Tuesday, September 23, 2008

True learning on the joyful river of life

Today the kids and I went to a state park with a friend and our dog. It was overcast, but beautiful! The changing of the seasons is obvious here in Iowa. We have many trees turning shades of yellow and orange. Some trees are already bare. We enjoyed showing our friend one of our favorite places to hike. She had never been there. We showed her our favorite trail that leads to a deserted beach at the Raccoon River. We hung out at the beach for a long time. The boys climbed large fallen trees that are now drift wood. The dog played in the sand and water. Then we went to the bird blind area to watch birds at numerous bird feeders.

After that we dropped off some books at the library and headed home. Cliff was at home working on his car after his colleg
e classes. It was pretty much a down day after the state park. Camden passed out on the couch tonight and Holden and I finished watching a movie we started last night, Huckleberry Finn. Holden loved it! We had seen another version when he was younger. It was good to talk about slavery, abolitionists, and many other interesting questions Holden had. Huck Finn is one of my favorite characters. It is interesting to see how he get gets out of sticky situations, and how he treats Jim (the slave seeking freedom) with respect.

I love reading Mark Twain quotes and quotes from other great writers. Twain was a wonderful thinker and he had a sense of humor too. Imagine what the world would be like if more people were allowed to think for themselves and not kept busy in schools doing busy work for years on end. Think of all t
he acts of kindness and sense of community children could bring back into the world if they were not locked away being readied for tests.

There's something about going to the
river on a school day with my boys that makes me ponder the relevance of institutions such as schools.

Some of my favorite Mark Twain quotes on education:
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
"In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he mad
e school boards."

I'm not down on schools or people in general. I just believe our world's current financial turmoil is a sign that something is drastically wrong with the majority of thinkers today
and maybe thinking of the past fifty years or longer. What is going on is that too many people don't have a clue how to undue this disaster, or how to think for that matter. Is that a coincidence? No! I'm afraid real change for the majority of the U.S. and world is a lot longer than a few months away with the upcoming elections in November.

Don't just take my word for what is wrong with schools and how they hurt children.

A few quotes from John Holt an educator, author, and pioneer in youth rights. These sum up just a few of my thoughts on schools:

"Education... now seems to me perhaps the most authoritarian and dangerous of all the social inventions of mankind. It is the deepest foundation of the modern slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing but producers, consumers, spectators, and 'fans,' driven more and more, in all parts of their lives, by greed, envy, and fear. My concern is not to improve 'education' but to do away with it, to end the ugly and antihuman business of people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves."

"The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners."

"It's not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It's a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life."

"No one is more truly helpless, more completely a victim, than he who can neither choose nor change nor escape his protectors."

Here are some quotes from John Taylor Gatto (retired, award winning school teacher of 29 years and author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (C) 1992).

"By preventing a free market in education, a handful of social engineers - backed by the industries that profit from compulsory schooling: teacher colleges, textbook publishers, materials suppliers, et al. - has ensured that most of our children will not have an education, even though they may be thoroughly schooled."

"One of the first things a family tries to teach its children is the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. One of the first things our schools do is destroy that distinction."

"The agenda of public schooling has been, for the entire twentieth century, to remove the power of people to think for themselves. A full analysis is impossible here; but you need to realize that because of the systemic, hierarchical nature of schooling, your local teachers, principals, superintendents, and the like have almost no say in this - they are pedagogues, which means practically that they administer routines made elsewhere far away."

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents. The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid."


I remember how dumb school was when I was growing up and how powerless I felt. I was expected to conform and obey. That's a good way to train people to become helpless victims the rest of their lives. I'm so grateful for thinkers like John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and Mark Twain. They have helped pave the way for many people who want their kids to be able to problem solve and be creative thinkers. And I want to respect my children so they know what being respected feels like. As a result they gravitate toward positive situations and people. Their gut tells them when something or someone is not right. They get out of that situation. They come talk to me or their dad. So many children are victimized and taken advantage of because they are taught not to trust their instincts.

Some of us are floating down this wonderful meandering river of life, while others are drowning. Other people are being swept away in the current of b.s. that has been fed to them their whole lives. The sad thing is that people really believe schools are preparing their kids to be successful in the "real world." But those same people can't figure out why their kids can't survive financially or problem solve. It is a sad state of affairs people.

I don't sit around being angry at the world over any of this. I just feel sorry for kids who are miserable in school and bored to tears for years. And why? You do the math folks. Is it really working for our society? Is it making us better people? It IS making us better consumers/spenders and more dependent on so-called experts.

What I do sit around and think about is how grateful I am that I won't be spending the next 10 or more years forcing my kids to go to bed early, forcing them to do their homework, helping them with their mind numbing, repetitive homework, getting them on the bus at the crack of dawn, and countless other details I cringe at the thought of doing.

What I will spend my time doing is following the joy of my kids, myself, and husband. There will be times we will be doing things that aren't that exciting, but the majority of the time we will be spending it in the zone of happiness and contentment. Those are the conditions of true learning and education. We will own our learning and retain it. It is our knowledge to keep and be excited about.

What I hope to accomplish with this life we are living, is to spread the word that learning doesn't have to be painful. Learning can be a gift to share with neighbors, family, and friends. Learning is not something we force onto someone. It is something we do for ourselves from the time we are born. It is as free and easy as floating on a raft down a river. Anyone can do it! You just have to believe and trust in your children.

Reading, writing, math, science, history, and other subjects are there in everyday life. Some of us just don't break life down into subjects. We live them. Some of us call ourselves life learners, whole life learners or unschoolers. Whatever label you want to use is fine.

Next time you drive by a library, park, river, woods, or see a beautiful sunset, I hope you'll think of me and wonder if I am somewhere out there in the world with my family on a lovely school day. I challenge you to think outside the

box of school thought. Play hookie one day when it is nice out or on a cold winter day. Cuddle up with a good book, play a video game with your kids, or go on a hike. Live the life you have been dreaming. Anything is possible when you are following your joy!

Kudos to all those out there who inspired me to follow my bliss and to think outside the box.

~Heather and family



Snavleys said...

Lovely post! One of my sister-in-laws argument in favor of public school is that it "mimics real life", Kev's reply? "Why not just live in real life then?" AMEN!! School definitely does not mimic real life in any way, shape, or form but what a great come back from someone who has lived on both sides of the fence.

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