I recently read this article titled ‘If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Does In School All Day’. When I saw the title I wondered to myself if there was something I was missing? Were there amazing things about school I was unaware of? I was pretty sure the answer was no, but being a person who always likes to challenge myself and be informed about all the options, I clicked.
And I was shocked.
Not in a good way.
I didn’t find anything I was unaware of. Not even close. But what shocked me, was that this was supposed to be ‘amazing’! If this is the positive spin on school, then I am truly sad about that. This is what children learn? And we’re supposed to be amazed and grateful for that?
“She follows the appropriate protocol of her classroom routines”
“When she completes her seat-work, she follows the directions given for what to do next.”
“She knows where she should be, whether in her chair, at a table or on the floor. She is aware of the classroom schedule and it’s accompanying expectations. She is encouraged to think about making smooth transitions and to anticipate needs and expectations for what lies ahead.”
Amazing? No. Dull, boring and robotic? Yes.
Is this the best we can hope for? Are these even things we WANT our children learning? Most of them were things I’d try to avoid in favour of self motivation and creativity.
I can’t help thinking that if people actually knew what children were like without school, then there is no way they would settle for this.
So please, allow me to tell you about the amazing little people that we are lucky enough to know, and what they are truly like without institutionalised ‘education’.
Your child is a learner. They were born that way! You witnessed it from ages 0-5 when they learnt everything they needed to know. From how to smile and roll over, to how to walk and talk. You couldn’t stop their learning if you tried. It didn’t need to be controlled or coerced back then, and it doesn’t need to be now either. Your child has an amazing ability to learn everything they need to know for their life, if only you would give them the freedom to follow their curiosity.
Your child is a mathematician. Your child won’t “actively participate in math activities for more than 60 minutes every day”. She probably won’t do workbooks either. Instead, math will be seamlessly integrated into her life, the way it is for everyone else. Math is everywhere. All around us. It cannot be captured in a worksheet. To a child who hasn’t been subjected to a maths class, math is beautiful and exciting and interesting in a way that is hard to imagine for someone who has been schooled.
Your child is an author. They probably don’t “memorize word patterns and work on spelling and grammar” too often. They dream up stories from their imagination about anything and everything. They write them down using whatever colour pen, pencil, or texta they want. You might find them writing while sitting at a table, up a tree, on the trampoline, in bed, or sprawled on the grass. Wherever and whenever inspiration strikes! Having never been evaluated or compared to other people, they feel confident and happy with how they express themselves on paper.
Your child teaches themselves to read. You probably find this VERY hard to believe. But then you see it. Your child is surrounded by literacy, you have time to read to them often, they ask many questions and you’re there to answer them. And then one day, they’re reading. Amazingly, they have worked it all out themselves without any ‘program’ or ‘lessons’. Your child is a capable learner, ready to teach herself anything, even how to read, if given the time and space.
Your child is a scientist. Your child may not follow instructions in a book to test hypotheses that were never posed by them, to find answers that other people already know. But they are out there in the world, head full of questions and eyes full of wonder. They are truly experimenting and seeking answers to their own questions, every day.
Your child is free. Your child doesn’t “make choices on how to spend her free time both in the classroom and outside during the limited free time the class may have or earn through positive behavioural choices” (yeah, that was literally one of the AMAZING things kids do in school. I know right? You can’t make this stuff up). No. All of your child’s time is their own. They make the choices about when and what they do, and they don’t need to earn that right by meeting adult expectations. They learn how to spend their time by being in charge of their time! They follow their passions and interests and consequently are not easily ‘bored’ or looking to others to entertain them.
Your child is capable. They don’t need every moment of their lives micromanaged. From what to wear, when to eat, when to sleep, how to think, who to be friends with. They make their own choices. They contribute willingly to family life because they want to. They join in with all the aspects of daily life, instead of being isolated from it, gaining valuable skills they will actually use in the future. They can likely cook, clean, handle money, build, and many other useful things from a young age.
Your child knows who they are. Without the constant demands and instruction from adults, your child grows to truly know themselves. They know what they like and don’t like and they aren’t afraid to let you know! They’re unlikely to be influenced by what’s ‘cool’ and what’s not. They’ve been taught to trust and respect themselves, and that they are in control of their own lives. They feel confident and capable.
Your child is creative. They have an amazing imagination and their head is constantly full of ideas! They are never at a loss for things to do and often have many projects on the go at once. They are inspired in a way that is often deemed ‘unusual’ for schooled children! Their energy is contagious.
“We didn’t have a name for it, but my friends and I often noticed that our kids–– who didn’t go to school–– had this quality of attention as they moved through the world. They were in a different mental state from schooled kids. You could see it. They noticed everything. They remembered everything. Their minds were open, clear, alert, at ease. If something caught their interest, they were on it with laser focus. When we encountered adults who were used to dealing with groups of school kids — at museums, aquariums, archaeological sites, animal-tracking hikes, beach clean-ups, citizen science projects –– they would say they had never seen kids like this before. They would be sort of dumbfounded by it. They expected all children to be wound up, tuned out, half-frantic with suppressed energy, like a dog who’s been locked in the house all day.” –Carol Black
Your child is motivated. Your child hasn’t been taught that learning is ‘work’. They don’t need to be motivated by rewards and punishments. Learning is a part of life and they love it as much as they did when they were babies. No one killed their love of learning at age 5, so they continue to be motivated to learn about and discover the world.
Your child has friends. Friends of all different ages and stages! They weren’t determined by seat allocation but by connection and shared interests. Authentic and real friendships based on mutual respect and enjoyment.
Your child plays. Play is not reduced to 30 minutes at lunch time or in the evening. They play all day and every day, and they don’t distinguish between play and ‘learning’. In a world where children’s play is restricted, to their detriment, your child is free to follow their instincts and develop how they were designed to.
Your child is content. Instead of feeling the stress and pressure that comes with mainstream schooling, they are unrushed and unburdened.
Your child is connected. Connected to you, to their siblings, to their friends, to extended family, to their community. You don’t spend most of their waking hours apart, and therefore you get to truly know your children and who they are without the world telling them who they should be. Your relationships are deepened by time spent together and mutual trust and respect. They confide in you, and enjoy spending time with you. Siblings develop strong bonds that will last a lifetime.
“One of the first effects of school is to break the bond between parents and children, when the children are five or younger. It breaks bonds between siblings, and replaces them with prejudices about age and grade, with rules against playing with kids of other ages, and with social pressure to be hateful and secretive” —Sandra Dodd
Your child is unique. And the best part? Your child could be all of the above, some of the above, or something totally different. Because they are unique. They are not made to think the same things, learn the same things, wear the same things, play the same things as other children their age day in and day out. Instead, they blossom into the perfectly unique person that they were made to be. They have fascinating interests and ideas, because no one tells them that there are certain times for learning certain things. They are completely free to be who they are and it is the greatest pleasure to know them.
A child without school or any other coercive learning environment is inspired, motivated, capable, free, joyful, independent, and a thousand other things! That spark in their eye and joyful energy has not been dimmed. They voraciously learn all they can about their world and you get to be there to witness it. They are an absolute pleasure to know and spend your days with.
A child without school is amazing, and if more people knew what they were like, I can’t help but think that they wouldn’t be so quick to send them away to be molded into something different.