Children are natural learners – they are eager to investigate the mysteries of life and the world around them. They seek constant self-improvement on numerous levels, and as social beings they demand attention from adults and try to become a part of a grownup world. The problem with society today is that we find ways to crush children’s desires to learn, to stymie the urges of children to discover what their world consists of, and we treat them like children encouraging them to stay childish and immature to an unhealthy degree. Society wasn’t always like this. It used to be that children were given real responsibility and were expected to contribute to their families and their communities at a much earlier age. A hundred years ago it was not acceptable for a 16-year old to goof around for seven hours a day learning nothing more than an occasional false narrative of this history of America, much less for a 24-year old child to be living in the basement while still attending classes at the local college. In order for the next generation to thrive in a knowledge-based, ever changing world, we must free them of the coercive schooling institutions that crush their souls and from the societal expectation that they are to remain children until the age of 18 or beyond.
Unfortunately, many homeschooling parents find that their children are not much more eager to learn at home than they would be in a traditionally school setting. Whether it is shoving a book in their face to read or forcing them to learn long division, schooling at home can be a frustrating and sometimes traumatic experience to a child who had until that point readily and continuously absorbed knowledge from their family and society. For a parent who chose to homeschool to spare the child of needless academic stress at a young age, or one who is focused on positioning their child for Harvard or Stanford, having a child turn away from a love of knowledge can be disconcerting.
Trying to motivate the children to “want to learn” can be a self-defeating endeavor. All children want to learn, they simply may not want to learn what you want them to learn, or they may not want to learn it in the manner that you want them to learn it in. If we put kids in chairs and demand that they go through workbooks, or through a computer program, the learning may never come, and even if it does, we may inspire in those kids a hatred of learning. If we shove books in front of them and demand that they read, they may very well learn to read at a basic level, but we may create such a visceral hatred of reading that they never in their lives pick up a book for enjoyment. Coercive education is something that many parents are attempting to flee from when they pull their kids out of traditional schools. Unfortunately, many of those parents then use coercion in the homes as well. Parents need to be mindful of how much learning is the result of a hungry child who wants to drive their own education, and how much learning is the result of threats and parental pressure. The more we allow the children to direct their own education the better off the child will likely be (emotionally, intellectually and academically) in the long run.