When I get questions about interest-led learning and educating at home, they’re quite often the ‘what if’s’.
What if they miss out on a basic skill?
What if you don’t know how to teach them something?
What if you forget to teach them ____?
What if, what if, what if.
The truth is I’m not concerned with these what ifs.
When people (and kids are people too) have the freedom to learn how and when they want, they naturally do. I’m living it and watching it unfold. You can too.
Personally, I left mainstream schooling with high grades and a fairly well-rounded subject set. I had a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning. Still, there are so many areas of knowledge that I have no idea about.
But there is this awesome thing called Google and my limited knowledge of physics, geography and/or modern and ancient history has yet to hold me back from being a functional member of society.
I know personally that much of what I learned in school was and remains irrelevant to me. Sure, some things were interesting but I don’t think I would have learned about many of them if given the choice. Furthermore, they have never had any significance to my life. I could have used that time to learn about things that ignited my passions and excited me.
I love this quote from A Thousand Rivers:
We don’t know how to use computers because we learned it in school, but because we wanted to learn it and we were free to learn it in whatever way worked best for us. It is the saddest of ironies that many people now see the fluidity and effectiveness of this process as a characteristic of computers, rather than what it is, which is a characteristic of human beings.
How did you learn to use a computer? Did a friend help you? Did you read the manual? Did you just sit down and start playing around with it? Did you do a little bit of all of those things? Do you even remember? You just learned it, right?
We all have a unique set of knowledge that is relevant and meaningful to our lives.
The question I pose to you is; if you don’t learn about something and you never need it – does it really matter?
I know many of us who only know school as the means to an education feel like kids wouldn’t want to learn anything if given the freedom. But you only have to look at history – before schools as we know them – to know that many inventors and influencers never had the kind of education most deem as necessary and ‘good’. You only have to look at children before they enter schools and see how much they learn. You only have to look at your own learning outside of school. There are countless examples of how people are designed to learn and explore and make sense of the world around us.
Another quote from A Thousand Rivers sums this up nicely:
Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.
School does not, contrary to popular belief, hold the key to knowledge or education. A curriculum does not hold the key to an education. An education is the outcome of a life time of learning and exploring.
An education can be limitless. It can ebb and flow. It can grow alongside childhood without expectation. It never ends.
I hear the cry of “but what about fundamental knowledge.. what about the basics?!” The basics, in my opinion, is the skill of learning itself. Of researching and evaluating. These things are innate. Everything else is circumstantial and based on what is significant to our journey.
If kids natural curiosity is intact and their innate thirst for knowledge and learning is not rattled with – this comes so easily and it’s impossible to stop.
Everything I know about Montessori for example is purely from self-education. If my children need to learn about something in the future – they will. They can.
Children aren’t ‘designed’ to learn the same thing at the same time in the same way. Hence why we all have different skill sets and interests. Hence why we don’t remember much of what we were taught. Hence why we can go through 12 years of education and still lack some knowledge that is considered basic.
Not because it wasn’t taught well enough. Not because we weren’t smart enough. Not because we have a poor memory. But because it wasn’t significant enough to our lives for us to commit it to memory or extend on that knowledge.
But all of us – me, you, my children, your children – everyone, can learn something new. We can adapt to new technologies and get lost in a book full of new knowledge about a new passion. We can watch a documentary and take from it what is significant to us. We are forever learning.
So, what if? Here’s the important what ifs:
What if we stop worrying about the what ifs and let our children be free to live and play and explore and learn how they want?
What if we trusted our children to learn what matters to them and their lives as part of our society?
What if we let go of the belief that school or curricula holds the key to education?
What if we stopped putting limits on education and learning?
And again, I ask you – if you don’t learn about something and you never need it – does it really matter?
Thank you for reading!
You can find us on Facebook and Instagram for more unschooling and parenting inspiration.
Just come across your fantastic blog at a time when I’m struggling to decide which direction to take my children’s education. Do I make the huge decision to pull them out of school here in the UK where I feel the whole system is geared towards standardised testing and speed not towards giving the children a love of learning? Thank you for giving me further inspiration, I will enjoy following your blog.
It’s not an easy decision Helen, but the UK home ed community is getting larger and there is lots going on in most cities now. We took the leap and haven’t regretted it once so far! :-)
DIY Corporate Mom says
As a product of the traditional school system but a Montessori-believer for my daughter, this post puts many questions up front and puts many answers in perspective. Every parent needs to know these options for their children! Love your blog!
Thanks for this post! You’ve raised so many relevant points! I had not long finished reading the a thousand rivers post you’ve quoted when I came across this. i feel what your saying about a good deal of your leaning in school being irrelevant or insignificant in later life!
Beverley Paine says
Love reading your blog! Especially this sentence – “Not because it wasn’t taught well enough. Not because we weren’t smart enough. Not because we have a poor memory. But because it wasn’t significant enough to our lives for us to commit it to memory or extend on that knowledge.” All too true!