I lounge around on the couch all day long – everyday – with nary a fleeting thought about the education my kids are (not) getting. Eh, if they end up dumb as rocks, living out of the back of some old beater, taking a “shower” in the sink of whichever gas station or McDonald’s is handy, with no prospects for a career that will ever support a family – no biggie. I’m shrugging that off. It’ll be their problem by the time it happens, anyway.
In the meantime, my children have joined me on the couch, digging into my carton of bonbons while the Kardashians show us all how to live. Never will an intelligent thought run through their brains or spill out their mouths. They don’t know that being dumb as rocks, living out of the back of some old beater, taking a “shower” in the sink of whichever gas station or McDonald’s is handy, with no prospects for a career that will ever support a family is looming in their future. They’ve never even stopped to consider the possibility. Right now, all they want to do is shirk any form of responsibility at the same time as they chase the next bright-colored, blinged-out squirrel.
Now that I’ve had my snarky fun… Really? Oh come on. This “objection” is actually three objections that are based entirely on uninformed, biased, easily-debunked myths about self-directed learning. The first objection is that I – and others like me – am a lazy parent because I don’t force, manipulate, coerce, or bribe my children into learning something that they don’t want to learn just because I, or someone else in a position of authority, said they need to learn it. The second objection is that by not doing so, I am setting my kids up to fail. The third objection is that allowing my children to chart the courses of their own educations is giving them an easy out.
Those objections all go so nicely together, and they all stem from the same two flawed assumptions about life learning, that I decided to address them all together in a sub-series of this Objections series. We’ll start with the flawed assumptions.
FLAWED ASSUMPTION #1
A good education must look like it does in a K-12 classroom.
Education looks like it does inside of a brick-and-mortar classroom for the purposes of crowd control as students get herded from one subject to the next and one grade to the following grade. It’s important in a classroom setting that everyone is going through the same material, at the same time, with the same resources, to the same degree as everyone else.
One of the most fantastic things about homeschooling is that you can bust out of that prison. Homeschoolers have tremendous flexibility. Self-directed learners take that flexibility alongside a chug of Monster Energy Drink. Additionally, if you take note of what success gurus like Zig Ziglar, Jeff Walker, Robert Kiyosaki, and Jim Rohn are saying about education (and by the way, I have – because in all of my laziness, I’ve somehow found the time and mustered up the motivation to study entrepreneurship), you will discover that my philosophy of education echoes their teachings about the subject.
FLAWED ASSUMPTION #2
Life learners (or “unschoolers”) never take structured, academic classes.
At different points in the last few years, we actually have a lot going on in our house that looks like school. Two years ago, my kids chose to join a co-op with three other families. Our co-op worked on college prep classes. The kids took writing, science, ASL, geography, and PE classes together. The difference is that, as life learners, my teenagers have chosen to do those classes with our co-op, rather than having me (or someone else) tell them that they need to learn X, Y, or Z because we said so. At the end of that year, my kids chose not to continue the co-op alongside their friends for the next school year. However, Erica is requesting more academic structure for her for the 2016-2017 school year, which I will happily help provide for her.
So, with those flawed assumptions corrected, we can move onto the first objection.
I am a lazy parent
Remember that image of me lounging on the couch with a carton of bonbons, watching the Kardashians, while I blissfully ignore my children’s educations because I am too darn lazy to get off my butt and teach them anything? Yeah? Never happens. Let me tell you some of what I do as an “unschooling” parent… and before you tell me that I must be an exception, I’ll go ahead and reassure you that I am not.
- I spent weeks in the summer of 2014 composing my own curriculum, based on Rick Riordan’s novel “The Lost Hero” to teach Erica and three of her friends in co-op writing and some basic literary analysis, and I’m working on something similar for Erica at her behest again right now. Why did I do that? Because she asked me to. She said it would be easier for her to learn writing and basic literary analysis if she was interested in the source material.
- I regularly spend time with Jarrod, walking him through the outlining and drafting process for blog posts that he finds particularly difficult to write.
- I’ve been reading some historical fiction at night to Jillian before she goes to bed, and she thinks it is so cool that our ancestors are mentioned by name in these books! She asked me to show her how we are related to the Hopkins family, so I waded through stacks of old family records and hunted for information on Ancestry.com so that I could trace our lineage back to the Mayflower with her.
- I have shown Erica how to scan a document and post it to her art class’s website several times (thank you, poor working memory, for the duplicated efforts necessary for her to remember it).
- Until he got his license, I interrupted my day, four days per week, at 12:45PM and again at 4:45PM to either drive Jarrod to his internship or fetch him from it.
- I created and manage a group of about 900 families in the greater-Phoenix area that schedules and coordinates field trips for homeschoolers.
- I stepped up to be the Personnel Officer for my teenagers’ Sea Cadets battalion, and have invested hours of my time into fixing long neglected records.
I could go on and on, but before I end up needing rotator cuff surgery for patting myself on the back so much, I’ll stop. The point isn’t to brag about what I do or how busy I am. The point is to say that no, I don’t spend any time teaching my kids things I think (or somebody else thinks) is important for them to know, against their wills – but that doesn’t make me lazy.
Instead, I pour my time and energy into being a mentor, a guide, and a facilitator for them. Nothing I use is scripted in advance for me. I can’t just pull what I need out of a box that Pearson, Alpha Omega, or My Father’s World sent me. I need to be able to think on my feet, with my kids, being responsive to their needs at the moment and thinking about what’s coming down the pipeline. Life learning isn’t for the faint-of-heart or the lazy.
Stay tuned for what I have to say about the objection that I am setting them up to fail.