Why do I have to learn this?

How many times did we say it over the years of our schooling?  How many times have we heard our children or students say it?

Why do I have to learn this?

And how do we reply?  You’ll need it for the test; you need it for your life; you’ll need it for your transcript; for college; to be a well-rounded person; because the government decided it’s important; because your teacher said so; because I said so.  YOU JUST DO!  SO GO DO IT!  

Is there ever a practical application for knowing the battles of the Revolutionary War off the top of your head (as opposed to taking 5 seconds to google the answer)?

Of course!  When you are a Jeopardy contestant or maybe playing Trivial Pursuit.  Trivial Pursuit.  How do we keep education from becoming a trivial pursuit?

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed my schooling.  I had a good group of friends and great teachers who took their jobs seriously (for the most part).  But we live in a world that is totally different than it was 30 years ago.  Totally different, that is, except for our educational institutions and standards.  As parents, if we don’t have a picture in our minds as to what is important for our children to learn, why they need to learn it, and how it’s most effectively learned, we could be setting them up for future failure.  It’s a lot easier to point the massive ship of education in the right direction when they are young as opposed to trying to turn it around 10 or 12 years later.

Consider these questions about your own education experience:

What did you love about your education?

What did you dislike (hate?) about your education?

What do you wish you could have learned in school?

How are you using (or not using) your education in your life today?

Can you remember a subject that was difficult, but you still loved it?  Why was that?

What motivated you as a child?  What caused you to shut down?

And now reflect on your desires for your children:

How much time do you want to be able to spend with your child outside of school and school-related activities?

How important is it that your child be able to pursue his/her own interests during the school day?

Should testing be emphasized in school?  How much?  Are you willing to opt out of tests if it looks to be unhealthy for your child?

How should the world we live in today shape your child’s education?

By answering the above questions, you will be able to get a general idea of what your core values are in both education and your family.  Think of it more as a compass than a road map.  It will be more important to keep your bearings on your compass over the years than to follow the same route that everyone else may be taking.

For example, if you wish that you had come out of high school with a completely different set of skills than the ones you had, how will that translate into the opportunities you give your child?  If you suffered great anxiety while taking tests in school, is it still a “necessary evil” that you will agree to put your child through?  If you want to make family dinner a priority and take extended family vacations, will loads of homework and a traditional calendar suit your core values?  If you think that the society we live in is technology and innovation driven, then why are students still learning calculus and not coding?

If you haven’t noticed yet, the goal of this post is not to give you any concrete answers.  If anything, its purpose is to get you asking more questions.  There truly is no perfect mode of education.  But this doesn’t mean that we have to simply settle for “the way it’s always been”.  Thankfully there are voices out there (with more authority than mine) who are saying “this is not the way it has to be.”

Each of the following authors/speakers have greatly inspired me in the realm of education.  Collectively, they have done tons of research as to how kids learn, why some schools and systems are failing, and they have also dreamed and experimented with what schools could be.  If you are not a reader, each of the following (except Holt) can also be found on YouTube, TED, and various podcasts.  Just give them a google.

Peter Gray:

Book: Free to Learn

Blog: Freedom to Learn 

Blake Boles:

Books: Why are You Still Sending Your Kids to School, The Art of Self-Directed Learning

Website: blakeboles.com 

Ted Dindersmith: 


Books:  Most Likely to Succeed, What School Could Be

Download your Discussion Guide for What School Could Be (this is a fabulous resource for individual use as well as engaging with schools and communities).

Film:  Most Likely to Succeed


Ted Dintersmith quote.jpg

Tony Wagner:


Books: Most Likely to Succeed, Global Achievement Gap, and Creative Innovators

Film: Most Likely to Succeed

Tony Wagner quote.jpg

Ken Robinson:


Creative Schools, and You, Your Child, and School

Ken Robinson Quote.jpg

John Holt:


How Children Learn, How Children Fail and so many more!

John holt quote.jpg

Again, stop trying to look for the perfect system, or method, or school.  Instead, commit that you will not compromise the core of who your family is (see this post) and who your child is in the name of education.  It’s never too late to change course.  We home educate our children and sometimes I wish that we had more of a consistent daily schedule, but our core family values include prioritizing relationships (in and out of the home) and pursuing individual interests.  Relationships can be messy and intrusive.  Allowing each child to have daily time to pursue what delights their heart makes me a bit scatter-brained.  But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let’s all commit to pursuing education choices that support our core family values and the hearts of our children instead of catering to a system, standard, or philosophy that we don’t really agree with.

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