When I read articles about education, or hear people talk about school, or schooling, the tone of the article or tenor of the conversation is always serious. There is a distinct lack of joy. Think about it. When was the last time you read a joyous article about the state of education in this country or anywhere else? When have you ever heard a parent or student speak about their homework or classes with joy in their voice? I’m not talking about the bragging that goes on over good grades or acceptance into an elite school or university. I’m talking about joy over the every day work.
Why is that? Why do people speak about education in the same tones that they use when speaking about prison conditions? Or serious illnesses? People speak about school and schooling like it is life or death. Like if a kid doesn’t learn about Subject X at age Z, they will forever be ignorant. As though learning cannot happen at any other time or in any other place. The more I read about schooling and the universe of compulsory education, the less inclined I am to think it is good for anyone. The kids I know who are in school are mostly either dissatisfied or always looking toward the future. They ‘hate’ their teacher(s), or their homework; they need to get good grades to get into the best schools. There is never satisfaction or – god forbid – joy in the present. There is never a now. There is always only the vague promise of happiness in the future – maybe. Is it any wonder, then, that most adults are dissatisfied in their work? That they trudge along in jobs they hate, always talking about how ‘if only I can get-” at some future date, then they will be happy? Of course they think that way. They learned it in school.
I find that unschoolers are not only kids who live almost entirely in the now, but they live joyously. This doesn’t mean they never get upset or angry or have a day when things don’t go the way they’d hoped, but joy is a much more constant companion. They create things and read and absorb all manner of information in whatever form pleases them. Sometimes they literally jump around in their excitement to share their creations or the things they’ve learned. There is no trepidation about how the information will be received, or if it will be ‘good enough’. There are no arbitrary timetables that tell them how much time should be spent on any given activity, or how long it should take them to master a certain skill.
There may be things they’ll learn later in life than kids who were in school, but I’ll take that trade off, because there is no substitute for joy.