Lesson in Economics for My 11 Year Old (or, Don’t Hang Up The Clothes you Try On)

A few years ago, I was in a department store with my daughter who was about 8 years old at the time. We were trying on clothes in the changing room. As we finished trying on each item, I laid it neatly on the bench. When we were done with everything, I was gathering my purse and keys to leave when I turned and saw my daughter starting to hang up the clothes we had tried on. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Genevieve, what are you doing?

Genevieve: I’m hanging up the clothes we tried on. The sign says to “Please hang up your clothes”.

Me: Do you want to hang them up?

Genevieve: I don’t know, but the sign says to.

Me: Honey, you know how upsetting it is for Mommy when I see you blindly following signs and instructions without thinking for yourself. You can’t even tell me if you want to hang up the clothes or not, which means you’re just doing what the signs says without thinking for yourself. So, tell me, what do YOU want to do?

Genevieve: Well, I would rather not hang them up but I was just trying to do what the sign said.

Me: When Macy’s starts sending me paychecks, I’ll start hanging up the clothes I try on. But for now, I don’t work for Macy’s and I don’t own Macy’s, so I’m walking out of here in 3 seconds.

Genevieve: Won’t they get mad at us when they see?

Me: Firstly, that doesn’t matter because we don’t work for Macy’s so they can’t fire us. We’re customers and they need our business so we call the shots here. Secondly, what we’re doing is good for us, good for Macy’s employees and good for the country and our economy. I will explain all of that to you when you’re older.

Fast forward to last week. Genevieve is now 11 and, thankfully, hasn’t attempted to hang up clothes in a changing room in years because she doesn’t work there and usually doesn’t feel like doing it. Of course, I’m super proud of her for making advances in her independent thinking (But, we still have a long way to go because I often catch her exhibiting non-thinking, rule following behavior that is beyond baffling to me since I teach, and model, the exact opposite to her. I’ll go ahead and blame this rogue behavior on her father.)

At this point, you might think I’m teaching my daughter to misbehave or to behave somewhat rudely. On the contrary, I’m teaching her how to be generous to herself, to the store employees and their families, and to our country.

These days, when we’re trying on clothes, we often joke with each other. “Genevieve, aren’t you forgetting to hang up the clothes?”. “Mommy, I don’t work here”. She’s fun!

We recently had another conversation about the hanging up of clothes in department stores:

Genevieve: When the sign in the changing room says to hang up the clothes, I know we don’t do it because we don’t work here and we don’t feel like it. But, does that mean the employees get in trouble?

Me: Think about it this way….if everyone hung up their own clothes, the store would need fewer employees. So, no, the employees won’t get in trouble. The employees will get to keep their jobs because we aren’t doing their jobs for them for free. Of course, the store wants us to hang up the clothes – they’ll take any free work if they can get it. That’s why the sign is there. But, if we do it, we will hurt the employees when they get fired because the store no longer needs them.

Genevieve: Well if the store employees get fired because we are hanging up our own clothes for free, then that will mean that the store won’t have to pay those employees anymore and they should lower the prices of our clothes. So, isn’t that good for us?

Me: If that actually happened, it could benefit us. But, that isn’t how it works. If the store finds a way to save money, it won’t usually pass that savings on to the customers in the form of lower prices. The store will use that money saved for other purposes – most likely to increase their profits, which may increase their stock price and have an indirect benefit to us (if we own that stock) and the economy.

Genevieve: So, if we do the employee’s job for free and they get fired, how will they get money to live?

Me: They may not be able to find another job. They may end up needing government help which means some of my paycheck will go to them in the form of paying taxes. So, let’s look at what we’ve done by hanging up clothes and blindly following the sign…we’ve wasted 10 minutes of our day on a task we didn’t want to do…we got an employee fired because we decided to do their job for free…we hurt the economy because that employee no longer makes money so she doesn’t buy things which means someone who “makes things” may soon be without a job too…and the cycle continues. And, to top it off, our “thanks” for blindly following the sign without thinking is that we also get to spend more of my hard-earned money on taxes to help this chain of employees we just got fired.

Genevieve: It should be illegal to have those signs in stores! I won’t ever hang up my clothes!

Sweet! Let’s get out of here and use our extra 10 minutes of free time to buy stuff!

My (Previous) Addiction to Mainstream News made me Close-Minded, Ignorant and Uninformed

When I was in my 20s and early 30s I was a news junkie.  I watched mainstream news on TV when I was getting ready for work in the morning.  During my lunch hour, I’d run out to my car so I could listen to news on the radio.  I couldn’t wait to get out of work and start my drive home so I could catch up on the news.  I had news on the TV in the background, all evening long.

I loved listening to the news and watching it.  I derived a lot of enjoyment from discussing the current events of the day with my friends.  The guys I dated were equally hooked on news and we’d debate issues for hours.  News was a huge part of my life and I felt detached and drifty if I missed a couple days of it.

Furthermore, I judged people who weren’t into the news, poorly.  I had friends who never watched the news.  They didn’t know what was going on in the world and they didn’t seem to care.  I could not figure out why they would choose to be so uninformed, and we would argue about it.  In the end, I decided that maybe they just weren’t intelligent enough to “get” the news.  Maybe they weren’t intelligent enough to comprehend what was being said.  Maybe they weren’t intelligent enough to care about anything other than what was in their own backyard. I recall talking about them to other people like this “I just can’t talk to so-and-so anymore.  She doesn’t even want to know what’s going on in the world around her.  I don’t get how someone would choose to remain in the dark.  I mean, you can’t even have a normal conversation with her because she doesn’t know anything – there’s nothing to really talk about”.

Unfortunately, it took me until my mid 30s to figure out how very wrong I was.  I’m not in touch with any of those friends anymore but if I were I would be telling them “You were right and I was wrong. I’m sorry I judged you.”

People sometimes say things like this to me,

“But when you first had your daughter, how did you know that you could choose to not vaccinate?  How did you know to start researching it all?  I mean, when I had my kids, I just thought it was something you had to do – I would have never thought to look into it”.

Or, they’ll say,

“Who told you about homeschooling?  I didn’t even know there were options – nobody told me about it.  How did you know to look into the possibilities and options instead of just sending your kid to school like everyone else does?”

And the real answer to those kinds of questions is that I never would have known about the possibilities and options if I hadn’t first given up mainstream news – completely and totally.  In my mid 30s I met someone who challenged my commitment to the news. Initially, I wanted to dismiss this person as yet another uninformed, purposely-ignorant being, who I didn’t want to waste time on.  But, for a variety of reasons, I couldn’t and I didn’t.  I ended up agreeing to give up news for 1 month.  I agreed not to read it, watch it, or listen to it. I couldn’t even pause briefly, on a station that was broadcasting anything related to news or current events.

I was convinced that the world would pass me by in that month…that so much would go on and I would never be able to catch up.  It was overwhelming to think that after the news-free month was over, I would have to spend all my free time reading, watching, and listening to catch up on all that I missed.  In addition, I didn’t know what I would talk about with people, or what I would do with my time.  I truly enjoyed watching, reading, and listening and I liked the role that news played in my life.  I thought my world would lack color, interest, and purpose without it.

I remember the first week being incredibly difficult.  I almost gave up because I thought…why am I purposely making myself ignorant…this is a ridiculous experiment.  But, I stuck with it because it was only a month and I knew I should be able to do it. Plus, I knew that once the month was over, I’d do whatever was necessary to catch up and get back to a good place where I was in-the-know again.

But, I never did catch back up. So much happened in that news-free month.  I learned an enormous amount about everything.  I started thinking for myself.  I began to realize that mainstream news is just entertainment like anything else on TV.  It’s orchestrated, controlled, and dished out for our consumption and entertainment.  I woke up.

Not only did watching the news take up a lot of my time, it also absorbed much of my mental real estate.  I spent time thinking about the news, forming opinions about the stories I heard, getting upset about issues, becoming passionate about issues.  The news played a big role in my daily moods. Once upon a time, I could justify all of this under the guise of “being informed” but as it became clear that the news wasn’t any more real than a reality TV show, and was mostly a form of entertainment that adhered to someone else’s agenda, I could no longer justify the time or energy spent on it.

More important than the wasted time and mental space, was the fact that watching the news was making me dumber and prohibiting me from thinking for myself.  It was spoon-feeding me information based on an agenda that wasn’t my own.  I was so convinced the stories and issues were real, and had an important place in my life and the world, that I didn’t see what was happening.  But, by keeping my mind occupied with the stories, issues, and drama that were a part of someone else’s agenda, I was not fully capable of knowing what was real and what wasn’t – I simply accepted what I was fed and didn’t question it.  I liken it to someone who is in a cult.  When you’re part of the cult, getting continuous input on what is right and wrong , what you should and shouldn’t do, what you should and shouldn’t think, how you should behave….it can all seem so real and so very important. It is only when you break totally free of the cult, that you begin to think for yourself and see what was going on.

When I was watching the news on a regular basis, I never would have considered homeschooling, homebirth, or not vaccinating because I had the “go with the flow” mentality.  I never would have thought to reject GMOs or eat organic food, or use herbs instead of prescriptions.  While the news channels may not do stories that blatantly urge us to vaccinate, participate in public schooling, eat GMO corn, take 20 different prescription medications per day, or anything else that is considered mainstream, the message is always there in the background, very subtly guiding us toward a life that reflects someone else’s agenda. It’s like a slow and systematic brainwashing that can lull you into complacency.  There’s no reason to think for yourself when someone else is doing the thinking for you and telling you exactly what you need to hear to ensure you think, act, and behave in accordance with an agenda. When I stopped partaking in the news, I saw things that were invisible to me before.  I had new and unique ideas and thoughts. I started doing my own research into a wide variety of topics.  I saw new opportunities and possibilities.  I had clarity.

After I gave up mainstream news (about 11 years ago), I did try to dabble in it lightly, here and there.  But, knowing that it’s mostly a form of entertainment caused me to lose interest.  If I’m going to watch something on TV for entertainment, I’d rather watch Seinfeld reruns or the Big Bang Theory. And, knowing that it causes me to be less capable of having original thoughts and ideas, or think entirely for myself, makes it impossible for me to dabble lightly. I used to be so afraid of missing something by not tuning in, but instead, I ended up missing everything.  I’m not uninformed now – I’m more informed than ever would have been possible while mired in mainstream news.

Reason to Homeschool #10 – Destructiveness of Competition and Fake Goals

My 10th reason for homeschooling is due to the competitive nature of school.  I don’t want my daughter competing for grades, competing for the teacher’s attention or competing for popularity.  It all detracts from the process of learning, and creates end-goals that have nothing to do with learning.

Competition means that a person can succeed only if others fail.  Many people believe that some amount of competition is good – they believe that there’s a time and place for competition, and they call those instances “healthy competition”.  Many of us were raised to believe that competitive environments help us to do our best work.  These things may or may not be true…I don’t want to get into a broad discussion on the good/evil of competition, but one thing that has been proven over and over, is that competition in educational settings is destructive.

In 65 studies done between 1924 and 1980, all found that children learn better when they work cooperatively as opposed to competitively. And, the more complex the learning task, the worse children performed, in a competitive environment. In addition to performing poorly when trying to learn in a competitive environment, creativity also suffers.  There have been multiple studies on creativity over the years whereby some children were rewarded for drawing/painting/writing and others weren’t.  In all cases, once rewards were introduced (i.e. competition for awards), children’s creativity went down – they produced results that were less complex, less varied, and less spontaneous. And, they were less interested in the task itself, which was previously an enjoyable task.

Every aspect of traditional schooling is based on competition, despite decades of studies proving that learning is decreased in these environments. Competition often makes children anxious and it interferes with concentration.  Competition teaches children not to share their talents and resources with others and to hoard them – they come to view other children as obstacles to their own success.  Competition distracts children from the real goal, which is to learn, and instead, has them focusing on “winning”.  When a student is focused on earning that gold star or that A, she becomes less interested in how she achieves her goal – it’s only important that she does.  Of course, when what is learned is less important that the reward, this leads to cheating.

Additional studies have proven that educational competition creates children who are less generous, less empathetic, and have difficulty taking the perspective of others.  Their self-worth is dependent on external sources of evaluation, and they feel they are defined by what they’ve achieved and are only valued if they “do well”.

Traditional schools seem uninterested in children’s learning.  Their focus is on teaching children how to compete with each other, and to groom children to value the reward instead of the process. And, they have succeed.  Children have learned what schools have been teaching – they know how to copy homework from the “smart” kids and they know how to cheat.  In 2009, 60% of middle school students, and 75% of college students, said they cheat regularly. Of course, many students who claimed they don’t cheat, actually do cheat but didn’t want to admit it, so we can assume those numbers to be much higher than reported.  The number one reason they cheat is reported to be the stress and pressure to get good grades. The goal is to get good grades and students are doing what is necessary to reach the goal.  If traditional schools continue to do their job this well, we should expect to see nearly 100% of students saying they’ve successfully learned how to cheat.

By homeschooling my child, I’m able to put the value where it belongs…on what is learned… on the process of learning…on the value of collaborative learning, and cooperative learning…on the value of acquiring knowledge…on the value of knowing how to learn.  I’m able to stress the importance of imagination, innovation, and creativity without wrapping it all up in competition and fake, distracting goals, in the form of gold stars and As.

Reason to Homeschool #9 – Fear of Failing

Another reason I homeschool is because I don’t want my daughter to have a fear of failing.  In addition, I don’t want her to adopt a poor definition of the word “failing”.  I want her to seek to take risks, learn to cope with uncertainty, and celebrate the learning that comes from mistakes.

In school, the word “failure” is used to mean that a student hasn’t met the expectations of an authority figure.  Students feel pressure to meet their expectations even when they don’t understand why the expectations exist, and even when they may disagree that the expectations are valid or necessary.  Expectations of school authority figures include things like walking quietly in the hallways, doing all assigned homework, studying for tests and getting passing grades, etc. Since failure is defined as not meeting expectations, students try to figure out how to meet those expectations.

When students are focused on meeting school expectations (to avoid failure), they are left with very little room to take risks.  They are left thinking mistakes are something to avoid. Taking risks lead to mistakes and mistakes are viewed as failure.  It makes sense that students try to always color within the lines because that is a path without uncertainty, risks, or exposure to mistakes and failure.

The definition of the word “failing” that school students adopt is not the true definition.  Students in school view mistakes as failing.  And, when they don’t satisfy school authority figures, that’s also considered failing.  To me, these things are not failure.  Mistakes are necessary for true learning to take place.  They shouldn’t be associated with failure.  And, satisfying authority figures by successfully jumping through a series of hoops isn’t really success, but schools define it that way.  If the hoops you have to jump through don’t reward risk taking, or encourage coping with uncertainty, or celebrate mistakes that lead to learning, then how can success be achieved by jumping through them and satisfying the authority figure?  Failure to satisfy the authority figures seems like much more of a success to me than a failure.

There are many times in life where we really and truly need to avoid mistakes, and we must seek to reduce risks and uncertainty.  But, if ever there’s a time when we should aggressively seek to take risks and encounter uncertainty in order to make mistakes that lead to great learning, childhood should be that time. In school though, children become risk adverse.  They’re conditioned to avoid uncertainty and risks because they lead to mistakes and “failure”.

In school, there’s a high cost attached to failure.  Getting good grades is stressed above all else.  Childhood should be a time when the cost of making mistakes is the lowest – when the cost of taking an uncalculated risk is the lowest. Childhood should be a time where kids feel free to try something new and see what happens, and if it doesn’t work out, then oh well, no big deal.

If kids spend their school years learning to fear mistakes and avoid failure, in an effort to please school authority figures, how will they respond to mistakes and failure as adults?  If they are conditioned to avoid uncertainty and risks, will they avoid taking risks to minimize mistakes, as well as minimize true learning?

One of the reasons I homeschool is because I want my daughter to view risk taking as appealing, and view mistakes as helpful.  I want there to be a very low cost associated with taking risks and making mistakes.  I want her to make mistakes over and over and over so that she can cope with what she may view as failure, and view mistakes as necessary and helpful.  I don’t want her to feel like she’s got to play within certain boundaries all in an effort to avoid mistakes and please authority figures – she needs to feel free to go way out of bounds and see what happens and learn from that.

Reason to Homeschool #8 – Relaxed and Healthy Lifestyle

Another one of my reasons for homeschooling is that I want a relaxed and healthy lifestyle for my family. A school schedule doesn’t allow for a relaxed lifestyle, and some of what goes on in school conflicts with having a healthy lifestyle.

I’m happy that my daughter is able to wake up whenever her body tells her she’s ready.  She’s 9 now, and I don’t ever recall having to wake her up for anything.  She’s free to get as much sleep as her body needs. A couple of years ago, she would wake up around 6:00 a.m., stay up for an hour, and then go back to sleep for another 2 hours.  Now, she wakes up around 6:30 or 7:00 just about every day.  I suspect that will change in a couple of years, and I may find her sleeping until 9:00 every day.  Our homeschooling lifestyle allows us to accommodate her changing needs for sleep.

In addition, I like that we have the ability to schedule our vacations whenever we want to, without having to consider a school schedule.  It’s nice to take vacations when everyone is in school – it’s much less expensive during the off-season, and there are never any crowds or lines.  We can take twice as many vacations each year because we save so much money by scheduling them during the off-season.  And, they are more enjoyable when there are no crowds or lines. We also plan our local trips to museums, parks, skating rinks, ceramic studios, bounce houses, and theaters, in the middle of the day when we know the schools are in session.

Accommodating our sleep needs, and  keeping stress levels down by having a relaxed schedule, are two examples of how we like to stay healthy.  But, we also focus a lot on nutrition. We don’t watch TV for a variety of reasons and one of the nice side effects of that, is not being blasted with commercials for unhealthy food and restaurants.  About 3 years ago, I overheard some moms talking at a park, about how hard it was to take their kids grocery shopping because they’d demand to have the sugary cereals they saw on TV.  And, how they had to avoid driving down certain roads because their kids would see McDonald’s and beg to stop.  I was glad that I couldn’t relate to that since my daughter had no idea what those things were.  If she were in school though, she would be getting unhealthy input from teachers and students, not to mention seeing candy machines, soda machines, and junk food in the cafeteria. All of that would make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for me to impart healthy habits, which is so important when they’re young.

There are other aspects of our relaxed and healthy lifestyle that we get to preserve by homeschooling.  I believe that exposure to nature, on a daily basis, is essential for well-being.  By homeschooling, we can be outside, interacting with nature, for much of the day, whereas in school, she’d be inside almost all day long.  In addition, we treat illnesses as naturally as possible (white willow bark for aches, pains, fever…raw honey for wounds, colds, sore throats…raw apple cider vinegar for bacterial infections, sunburns, heartburn…coconut oil for sunburns, dry skin, viruses, etc.)  If she were in school and got a scrape, or sore throat, she may be given something unnecessarily harsh.

The various facets of our lifestyle that get preserved by homeschooling, may seem like “nice to haves” rather than something more serious. But, the freedom to live a relaxed, natural, and healthy lifestyle, without unnecessary outside interference, sets the tone for all aspects of our lives. This gives me, as a mother, the ability to be my daughter’s main influencer in these areas; to shape daily habits and beliefs and expectations that will, hopefully, persist throughout her life.

Reason to Homeschool #7 – Integrated Subjects

As most of us are aware, subjects in school are divided into isolated topic areas. In a typical school setting, children move from one subject (class) to the next and they form opinions about those subjects. They might love Art and not like History. They might think they’re good at Math but not at Science.

Before children enter school, they learn in a holistic way. They relate the new material they are learning to something they already know and it’s all anchored in context and meaning. For example, when a child sets the table for dinner, the goal is to have dinner and setting the table is just a step towards that goal. The child learns that there are four people in the family so they need four plates and four forks and four napkins. If they pull out three forks, they learn that pulling out one more will equal four. It’s not “math” to them; they are setting the table for dinner, learning, feeling helpful, and having fun. Because the activity has context and meaning, they are more apt to remember the math that helped them obtain their goal. Had the child been taught how to add, in an isolated way, it would have taken much longer for it to “stick” and recalling it would be more difficult.

Children are whole people. When we look at them we don’t look intensely at one arm, and then at one foot, and then at the neck and consider each part separately. When we look out at the ocean we don’t focus first on the smell, and then move on to the feel of the air, and then move on to the color of the water. We take it all in as a whole with all parts interacting and relating to each other in a way that creates the entire, memorable scene.

Success in all aspects of life, is dependent upon how well we pull tougher a variety of elements. And, it’s not necessary or preferable to first learn each subject in an isolated way and then pull it all together.  People learn faster and retain more, when learning groups of skills and topics at the same time because it provides the context needed for retention and acceleration.

For example, let’s say we have a tennis pro and an amateur tennis player. The tennis pro is well-known and at the top of her game. The amateur is taking lessons. That amateur can be taught to have a perfect forehand and a perfect backhand and a perfect serve. In fact, on a skill-by-skill basis, many amateurs have been proven to have much better skills than the pros, when you isolate them individually. If an amateur were to execute each isolated skill just as well as a pro, we wouldn’t expect them to actually be as good as a pro.  We know that success depends on the pulling together of those skills.  In addition, when pros are asked how they got to be so good, they frequently say things like “I never really focused on individual skills – I just loved the game so much that I played a lot.  It’s generally within the context of the whole game, that each individual skill was perfected and not the other way around.

When children are young, they learn in a holistic way, and they retain what they’ve learned. A child learning to walk isn’t fully focused on perfecting that task. They’re just trying to figure out how to get across the room to grab the cookie which requires more skills than just walking.  When they learn to read, it’s not for the sake of reading.  It’s because they want to understand signs and books.  When they learn colors, they don’t focus on it because someone says it’s important to know.  They’re trying to differentiate between various objects in their world.

Learning is not the goal for young children but a means to getting to a goal.  As soon as learning becomes the goal, and is broken into subjects and topics, without meaningful purpose and context, children tune out.   They start forgetting and they begin to dread classes, and they lose interest – possibly forever.

Learning is all about relationships and connections. Relationships and connections are not at all in sync with isolated school subjects. Isolating subjects is about rejecting relationships and denying connections. Learning that is grounded in context, meaning, and purpose, will come about easily and naturally and last a lifetime. However, the learning program must be highly individualized.

Homeschooling allows me to use my daughter’s near-term goals to provide purpose, meaning and motivation.  I can then help her pursue the skills required to get to the goal in a related and connected way.  I’m able to carefully monitor what is being learned as well as being able to see the subtle changes in her goals and what she values, and continuously cater to her interests and needs with new learning nuggets that will fit in seamlessly and “stick” with her. I can also avoid having her ever think or say self-limiting phrases like “I don’t like Math” or “I’m not good at Science.

Reason to Homeschool #6 – Enjoy your Moments

Much of my childhood was wasted because I was in school for six to eight hours a day for twelve straight years. The reason I say that it was wasted is because it was spent, almost entirely, in preparation for becoming something.  I’m not against preparation. What I am against is devaluing the days and moments of childhood and placing primary importance on preparation for adulthood.

Children are not adults in waiting.  It’s true that they need to acquire the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that will allow them to become well-adjusted, happy adults. But, does that process really have to take seventy-five percent of their daily focus for twelve years? Does that process require that we devalue their childhood and devalue their opinions about what they want to do with their time? Does that process have to mean that they trade their daily wishes and desires for preparation?

Children aren’t striving to become whole. A child is whole and complete as they are, in this very moment. Their opinions count every day and at every age. Schooling makes children believe they aren’t yet whole and their opinions don’t count and they don’t yet fully matter as human beings. Why does schooling make them believe this? Because every day is spent preparing, preparing, preparing. They prepare for quizzes, they prepare for tests, they prepare for grades, they prepare to move to the next grade, and they prepare to move to the next school. All of their time is future focused. We teach them that the present does not matter.  So, they prepare, and prepare, and prepare. Preparing becomes a way of life. So much so, they don’t even stop to think about it anymore; it’s just the way things are meant to be. Children aren’t good enough today. But they will be tomorrow, next year, three years from now, twelve years from now…

Soon enough, you have a lifestyle almost fully focused on the future, devaluing your momentsyour nows. And, what is all of this preparation for? Supposedly, it is so that you can enjoy your moments. The idea is if you spend enough time preparing, you’ll get to a point where you can take in a deep breath and start appreciating your moments. But, how could that possibly ever happen? You’ve never learned that moments count and that now matters. So, even when you are done with school, you are so future-focused that you then prepare for the next thing and then for the next thing.

I’ve always liked this saying:  “Life is what happens while you are preparing to live”.  So, if you aren’t enjoying your preparation then you aren’t enjoying your life.  I like this one too: “First I was dying to finish high school and start college. And then, I was dying to finish college and start working.  And then, I was dying to marry and have children. And, then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then, I was dying to retire. And now, I’m just dying. And suddenly, I realize, I forgot to live.”

Children have as much to teach adults as we have to teach them. Rather than keeping them focused on busy work, with the intent of preparing them for the future, let them live and experience and teach and grow today, in this moment.   This is not to say that we shouldn’t be preparing them for the future.  But, we can do that without forcing them to sacrifice their todays for their tomorrows, and while encouraging them to focus on their present moments. If every “today” is spent planning and preparing, than tomorrow never actually comes.

I want my daughter to live fully now, today. And, I want her to be prepared for the future as well. But, I never want her to sacrifice her todays for her tomorrows. There is a way to meet both goals.  By homeschooling, I’m able to encourage her enjoyment of the vast majority of her moments, while sprinkling in the things that will help her become a successful adult.  My definition of a successful adult, is a happy adult – the goal is happiness.  If my daughter reaches her goal today and learns how to be happy in her moments, than she’s prepared for the future.  If she’s achieved her goal today (happiness), that doesn’t mean she won’t be happy in the future because she won’t be adequately prepared.  Instead, because she’s learned that moments count, and she’s learned what makes her moments happy ones, she’s prepared to continue that trend in her future, creating situations that provide her with happy moments.

Reason to Homeschool #5 – Real World Socialization

I don’t like the whole “socialization” thing so I’ll keep this short, but it is one of the main reasons I homeschool.  I want my daughter to have real world socialization.  That means, the kind of socialization that is reflected in all of society.  It’s funny to me that some people who don’t homeschool point to socialization as a potential problem with homeschooling.  In fact, homeschooling is the answer to the real problem of staged school socialization.

In the real world, the people who are in charge, are not always older and they aren’t always adults. The people who do the listening, obeying and following, are not always younger.  And, your peers are not your same age, or even close to it. When grouping occurs in real life, it’s almost never by age, but by skills, interests, experiences, location.

In addition, in the real world, there isn’t one set of rules that only the younger people must obey, and everyone isn’t striving to reach the same goals.  There are multiple sets of rules, goals, and objectives, all intersecting and conflicting at the same time, and age is completely irrelevant for the most part. I’ve never looked around a grocery store or mall and discovered that the shoppers are all my age. At work, some of my employees are a lot older than me and others are a lot younger. My employees all have different goals and objectives. I’ve had managers who are both older and younger. The age range of my co-workers varies by at least 25 years in either direction. The instructor of my Yoga class is practically a child but yet, I’m following her instructions. Some of my friends are 15 years younger than me and others are 15 years older. In the real world, we have to interact with people of every age, and talk appropriately to the very young and the very old. We recognize that every individual has vastly different goals and objectives guiding their lives, so they may act in ways we cannot predict or understand. We need to collaborate with people of different ages, who have conflicting goals and objectives, who are following their own set of rules.

Homeschooling socializes children in the real world.  They are not in a staged environment for most of their day – they are actually living, learning, socializing, and interacting in the real world. Homeschooled children interact with people of different ages and in different environments on a daily basis. They interact with animals and nature. Their daily lives include encounters with a wide variety of people in their neighborhood and in stores, libraries, and parks.  Nearly every community has an abundance of homeschool clubs and classes that are offered during the day.  Local libraries offer homeschool reading groups, art studios offer homeschool classes, skating rinks offer homeschool skate times, dance studios offer homeschool classes, gyms offer homeschool play times.  Most communities have multiple homeschool sports leagues, homeschool proms, homeschool Girl Scout troupes, and homeschool 4-H clubs. If that’s not enough, nearly every community has multiple homeschool co-ops which offer every class imaginable for every skill level desired.  And, these activities are rarely broken up by age the way school classes are.

Homeschooling allows children to interact in the real world all day long, encountering people of every age, taking direction from younger people, giving direction to older people, conflicting with and collaborating with people with very different goals.   There’s nothing artificial or staged about it.

Reason to Homeschool #4 – What’s Going on Outside of School

As adults we are fully aware of the value of time. We carefully weigh our options and look at the pros and cons of selecting one activity over another. When we choose to engage in a particular activity at the expense of another, we look at the opportunity lost by not engaging in the other activity. We spend a lot of time figuring out the best use of our time, and it should be that way.  How we spend our time is extremely important; we don’t have much of it and we can’t waste it.

Is a child’s time any less valuable than an adult’s? I would argue that it’s actually more valuable. We only think it’s less valuable because children are young and we envision them as having an endless supply of time. The way children spend their time is what defines their lives and shapes who they will become as adults. Once they become adults, how they spend their time doesn’t have nearly as profound an impact.

When I look back at my childhood, do I think it was a good use of my time to be in school for six to seven hours a day, and then do one to three hours of homework each day for twelve years? Overall, I had really positive school experiences. But, was it a good use of my time? No, it wasn’t – but not because of the things I spent my time doing while in school.  Rather, because of what I missed while in school.

Comprehending everything we learned in school, even the useless material, did not require six to seven hours per day, plus homework time. We could have learned it all in much less than a quarter of that time, if it were taught outside a school environment, and at a time when interest and cognitive ability were in alignment. Currently, homeschool families are guided toward spending no more than one to two hours per day, per child, on teaching/learning activities, if their goal is to stay in step with local school districts.

True learning occurs primarily while navigating through interactions with new people, new environments, new situations, and new feelings.  Real life involves these things on a daily basis. School is staged. It’s a practice area for life rather than a place to live life. It’s not even a realistic practice area.  The kids in the classroom are all the same age, and they all follow one set of rules that an adult dictates to them. The environment remains the same every day, and there are few unique situations that require unique solutions. The material is carefully crafted and fed to the children. Furthermore, much of what is “taught” in school is actually not being learned; it’s being memorized. It’s no great feat to memorize thousands of facts, or learn to do any task that can be broken down into a repeatable process. These things only have value if you can place them within context, give them meaning, and use them in the “big picture”, which is achieved through living life.

When we spend six to seven hours in this poorly staged setting each day, there isn’t enough time to live life and learn.  There is no substitute for actually living and actually experiencing. It can’t be staged.

The most important thing for a child to learn is how to be creative. All of life is based on creation.  Being creative requires a solid relationship with self, and draws upon the true nature of the soul. Creativity requires a good imagination and intrinsic motivation. If a child has a good imagination and is creative, everything else will follow – all other intellectual knowledge will come as the child seeks it out.

So, what does a child miss while spending all of those hours in school and with homework? One of the things they miss out on is family time. More than three decades of research shows that families have greater influence over a child’s success in life than any other factor, including schools. Children learn the most, not from people who teach them, but from people who talk with them. In families, people talk with each other. When children are homeschooled, they get to be with family members for the majority of their day. Family members, who care about them, talk with them, understand them, and empathize with them. Family members, who provide real life living and learning, who help make up an environment that inspires curiosity and interest.

What else does a child miss out on? Time to live; time that could be spent interacting with people of all ages within the context of normal life; time that could be spent outside, interacting with nature; time that could be spent encountering an endless stream of unique situations and experiences; time that could be spent developing a superb imagination; time that could be spent letting intrinsic motivation be a guide toward tasks and activities; time that could be spent creating. Imagination and creativity are a person’s main tools for creating their reality, and ultimately determine their success.

Reason for Homeschooling #3 – Depth of Learning

One of the things I remember most about school was the bells, along with the other indicators that it was time to move on to the next class. I remember many occasions where I was sitting in class and finally “getting it” with a subject and then a bell would ring and a teacher would nonchalantly tell us to pack up our things and move to the next class.

What do bells in school teach us? When they ring, it’s time to stop what you are doing, put everything away, and move on to the next class, activity, or task. Whatever you’re doing becomes unimportant when the bell rings. It doesn’t matter how much you liked what you were doing; it doesn’t matter how much you were learning; it doesn’t matter that you just now had an “ah-ha” moment with the task; and it doesn’t matter that you wanted to continue with the task. School bells teach us that the interest we have in a topic and the amount of time we want to spend with a topic are unimportant.  School bells teach us not to delve too deeply into anything because the bell will ring and we’ll have to move on anyway.

Even if we are interested, we purposely try not to become too engrossed because we know the bell is not far off. When this happens all day, every day, we develop an inability to engage in a task deeply enough to become truly interested and passionate about it. We learn to just skim the surface of all topics; to do just enough to get by.

Over the years, many researches have asked the question “what would you do, if you no longer had to work?” and found that an overwhelming majority of people have no idea what they’d be interested in doing, if they no longer had to work.  There are a number of books available that are designed to help people discover what their interests and passions are because, not only don’t we know what we’re interested in, apparently we have no idea how to find that out on our own.

I want my child to be able to follow her interests to the level and depth she desires. If she becomes thoroughly engrossed in astrology and spends days and nights looking through her telescope and reading astrology books then I don’t want that interest minimized or halted. I want her to get as deeply involved as she wants and only when she’s ready to move on, will she have to do so.

It’s important to me that she learns to follow her interests, glean everything she wants to out of a topic, and then make her own decision about when to move on to something else. It’s of lesser importance to me, that she becomes adept at skimming the surface of multiple topics. It’s of lesser importance to me that she learns to quickly cast aside an interest at the whim of someone else. I’m not at all interested in putting her into an environment where she’s told that it’s extremely important to learn X, Y, and Z, but only during this particular hour and only until someone else says “time’s up”.

By homeschooling my daughter, I’m able to carefully watch her interests and allow her to delve as deeply into topics as she chooses. I’m able to see when she’s finally “getting it” and I can allow her all the time and space she needs to fully explore the subject. I send the message that her interests are important and she is free to spend as much time learning something as she wants.