Most people alive today in our culture had the same schooling as their neighbors and friends, regardless of their differences in personalities and interests. They were grouped by age, told what they were supposed to know, tested to make sure they knew it, and made to feel ashamed if they knew more or less than the age cohort with which they were forced to “learn.” Aside from being completely at odds with how children learn best, this system sets the stage for a variety of unfortunate consequences.
Sometimes the harm is obvious. Perhaps you have a child who is clearly not enjoying school. Or a child the school has labeled as disorderly, anti-social, lackluster, or even learning disabled. Or maybe you’ve noticed that the creative spark and desire to learn that you saw in your toddler has been declining ever since the child started school. You are not alone. The problem is not you, or your child, or even the teachers or administrators. It’s the system. The way you and your child feel about school is the direct result of a system that cannot support individual interests and learning styles. If you stop to think about it, shouldn’t learning be:
- Fun and engaging?
- Inspiring creativity and inquisitiveness?
- Unique to each individual?
- Formative of life skills, personal responsibility, and citizenship?
- A life-long pursuit?
We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else. – John Holt
But even those who conform pay a price, in lost creativity, lost curiosity, and more. Fortunately, there are many alternatives, including home-based, self-directed learning, community resources, and democratic schools. Take the time to explore the Alternatives To School site and then take action. But first, know this: the challenges and wounds are not your fault, and they can be repaired.