The main thing I love about unschooling my kids is that they have the opportunity to try out many different things at their own pace. I love the idea of them discovering who they are and what they love to do. They do not have to start and stop activities when someone else tells them to. If they start something and hate it, they stop. They don't have to stick it out or finish what they started. I don't want them to learn that the world is a negative place, I want them to learn that they don't have to do things that make them miserable and unhappy. I hear people saying, “but they will have to learn that lesson!” Will they? I am hoping they won't. I am hoping that they will learn that if something isn't right for them they will find something else that is. I want them to learn this message, rather than the message that they must stay with something even if they are miserable and unhappy. Sure, when they are older, they may have to stick with something they don't like until they are able to move on to something that feels better. I just don’t want them to get the message that they have to suffer in order to show that they aren’t quitters.
I believe that childhood should be about discovering who you are, what you love and having a lot of freedom and room to do these things. When we put a child into school, we take away their freedom to learn and grow at their own pace. They learn such things as, how to be quiet when told to, how to ask permission to speak, how to ask permission to use the restroom or to get a drink. The main thing they learn is that they need someone else to teach them how to learn and what they should learn. It is unfortunate that most schools do not allow children to follow their hearts when it comes to exploring and learning new things. If a child becomes interested in something, they must move on if the teacher says it is time. They may not discover their true passions because there wasn't time.
Schools expect a lot out of children. They expect them to sit quietly and listen to well-meaning teachers talk about things that they may or may not be interested in. They expect them to do well on standardized tests so that the school district scores well and looks good. They expect them to learn exactly the same as all of the other kids in the school. They expect students to go along with what the school deems "important" and not to question authority.
Unschooled kids have the opportunity to get in tune with themselves and to listen to their bodies. If they need more sleep on any given day, they can sleep in later. If there is an activity that they really don't want to miss, they can get up early to be there. It is their choice on what to do with their day. They take charge of their own life because they have autonomy. They live from an authentic place.
Of course, there are schooled kids that excel at different things and may discover a passion. It is a gift that parents can give their children to help them discover their passions while also attending school. However, so many times I see kids who excel at school, but are doing it for the praise they receive. They are not coming from that authentic place within themselves. They are coming from an external need for approval.
I think more and more people are realizing the problems that our schools have. I think we should overhaul all of the schools and let kids lead on their path of education. If they are given the opportunity to choose for themselves the path they want to take, they will retain the information they have learned because it was their choice to learn it. They won't just learn how to memorize information and then regurgitate it on a test. They will learn what they love instead of learning how to get a good grade on a test.
Giving our children the freedom to learn in their own way empowers them to want to do what feels right to them. By doing what feels right to them, they are in touch with themselves instead of basing their self worth on external rewards and praise. When children are raised in a respectful, authentic way, I believe they give that same respect back to society. Kids don't need to be told what is good for them, they can discover it all on their own, when given the freedom to do so.
If you would like to read more about unschooling and personal growth, please visit my website at www.benurtured.com. I also recommend the following books on education: Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith and The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn.