Education ≠ School Curriculum
‘How will you know what to teach them?’
When people find out we don’t use school, this is one of the first questions they ask. The idea that school equals education is so ingrained that it is hard to imagine what you do without it. To me, education is much more than a curriculum written by someone who doesn’t know my children. Education is individual. It can be different for everyone, depending on what you want to do in your life. There is no one way to live life, and people are not all interested in the same things.
‘But there are some things everyone has to know. Like reading, writing, and maths!’
People are very concerned that children who are not forced to sit down and practice reading and writing will never learn. But it happens! How can a child who is surrounded by words and sees their importance not be motivated to learn to read? When they are ready and they need to know how, they will learn it easily. Just because a school curriculum says that they should start learning at 5 years old, does not make this fact. The optimal time for a child to learn something is when they are ready for it. No force necessary. The same is true for maths. We are surrounded by numbers and basic maths is used in everyday life. You absolutely can’t not learn it.
‘But what about advanced maths?’
What about it? Do you use advanced maths? And if there is a rare occasion that you do, do you sit down with a pen and paper and work it out by hand because you should be able to do it ‘properly’? Or do you simply grab a calculator? Again, just because someone wrote it into a curriculum, doesn’t mean it’s useful. I bet at one time or another you sat in high school maths and pondered what the point of memorizing things such as the quadratic equation was. I have never again used that knowledge since solving random problems in a text book that did not resemble my life at all. Advanced maths is for people who want a career in maths. For the rest of us it’s something we have to make it through at school and then forget the minute we leave. If my child happens to be very interested in maths then of course we will learn as much as she wants to, but I’m not going to force her to learn things she’s never going to need for the sake of ticking a box.
‘What if you miss something?’
There seems to be this idea that there’s an expiry date on learning. That you have from ages 5-17 to go to school and learn everything you need to know and then you’re set. Not at all! If we find that we’ve missed something that they need to know then they will learn it! It’s not a ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ situation. Learning is a lifelong process. If by ‘miss something’ you mean something on the school curriculum, then I’m totally fine with that. I do not believe that education is defined as the curriculum of school. School provides a surface level education in a large number of topics, assuming that children can’t find what they’re interested in at a young age and this is the best way to prepare them for making that choice as adults. I trust my children to follow their interests now. They don’t need to wait until they’re 17 to do that. So in that case they may end up learning incredible amounts in a few areas instead of a small amount in many areas. That’s ok! As I said, if there’s an area later on that they feel they don’t know enough about, they will simply learn it. When you’re a confident self-directed life learner, you can learn anything.
‘What if they only want to learn about what they’re interested in?’
I only want to learn about what I’m interested in too. In our home there’s no place for forced meaningless learning. They learn because they love to learn and they are curious about the world! Give them experiences and opportunities to ignite an interest and they will find their passions and learn all they need to.
‘What if they need to get into university?’
People wonder if homeschooled children will be able to get into university if they want to, if they haven’t been made to study things they don’t like. To get into uni you often have to show competency in a range of areas. The thing is, if they want to go to uni then that’s going to be their motivation to achieve what they need to do that isn’t it? They will work hard and do what they need to do to make it happen. Just like everyone else does when they are working towards a goal.
Allowing my children to learn what interests them and take charge of their own education does not worry me at all. To me, education is whatever they make it. It is not dictated to them by anyone or anything other than their own passion and life. It depends on their own interests and goals. It is something that they own fully and needn’t be forced upon them. A school curriculum is not a recipe for success, it is a means of ‘covering all bases’ when educating a large number of children at once, all with different interests. There’s no need for that here. I have only a few unique people to cater for, and the freedom to let them tailor their education to suit them.
No one knows what knowledge will be important in the future or for any one person. We all carry a unique skill set. The important thing is protecting their innate love of learning and supporting the confidence they have to be able to do anything they need to do in the future. And if they end up not learning some things on the school curriculum because they never need to, does that matter? Is there any point wasting time studying things that are irrelevant to your life? Or could that time be better spent? I think it could.
The idea that learning happens in a certain way is so ingrained that is really is so hard to step back and consider that there are alternatives. I was just reading an article this morning about the challenges of raising a child with autism. The article centred around three families and spoke of the challenges the children were facing at school. There was an underlying assumption there that children had to be in school. The families were all at a loss as to how to best care for their child, when the answer is right there – school isn’t the only option! There are others!
It is isn’t it! Which is actually why I started blogging in the first place. People really don’t see homeschooling as a practical option. Either that or they have outdated views of what it actually looks like. I wanted to show people that there are other options and it is achievable. When you find something so awesome you just want to share don’t you!! It’s so sad when people feel trapped and like there is no alternative. Hopefully we’re getting the message out there 🙂
You both (you and Kate) are! You both have really changed my views and ideas around education! And shown me how practical it can be. I thank you both from the bottom of my heart! Even though I only have a 2 year old at the moment, my husband and I have made the decision to live an unschooling life. It’s so liberating! I really don’t think we would have come to the conclusion so quickly if it hadn’t been for your blogs!
And this is another great post Sara. I’m not sure how you are getting them out at the rate you are with a bub but I thank you. I love reading every single post ?
Oh thank you! That is so great to hear Deanna.
haha, I write fast when I have an idea in my head!
True, but I just want to add…not everyone can afford to homeschool (especially not in the United States, where I’m currently living). If someone is a single parent, or if both parents are making minimum wage, there’s no way one of them can stay home.
Aside from that – I agree that learning “for the sake of ticking a box,” as you put it, is silly :).
Yes that would certainly be hard!
Beautiful post, Sara…
Thank you 🙂
I love this post especially the university part. It seems that you are talking to me. We are homeschooling, but currently enrolled in a provider. I am planning to go independent next year because in our provider, we need to do unnecessary exams and following a curriculum that my daughter doesn’t want to do it. It feels like I am forced to teach her a lesson for the sake of exams? This is one of the reasons why we homeschool, not to bring the school in our home. It’s been stressful to both of us, that’s why I want to unschooling or independent homeschooling, but I don’t have a courage to do it. Been praying for guidance and leads me here. Thanks for the post, it enlightened me.
You can do it Jess!!
I love your blog! Your posts are chocked full of wisdom and truth. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you Erin 🙂
I SO needed this! I’m wanting to unschool but even from other homeschooling parents I’m getting these questions and second guessing myself. I know unschooling is the path we want to follow. Reading your blog is always reassuring! Thank you!
I’m so glad to hear that! 🙂
Thank you for this to-the-point article! I’m going to print it out and quote it to everyone who asks me those questions. 🙂 We are not yet home educating (logistical difficulties), but all the ‘stuff’ I read is there, ready to back me up when we set off on our journey, and have to deal with a few difficult people! 🙂
LOL I hope you are like me and pleasantly surprised that your family is not as difficult as you anticipate!
Years of school and highschool, bachelors and masters, and i swear to god i still dont know what good calculus is! (okay, bachelors and masters had nothing to do with math, Id had enough of it by highschool ;))
But i So Totally agree with you, especially with so much crammed into school curriculum, its downright impossible to remember what you did in 5th grade soon as you move to 6th. When they’re ready, they’ll learn. Im totally with you 🙂
Yes! I remember shockingly little of school :/
I just started homeschooling my oldest daughter of 3 as a 1st grader. This idea of unschooling is so appealing to me and our lifestyle. We started our first week of school with this naturally learn as we go method. But then for some reason I panicked that I wasn’t doing enough & I started trying to follow a curriculum. It’s has been terrible. Everyday has been a struggle & I feel like we never do enough or have enough time to what needs to be done. I am being so critical of myself & my daughter -which is not my normal personality. I feel like I’m drowning & just cannot get a grip on anything tangeable to help me. I trust God to lead me in the right direction & enable me to do what I know He has called me to – but I’m just at a loss for how to make it day by day when I can’t get my child to focus. I feel like this unschooling approach could be the answer to my desperate prayers. However, I do feel slightly concerned, (and I hate to say it) but what about the end of grade tests that our children are required by the state to take? Do you hold your children to any guidelines or goals? One of the big reasons I wanted my child ouy of public school is to avoid the pressure of these tests… but now I’ve found myself falling into this same trap!? Please help shed some light on this situation if you can! Thank you!!
Where do you live Britten? Fortunately homeschoolers don’t have to take any tests here. Are they compulsory?
Passion and interest is certainly a stronger instigator for learning than requirement
I would say the majority of people have never heard of “unschooling” when ever I mention what we are doing, I get this blank look. And then I start describing it, and they quickly change the subject. People don’t want to hear about anything that strays from the norm, they are so brainwashed. And it’s not just school….
You speak so eloquently about what is true in my heart! My children are 10, 9 and 6 and we have been out of school for 3 years! I would love your perspective on my challenge! I am struggling with getting into a rhythm, I feel in a way that I am still deschooling and really struggling to support them to follow their own interests. They seem so uninspired! What do you think?
PS. Of the 3 years out of school we spent 2 years travelling around Australia. I don’t know if that has something to do with it? Inspiration and learning is so free and easy on the road.
Thanks in advance