Let’s talk about the “education system,” that cornerstone of civilized societies everywhere.
We all know that the future lies in the hands of our children. That’s why parents want to do everything they can to give their kids a good start in life. We make careful choices about the food they eat, the friends they hang out with, and the education they receive.
Unfortunately, over the past decades, the education system in America has been churning out kids who are less interested in the world around them, more dependent on others for safety, and programmed to accept whatever information they’re provided without question.
Our education system is actually dumbing kids down instead of making them smarter. It’s killing natural curiosity, independent decision-making, and critical thinking. We all rant about Generation Snowflake, but these kids have grown up to be exactly what they’ve been taught to be.
The “education system” is working exactly as it was designed. This curriculum is a social experiment, designed to reduce critical thinking and increase obedience. How else will children learn to be the type of citizens that governments want?
At school, you learn important things like the following:
- How to respond to bells
- How to reign in your attention span into 50-minute increments
- How to multitask and “learn” 6 different subjects at the same time, while mastering none of them
- How to follow the instructions of authority figures without question
- How to recite things off by memory
- How to feel about politically correct topics
- How to squelch your individuality
- How to respond to questions to get the best grades
- When the appropriate time is to visit the restroom, and how to ask permission to do so if the urge strikes at an inopportune time
- How you must show up to serve your sentence on the required days, regardless of whether you feel like it or whether another opportunity has arisen
- How to sleep and awaken at the times that are most convenient to your
mastersteachers, as opposed to the ones that work with your personal circadian rhythms
- How you will completely fail at life if you don’t continue your “education” after high school
- How to dive so deeply into debt that you must take any job you can get in order to pay off the student loans that were supposed to help you get a “good” job
Basically, you learn to become a better slave. You learn to spend all day doing things you might hate, might find boring, or might not understand.
But it isn’t just school that is the problem.
The problem runs far deeper than just the classroom. It’s the system of learning itself. Even most homeschool curriculums focus on a broad range of subjects directed by the parent. While many parents do a fantastic job engaging their children in the lessons, there are children who just don’t respond to a format in which they must learn about 5 different subjects each day.
If you can awaken in a child the desire to know more…more about bugs and how they live…more about microclimates…more about geology…more about the past…then you can teach a child how to learn.
In my opinion, the utter failure of the education system is that they don’t create curious children. We moved quite a few times, and rarely did I see children challenged, piqued, and tempted with knowledge. Instead, I observed drudgery, boredom, and conveyor belt education. If a child slips behind, they don’t stop the belt, take the kid off, and help them catch up. They say, “No child left behind” and they shove them along that belt, forcing them to try to learn the next installment of the lesson plan on top of the complete lack of foundational information that they didn’t understand in the first place.
A few years ago, I pulled my youngest child out of the public school system after a (cough) disagreement with the principal there. For a couple of years, we slogged away using a state-approved curriculum for homeschool. Not only did it bore the daylights out of her, I found it pretty torturous too. The whole time we did the standard curriculum, I watched the curiosity that is the necessary spark to kindle the flame of learning, slowly die.
And that is the saddest death imaginable, because with it dies the future.
If you don’t love learning new things, if you aren’t curious about the how and the why and the when and the where, how will you ever jump into life with both feet, ready to explore new places, climb new mountains, and have new adventures?
Don’t get me wrong – you need to learn to read and to write and to do math – but you also need to embrace the very idea of learning something new and different, too.
So, we pulled out of all things school. I decided to trust my daughter. I will indulge her sharp wit, her natural curiosity, and her love for photography. I want to undo the damage done by the school system, with their laborious texts, their Common Core, and their politically correct death-by-boredom. If I don’t want her to grow up to be a slave to the state, I decided, it was time to stop raising her in the same way the other slaves are raised.
So, we’re unschooling.
What is unschooling?
This is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning. Lately, the term “unschooling” has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn’t use a fixed curriculum…This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work…
Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. However, this does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when the student, or parents and children together, decide that this is how they want to do it. Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not “natural” processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority.
Can you really think of anything in the world that makes more sense than that?
Unschooling can be as simple as letting your child exhaustively indulge his or her curiosity about a subject by getting books about it, attending a class on it, and going on field trips that are related to it. Alternatively, it can become a family affair of travel, knowledge-seeking, and adventure. The details are up to your and your child. The only rule is that the student directs it through his or her own interests. It’s real life, lived with passion, and therein lies an education more priceless than anything you could get behind the ivy-covered walls of the fanciest school around. (In fact, my daughter and I are leaving soon on an epic road trip of more than 10,00 miles. If you want to follow along on our Great American Unschooling Tour, I wrote about the details here.)
This is how people used to learn – they were free to develop their interests, to pursue their passions, and to investigate, experiment, and think. Initially, education was a way for kids to have the world at their fingertips, especially if their parents were illiterate and not able to expose them to things beyond their own farm. But then, it became an indoctrination system that separates children from their families, forces them to conform, and stamps out individual learning styles.
Let your child learn to be free.
When you no longer live by the school bell, the most beautiful thing can happen. You become free. By learning when and what you want, you gain a true understanding of freedom, and who doesn’t want that for their children?
- You can sleep when you’re sleepy.
- You can find out more about the things that make you curious.
- You can focus on one thing at a time if that is how you learn best.
- You can make art when you want to make art, not when you finally finish all of the boring stuff you’re forced to do.
- You can eat when you’re hungry.
- You can become the master of your own future.
- You can take what makes you the happiest and completely immerse yourself in it.
- You can travel when the spirit moves you, not when you get a scheduled break from school.
- You can learn about real life, not just get dumped into it when you graduate.
- You can start a business of your own.
- You can take a class that fascinates you just for the joy of taking the class
- You can take field trips to learn from experts and personal experiences.
Best of all, when you unschool, your child lives a kind of freedom that will set them on the course for an adulthood of freedom. Is there any better gift than that? Is there any educational goal greater than teaching your child to be a free human being, unfettered by bells, whistles, and authority figures?