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Helping Your Public Schooled Child Become a Lifelong Learner


Raising children who will become self-directed, lifelong learners is not the enigma that the public education system makes it out to be.  Children are naturally inquisitive, and are in a constant state of learning as they try to understand the world that surrounds them.  Given the opportunity to learn without being bullied, ridiculed, verbally assaulted for becoming bored with a linear and irrelevant curriculum, or being conditioned to believe that higher learning is only possible for those that adults deem to be “smart”, a child will never give up on learning.

Unfortunately, most parents at some point turn your kids over to the public education system where creativity and intellectual vitality are stamped out quickly, and replaced by conformity and intellectual indolence.  Instead of allowing education to track with children’s interests and passions, public schools stick them with a standard curriculum that is tailored to no one, ­and tries to force them to learn material that they aren’t interested in learning at that time, to learn material before they are ready, or to dawdle with material they’ve already mastered.  Public schools destroy the desire to learn, and without a desire to learn lifelong learning becomes nothing more than a buzz word for politicians and higher education advocates.

To those of you who have at some point turned your kids over to the education-industrial complex, putting your children back on the path toward lifelong learning can be difficult, however, it is possible.  The first step is to pull them out of the system. Immediately!  There is absolutely no need to wait for them to finish the school year, or to graduate from elementary school or middle school. Every additional day in the system is an additional day in which they are having their minds corrupted and their souls darkened. “Next year” is a year too late.

The next step is to go through a period of deschooling, or as Rebecca Kochenderfer and Elizabeth Kanna say in their book Homeschooling for Success, an exploration period. Deschooling consists of no curriculum, and no mandated learning. Children should be encouraged to simply relax, reestablish bonds with family members, reading (whatever they want) for fun, or focusing on hobbies that they had little time for while interned at their local public gulag. This is a perfect time to travel as a family. The exploration period is critical to the transition, as going from the regimented, prison-like structure of public schools to the free and loving environment of home can overwhelm some children, leading them to believe that they are helpless without the heavy hand of the state to dictate their every action, just as long-term prisoners are often unable to cope with the freedom of the outside world once they are released.

Kochenderfer and Kanna suggest a 6-month exploration period, although as with all homeschooling efforts, that should be adjusted based on the individual needs and desires of the child.  When the child is ready to begin formal “homeschooling” (which is essentially an oxymoron, thankfully), the parents should allow their child to have a say in what their homeschooling experience will look like. The older the child, the more important it is for them to feel like they are directing their own education.  Many children will choose a more structured, linear type education plan as they struggle with their newfound freedom of being able to learn what they want when they want.  Parents should be mindful of this desire, but also eagerly allow them to move further away from a defined curriculum at every opportunity.

In time, and with your loving support, your public school child will be able to rehabilitate her mind and cleanse her soul.  Learning will no longer become a chore, but an essential part of her life, as important and as natural as the impulse to breathe.


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