Education From the Free Eye
Written by Kevin Snavley
All my life I have unschooled. The only thing that could be remotely considered school that I attended was pre-school, and of course, that was all fun and games. That was just life, how things were. I always wondered in the back of my head what it was like to be there, in a school building all day. How horrible it was to sit there for hours on end being lectured by crazy teachers and doing hours of homework. And then somewhere in between most of my friends going to school and me wondering, I got caught up in "catching up" to everyone else. For a while, around age 12, I always wanted to be on-track with the kids at school. It was probably because I felt stupid or less intelligent than them, which really wasn't the case. They just knew more meaningless facts than I did. It took me until last year to finally realize that, and to truly understand the reasons and joys of unschooling. Why it really is so much better than public school.
For as long as I can remember I have had friends that have gone to public school. Always. I've never actually had true unschooling friends aside from my cousins. So in a way, I sort of grew up with slightly hybrid thinking. One defending or longing to be in public school, and one completely against it all with pro-unschooling opinions. My parents always told us why public school is bad, but of course as a kid I'm not really going to understand. I never had the experience to. So I just kind of accepted that it was a bad place that I shouldn't be until I was about 14. Because I didn't go to school I always thought I had horrible writing abilities, and a bus load of other things. I finally made the decision to go to my freshman year of high school so I could figure it all out. Why is public school widely considered better? Why do my parents and unschooling parents everywhere preach it's a bad place to be? Why is unschooling so much better? I got all of my answers.
I would be lying if I said I went 100% percent for personal reasons. I had one friend in particular who was pro-school completely and thought I was wasting my life. In a way, I wanted to prove to her that I could do it, and if/if not it was better than unschooling. I guess up until I started writing this I had forgotten about that completely. I kind of kept the fact that this whole thing was an experiment in the back of my mind. I mean, it did feel nice to be "normal". But is it best? For the sake of writing this I'm going to skip through the school year and spare you the details of explaining the entire 9 months. School was exactly as I expected. Well, the whole face of it was anyway. It wasn't as close to as horrible as my parents said it was. The days went by pretty fast, it wasn't horribly boring, and I got to see my friends. The one thing I noticed the first day though, was how little "socialization" time there is. That's one thing all the kids say, "I get to hang out with my friends!". Definitely not the kind of "hanging out" I was used to. At that point it seemed like a stupid reason to want to be there.
After being there a few weeks, I started to realize the being I truly am. I wasn't stupid, not even close. If anyone was stupid it was the other 90% of the kids that were there. Everyone raved about my writing, my honors English teacher included. I did good in all my classes despite NEVER having a formal lesson in anything. That's when I realized that me, an unschooler, never been "taught" anything that these kids have, is doing better at the game than they are. Pretty ironic, no? Some of my favorite classes were Honors English 1, Japanese 1, and Jazz Choir. Those were the best.
Something I really began to hate about the school days was waking up at 6:30 am, staying there for six hours, then swimming for another 2, before going home to do meaningless homework. The first semester I got pretty lazy, and ended with a 3.3 GPA. Still, better than most kids, but not my best. Second semester I ended with a 3.8. I couldn't stand the fact that I was surrounded by unmotivated, stupid (not the academic way, the general manner they acted) people. Another trend I noticed was "can't". EVERYBODY used that one. The whole 9 months all in all were good for me. Negatives and positives. I learned that what I was doing before was BETTER than what kids at school get, I learned that what my parents told me wasn't completely heresy, I experienced something that I had never done before, the mystery was gone, and best of all, I can now defend the unschooling philosophy without any doubt in my mind and be credible at the same time. I also understood why public school kids act like they do. It's called loss of motivation.
I quickly realized that if I had to endure that shit for 9 years, I probably wouldn't be the person I am today. Friends have told me "you would have been a complete honors student!". I say no, I would've have been a lazy ass bum that wanted nothing more than a couch in life. (Which, I might add I learned a lot from TV. But you get my point. ;P) The thing that made me responsible, smart, and motivated was my unschooling life. And as stupid, annoying, unmotivated, whatever most of the public school kids are, you really can't blame them. While the other public school kids that can relate to me somewhat complain about them as well; they don't understand either. You never really can unless you have lived a free life. (Something else that I realized were the people that I was already friends with, were some of the most intelligent people in the building. How's that for coincidental?) Some personalities are different and can endure 12 years of school plus college, most cannot. Between teachers telling them they're not good enough, and wasting years of their life on something that doesn't really matter, they get fried. Most of the time it goes unnoticed too, you just kind of evaporate. I started to feel the same thing happening to me just in those nine months. Every thought you have, dream you want to fulfill, inspiration that strikes you, it all goes on the back burner, and eventually you just forget how to live any other way altogether.
Would I recommend sending a kid to school? Absolutely not. It's much too easy to lose your way. One thing I would advise though is to find unschooling friends. Would I recommend any other unschoolers go to school? If it's going to do them good like me, sure. If they want to see what it's like, sure. Otherwise, it's going to be a shit hole. Plain and simple. It would be beneficial for everyone to see what it's like, but not everyone can go through it with the same view point. So like everything else in our lives, it's up to us to make that decision. But now here I am, the year I thought would never end completed, and I have to decide what I want to do for the remaining 3. Over the last few days I've really been reflecting about what I truly want. Is it to finish high school, deal with everything I don't like, and benefit from the things I do? Or stop and go straight to college, and focus on what I want with life? That's something I'll be thinking about for a while.
I don't think he has any idea how reassuring his words are. Thank you Kevin!