Lately I have been thinking a lot about curriculum and self directed learning. I know what I have experienced, read, and heard, but I hesitate before making claims about what I think would be best for policy.

I can’t help but think that one of the missing clues in this debate for me is early childhood education. It seems to me that at best those who advocate for school curriculum want to see well rounded, educated and job/society ready young people leaving the mandatory school system. Radical reformers, on the other hand, think that this isn’t happening with our current public school systems. Some advocate for homeschooling and unschooling as the most logical choice to encourage student directed learning.

I know I am an advocate for education where students have a vested personal interest in what s/he is learning (as opposed to being forced to memorize history dates, mathematical equations, etc., only to forget them after the test) however I’m trying to be open to the idea of the importance of curriculum if only so I can better refute it (if that’s where my conclusions lead me.)

Going back to the idea of early childhood education, as a preschool teacher right now I find that most everything I do is useful for these children’s lives. They are learning pre-literacy skills, counting and number matching, and most important: they are learning how to relate to their peers. We are a bilingual school, so on top of all that they are learning Spanish. I’m starting to envision more and more support for strong early childhood programs that help students meet these basic needs in a loving and nurturing environment. It is possible to be attentive to student interests and help build student initiated curriculum even in preschool (just ask any Reggio Emilia teacher), and then beyond that, I would advocate for mentored learning/apprenticeships/community groups/experiential learning whether it happens inside a classroom or outside of it, and for that schooling to not be mandatory. There are many others who are advocating for a future like this.

Where do you stand right now on the public schooling debate? Have your ideas changed recently? Do you think curriculum is valuable, and if so, how?