By Amanda Sharma
When I think about making the school as a child, I think of sunny days spent hanging upside down on the bars while my mother sat on the grass reading for us. I think embracing her on the couch, watching the rain on the windows while reading. Always reading. I think doing math at the supermarket as we shopped. I think in recent days in endless deep play with my brother, building strong, building robots, building villages of mud in our backyard, building a rocket, building our imagination. Neither of my parents had not even finished college themselves, but they managed to give us what I counted as the most important facet of education: freedom. Freedom of watches and rules and handling and control. The freedom to be ourselves. To learn and discover, and BE, at our own pace and according to our own interests. And from this freedom the ability to teach himself naturally to learn from the world around us, as each human is designed to do. The drive to learn, to discover, to pursue their goals to sort through the information without control or external pressure. My mother instilled in us the belief that this unit is present in every human being, and that learning is a lifelong pursuit.
However … when my first son was born, I came into conflict. He had the romantic idea of ”school” as this place where all knowledge was on one of the fingers. An idea born of those endless clips on Sesame Street happy kids dancing to school to have adventures. A vague sense that somehow I had missed those adventures. An anxious concern that perhaps he had spent most of my teens trudge through the world doing algebra front, he had somehow lost important knowledge permeated my counterparts in public education. There was a part of me that wanted all that to my children. Dear myself maybe. Have that moment where I was at the end of the road waving a cheerful farewell to my backpack loaded with his son suit sharing and a queue of well-groomed horse. He wanted to prepare school lunches small candies, and shopping for all of the packages of pencils and markers. Do I really want to raise my children “out” of society, as if it had been? I was not sure.
So when my daughter was in preschool, we joined a mainstream preschool cooperative. Is just to socialize, I said. It is a cooperative, I can go with her to class if I want, it is not the “real” school. He had to put a toe in the door of normal and see if it felt good. Let’s see if those adventures were all cracked up to be.
And in many ways, they were. She was only two at the time, and the program was entirely based on the game. We spent a year with a wonderful group of people, many of whom are still close friends. Normal was not so bad! Certainly there were things that bothered me. tiny red flags tucked in the back pocket. Like the daily coercion of children to make art project of the day, though they were busy building a tower of blocks. My mind “uneducated”, said wait! They are busy! They are cooperating with each other, check the balance, engineering learning! You will interrupt your game to insist that sticking cotton balls on a piece of paper? For that you can paste that creating cotton balls in his cubicle to show that “did” something to the smiling parents pick them up?
Still, we are registered next year. It was still just preschool. We had not joined the dark side. Not yet. I noticed his scribblings without thinking a little color on paper at school, because that’s what the other kids were doing, or because he did not feel like painting at that time, when the country was to attract people with bodies and faces and expressions. I noticed his game and is fragmenting care.
And one day I had an epiphany.
I was trying to get her out of the school gate, anxiously watching the clock as they were running late. I walked into the living room with a team of sharing in his hand and a coaxial cable in my tongue … and stopped. There she was, the construction of a railway line, warm and cozy in his footy pajamas, the bottom of your game. One of the trains was arguing with another train how to help a third train was sad. He was learning. Really learning, not coerced, adult-learning program manipulated. Learn how to entertain herself. Acting out conflict resolution. And that would interrupt this … what? Forcing clothing, drag it out in the rain, and bring it to smash the play dough elsewhere? So we did not go. And then we did not go the next day. Finally, I took it.
It was just preschool, they said. No rush. Still, he was not willing to pull my toe out the door of normality. Still she had romantic ideas to send to that sweet little building down the street where we went to cycling, which is organized with eraser classrooms odor. Surely wonderful adventures in learning happen there! But, of course, be a unschooler, I had to find myself. So I volunteered in the kindergarten class.
And in one day all my romantic notions school melted into a puddle in the rain as chalk. I did not see learning. Vi control. Vi manipulation. I saw children too young to sit still for five minutes are expected to keep their funds in a chair and focus, while their small bodies squrimed be loose. Until finally were, in a terribly short recess after which a too small patch of concrete were left as frantic puppies around, before being coated again and marched back to their desks, fed a snack of sugar filled , and hopes to focus on your work. “
became Earth day that day. I saw this group of children sitting with boring, white eyes, watching a boring teacher reading a boring book in the ocean ( “in honor of Earth day!”) … While outside the sun shone And then came the real clincher:. graph final sticker As a final note for the day, the children were made to sit on the carpet while the teacher puts a label (or not) on a graph with the name of each child who had “good behavior” of that day. My God! My brain unschooled stepped back. And worse was the bar by the teacher was measuring “good behavior” made a) still, B) stay in his chair, and C) raises his hand instead of shouting an answer. For real?? It was not what I expected.
So they went home. And I sat on my couch with my sweet girl and read, like my mother before me. I read while hanging upside down next to me, in her underwear. And I did not tell him to sit still. We have planted some seeds, for Earth Day. And the toe that had been keeping the normal door slid out forever. If that was normal, then we were very happy to be out, thank you.
Now, that child is six. She reads Tolkien her two little brothers, and makes two degrees of mathematics beyond their level … when she feels like it. Sometimes while eating pancakes, and sometimes outside under the grapes, and sometimes at night by candlelight. And I feel happy knowing that I’m already giving their brothers the greatest gift I can :. Freedom
What is our land needs World-changers. Freethinkers. More people who question the status quo, who are willing to live outside the box. Because the picture is made smaller. Our planet is on the verge of a point EcoTipping. Meanwhile, our society is tossing up the likes of Donald Trump as the best option we have? There is no time left to push things in the next generation. We are the generation that must change.
The last thing we need is more automata. More adults just plug in the fridge, even though it’s cold outside; driving the car, when you could ride a bicycle; who continue to purchase food from around the world rather than their own neighborhood; to empty our precious groundwater green areas instead of planting their dinner. Change is difficult. This does not happen in one day. But it can easily happen in a generation. However we chose to educate our children, it is the responsibility of us parents to raise children who will live differently. Children who do not just memorize information to pass a test, but have a deep relationship with the natural world around them, and a mind that is free enough to reinvent the way humans live on this beautiful planet .
You can read more of the beautiful work of Amanda Sharma HERE.