Posted in Independent Education, Inspiration, Tips for Students

How To Know If You Should Drop Out Of Shool

There is a lot of social pressure to go to school and to college, but neither is absolutely necessary to lead a fulfilling and successful life. Just ask any of the thousands of unschooled kids across the nation, or any of the college dropouts who have become billionaires. School is only a means to an end, and shouldn’t be confused with the end itself. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are considering taking an alternate route:

Are You Willing To Take On More Responsibility?

Are you willing to make decisions for yourself about what to learn and how? Are you willing to define your own goals and keep yourself on track towards achieving them? Unschooling yourself means drawing free-hand on the canvas of life instead of connecting the dots. This can only work if you are willing to be creative, courageous, and responsible. Quitting school doesn’t mean you get to do nothing instead; it means you have the freedom, and the responsibility, to do more.

Do You Have A Vision?

Do you have a vision of what you would like to achieve? Is school helping you realize that vision or is it getting in the way? If you can see a more direct route to pursue your objectives in life, then by all means follow it, and don’t doubt that you will be able to learn whatever you need to learn along the way.

Are You Passionate About What You Are Studying?

This is essentially the only reason to be in school: if you are passionate and excited about what you are studying, so that the learning process is rewarding in and of itself, then by all means keep doing it. There’s no reason to punish yourself with boredom and misery in exchange for some vaguely promised delayed gratification, when life is meant to be seized and enjoyed, and there is so much you could be doing right now that would be rewarding, satisfying, and practical.

Posted in Educational Reform, Independent Education, Inspiration, Tips for Students

That’s Just The Way It Is…NOT, Part 3

So many aspects of our modern lives and the way society is structured are taken for granted, and we just assume things are the way they are because they have to be that way. This series of posts looks at a few of the hidden assumptions we commonly make about education.

You Have To Go To College If You Want A Good Job

This conventional wisdom of the baby boom era is erroneous in two ways:

1. It is no longer true that you have to go to college to get a “good job”

and

2. It is no longer true that you have to get a “good job” to have a successful, exciting, satisfying, or rewarding career.

“What do you want to do?” is no longer synonymous with “What job do you want to have?”, but can more and more be answered quite literally:

“I want to go on adventures”

“I want to write”

“I want to make art”

“I want to help people discover themselves”

“I want to photograph wildlife”

“I want to heal people”

“I want to make people laugh”

“I want to create companies”

“I want to teach”

Any of these or countless similar aspirations can indeed form the foundation of a successful career.  Just as the huge lumbering dinosaurs were replaced by small, nimble, and adaptable mammals as environmental conditions changed, the changing technological environment and the resultant diffusion of the means of economic productivity is causing the huge, monolithic organization to become extinct, quickly to be replaced by tiny start-ups and independent solo operators.

These days you can be a freelance just-about-anything, and the opportunities to create a totally new career from scratch are only limited by the restrictions on the human imagination.  From 16-year-old sailors circumnavigating the globe, to 17-year-old nuclear physicists, to whole families bicycling around the world, more and more lifestyle pioneers are showing us all that life can be about so much more than getting a “good job” – if you want it to be.

Posted in Educational Reform, Homeschooling, Independent Education, Inspiration

That’s Just The Way It Is…NOT, Part 2

So many aspects of our modern lives and the way society is structured are taken for granted, and we just assume things are the way they are because they have to be that way. This series of posts looks at a few of the hidden assumptions we commonly make about education.

You Have To Go To School, Like Everyone Else

If there’s one thing that characterizes modern life, it’s options.  The freedom available to individuals in terms of the number of options for almost everything is expanding and accelerating.  This includes options about what to learn, how to learn, how to earn money, and how to pursue a fulfilling career.

Research has already shown that people perform better at all types of tasks when they get to choose what to work on, and they learn better when they study the things they are interested in.  For now school is still obligatory for most, but it is only a matter of time before governments and educational institutions catch on to the fact that their most effective role is not to mandate the learning process, but to facilitate it.  In the mean time, there are thousands of homeschooling and unschooling families are proving by example, in countless ways, that public school isn’t for everyone, and that the options for how to pursue an education and a career are limitless.

Mark Twain famously said that he had never let his schooling interfere with his education, and in today’s world we can all take this advice even more to heart, as there is no longer any reason that schooling has to interfere with education.  Instead of trying to march in lock-step with a fixed curriculum, you can learn about whatever you want, whenever you want, and let passion and interest guide you to master any type of knowledge or skill you desire, as well as design a rewarding career for yourself.

Posted in Homeschooling, Independent Education, Tips for Parents

Why Homeschooling Should Be Every Parent’s Dream

The joy of having children is not just in seeing them grow up, but in growing up with them. Seeing how they are coming along is fine, but it doesn’t compare to the experience of participating in their evolution, and expanding your concept of yourself as a person in the process.

As a society, we place a lot of emphasis on family values, but this does not mean that family is central to our lives. On the contrary, it is a reaction to the reality of emotional distance and physical separation that many families are experiencing. It is an expression of nostalgia. As a parallel, country music wasn’t popular in America when most people lived on farms. It started to become popular when more people started to move to cities, and it has become popular in other countries around the world that are experiencing similar demographic transitions.

Also by way of parallel, the Tao Te Ching says,

“When Tao is lost, virtue arises.
When virtue is lost, benevolence arises.
When benevolence is lost, morality arises.
When morality is lost, etiquette arises.
Etiquette is the husk of faith,
and the beginning of chaos.”

Similarly, it might be said that when familial cohesion is lost, family values arise.

“To spend more time with my kids” is the wish of every overworked parent. But more and more families are demonstrating that the demands of modern life don’t have to compartmentalize family members, that education can involve parents and children in a cooperative, mutually beneficial process instead of segregating and isolating them.

Millions of homeschooling families have found that it is possible to rewrite the societal script for how children should be raised, and eminently worthwhile. For the most part, they aren’t doing it because they have to, but because of the rewards it brings, because they find the role of parent-as-partner far more fulfilling than the role of parent-as-provider. In doing so they are rediscovering a meaning of family that goes beyond just sharing a home to actually sharing life. Children are not just an opportunity to teach, they are an opportunity to learn and to grow, if we are up to answering the call.

Posted in Educational Reform, Homeschooling, Independent Education

What’s Wrong With Compulsory Schooling?

If school is necessary and beneficial, why does it need to be mandatory? Things that are truly necessary, like eating and sleeping, don’t need to be enforced because people want to do them. Likewise, people, especially children, are gifted with an innate curiosity and industriousness that makes them want to explore, discover, and create. They want to help others, they want to do the things that adults do, and every child, at some point, dreams of saving the world. Children do not want to avoid meaningful work, they crave it. Passivity is not the natural state of the human organism, but it is a natural reaction to coercion.

The belief that people don’t want to help themselves is a self fulfilling prophecy. If we believe that children must be forced to learn, we rob them of their initiative and don’t allow their creativity and intellectual curiosity to flourish. Children forget most of the facts they are force-fed at school, but they learn the meta-lesson all too well: “You are not in control of your life.”

The reason kids don’t want to go to school isn’t that they don’t know what’s good for them, it’s that they do know what’s bad for them. They don’t want to spend their time on useless, unfulfilling tasks, they don’t want to be forced to compete, and they don’t want to be judged, ridiculed, or belittled. They want to flourish, and they seek out the things that help them do that whether we try to force them or not; in fact we can’t keep them from doing it. We don’t have to force children to learn any more than we have to force them to breathe.

Posted in Independent Education, Inspiration, Teaching & Learning, Tips for Students

Albert Einstein’s Letter To His Son

I recently came across a letter from Albert Einstein to his son, aged 11, just before he became famous.  Historically, eccentric geniuses don’t tend to make the most reliable fathers, and Albert was absent for most of his kids’ lives while they were being raised, but this letter shows that this was clearly a matter of distraction rather than a lack of compassion.  My favorite thing about it is that Albert, never a stickler for academic conformity himself, tells his son that there are more important things than school, namely joy and learning:

“I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This [is] better even than school…Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most…”

Posted in Independent Education, Resources

Learn For Free With OpenLearn

While browsing on Youtube I came across a great series of videos called “60 Second Adventures…“.  These are fascinating animated short films covering topics in math, physics, astronomy, economics, and philosophy.  This was how I discovered OpenLearn, an open university project that provides free resources for independent learners, including videos and thousands of hours of course materials, as well as programs to earn qualifications in a variety of subjects.  Whether you want to devote yourself to some serious study or just go on a whimsical intellectual adventure, you should check out this awesome educational resource.  Why watch TV when you could actually be learning something about the world?  Go there now!