And so we realised our son wasn’t a problem to be fixed, to be changed. The problem was the classroom, and it was suddenly so obvious that the solution was to just stop going.
We took the foot off the pedal at home. We made noise with him. We hung out at the park where he’d run, cartwheel, forward roll, play fight with sticks and dance for hours. We let him dismantle stuff (turns out, he can put things back together again). We dropped homework. If he was fully engaged in something and we noticed he’d left his towel lying on the floor, we – *gasp* – just let him carry on.
Back at the teacher-parent catchup, she told us she was pleased with his general academic progress but was concerned about his reading comprehension. He read the words but didn’t seem to have a good grasp of the story they were telling when tested. The first night we started relaxing as a family – during which we discussed the option, openly, of alternative forms of education while watching a spark return to his eyes – he picked up George’s Marvellous Medicine. At 9pm that night, I gently removed the mostly-read open book from his sleeping grasp. Over breakfast the next morning he excitedly told us all about George, his awful grandma, the incredible concoction the boy had brewed up, and wondered aloud whether the crane they used to remove her from the roof was the same kind of one they’re building an apartment with on the corner of our street.
I don’t think we’ll stress too much about his reading comprehension.
All this got us thinking about our eldest son, of course. Turns out he’s in cruise mode – his teachers have always been pleased with his attitude and progress, and he’s been happy enough (outside the normal schoolyard bullying we all seem to accept as part of life), but he’s actually just ticking boxes. Kids have a way of rising or dropping to whatever benchmark is set for them. What would he do differently with his time, if he had the choice? What would his benchmark be if he could set it?
“I’d be a YouTuber – plan out awesome stuff to do in Terraria, play and record it, and then do some really cool editing. My favourite YouTubers do lots of cool editing. I’d write funny scripts for them, too. I never really have time for that after school. I also reaaaaaally want to make videos playing a game that I’ve made, so I’d do lots of Scratch coding. Oh, and I’d be able to snorkel more than just in the weekends, so…I’d do that every day! I really want to explore more reefs, and maybe actually train to do proper diving. You know, with the tanks and everything.”
Right. So let’s just have that part of every day, then. For the purists, I’m confident all that would cover any academic progression measure you threw at it.
In the year 2040 our boys will be hitting their 30s. What will the world look like then? What challenges will we be facing as humans? What will we need people to stand up and fight for?
Big questions to answer, but I’m confident stating one thing – free thinking, expressive, passionate, energetic boundary-pushers will have a huge role to play in tackling those future challenges, and I’m damn sure I’m not going to let that spirit be crushed before my kids even turn ten.
Originally published on Stark Raving Dad.
Israel Butson is an unschooling dad on a mission to disrupt education and help build a fresh paradigm for a new generation of young learners. Writing and dabbling with his camera daily, you can catch him on his blog Stark Raving Dad, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram. Originally from New Zealand, he now lives with his wife and three children on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne.