Things that DON’T happen when a child turns 5
So your child is approaching ‘school age’? Things are about to change a lot and it’s scary and new, right? Where once you spent your days enjoying each other’s company, playing, and marvelling at your child’s abilities, now you will have to stick to a strict schedule and night times will mean helping with homework.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
“Children come into the world burning to learn and genetically programmed with extraordinary capacities for learning. They are little learning machines. Within their first four years or so they absorb an unfathomable amount of information and skills without any instruction. They learn to walk, run, jump, and climb. They learn to understand and speak the language of the culture into which they are born, and with that they learn to assert their will, argue, amuse, annoy, befriend, and ask questions. They acquire an incredible amount of knowledge about the physical and social world around them. All of this is driven by their inborn instincts and drives, their innate playfulness and curiosity. Nature does not turn off this enormous desire and capacity to learn when children turn five or six. We turn it off with our coercive system of schooling. The biggest, most enduring lesson of school is that learning is work, to be avoided when possible.” – Peter Gray
Things that DON’T happen when a child turns 5:
They don’t lose their ability to direct their own learning
They don’t become incapable of teaching themselves
They don’t suddenly need to be separated from their family for extended periods to learn ‘independence‘
They don’t have less need to play
They aren’t ready to sit all day and listen
They don’t have less desire to move their bodies
They don’t want forced learning
They don’t lose their passion for exploring the world outside
They don’t want to give up their autonomy
They don’t want your judgement and evaluation
They don’t give up their right to consent
They don’t need permission to use the toilet
They aren’t only hungry at set times
They don’t have less need for sibling connection
The parent-child relationship does not lose value
They don’t need authority figures whose sole job is to teach and test them
They don’t get more value out of being in a classroom than participating in the world
They don’t only need to ‘socalise‘ with people of the same age
They don’t desire adults micromanaging their every move
They don’t suddenly need life divided up into subjects
They don’t need their individuality squashed out of them until they are ‘standardised‘
They don’t all want to learn the same things at the same times
They don’t crave a highly structured environment if they didn’t before
When you lay it all out like that how totally bizzare does it seem to think that when a child turns 5 a switch is flipped and suddenly they need all of these things. But, that is the lie that we have been led to believe. Children need school.
In reality, nothing changes with your child at all once they turn five. They are the same person they always were. The only thing that changes is they are now known as ‘school age’ and with that comes a whole host of expectations and demands from others. Expectations that take away children’s rights, are disrespectful, work against their biological needs and instincts, destroy individuality, promote shame, disempower them, and eventually make them less capable learners.
But your child? They are the same person they always were. And they can carry on down the same path they always did. Playing, learning, making their own decisions, surrounded by those who love them most, blissfully living life at their own pace and perfectly educating themselves along the way. The way they were designed to. They don’t need to be shaped and molded and have their head filled with facts they don’t care about.
They need freedom to be themselves. Truly themselves! Not a version of them that school creates. To only really know them for a few short years is a tragedy. It is such a gift to know the heart of our children, who they were really meant to be, without control and coercion. Shall we really let people take that from them?
Children absolutely can educate themselves with the support of loving adults. Do yourself a favour and read all you can about what learning looks like without school.
School would have us believe that we need it, but it’s school who needs us. Are you willing to sacrifice 13 years of your child’s life to a system that does not work, and damages children in lasting and unavoidable ways? Where children are reportedly “less happy than in any other setting they regularly find themselves“.
“Is there an idea more radical in the history of the human race than turning your children over to total strangers whom you know nothing about, and having those strangers work on your child’s mind, out of your sight, for a period of twelve years? Could there be a more radical idea than that?” -John Taylor Gatto
Choose a different path. Opt out of schooling your child. Stand up for their right to be themselves.
Your child is five years old. So what? Carry on loving and living just the same. Why add schooling into the mix when things are going along just fine? Trust your children, trust yourself. Live the life you were meant to live.
Thank you for the great article and extensive website. I will officially be “commencing” unschooling next year as my child turns 5, but it is hard to explain to people that nothing is actually changing to what we have already been doing: living, exploring and questioning together. I would love to share your posts to my FB page but I am still a closeted un/anti-schooler not wanting to appear too provocative or judgemental to all my friends and family who have kids in school or are teachers. I guess I am still in need of some deschooling, being far too preoccupied with the opinions of others!
Thank you for this excellent article! Where is the Peter Gray quite from? One of his book(s)? I would love to read it.
Thank you for this. My husband and I have been homeschooling/online for 2.5 years. It has been stressful and frustrating to keep up with their deadlines and tests that make my kids feel bad about themselves when they’ve answered the “trick question” wrong. I’ve despised the program the entire time we’ve used it. The problem was, I was terrified of “homeschooling” our kids. Before this they were all in “the system” as we call it now. I loathed that even more. We have finally made the decision to unschool as best we can living where we live. We’re in Bahrain currently and it’s 112 outside now, and only getting hotter by the day. We will move back to the US in a few years (only because we have to, not because we want to). When we get back this journey will be even better. We love hikes, exploring, being active and it just can’t happen here because we would die of heat stroke. My husbands master degree has served zero purpose to our family BTW. We paid for it and he’s doing a job he hates because nothing else would support our family of 8. We’d prefer to live in Europe, but that’s not an option right now. Or Australia!? We want to grow our food, love our family, build furniture to sustain our lifestyle, and be free. Our journey beings now, I’m awake and I hear you!
Oh my goodness! This speaks to me like you wouldn’t believe! My twin daughters turned 5 in April and are “school age” now. The questions about where they are going to school keep coming. It’s even worse since I was a public school teacher and librarian, so most of my friends are teachers. I’ve been there, done that with everyone else’s children, but am not about to do the institutionalized life to my own! We will be free!
Yes!! I am a teaching assistant at a primary school. I have worked in special ed, kindergarten, and now pre-K. I have 2 sons of my own that are 18 and 20 years old.
As someone who works with 4-5 year olds attending a full school day, I couldn’t agree more with your post. I love children, and because I do, I don’t enjoy my job. I spend all day soothing children who miss their parents, who are asked to sit and be quiet when it is not natural for them at all, and who are told when to eat, drink water, to rest, and go to the bathroom. Their days are filled with rules, restrictions, and contrived art projects. It makes me very sad.