When my children were tiny, I hoped that they would never grow to dislike learning. I wanted to keep alive that contagious enthusiasm for life and love of learning that all young children have. I believed that removing school from the equation was the answer. I dreamed of a more fulfilling path for them.
We’re still on that path, and I want to share how it’s looking by telling you about a little exchange I had with my almost 15-year-old yesterday.
We were in the kitchen when she suddenly gasped, making me jump. When I turned around though, she was fine. Actually, she was bouncing up and down with excitement because “it’s only 2 more days until we start our ‘normal stuff’!”
What does that mean? Literally, our normal life. She is excited by her normal life and all the things she wants to learn and do. You see, December and January for us are all about Christmas, and holidays, and visiting family, and summer school at dancing, and adventures with Dad. And although the girls are still working on creative projects, and they’re obviously still learning, we pretty much take two months ‘off’ regular life. This week, as other children head back to school, our normal schedule has been returning with dance classes back on and homeschool meets during the week. We’ve spent the week celebrating ‘NOT Back to School’ and planning our projects, goals, and daily and weekly rhythm for the beginning of the year. On Monday we’re jumping back into it and the kids are literally counting down the days.
When I reminded my daughter that actually we have a homeschool group on Monday, she asked if we could PLEASE start on Sunday instead then because she really really wants to do project time. She has so many ideas and plans. Today she spent the day researching women’s fashion through different time periods and has plans to make her own historical costumes this year.
My heart is so full with the knowledge her everyday life excites her just as much as it did when she was a 5-year-old discovering the world. It is the same for all of them, at every age. They have never needed to be motivated to learn, because learning has never been forced or treated like ‘work’. Instead, it lights them up. They have so many things they want to learn. Just this year on the list is: history, costume design, writing an essay on the suffragettes, animal care, a photo-a-week project, piano, creating businesses, politics, cursive, medicinal herbs, lots of art, cooking, gardening, the ocean, photography, guitar, Auslan, Japanese, making a presentation, a short film, a play, designing a victorian dress, persuasive writing, learning about space, and sewing. They love to learn.
Two minutes later, in stark contrast to that conversation with my daughter, I opened my phone and the first thing I saw was this…
A blatant reminder of how things could have been, and what is considered ‘normal’ for teenagers. The comment section was filled with parents who could relate, and stories of how schools are trying to combat this and force kids to be at school.
The idea of having to force a method of education on a child is just something we cannot relate to at all in our home. Instead, learning and education are something you choose for yourself, and you are supported to reach your own goals.
The results of that are children who do not lose their love of learning or intrinsic motivation, things that are believed by most people to be a normal result of children getting older. I have been told ‘just you wait’ many times, followed by warnings about how when they’re teenagers they won’t want to learn anything, they’ll be lazy and unmotivated, etc. People believe that this is a normal feature of the teenage years, but it’s actually not. It is a product of schooling and having ‘learning’ forced on you with little time left over for your actual interests. It is not ‘normal’ to dislike learning, otherwise humanity would not have progressed very far.
I remember it from being a teenager myself. I was not at all concerned with actually understanding a topic, and there was no way I would read anything extra about it outside of what I knew would be on the test. My focus was on getting through and doing well, not on actually learning what was being taught. I didn’t care about the wider context, if it would ever be useful to me, or actually understanding. All I needed to know was which facts to memorise and when to recite them. There is no way I would have been researching history for enjoyment on the weekend. Ever.
Teenagers who have not been to school are nothing like that.
When I had little children, my dreams were big. They were untested. I had no examples of what this might look like when they were teens. Now those dreams are reality, because of the choice we made to opt out of school. Children who love to learn, who enjoy their life, who are passionate and motivated, who are content and carefree, and who don’t feel that their education is something they want to escape from.