Monday, March 10, 2008

Letter to a Worried Parent

My wife, Luz, and I get emails and calls from parents who are anxious about their children. The kids are miserable in school, but the parents often do not know how to offer an alternative. We try to calm them while encouraging them to try homeschooling. One such letter last year was the following:

Dear Martha,

The big advantage our son had, thanks to unschooling throughout his youth, was that he learned to be in charge of his learning and, really, his life to a great degree. In contrast, kids who attend schools learn to wait for others to tell them what to do, what to think. After twelve years of that, they become completely dependent on others for direction.

In general, that does not prepare young people for real life or college. Colleges prefer people who have initiative and can motivate themselves, who know what they want to learn, and most important, know how to find information when they need it, and are not afraid to make decisions for themselves. Those characteristics are the opposite of what public schools teach. The government schools have the goal of turning out a "workforce" of dependent predictable people. The government does not want people to be well educated -- just enough, but no more. The "economy" needs lots of sheep, not too many shepherds, lots of spectators, but not many players. Our son, and many homeschooled children we know, learned to be independent and creative thinkers, to do what was right for them, not necessarily for the "economy."

School does not prepare children for life. Each year of school merely prepares them for the next year of school. Our motto is, "Live with your children as though there were no such thing as school." Let your kids know that they are responsible for their lives and for their learning, no one else is.

Our son never did lessons, never looked at a school book. We did not teach him school stuff at home. He learned what he was interested in, which was almost everything. He scored 1390 on the SATs and got into college easily on his own and breezed through happily and graduated Magna Cum Laude (top one percent). He was well prepared for college without doing any of the school stuff. He was prepared for life, not just college. He is grateful for his experience growing up and we are still his best friends. What more can we ask?

Suggestion: If your daughter is unhappy in school, take her out for a while at first, say, for the rest of this school year. See if she is happier with you. Make sure she has a friend her age to talk to sometimes, if she wants. Your job will be to give her access to the world...to see where her interests lie. Do things with her. Give her responsibilities, real work. The idea is to let her have a real life as much as possible, to share your real life, not have an artificial life such as schools create.

Best wishes,
Ned

I heard back, as follows:
I asked my daughter at dinner why she doesn't like school. Not surprisingly she doesn't like talking about the subject very often! She replied with all of the wisdom that only a six year old has, "Because all we do is work...for hours." When I told her that I plan to teach her at home she said, "But what will we do?" I replied, "Paint, grow a garden, plan your birthday party, swim, cook, and anything else you would like to do." She looked at me with wide eyes of excited disbelief and said, "You mean, That is learning?"

1 comment:

Tara said...

Great post; great story.