Free to Learn?

I don't blame schools.  I think schools are marvelous at managing hundreds of curious, energetic, squirmy individuals.  They are generally full of professionals with a passion for serving others who are dedicated to guiding children in the best way possible.

I point instead to a strange, unnatural mindset rooted in competition, arbitrary skill mastery, and schedules created for crowd management.  This is the one that underlies institutionalized education. It is the mindset that points us away from letting kids take the lead in learning and points us toward trying to put them each in the same exact box for measurement, ranking, and funding.

This process sounds like something out of a science fiction film.

Even directing the learning of my own three kids is impossible.

I mean it.  It's impossible. (Ask me how I know.)

That's why they direct their own learning.

It's messy.  It doesn't stay on schedule, and it definitely does not fit into any box.

It's also kind of amazing.

This is also the answer I give to people who ask me what I plan to do when they need to learn things I can't teach them.

First, they already do!  As much as I loved math as a kid, my acute and obtuse angles are all jumbled up with improper fractions and covered with cobwebs in some dark corner of my brain.

                All grown-ups were once children... but few of them remember it.
                                                               -Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

This means that my daughter and I learn together.  She has to make sense of it in her own way.  As much as I wish I could somehow imprint the multiplication tables on her, she has to learn them herself.

My job is to look for the connections between these math concepts and something she's naturally engaged in.

I have made a difficult choice to commit time and effort to helping my children pursue their own academic interests at home.  I have chosen to risk them "falling behind" in certain subjects so they can stay happy, and not feel adult pressures at the ages of 5, 7 and 9.

I don't believe it's easy to be happy and stay happy as a kid.  I think adults take for granted that kids should be naturally joyful.

They can only stay that way if we guard that joy and show them how we, too live in that joy.

Grown-ups love figures... When you tell them you've made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? " Instead they demand "How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? " Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

                                                                   -Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This post was inspired by Peter Gray's book-


  1. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. You're very welcome! I write these kinds of posts to remind myself to let go of all the expectations I pile onto my family. It's icing on the cake if someone else relates and agrees. Thanks for your comment.


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