Why schooling a sardine when you can raise a dolphin?

Our children are the future. The best path, to a better society, is to focus on the young and allow our children to express themselves fully.

We have chosen to “unschool” our two young children. Here are some of the reasons for our decision.

First, let go back to the start. What does school mean? From the dictionary: “a large number of fish or aquatic animals of one kind swimming together”.

Oops, that is one, but you were probably expecting more the following one: “a group of persons who hold a common doctrine or follow the same teacher”.

I love free-diving and I have to say free diving amount a school of millions of fish is one of the most amazing experiences. However, do you really want your child to be one of those mindless fish? I am not sure about you but I would prefer my child to be like a dolphin, swimming freely in the vast ocean in a very playful manner. When you observe a dolphin it seems there are always enjoying themselves. When you watch a school of fish it seems there are always extremely scared of everything.

Most people send their children to school so they can learn knowledge. However, my observation leads me to believe that school before anything is a way to learn behavior. Moreover, in our new area of information technology, knowledge is freely available to anyone having access to the web. Not only do you get access to an infinite body of knowledge but you actually get the best teachers. In school, your children get whatever teachers are assigned to them. Most of us can testify that although we have some memory of amazing teachers, most of them were just average and there are courses, we failed or did not enjoy simply because of the teacher.

The one thing which really bothers my wife and I is the fact that in school children learn to behave a specific way. The first thing they learn from a very early age is to comply with authority without having a chance to define if it is the right thing to do. At no point, the child is presented with an alternative so that they can formulate a choice. In school there is no choice, there is no discovery. There is only a curriculum and that is it. Follow the curriculum and comply. We don’t think that is how our children will become like dolphins.

I have to be honest, I did not like school and indeed school did not like me either. It did not work for me, it felt more like torture every day. I never understood why I need to sit 8 hours a day on a chair listening to things I was not interested in. What surprised me the most is when I started to ask around me, how people felt about their years in school. It seems most people did not like school either. The good memories they have about school are not about the classes they attended, not about what they learned, but mostly the friendship they made. So people didn’t like school but yet send their own children to school because they think it is the only way. It seems there is misalignment here, you are forcing someone to do something you did not like yourself. No wonder most people don’t like their job. We have learned from a young age that is the only way and we need to learn to live with our discomfort and frustration.

There must be a better way! Indeed there is, it is called unschooling. So what is unschooling? It is the belief that children learn best when they are with their parents and are engaged in everyday life and learning through their surroundings and circumstances. It is also referred to as child-led learning, interest-based learning, or delight-directed learning. As with any philosophy of education, unschooling families vary as far as their adherence to unschooling principles is concerned. However, all have a strong desire to instill in their children a lifelong love of learning – a realization that learning never stops. Most like to employ the art of “strewing.” This term refers to ensuring that interesting and engaging materials are readily available in a child’s environment. The practice of strewing creates a learning-rich atmosphere that encourages and facilitates natural curiosity. There are many benefits to unschooling education, for example, stronger retention, build on natural gifts and talents, and strong self-motivation.

From a personal experience, this has been one of the best decisions we made for our children. They are joyful, very curious, extremely talkative. One thing which strikes me the most is that they love to share every day what they have learned. It is often said the best way to learn something is to teach it. They naturally do that every day. Every time they learn something they are so eager to share it with us. I don’t remember that being the case for me when I was young. The other thing which, my wife and I enjoy tremendously is the relationship we have with our children. It seems it is more a friend relationship rather than an authoritative relationship. Since there is no hard schedule, they have the time and space to express themselves, hence even when there is disagreement, there is never build-up frustration since we give them the time to process their emotions. And since we don’t have a specific schedule on our end, as to when they need to learn/know something, we don’t need to put pressure on them to achieve something or reach some kind of milestones. Goals are not necessary in order to learn. in fact, I will go the extent of even saying goals inhibit and slow down the learning process.

Now, let me also put at rest some concerns. “But if you don’t provide guidelines how would they learn the essential things?” Well, first how did people do before school existed? Second, our daughter who is only 5 years old, knows animals that we as parents didn’t even know existed. How is that even possible. I had what most people will call a very good education in a first-world country. The reason is simple, children are naturally curious and if you let them be, they will assimilate so much knowledge at such a rate, that schools could only dream of achieving with the curriculum. They want to learn. All you have to provide them with is the tools. Another thing, I realized by observing my children's learning, is that they find their own balance throughout the day. They might watch an educational video about marine life for one hour and then switch to some simple entertaining video for half an hour. Then go outside play. Then in the afternoon, they come back and watch again that education marine life video until they understand everything. The natural ability they have to learn is quite astonishing when you let them be themselves.

We can’t see a better way to educate children than having them learn through the experiences of life alongside their parents. It is so natural, it is so obvious you ever wonder why we ever invented school. Give your children the time and space they need and your children will be thriving in life more than you can ever conceive.