Getting Educated, Losing Yourself
Homeschooling / Unschooling

Getting Educated, Losing Yourself

Getting Educated, Losing Yourself

My 7-year-old says to me often ‘Mum, when I grow up I don’t want to do anything. I just want to be me. Like I am now’. And I tell her that sounds like the perfect person to be.

What she means is, her answer to the common question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ that many people ask little children, is that she just wants to be herself. Picking one thing is too limiting. She has many interests. She tells me ‘Mum, I’m a dancer, and an artist, and an explorer, and a story writer, and a helper, and a big sister, and a scientist!’ And she is. She is already someone, and she knows very well who that someone is.

And that fills me with joy.

Everyone should know who they really are. What inspires them, what they enjoy, what they believe and why, what lights them up.

Getting Educated, Losing Yourself

By the time you become an adult hopefully you’ve spent your childhood finding these things out, and you’re then ready to make decisions about what you would like to do next. Too often this is not the case. We get to age 17 and we’re expected to decide on a career path or a University degree and we have no idea what we want to do. Some people take a gap year to ‘find themselves’. And I wonder, when did they lose themselves?

I think I know the answer.

If you spend 5 days a week for 13 years of your childhood doing what other people tell you to do, learning what other people tell you to learn, thinking what other people tell you to think, then is it any wonder you might lose sight of who you truly are?

If you are always told which subjects you must invest in and for how long, is there any time left over to explore your true passions?

If you are kept motivated by extrinsic rewards and punishments, is it surprising that when those are removed you find it hard to get motivated? Even more cruelly, teenagers who experience this are then criticised for being ‘lazy’ and lacking direction when we have likely made them this way.

Getting Educated, Losing Yourself

The chance to spend childhood as it should be spent, getting to know yourself, gaining skills for your unique life, and growing up to be who you are meant to be, is something I wish for all children. Surely they have the same rights as adults to be in control of their own mind, what interests them, what they learn, and what they devote their time to? Maybe if more children were allowed that then we would have less young adults needing to ‘find themselves’ at the ripe old age of 17.

What good is it if you’ve ticked off all the boxes on a curriculum but you have no passion for life? What a massive injustice we do by taking so much of childhood and exchanging it for a far less satisfying, adult imposed, ‘education’. Turning out adults who then move into jobs that they find equally unfulfilling because they know no different.

Maybe if we gave back childhood, and let children learn how they are supposed to learn, there would be more passionate, fulfilled, happy adults in the world. Maybe children wouldn’t have to sacrifice their sense of self for the sake of an ‘education‘.

I don’t know what my children will do when they grow up. But, as they don’t go to school, chances are good they will not lose themselves in the process. That is too high of a price to pay for an education.


April 20, 2016 at 9:25 pm

I really enjoyed reading this post. I often find myself worrying about what my parents wish I would or could have done. My dad truly believes in full time employment – he does not understand my passion for media and writing as other members of my family and friends do.

He did not go to college or university, therefore he did not understand my commitments during the time that I spent there. Now, I am hoping that as I am experiencing more in the media industry, he will start to believe that all of my efforts and work for the right role was worth it.

It is your life and you should be able to choose your own pathway doing what makes you happy 🙂

I am looking forward to reading more of your posts!

April 20, 2016 at 11:44 pm

This is one of the many reasons I want my kid to home school. I want him to be himself and pursue as many passions he has. Choosing a career is limiting ourselves: we aren’t just one thing. We can do so much, why restrain to just one?

This was an inspiring post, thanks for putting yourself out there. 🙂

April 21, 2016 at 4:52 am

I was reading something the other day about “deschooling” – a process of transitioning a schooled child to a home/unschooled child and it said to allow one month (of basically allowing the child to do nothing) for every year they have been at school. Perhaps this is what happens at 17 – you need to take 12 months out to deschool from the previous 12 years? I wish I had. I bounced from school to college to university because that was what was expected of me. But I’m now 34 and I still don’t know what I want to do “when I grow up” 😉

April 21, 2016 at 4:59 am

So beautifully written and well said! We switched to homeschooling after just one year of school because we were already dramatically seeing our son losing his passions and his sense of self. Thank goodness after a few months, we got our old son back!

I was also thinking, while reading your post, about how society classifies kids so strongly based on their “grade” or “year” in school, and how this might also contributes to a lost sense of self among children. One of the first questions many adults ask kids upon meeting them is, “What grade are you in at school?” As if a child is defined by this insignificant level in which they are placed by a school! Let’s instead ask children, upon meeting them, “What are you most interested in?” or “Tell me about yourself.” My son, who is currently passionate about birds, recently made me chuckle when, upon introducing himself to people at a park, said his name followed by, “…and I’m a bird expert and lover!” If only ALL children and adults could so care freely and confidently know themselves!

April 21, 2016 at 11:55 am

I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for writing it and your other posts too. They make me really happy to read. I recently graduated after spending all of my life in school. It makes me really happy that there are lots of children that get to stay connected with who they are. And I love knowing there are people thinking this way about education!

The experience of leaving school is really interesting. For example, it was tough finding what stuff is truly enjoyable instead of just something you do as an escape like watching TV. Sometimes things are nice just because you feel safe doing them, that they’re not going to judge you or pressure you. And there are things you don’t REALLY love that much, but are kind of part of your outer identity, that you think other people expect you to do… or that other people think is interesting. (For girls especially, I think there are a lot.) If you do these things too much you start to feel empty because you don’t really love them.

Even genuine passion became a little distorted. I found I didn’t really know HOW to enjoy an interest in something. This mindset is really weird: sometimes I even procrastinate on things I genuinely LOVE doing (like programming which I do for a job and want to do forever) without any good reason except for that it’s a habit from school. This took a long time to get under control and I still don’t think it’s 100% out of my system. CMON, BRAIN! YOU LOVE THIS!

You know, I’d like to let you know that reading this blog has really helped me be inspired to keep being myself and remember that life is good when I was in school. Being inspired by messages of acceptance and joy meant a lot to me when I felt like it was impossible to both be me and be happy at the same time. Only now a year later am I starting to realize that most of what I felt deeply about the world (and about myself!) isn’t always true. The world is big. And people are always changing.

Sometimes it was nice to just know there was another choice to do instead of behaving unkindly towards other people if you feel they have wronged you. Or pressuring other people into doing what you want. It gave me a lot of hope when I could start acting like someone I respected because I realized I could find solutions instead of just perpetuating bad feelings. I wish more people taught youngsters about this, but I’m glad that I read about it and then could practice until I got better at it.

Thank you for writing posts that have touched my life and helped me learn to be a better person as I am coming into my own. 🙂

April 26, 2016 at 7:11 pm

I love this idea. I just feel too frazzled to manage the process myself. My kids are 6, 4 and 2. We have taken the oldest 2 out of school and they are happier. But I am losing it. I struggle to not have some silence in the house and some space to myself. We have just started my 2 year old in a play school which he is adjusting to which makes the morning easier, even though I still question if I have done the right thing for my 2 year old. If I can hold myself together I may be able to follow through on what I believe, but I am battling to remain calm and stay patient.

    April 30, 2016 at 7:03 am

    It’s ok. Unschooling and homeschooling do not suit everyone, and it’s totally fine if you feel better putting your kids back in school. Have you looked into alternative forms of education, such as Waldorf or Montessori? That way, you can still give your kids a “different” education, while keeping your peace of mind.
    No, it won’t be like unschooling, but what use is unschooling if you’re very unhappy yourself? 🙂 You’re their mother, you deserve to be happy, too. If you are, they will be, so do what works for YOU :).

    May 21, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Julie, this time is hard with school or not I think. With 3 kids things are pretty busy and a lot is needed of you! It’s hard to be patient sometimes. It sounds like you need some regular time out, is that something you can organise?

    I would slow things right down. Don’t worry about doing too much. Enjoy each others company, get outside, play, read books. That’s all you need to do xx

May 20, 2016 at 6:20 pm

After not having an easy childhood, I was one of the people to take a gap year. Yet it has taken until now, 12 years later after I graduated that I now know what my passions are, what I live and love. Even if society labels it not worthy enough. I was raised as a people pleaser, I certainly know now that I only makes myself happy. So I am now doing what I love: mothering the two loves of my life.

October 29, 2017 at 7:55 am

I just love love love reading your posts … they are always such a pleasure to read … this one really hit home .. I always questioned the concept of how a 17year old can possibly make a such a big decision of his future at such a young age .. most people i grew up arround didn’t truly know what they wanted to be in life until there late 20s early 30s … I wish more people understood this instead of following the “norm”…
Homeschooling has totally changed my whole outlook on education … life is so simple and can be pretty amazing ..

Thank you so much for putting it out there … rock on !

Nyree Rochford
March 7, 2018 at 8:41 am

Love this article! So well written too.

June 19, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Wonderful words

Jane Garrett
February 24, 2023 at 8:27 pm

This post resonated with me on multiple levels.
I would be interested to hear your reflections, seven years on.
Warmest wishes.

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