The Profound Limitations of School.

Earlier today I was reading an article from one of my favorite homeschooling blogs, and someone commented,

“What if your kids regret being homeschooled?”

This isn’t the first time I have heard this, but I couldn’t help but wonder why no one ever asked what if public/traditional schooled children will regret being schooled in that particular way.

Well, I decided not to wait and hold my breath until someone asked, and took it upon myself to write an article on behalf of myself:

Someone who regrets being raised in the public school system.

I want to start off by saying that this isn’t an article meant to criticize my parents, vilify teachers, or make you feel sorry for me. As a matter of fact, I am not one to really *regret* even he worst of things in life, because it has been my experience that I always find value in those situations later and I am better off from having learned from it.

More than I feel regret, I feel sad. When I really consider my 18 years (from ages 5-23) in the school system, I feel sad about all the time I wasted living for an idea that wasn’t mine. I feel sad wondering about all the things I might have been doing if I wasn’t sitting in a desk learning boring material that serves next to no use to me today as an adult. I feel sad at how little say I had over my life, and even more so, that I didn’t know I was supposed to have a say, and how I believed I was just doing what everyone *had* to do. I feel sad that I missed out on so much opportunity in childhood.

This isn’t to say I never had a good time at school. If you put a bear in a cage, he will find a way to have some fun. This isn’t to say I didn’t gain things at school. For example, I made great friends at school that I still have today (although, I didn’t *need* school to make friends, but I digress). Something doesn’t have to be all bad all the time to be mostly subpar, which is what it was for me.

People will wonder what’s with me. “School did you well,” they will say. “You loved school. You should be appreciative that you can even go to school.”

I just don’t agree. I don’t have to appreciate anything I didn’t choose. I don’t have to appreciate that which steals freedom.

Because that is what I learned. You cannot under any circumstance be pro-freedom AND pro-public (and even much private) education. They are total opposites. School is the antithesis of freedom. Period.

At school you can not arrive when you want, or leave when you want. You may not wear what you want or style your hair how you want (at least, not at my school). You may not even learn what you want, or when you want, or how you want. You may not choose your sources or your teachers. You may not even always get to urinate, defecate, or eat when you want. You may not get time off on the days you want (you must abide by the calendar the school has set. This will determine the schedule of your entire family for the entire year). You may not pursue anything outside of school that conflicts with school hours.

And if there is *anything* that I learned, it is that you cannot *say* what you want without consequence.

Oh, and socialization my ass. That’s all I ever got in trouble for.

Ok, maybe I sound a little bitter, and it’s because I a little am (18 years is a long time!).

In school, there are about 10 subjects and areas of learning offered. I came from a conservative school, so I’ll be generous and say 20 subjects on average (make that number 30 if you want!). This number is still incredibly tiny compared to all the things to be learned and experienced in the real world, outside of school. The real world is a huge, amazing place full of amazing people, things to do, and discoveries to find. Heck, your local library offers you more than your school.

This is what I mean by the profound limitations of schooling. What is to be learned in the school environment is profoundly minimal compared to all that can be learned in LIFE.

Since I am the one writing this, we can take me for example. That which I am most passionate about now and the area of studies I pursue (midwifery and women’s health) were not offered in school. Maybe some in college, but not in the way that it really matters to me or in the ways that I wish to make a difference in the world. Once I learned about unschooling I dropped out of college and coined myself an “adult unschooler.” I used my 20’s for exploring, and for the first time, figuring out what excited me and made me feel inspired. Now, at 30, I am much more clear on my mission in life. And I didn’t get it from school. I figured it out because I gave myself the time and the freedom to explore what it was for me. Without school, it is possible that I could have figured this out a lot sooner in life (but who really knows).

The public education system has created a curriculum that excludes an almost infinite number of possible chosen life paths. I mean, any system is going to exclude other systems, naturally. When you enter into the schoolng system, you are shutting the door to all other possibilities that do not fall within that system. This done under consent is fine. I enter into systems and leave others behind all the time. The problem is we have been told a lie that says this is the best system, the most salient system, and if we don’t go to this system then we will fail. And for the most part, people deeply believe this lie.

So much of what is possible today as far as “career” and  “work” goes, does not require a degree. And with the internet, there is so much more opportunity for self-created business and entreprenuership.

“There’s not a school on earth, not a university or college that exists that is even remotely equipped to educate you properly on communications and marketing in the world we live in today.”

-Gary Vaynerchuk, entreprenuer, author, self-made millionaire. 

Today’s traditional schooling environment is outdated at best, and a complete waste of time for so many people, at worst.

We have to wipe away the misconception that school prepares you for life. For two reasons:

Life is now. It is not a place in the future. You prepare for life by living life, not locked away all day hearing about your future life one day.

The second reason is that it only serves a purpose for a fraction of people. It is not a one size fits all model, and is a very new system compared to the history of the world, created to make workers for industry.

Boldly, I say school doesn’t optimally serve anyone, because lack of freedom and choice isn’t *the best* for anyone.

….but I know there will be push back on that claim.

My son is only three, but I get asked where he will go to school or what kind of schooling he will receive. To me, knowing the answer to this question would be more or less assuming who my son is and should be. It would be molding my son to fit an image before he even had time to show me who he was and what he wanted out of life. I do not assume what his life will look like. This doesn’t just simply mean I do not assume what he will want to be when he grows up. I also don’t assume he will want to live like me or anyone else. For all I know, he wants to be the next Christopher McCandless, or be a baker in France, or a porn star, or an author, or build the tallest buildings in the world, or play the piano, or swim with dolphins. I literally have no idea, and that is how I like it. I like being a witness to the unfolding, not a maniplulator of it.

My bottom line is that compulsory schooling is a form on of insanity. If we have to punish and shame children who don’t want to follow the rules of a system that doesn’t appeal to their true nature or bring them joy (school isn’t natural for children or for anyone), then it’s a system of abuse and misguided power. Then we are the ones with the problem, not them.

Free your children. Free yourself. Free your life <3

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  1. If I may respectfully comment from the other side. I loved my public education, precisely because I was educated by teachers who yearned for the same type of freedom of which you speak. I was in a regular public school, just like everyone else. But all my teachers (yes, all of them over the years) saw that freedom was a necessity to learning. In grade 4 and 5 I made my own weekly schedule. If I wanted to work on an art project all day Monday, or do a month’s worth of math in a week straight, I could. While topics were decided,I was given the freedom to decide what interested me in the topic, and the freedom to pursue my own inquiries and share my learning not by test, but by any means I felt appropriate (I made a lot of documentary movies, starting in grade 4).Independent passion projects were prioritized and given lots of school hours. In my regular, 2000 kid high school, I designed my own video editing course when no such course existed (I submitted a proposal and the principal gave it a course code). I suggested mounting a play in English class full of artists rather than writing another essay, and the teacher readily agreed. My teachers integrated the subjects so that we didn’t see science, English, business and history, but rather big world problems to solve and knowledge to acquire in order to solve those real problems that dealt in the areas of science, communication, economics and history.

    I pursued homeschooling for my own children for a time, and I voraciously read everything I can about the beautiful freedom homeschooling affords. Now, I am becoming a public school teacher myself so that I can create a classroom with as much freedom as possible. I’m not saying that public schooling can ever match what homeschooling can offer. But I do believe we can do better, way better, in our public schools, and my own public school experience is evidence of a start. But I want to go even further. Even the very look of the classroom and school building are starting to evolve into workshop spaces rather than factory models. “School” doesn’t have to be “school” as much as it is a workshop, a place to wonder and explore and share ideas with others. I am striving to make my classroom a type of “large family homeschool” (large being that I will have 18 kids!) for children who aren’t able to have the ultimate experience of homeschooling.

    1. Sounds like wherever you have experienced public education allows for a lot of freedom. I don’t have much experience of this with public schools.

  2. Thank you for this – your words describe my experience and thoughts really closely. I ‘did well’ at school but I believe it was at huge personal cost, robbing me of my childhood and delaying my real education until my adulthood. I have done so much unlearning since then, especially since I had my daughter and discovered unschooling. It is a totally different paradigm and often very difficult to communicate. I really appreciate you taking the time to put this experience into words.

  3. You have put into beautiful words what I feel in my heart. I hope this inspires more people to join families like ours on this incredible journey of living

  4. Very poignant and convincing. The only thing leaving my eyebrows furrowed, and keeping me from sharing this post freely with friends, is the part about your son perhaps choosing to be the next McCandless or a porn star, neither of which I would personally consider to be happy, successful, fulfilling life paths. In some aspects, a LITTLE bit of parental steering is warranted, I think.

    1. Yea, I don’t have any moral judgements against either of those things. Who am I to say what is a fulfilling life path? That’s up to my son to decide. My steering as a parent includes raising someone who can trust their own inner compass and live a life based in truth and his highest good. I trust that he will be able to do that, but it isn’t up to me to say what that is.

    2. Of course it would be upsetting if he did any of those things out of a place of obligation or low self esteem. But people stay in jobs based on those feelings all the time. So I see my job as making sure whatever he chooses, he’s choosing from desire, confidence, and alignment of his true self. Again, however that expresses itself doesn’t really matter to me.