A friend asked me what I think of school. I decided to write my answer as a blog post.
It’s no secret that, as a child, I hated school. It seemed like a waste of time. I had to learn things I wasn’t interested in just to pass exams, and when I’d achieved that, I instantly let all that knowledge seep out of my brain. I was kept so busy I had no time to discover who I am and what talents I have.
More importantly, I didn’t like school because of the social side. I was a fringe dweller, someone trying to survive in the harsh school environment that favoured cool kids. I felt different. Not unique and interesting different but unpopular and strange different.
Every year at school, we had to give a speech. One year we had to talk about why school days are the best days of our lives. I remember thinking if school days are the best days I’m ever going to experience, then the rest of my life is going to be awful. Of course, it isn’t. The first day of the rest of my life was when I started living properly. School life is not real life.
I don’t want my children to endure the heartbreak and waste of time that I experienced as a child. I want them to enjoy their younger child and teenage years without the pressure of having to meet other people’s very unimportant expectations. I want them to love learning for its own sake. I want my children to know they are uniquely different and that is good. It’s absolutely fine. They have talents and skills they should develop and use. They, like everyone, have a special mission in life. So my children don’t go to school.
I feel very blessed that we can keep our children at home. I feel doubly blessed that we are unschoolers living a free life away from other people’s timetables and expectations. When we drive past a school and we see the children all lined up ready to enter the classroom for a day of lessons, I’m very thankful we are outside in the real world, able to do whatever we like.
Yes, there’s a lot wrong with the school system. Children shouldn’t have to sit at their desks for so many hours a day when the sun is shining and the world is beckoning. They shouldn’t be segregated into particular age groups. They should be able to choose what they learn. And there should be no such thing as exams. I could say more, but you get the idea. And anyway, I don’t really want to say more. You see, my husband Andy is a school teacher.
How can Andy go off to school each day and teach in a system we don’t really believe in? He does it because not all children are as fortunate as ours. Schools will always be needed. Not all parents want to homeschool. Not all parents even want their kids at home outside of school hours. Unbelievable as it may seem, school is a refuge for some kids.
My husband is a good teacher. He cares about his students and does all he can for them within the school system. Can one good teacher make a difference in a child’s life? We have to believe he can otherwise why try? And I do think one person can influence a life. How many times do we look back and think of one particular person and remember a significant action or word? Those memories can spur us on, change the way we think about the world.
Even though I know the school system is in desperate need of reform, I don’t get visibly angry about it. I don’t write posts that ask people to rise up and demand change. I don’t do this because my mission isn’t to get involved in school reform. There are other people with different skills from mine who are doing that. I have something else I feel I am called to do.
I want to share experiences and information that might help families who want to live outside the school system, who wouldn’t use schools even if they were reformed. I want to reassure parents who are unsure about unschooling that children can learn, not only without school but also without the control that comes with structured homeschooling. We can live a free life of love and joy. And our kids will thrive and grow and become the people they are meant to be. Most of all, I want to write about unconditional love.
So what do I think of school? I’m glad my school days are over. I’m grateful my kids don’t have to go to school. I also recognise that some people want to send their kids to school. Everyone should be free to make their own choices.
And to finish, I’d like to add that even if we or our children have had horrific school experiences, it’s not the end of the story. School doesn’t have the last word. Our lives are what we make of them. After school comes real life. And that can be a huge unschooling adventure!
Images: I took these photos while we were filming my daughter Imogen’s latest music video. While everyone was rushing to get ready for school and work, we were deep in the beautiful Aussie bush. There was a mist rising off the river. The rising sun glowed golden on the trees. The morning air was crisp and fresh. (Unfortunately, our feet were cold and damp because of the wet grass!) We were alone in our own magical world. We would never swap unschooling adventures like this one for the experience of school.
In case, you’d like to watch the finished music video, here it is!