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UP #73: Unschooling/Living School: Creating A New Paradigm For Education With Angela Arbuckle And Naomi Irons

UP #73: Unschooling/Living School: Creating a New Paradigm for Education with Angela Arbuckle and Naomi Irons

The past several decades have seen rapid transformation in many areas of modern life. From the internet to social media to crowdfunding, nearly every sector in the western world uses new technologies to innovate, create, and communicate in ways that were previously unimaginable. The merits and drawbacks are arguable, but the accelerated momentum is undeniable.

There is one sector, however, that remains virtually unchanged.

Created in the mid-nineteenth century, the factory-model of education prevails to this day. Conformity, compliance and competition supplant creativity, curiosity, and collaboration. It is a stark reminder of an antiquated model designed to perpetuate the hypnotic trance that defines the consumptive paradigm of separation.

With its rigid bell schedules and age-based grade levels, the factory-model of education was designed to produce assembly line workers for repetitive tasks without the need for problem solving, analysis, creativity, or critical thought. By monotonously teaching the same curriculum at the same pace year after year, compliant thought is ensured.

The Dalai Lama recently said that, “Education is in crisis the world over. There is unprecedented literacy, yet this universal education does not seem to have fostered goodness, but only mental restlessness and discontent instead.”

With few opportunities for engaging conversations and creative problem solving, students are unable to make important connections that lead them to self discovery, goodness, and truth.

Critical thought is one of the greatest assets in a conscious, awakening mind. In a cultural paradigm that promotes sameness, critical thought challenges the status quo and inspires authentic expression, compassion, creativity, and truth.

It is in our biological nature to think, yet much of our thinking is externally sourced. The blind acceptance of the status quo ensures mindless choices, behaviours, and actions that perpetuate the consumptive patterns responsible for alarming planetary destruction. A mental realm devoid of critical thought is judgmental, uninformed, biased, and outright distorted.

When we deaden critical thought, we deaden wisdom. When we deaden creativity, we deaden the soul. When we run on knowledge alone, we destroy the earth. Author Thomas Berry states that, “Most of the destruction of the planet is being accomplished by people with PhDs.” Mahatma Gandhi’s greatest fear for his country after its freedom was realized was, “The cold hearts of the educated citizens.”

What is critical thought? The basic definition implies the ability to make one’s own decisions along with the willingness to continually challenge one’s own thinking. It also implies the non-acceptance of beliefs, opinions, facts, and statements as valid without first considering a more expansive worldview directed by internal truth. Critical thought is self-directed, self-monitored, and self-corrective. It inspires, enlightens, and empowers.

Critical thinking unites head with heart.

The cultivation of critical thought inspires compassion. Compassion elevates consciousness. Compassion in action transforms the world.

Enter unschooling, an innovative educational philosophy that eliminates the institutionalized, “one size fits all” approach of the factory model of education. Peter Gray, psychology professor at Boston College and author of Free To Learn, states that “children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.”

Unschooling accommodates a child’s natural passion for learning by nurturing curiosity, creativity, and critical thought. In a world where self-confidence has reached all-time lows, unschooling fosters self-expression, self-esteem, and empowered learning through self-initiated activities and natural life experiences. Unschooling feeds the soul.

This week’s episode is a challenging exploration of the collective view on education. Angela Arbuckle and Naomi Irons are two powerful women living conscious and awakened lives. They’re challenging the status quo through the essence of their children and the reclamation of their own authentic Selves. By experimenting with alternatives to an antiquated paradigm, they’re discovering an expansive world well beyond the one that we’ve all been taught to accept as true.

This has inspired some interesting questions for me. What if our culture has it wrong and kids are meant to teach us? Because we come into the world already knowing, what if our job is not to be taught, but instead, to remember who we already are? What if children are meant to guide us back to wholeness?

What if the greatest disservice for children is the antiquated institutionalized thought system we call “education”?

Unschooling pioneer John Holt once said that, “Children learn from anything and everything they see. They learn wherever they are, not just in special learning places.”

Angela and Naomi are pioneering new terrain under the guidance of their children. The results are astounding. Unschooling works. The proof is in the kids – creative, curious, and compassionate critical thinkers with self esteem intact.

This week we explore:

• The difference between homeschooling and unschooling.
• The evolution that comes from living and learning at the same time.
• The sanitation of the true self within the educational system.
• How children are not vessels to be filled. They are meant to be ignited.
• How we can nurture environments for children to come alive to what they already know within themselves.
• How people who can’t think for themselves keep the status quo in check.
• How school is a code word for mind share.
• The predictable structure of thought that negates the question “why”.
• How we are so much more than what we’ve been taught to believe we are.
• The importance of critical thought to change our world.
• Awakening within our bodies and the importance of feeling.
• How the root of education is conformity.
• How parents are the biggest wall of resistance to a child’s authentic expression.
• Awakening to the inner force that shapes an authentic life.

In a world that is begging for more creativity, critical thought, and authentic expression, unschooling delivers. With faith, trust, and love in their hearts, Angela and Naomi are inspiring catalysts for the radical change this planet so desperately needs.


• The Rural Consciousness Project website.
• Naomi Irons website.
• Logan LaPlante Hackschooling TEDx talk.
• WEL-Systems Body of knowledge website.
• Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life video.
• Raising Awake Children in a Broken School System blog post.
• A Talk About Unschooling from an Unschooler. Check this out!

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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. When I’m teaching English Language Learners, new to Canada, their grade 9,10 core subjects such as history, geography, civics, I often must choose between destroying their confidence or setting them up for failure by “moving them on”. Technically they should not be in such a class because they have not mastered enough English literacy skills to be there.

    The government thinks we can teach literacy and course content at the same time and keep the system from jamming up with older kids still in the system.

    No one on staff is prepared to take on the government because they simply hope they can be assigned a different level the following year.

    Of course there is no answer to this problem other than getting rid of the idea that each individual in society must be accountable for their own success or failure in a system that does not serve them. When the primary focus is on the student and not the outcome I can inspire these kids to learn but if the kids believe they are a success or failure based on the number of credits they get, it becomes very difficult to inspire them. Even though they are naturally curious they believe the credit is more important.
    Deb, Ange, Naomi you guys have inspire me to be more true to my passion. I just love teaching, kids just love learning, there has to be a way out of this. I want my passion back.

    1. Hi Ed, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and concerns. You bring up so many important points. The one that stands out most for me is passion.
      We all deserve to live passionate, creative, and inspired lives. Passion is our birthright. The systems currently in place do not support anyone’s true and passionate authentic expression – whether in a student or teaching role. I know many teachers who absolutely love teaching, but the system eventually suppresses their original passion because of the rigid rules that force conformity to outdated methodologies.
      The system is antiquated and desperately broken – for all involved. It needs radical transformation and it’s people like you, Ed, who spark new conversations that ignite higher levels of thought.

      I recently found out about “Muse School”. I invite you to check it out. Perhaps it will inspire that passion once again. 🙂

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