This is a guest post by Lisa Nielsen. She's in charge of technology and teacher training for the New York City public schools, and she is the author of the book Teaching Generation Text. None of the opinions in this post reflect the views, opinions, or endorsement of her employer.
I’ve been a public school educator for more than a decade, but when parents ask for my advice, I sometimes suggest they leave school. (In fact I published a guide to help teens opt out of school.)
Education reform is happening today, but it's slow. Parents need to do what is in the best interest of their children, right now. For some this means working hard with a school to adapt to meet a child’s needs. (I outline a plan for this in Fix the School, Not the Child.) But many schools are rigid and don’t believe students are entitled to a customized learning experience. It is at this point I suggest parents consider leaving school behind and empowering their children with the freedom to learn what they want in the way that is best for them.
Here are ten reasons why leaving school behind may be the best way for children to find success and happiness.
1. Learning is customized not standardized
- In school learning is standardized to what someone else says is best.
- At home learning is customized to what the child and parent feel is best.
2. Associate with those you enjoy rather than those who share your birth year
- In school students are grouped by date of manufacture.
- At home children can choose to be with those whose company they enjoy.
3. Freedom to learn with their tools
- In school students are often banned from using they tools they love to learn with — such as a cell phone.
- At home children can learn with the tools they choose. For many children technology open doors that schools slam shut.
4. Socialize with those who share your passions not just your zip code
- In school students have little opportunity to socialize and even when they do it is generally confined to those with whom they’ve been grouped with by year and geography.
- At home children have the opportunity to socialize and make global connections with others of any age who share their talents, passions, and interests.
5. Do work you value
- In school students do work someone else wants for someone else’s purpose.
- At home children can engage in meaningful work for reasons they determine are important.
6. Don’t just read about doing stuff. Do it!
- In school students are forced to sit at desks all day reading and answering questions about stuff other people do.
- At home children don’t need to spend their time reading and writing about what other people do. They can go do stuff.
7. Travel when you want
- In school they tell you when to go on vacation and families hop off to crowded destinations together.
- At home families can decide when travelling works best for them and also get better rates.
8. You are more than a number
- In school the only things students have to show for their work are numbers and graphs known as report cards, transcripts, or data reports.
- At home children often put together meaningful portfolios that can be reflected upon and powerfully capture and celebrate learning. This can be done at school, but it rarely happens as little time is left for assessment and reflection after testing and test prep.
9. Real life measures are better than bubble tests
- In school we measure students success with bubble tests and response to prompts.
- At home we measure success by what children accomplish that matters to them. Some teens like Leah Miller have developed their own personal success plan (see hers here). She sets her goals and then assesses her success in meeting them.
10. Independence is valued over dependence
- In school students are dependent on others to tell them what to do and when. They spend their time as compliant workers and are discouraged from questioning authority.
- At home children are encouraged to explore, discover, and develop their own passions and talents and given the freedom to work deeply in these areas. They know how to learn independently because they are interested, not because they are told to do something.
I am passionate about helping children learn innovatively. Home education is a great option to consider for many parents. For more ideas about learning innovatively you can visit The Innovative Educator blog.