You are lying to yourself if you think education is not for employment. Because if education were just for the love of learning, then definitely, you could leave your kid alone to learn whatever the kid loves to learn. Human beings are naturally curious and we naturally love to learn. Our brains are relatively huge. We don’t need to worry about birthing kids who are not natural learners.

Which means we educate kids so that they have a good future.

We can debate forever what a good future is, but you probably want your kid to be able to either support themselves or marry someone who can support them. Either goal is fine. In fact, maybe we should train kids to find a rich partner, since for a lot of kids, that’s probably their best path through adult life. (Really – some people were born to be caretakers.)

So let’s say you are not educating your kid to be a stay-at-home parent. Let’s say you are educating your kids to have a lot of career paths open to him as an adult. Curriculum is not going to help you in meet that goal. Here’s why:

1. Curriculum no longer gets respect from top-tier universities.
Forbes explains that schools don’t want well rounded kids, they want well rounded classes of kids. Which means that each kid has to specialize in a certain type of knowledge. This is an explicit endorsement for ignoring national curricula. Because schools don’t accept kids based on the fact that they have learned all the subjects. In fact, schools accept kids who focused on something completely outside the national curricula. It’s appealing.

2. Curriculum assumes kids learn by reading and not doing. 
For me, this photo of my son in a bookstore is heaven. I could sit in the bookstore all day. But he actually has no interest in learning by reading; (he’s an ESFP and) he learns by doing. So he pulls out a how to dance book and does dance moves in the aisle while I read. Sometimes I think he does not need any subject. He learns through reading only when he needs information to do something. So for him, curriculum would only make sense divided into doing topics rather than thinking topics.

In today’s school environment, the emphasis is learning by reading (much less expensive than doing) so the kids who are destined to grow up as do-ers rather than thinkers (professional athletes, gardeners, stage crew, etc) will find themselves ill-prepared for anything they could make a good living doing.

3. Kids who learn outside of curricula are better at learning as adults. Self-directed learners are lifelong learners, and the people who stay most employable in the workforce are people who somehow know what they should learn next and do it without being told. Kids who have a curricula laid out in front of them and they do what they told and learn what other people want them to learn are not exhibiting any skills we admire outside of the military.

Lisa Nielsen writes that public education is only right for the compliant, and one of the reasons for this is that you get told what to learn. There is an infinite amount of information in the world to learn. There is no single “correct” set of things to know. People who think there is one, single set of knowledge are simple, uncreative thinkers. They may have other strengths, but they shouldn’t be guiding peoples’ learning.

4. Curriculum is inside the box thinking.
School teaches students to think in terms of English and math, and if you can’t think that way, people start to have low expectations for you. Kids who want to be successful in life – kids with that drive – will conform to what people tell them is success. And teachers will, in turn, show high expectations for the kids who are best at conforming, and this encourages them to go deeper into the box. The Guardian points out that it is these high expectations of students, tied to curricula, that are so powerful they are able to diminsh the benefits of high expectations.

5. Thinking in terms of discreet subjects squashes creativity.
Fast Company has a great article about why people get more creative in their thinking. In general, creativity stems from combining disparate ideas: “Your most creative insights are almost always the result of taking an idea that works in one domain and applying it to another.” Teaching kids that when you study one subject you think about that subject teaches them that cross-pollinating has no reward.

Also, most people who teach subject by subject are also testing subject by subject, and subject based tests don’t promote cross contexting because it would invalidate the results. You can’t test math in a history course because what if all the other kids haven’t learned that math?

But in the world of self-directed learning, anything you learn you can use. And that’s the way adult life works.

35 replies
  1. Julie
    Julie says:

    That all makes perfect sense and yet it is so hard to accept. No curricula. No reading unless you want to. Just go out and learn. It must be all those years in public school, no creativity left in me. What about algebra I say!

    The Forbes article also mentioned that they want high test scores. They want high test scores AND a hook. I hope homeschooling will be enough of a hook for my high achieving, middle class, white girl who is in ninth grade now.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      Have you seen the movie Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio?

      Dude is a con artist that forges anything from degrees, licenses, etc. But when people wanted to put him in jail for posing as a licensed lawyer they realized he passed the bar with flying colors and never went to school one day. He bought the books and studied like crazy then took the test.

      I know it’s just a movie.

      Also, it’s been said here before that some colleges are not even putting too much stock in the SATs. But even if she was going to a college (that many years from now can make such a difference in how society changes) that put lots of attention on the test scores then just teach your girl what school teaches: passing a test.

      If she crams and learns TO THE TEST and focuses all her other time on a “hook” (which I think can only really be a hook if her interest is invested) then she’ll be fine.

      Also, I know Penelope has talked about how it’s better to go to an Ivy League school or not go at all but I am not sure how I feel about it. Since our society hasn’t fully transitioned a paper from a “decent college” (not sure what it all means) can be just as effective in opening doors for her. If she goes there just to get the paper and mostly make connections/network.

      But most of all probably her hook will be the one that opens doors because it’d be really hard (and not wise) to drop the pursuit of that interest once she gets to college.

      I don’t know how things work where you live but here in WA homeschooled kids can go to college while they of high school age, just like if they were attending school. For many it means getting a headstart in school and saving money. For me it meant getting a feel of what I wanted to do. It was a waste. I wish I had better direction and actually have mentors. If you work it out right she can line things up so that she can be young and have the ability to support herself. That way she can pursue her interests without having to be broke all the time.

      • Julie
        Julie says:

        She could go to community college here anytime or to the university for her senior year if we get her into the gifted program. She has tested as gifted so I think that is the route we will go. I am thinking the university classes will transfer more easily than the community college ones, but I haven’t researched that yet. It will be free though if we can get her in and we would have to pay for the cc classes.

        Right now she is trying out different things, immersing herself and then moving to something else. I am hoping this process will help her figure out what she really wants to do. I know she wouldn’t have time to do that if we weren’t hsing.

        She has been talking about wanting to go to a women’s college. So that is where my college research has been focused. We shall see though, plenty of time to change her mind.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        karelys, as a side note, the movie “Catch Me If You Can”, which I also really enjoyed, was fiction but based on the real life of Frank Abagnale.
        So you may be interested in looking over the Wikipedia entry for the movie ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch_Me_If_You_Can ) and the Wikipedia entry for him. Many of the events in the movie are based on fact from his semi-autobiography book.

  2. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    For a child, being a child is not only right, it is wondrous, a miracle of becoming. In order for there to be any hope for healthy adults to exist, children must be allowed to be children to a great extent.

    But for an adult to remain a child (and I am not talking about child-like imagination, etc.) is a tragedy of unrealized potential.

    Eating nutritious food, taking care of physical health through hygiene and medical care, exercise, play, sunlight, and mostly letting nature take her course; these are the ways the body of a child becomes the healthy full-grown body of an adult.

    Education is the way the mind of a child becomes the healthy full-grown mind of an adult. Being able to take care of one’s self in one’s society is one aspect of being an adult–to be sure. It is necessary. But not sufficient. It is in fact just the beginning. So, education is not primarily for the purpose of getting a great job.

    It is about developing the innate capacities for excellence possessed by the child, into fully formed capacities whose expression will make up the major part of the life of the adult. Such a mind living such a life contributes excellence to society; this excellence propels society forward against the constant restraining effects of entropy, failure and decay.

    Some of this excellence is unique. For some, most of it is. But some of it is universal. Some of the excellence we should always seek is uncommon but very ordinary: a good conscience, some grit, persistence, resilience, and even a modicum of wisdom.

    As such, much of education is best if it is tailored to the unique needs and passions of the student or child. But some of it has to be the educational nutrition that will bear the fruit of a mind able to understand good, beauty, truth and more–and a mind inclined to consider such things as important.

    It takes exposure to a variety of adult minds, yes at times through reading because there can be a paucity of adult minds in the proximity of any given child (since institutional education does a poor job of facilitating their emergence–instead acting to stunt and infantilize them) for a child’s mind to grow fully. I am fully on board with self-directed learning, but this (for me) is always with the underlying assumption that there is at least one competent educated adult mind to help guide the child to develop the universal hallmarks of intellectual, moral, psychological development.

    The purpose of education is for much more than employment, and I can assure you I am not lying to myself, nor to you.

      • David LaPlante
        David LaPlante says:

        Great post! Spot on. This reflects the reality that Dr. Robert Kegan so eloquently titled his book, “In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life.” Fact is – we’ve made life so complex that critical thinking and cognitive adaptability are no longer advantageous…but perhaps survival skills for us, and most certainly our kids! They have a future to navigate that is filled with so much more uncertainty that we’ve ever experienced. Mindset trumps curriculum.

        The pace of change and complexity is so disproportionate now it’s no wonder our pedagogical theories are just as fragmented. Integrative and meta-thinking becomes a requirement.

        As an asides, MBTI is awesome. I’ve been using it since I was a kid. Recently I’ve become more of a fan of Enneagram type…offers the kids a little more perspective in their behavior and interactions with others.

        Keep an eye on these folks: https://www.lectica.org/visitors/about.php

        What they are doing in their approach to testing is stunning…even mind blowing. It’s the only testing service that I’m aware of that can even begin to adequately quantify knowledge independent of curriculum.

        8-)

    • Becky Castle Miller
      Becky Castle Miller says:

      I used this site to test my daughter: http://www.personalitypage.com/cgi-local/build_pqk.cgi

      They say that this test is good for kids ages 7-12. And for kids that age, they only get 3 letters, not 4. My daughter is 6 years old, but we did the test together, and I think she is EFJ. Knowing that has helped me parent her better.

      For kids ages 2-6, they only get two letters. I think my 4-year-old son is IP. Here are the little kid types: http://mbtitruths.blogspot.nl/2009/11/personalities-of-young-kids.html

  3. S A
    S A says:

    One thing I find comically absent from the whole discussion (at the public / political level) is the supply and demand issue. A large supply of undifferentiated entities (people, commodities, high school diplomas, college degrees, etc.) have a much harder time getting any pricing power (seller sets price instead of buyer). They become very dependent on market prices. This can be good for firm owners (“America needs more engineers!!”) but not necessarily for workers who spend large amounts of time and money chasing non-unique credentials.

  4. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Strong foundation including four years of the core subjects English, math, science, social science, and foreign language is necessary. That core preparation as evidenced on the transcript and supported through test scores, is the thing that gets you in the pile for your “hook” to be considered. It is is not irrelevant. It is a prerequisite for further consideration. There are many creative and interesting ways you can approach this effectively, but just deciding the core expectations colleges have don’t apply to you, is not the plan I’d suggest.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        However you learn and study – without the solid knowledge base mentioned by Barbara you will be hard pressed to have a successful and rewarding time in College/University. Unless you highly specialize from a very early age like the music prodigies. However, nobody would say that this is a path for the average 99.999%. And you would be surprised how broad the knowledge base of many people in highly specialized profession actually is: many academics have an incredible foundation in several areas and are highly specialized in one.

    • Becky Castle Miller
      Becky Castle Miller says:

      They will be creative in their job choices — and they’ll have great options, because homeschooling will have prepared them so well — so they can work part time, or work from home, or bring their kids to their offices, and do work they excel at while also homeschooling their kids.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s an interesting question, Julianna. The question is really why don’t we train kids to be parents instead of training kids to be workers. I don’t know. I wonder about this all the time. And mostly I think I would have died of boredom sitting through classes on how to be a parent. But then I died of boredom sitting through all classes…

      Penelope

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        My answer to this one would be that humans have an innate curiosity which has carried us over the millenia away from the sole focus of our life being the making and caring for offspring.

    • Brenda
      Brenda says:

      Great link, Erika! I hated school, college, and grad school and I feel uplifted by the writings of these like-minds, especially Winston Churchill.Thanks.

  5. Judy
    Judy says:

    This is interesting. I am raising my kids to think like entreprenurs. They know daddy has a job and they know that mommy had a job but now they just associate “job” with someting that takes mommy and daddy away from them all day. They now get to see mom working on a business from home. When we are out shopping, I always point out them when we are in a private business. I introduce them to the owner when possible and explain to them that this is this person’s business. They have been exposed to so many different types of entrepreneurs! They will never grow up thinking that a job is the only way to go.

    As far as their school work, I chose curricula for each subject based on what I wanted them to learn this year. We rarely pull out books during the school day. What I do instead is use the books to keep me on track with some sort of organization. But we study the subject matter in the real world, using as many real life experiences as possible. We do science experiments, Homeschool Lego Robotics, and every cultural resource in the metro area. Going off on tangents is ok. We’ve probably covered more stuff that’s NOT in the books than stuff that’s in the books. I figure we’ll eventually get through all the stuff IN the book within a calendar year.

    At the end of the day, if something happens to me, my husband can say to whomever takes over their education: “they covered all the information in these books” to satisfy state requirements, but the kids will not have been bogged down with the drugery of traditional school. I really don’t want to raise another cog in the big wheel. And I hated school, too.

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