happens really fast.


To understand how unschoolers view current education policy, simply take the following common statements about education and replace the word "learning" with the word "sex."


1.  All students must be prepared to begin _______ by the same age, which will be determined on a statewide basis by a qualified panel of experts.

2.  Students should not be allowed to fall behind their peers in ________ .  Those who do must be identified as early as possible so that they can receive immediate professional intervention, including medication if necessary.

3.  Students must master the skills for _______ in sequence, with the basic building blocks for _______ mastered and tested before higher-order _______ can begin.

4.  The normal way to begin _______ is in a classroom using textbooks and worksheets rather than through experimentation and hands-on experience.

5. _______ is better in groups of 20 or 30 than one on one.

6.  _______ should be scheduled in 45 minute sessions that begin and end promptly with the ringing of a loud bell.

7.  It is not permitted to use the bathroom during _______ .  Texting and snacking are also strictly forbidden.

8.  Students should be given a clear rubric for _______ that tells them how many points will be earned for each performance level of the given_______ skill or task.  Also make it clear how many points will be taken off for sloppiness or lateness.

9.  Students’ progress at _______ should be constantly evaluated on a percentile basis, with their rank among their peers posted on a bulletin board in the hallway.

10.  Parents can reward excellence in _______ by proudly putting a bumper sticker on their car announcing that their child is better than other people's children at _______.

11.  The U.S Department of Education, through the use of federally mandated standards, intends to ensure that in the 21st century all American students achieve minimum performance levels at _______, so that we will be able to compete with the Chinese.



Now you know how to think like an unschooler!