Why 5 years of age?
Why 5 days a week?
Why 6 hours a day?
Why is it that when kids turn five in our society they are typically expected to spend hours a day 5 days a week in a government institution? Why do they not get a choice in how they spend such a significant portion of their childhood? Why is there so little involvement from the very people affected the most by these choices? Why is it not questioned or challenged?
Why by age?
Why all the same subjects for every young child?
Why is their learning often so separated from life? Why is their learning so two dimensional? Why are the subject areas so separate? Why is so much of their learning about regurgitating information?
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When I ponder these questions the main conclusions that stand out to me is that school as it is, is for the convenience of adults and the benefit of the factory like system of the workforce. And I for one don’t want that to determine my child’s childhood years.
5 years is about the youngest you can get a child to sit still and force to listen to information. Having weekdays taken up sure is convenient for adults and six hours is almost a work day.
Starting young guarantees children who are used to these expectations and being given the information they ‘need’. Without years of indoctrination it would seem bizarre, for example, to encroach on bodily autonomy and expect someone to ask to use the toilet or wait to eat when hungry.
Worksheets make information easy to distribute to large groups of children. Homework is an easy way to bring that controlled learning into the home.
It sure is helpful for the workforce (and the elite who benefit from it) to have young impressionable minds molded by a system that treats them like one and the same. The workforce, media and consumerism in general works best with people who are used to having decisions made for them.
It would be a damn lot harder to convince an adult that they should spend their lifetime working 40 hour weeks if not for a childhood spent non-consensually learning arbitrary information. Our consumer-based society works much easier if we don’t challenge the norm.
Separating subjects and making education feel like something that must be done to people in a way that is separate to life creates a self-satisfying system. A system that creates people dependent on a system to give knowledge and provide answers and a system that depends on people accepting that.
It only took one generation for it to become an expectation and for normalcy to fall to this model.
Schooling is, in and of itself, a method of control that lasts well beyond childhood. It paves the way for a life that most of us feel deep down is unsatisfying. It’s not unexpected then to hear how people think that school is needed to ‘prepare children for the real world’.
But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If children were given the freedom and time they deserve to form their own unique education – they would naturally follow their passions and their adult lives would be satisfying.
We cannot imagine a life without this control so the cognitive dissonance that arises when someone challenges this model is real and massive. But this isn’t the way it always has been or needs to be. Even if only for my family and yours.
There are thousands of people out there successfully joining our economic society without school. We don’t have to follow this model to live in this world. Times are changing SO FAST – schools are not changing anywhere near quickly enough.
We collectively were born into this society at this stage in human history where this is the standard. We didn’t get a choice in that. But we can alter the influence this model has on our children.
So if you haven’t already, I encourage you to question – why school?
- Free to Learn by Peter Gray (I read this one after making the decision to unschool and spent the entire book enthusiastically nodding along!)
- Learning All The Time by John Holt (and indeed ALL of John Holt’s works)
- Home Grown by Ben Hewitt.
Thank you for reading!
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Emma | Mummy's Munchkins says
Very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing. 3 of my children are in the school system and I have 1 due to start next school year. Over then last year it so I have gone from studying to be a teacher to giving that up and toying with the idea of home educating. I just don’t know if I have the balls to do it.
I am just learning about these concepts and have a very spirited, curious 4 year old at home. Almost “school age”. I love your ideas and am curious how you get approval for it. I know it differs by state but I’m just wondering how you present what you do to get okayed as a homeschooler. (So ridiculous we even have to do that…goes to show how right you are about the control!)
Lovely thought provoking post.
These are all questions we must ask rather than march along like hypnotised sheep.
Love this article and I have a toddler in an alternative school. Obviously I would love to homeschooling, and I really want the system to change, but my question here is: How you do it economically? How do you pay your bills, and extras, and education materials, etc…?
In order for us to have a decent life, both of us need to work, and for us to be able to work the little one needs a nursery/school. Do you understand what I am saying?
I think its wonderful that homeschooling is a choice for families. I found school a big shock for my first child, so much sitting on the mat – he wasn’t ready for that. However, my second son loves it. And the eldest is now thriving. School isn’t perfect ( and getting less so with national standards I feel) but I’m not sure its such a negative thing for society . Not everyone is gifted to nurture their child’s education at home – I feel like I’d be a much worse mother to my beautiful boys if I was the one educating them at home.
Does the current model have to be the only way to remedy that though? Further, have you considered that we are taught to think in exactly the self defeating way you just did (respectfully) about ourselves and what we are and are not capable of doing, so that we would willingly give up our control to someone else who doesn’t have our best interests at heart as this post suggested? It could be you are more capable of educating your child than you might think, but you don’t know how to tap into that because you’ve not been taught, being told to just relegate that to someone else by default You after all would know your kids better than anyone else would you not? Just some food for thought.
Agreed agreed agreed!!!!!!
Hooray hooray hooray!!!!!!!
Loving your posts!!!
Great post, I homeschooled my kids, but still follwed this “norm”. My thinking over the years has been changing and my eyes being opened. Now I wish I could start all over again with my kids cause I would throwout the education blueprint that had been followed and forge a new path wiyh my kids. Praying future generations see this.
Awesome post, I agree fully. You sound like me when I talk to my Wife about the abomination that is the government school system.
Thank you for this post. I have trouble finding the right words to express why homeschool is the right path for us (probably because my brain was trained not to think for itself by school) but this post perfectly expressed what I feel in my heart. Thank you for giving me the right words.
Talia B. says
These are such important questions. If more people truly pondered them, then maybe we could break the system.
Dadosaurus Rex says
I’ve heard that without school, my kids won’t become contributing members of society. Well, as Iook at our society, It doesn’t really look like something I want my kids contributing to.
As a school psychologist who worked in public schools for 8 years, before my daughter was born, I couldn’t agree more with this post!!!!! I used to think public school was all there was, of course, children should be excited to learn from worksheets, of course they should want to do well on timed readings, well, I now know better. Three years ago, I started my own learning center with my husband to try to repay for all the years where I thought the factory line was the only way.
Yes,yes,yes!!!this articulates exactly how I feel and why our girls have never gone to school.freedom to be who they want to be,that is our gift to them,no matter what it takes.
Love this article and I agree with all points. Sadly I just had to make the decision to put my daughter in public 1st grade because we just can’t unschool yet due to circumstances. Planning to as soon as we are able. In the meantime we keep an open dialogue about the systems used in school to educate and control the kids so that at least our daughter is aware and hopefully less affected by them. Fighting to change the public school system is a daunting task. I think that the more families make different choices, the more support for those choices will develop and those children will grow up to continue revolutionizing education and their world. Thank you for writing this article!!
Yes! Yes! Yes! Exactly Rachel. And why don’t people question it, because they were raised within that very same system and taught from a very young age to not question so most of them don’t.
Or if they do, they are talked out of their ‘questioning’ by well meaning friends and family.
It takes guts to truly listen to and follow your instincts and unfortunately most of us have been taught to not do that so yet again we push those feelings aside, send our kids to school and just get on with putting up with the system.
Breaks my heart to see all those little four year olds toddling off in their factory lines day in and day out.
Please don’t be heartbroken for those kids. One of them could be my son, who is so happy to be off to school at 4 years old. We’ve been living the unschooling journey – I’m a stay at home parent and fully believe in a free and creative approach to learning – but it is not right for my son. Just like it wasn’t right for me. I loved school, every aspect of it. Perhaps, if there were many families around us who were unschooling/homeschooling and we could join up with them to have a community it would be different. But perhaps not. Certainly, no one needs to feel sorry for my 4 year old. He heads off happy in the morning, he enjoys learning and playing with new friends and he needs a little structure to find the things he didn’t know he didn’t know. He is the most curious and intelligent child, but he is not self-directed. He never has been, despite my following all the ‘rules’. I’m not saying that it is right for everyone, and there may be children in that line who are miserable and need something different. But they don’t need your pity. Their parents are doing their best, just like you. Their teachers are doing a fantastic job with the limited options and resources available to them. My contribution is to ensure that my sons lives are not over-scheduled. Once school is done we do not trot off to class after class. There will be no pressure here for more and more homework. We will continue to spend our time digging in the garden, riding bicycles, talking about the Titanic and building train tracks. We will do all these things and more and we will be happier doing them because my son is happier when he has lots of people around him for most of the day – something that I simply cannot give him at home.
I was that child who loved school. I realise now in hindsight what damage it did to me regardless.
Lauren Harris says
This is beaitiful and speaks to me. Thank you.
I have just recently discovered your blog and look forward to all your new posts! Thank you so much for writing this. I feel like I want to shout this message from the rooftops sometimes, but so many people would think I was crazy. Why is this stuff not more obvious to more parents?! Just last week, I was taking my son to a music class in the late afternoon. It was 4:20, and as we waited at a stop light, a line of buses from the local public school came streaming out, filled with children on their way home. 4:20 in the afternoon and they were finally ending their school day!!! Sadly, I’ve even heard parents talking at parks that they enjoy this longer school day because it is “more convenient” or it keeps their kids “busy” and “not bored” at home. It just sickens me…what are we doing to our world’s children? Why aren’t more people fighting this?
I know that not all families are able to homeschool for a variety of reasons, but homeschooling doesn’t have to be the only answer. Why not fight to turn our schools into “learning centers” or “unschool schools” where children come together to freely explore topics, create art together, or engage in meaningful group play? Sadly, I think the answer is that so many adults have been through this schooling system that discourages free thinking and creativity, so it doesn’t even occur to them that there are other options out there.
And to finish my very long post :-), I was very pleased, when, upon seeing those buses dismissing so late in the afternoon, my 6 year old commented, “Silly people….they just don’t know what is best for kids” :-)
Liz Herdson says
YES! very reminiscent of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society… let’s aim higher for our children x
Thank you Liz! I’ve read Ivan Illich quotes and that’s a lovely compliment. Thanks for reading and I so agree and love that – let’s aim higher for our kids x
I love this article – I applaud your bravery for writing it because it is confronting to a lot of people.
But more of us need to be courageous enough to speak out about what we’re doing – I couldn’t imagine sending my son to school – he amazes me every day with what he’s learning – without needing to sit in a class and be lectured at.
Thank you Helena,
It is confronting. I know it took a lot for me to process through so I don’t mind being the uncomfortable voice challenging these things :) Yes I’m in love with watching my kids flourish outside of school!
Sara @ Happiness is here says
If only more people would question it. WHY?? And is this best for MY child? For us, the answer is definitely No.
Exactly! I can’t imagine just accepting these things.
You have articulated my thoughts so perfectly, especially with the opening lines! I will be using those next time I am explaining our decision to homeschool.
Thank you! That’s awesome :)
Your answers make absolute sense to me. And now it seems they are trying to make it younger and younger with mandatory pre-k. I’ve often even heard parents jokingly calling school “free child care”. It’s so crazy how no matter how bad things get, no one questions it, it’s just “the way it is” and “what everyone does”. The good news is that more and more people are waking up and seeing the flawrd system, that learning isn’t that generic and processed. Hopefully we can turn it around. I have faith!
I like your optimism! I unfortunately don’t share it but I think that families like mine are fortunate to forgo the system that is failing to meet the needs of children. Thanks so much for your comment and for reading along Sylvia!
Thanks so much for reading and commenting Lyndal.
Jess -- Memoirs of a Childhood says
It doesn’t make much sense does it!! Love this post xx
Thank you. It certainly baffles me.