April 6th, 2014

How I Intend to Educate My Children

Because I’ve written several books along with hundreds of articles, op-eds, and other material all dealing with politics, economics, history, and religion, people often assume that my educational background deals with these subjects.

The truth is quite different—I strongly disliked, and performed poorly in, these types of courses in school. I didn’t write well at all, and couldn’t stand English class. I majored in Information Technology and became a web developer. I often wished I could have been spared my “general education” coursework and be allowed to focus on the subjects that I found interesting and worthwhile.

Upon graduating from college I had massive amounts of free time on my hands. There was no more homework, no more assignments, no more summer classes, no more reading requirements. I was liberated! No longer required to think about and invest my energy in issues other people deemed important, I began to spend time thinking about issues that I wanted to learn more about and better understand.

I began to research subjects that I found interesting, and my studies led off in myriad tangential directions; I pursued what I wanted to pursue, when I wanted to pursue it. This laissez-faire educational process ultimately led to a developing interest in the very things I disliked and performed poorly in while in school: politics, economics, history, and religion.

As I researched, I wanted to share my developing opinions with others—so I started a blog. As my readership increased, I realized that I needed to write better. I needed to master persuasive writing. Almost subconsciously, I observed how authors whose books I was reading would construct their arguments, and I began to pattern mine after them. I became a good writer not by reading textbooks about the English language and mastering its dry semantics (who cares about the conditional use cases of the past subjunctive?), but through observation and imitation.

Put more simply, I learned to write well because I needed to. It was a means to an end—that end being the ability to persuade others to agree with my arguments. In school, subjects are often taught as ends unto themselves; one learns something for the sake of learning something. At best, students are told that general education topics may (emphasis on the may) be useful to them at some future point in time.

So I now enjoy and do well in the very topics I couldn’t stand in school. Educational freedom is what changed it all for me—and its late arrival in my life is not something I’d like to repeat for my children. It’s a gift I’d like to ensure they possess and utilize from a young age. As such, our children will not attend government schools.

I know many homeschooling families. I’m troubled by what I see in many of them, where the parents effectively recreate in the home what exists in government schools: a rigid curriculum created by a faceless organization, segmented into various time increments throughout the day. While clearly better than the public school setting, this is not educational freedom. It’s not purposeful learning, which is what I desire for my children.

My children did not spontaneously come into existence upon birth. They are children of God, and their spirits have existed for quite some time. As such, they have their own identities; my children have talents, passions, and preferences. Why would I want to suppress that? Why would I project onto my children what society believes they should think and learn and do? For that matter, why would I want to project what I think upon them? I don’t want a clone or a drone—I want my children to discover who they are.

To discover that, they’ll need freedom. They’ll need the ability to pursue their interests, develop their talents, and discover the path God intends them to follow. They’ll need unfettered access to the resources I can provide them in order to research, experiment, and innovate. They’ll need support from their parents, yes, but also other competent individuals who are experts in their craft. I want my children to learn from those who do, rather than those who have a certificate to teach about doing.

They’ll understand the world around them by being a part of it—not by reading about it in an approved textbook in a bureaucratic, highly regimented institution. They will interact with people of different ages and backgrounds, rather than being forced into groups of similarly aged children whose interests and abilities they neither relate to nor share. If they want to learn about a topic for several hours, they won’t be hearing a bell after 45 minutes telling them to close their book and move on to something else.

My children’s curriculum will be what they want, when they want it. As a concerned parent I will expose my children to ideas and information that I believe are important and true, but if they would rather read about penguins or rockets or combustion engines, then that’s what we’ll focus on. They will be free.

Most schools today have become industrialized factories of mass production where the ideal is not to educate and inform, but to produce a homogeneous output of submissive cogs to be placed into a master-planned machine. Conformity, rather than individuality, is the fundamental requirement of success in such a system. As a parent, I can’t think of anything worse to force upon my children.

Educational freedom will require energy, creativity, experimentation, patience, and planning. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be something we will be able to delegate to anybody else. But having seen what it has done for me—how it literally has changed the course of my life, and the lives of others who have been influenced by my writings and efforts—I can’t help but demand the same for my own children.

A Spanish translation of this post can be accessed here.

14 Responses to “How I Intend to Educate My Children”

  1. Me
    April 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    You might really like TJEd then. It teaches children how to think, not what to think! :-)
    http://www.tjed.org/about-tjed/

  2. Connor
    April 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    Thanks — I’m very familiar w/ TJEd and the DeMilles. There’s a lot of good stuff in there to be incorporated. Some people bind their family to a system/curriculum, following it rigidly — I prefer to pick and choose and customize and take the best things from a variety of approaches.

  3. Me
    April 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    I completely agree! I take all I love from TJEd and chuck the rest. But I must admit I love a lot of the philosophy. I really dislike a boxed curriculum as opposed to a philosophy that I can apply to almost anything. We started homeschooling a year ago. I really believe TJEd encompasses the best of all philosophies, unschooling, classical, Charlotte Mason etc. But in the end I agree, take what you like from TJEd and chuck the rest.

  4. Pam in Colorado
    April 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Kids do not need to be taught how to think. They are born doing so. With good conversation in the home, and varied experiences in and outside of the home, great thought and logic can be naturally built upon and expanded without a purposeful plan to follow.

  5. Kim Kehrer
    April 6, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Good job! A proactive father and teamwork will accomplish a lot of things. I think you will do a great job and your kids will love you for it! It is a big step not only exercising your right but taking on the responsibilities that go with it. And if you apply the elements that meet individual needs rather than focusing upon someone else’s mandated check list you will do a fine fine job. A lot of work, but oh so worth it.

  6. Carborendum
    April 7, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Hi, Connor. Long time.

    It is interesting that I spontaneously got curious about your blog at a time when I was thinking about some decisions regarding the schooling of my kids.

    What I see in your article is that you argue so much against one side (excessively regimented education in useless topics) that you’ve gone too far to the other side (excessive freedom in a child’s self-education). I seek balance between these two extremes.

    Knowing you as I do, I believe you’re philosophy may be close to this line of thinking. But your article never mentioned anything about the structure you are to be providing as a parent.

    Consider this. By the time you had academic freedom, you were given a lot of regimented study to provide a foundation. Maybe it stunted your intellectual growth in some ways. But it also provided a strong foundation in other ways.

    One of the long-time honored methods of Chinese education is to provide much regimented education as a child–then graduate to the beginnings of how to think and explore in adolescence–and finally complete freedom as an adult.

    It is unfortunate that today’s education system keeps people in the regimented setting well into adulthood. But I still believe there is something important to be gained by providing a lot of structure when the student is a child.

    I know that when I was a kid, I would never have learned to read if I was unschooled. I was forced to learn. And if it weren’t for that I would have lost out on the exploration that I was finally allowed to have as an adolescent (thanks to a few very special teachers).

    Now as an adult, I use many of the tools that were forced on me when I was too young and too stubborn to recognize the good they would do myself and others. And, yes, as an adult I appreciate the academic freedom I’ve had to self-educate, using the tools I learned during a more structured time in my life.

  7. Connor
    April 7, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Of course, each child is different. My almost 5 year old learned to read without any lessons or pushing, and reads at a level four years his senior. He has a natural curiosity, and no coercion is required to give him the fundamentals. Now let’s say this doesn’t hold true for him in another subject, such as math. I agree that it’s important for him to learn math, but I intend to tie the structure to his passion. If he likes planes than math lessons will be plane-focused. If he likes the outdoors than we’ll find ways to tie the two together. As with my newfound interest in English, it was a completely different approach when it was the necessary means to a personally desired end.

    I’m not against structure. I am against structure for its own sake.

  8. outsidethecorridor
    April 7, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    I think the important thing is that you are thinking about all of this, Connor.

    It’s good that you have a place to talk it out, and those of *us* who have taught our own can come here and share our ideas.

    There are few things more thrilling than having an intelligent child, a child who teaches him/herself to read and is bursting with questions from infancy.

    That is a joy, and I experienced it as a parent.

    However, there are children who–

    :(

    cannot teach themselves to read, however much they long to, children with disabilities that don’t fit in any textbook, disabilities that the ‘experts’ don’t understand. And the one thing that I can assure you ‘of’ (sorry, dangling)–

    is that you will be able to do it. I am astounded now to realize how my husband and I were prepared to deal with what we were dealt in our children.

    I saw how my past education had prepared me (and him); it was amazing. We did our best. Some of our children will never be ‘normal’, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have gifts. Some of them have been tumbled quite harshly through life in ways that are not ‘normal’ at all–

    but they still have beauty in their souls.

    We have a child who is very cognitively challenged but who had profound musical gifts. It’s very hard for this child to be independent, though he tries really hard, and depending upon who his associates are, he sometimes can do quite well.

    Sometimes it seems that we made every possible mistake, because his disabilities were so unique, and we just weren’t equipped, but, looking back now, I realize that we were better suited to handle his challenges than any of those (mostly in the church) who thought we were going about it the wrong way–

    and that we just needed to trust ourselves, something we sometimes did.

    In our last conversation (phone) with our son who does not live nearby and who did have a family (normal children) he was telling us that he is beginning to teach his children to play the piano. Our son no longer attends church; he didn’t fit there, and it became too painful for him; it’s not unusual for special needs people not to fit at church, and we had to let that go; he still ‘believes’.

    The job he works hard at does not pay him very well, so it’s a challenge for him to live independently, and we cheered when he got off food stamps–

    THAT was a huge thing. But he’s teaching his children (who do go to school; both their parents are handicapped and could not homeschool them, even with the best of intent)–

    to play the piano. He had a few students when he was a teenager, and he was a good, cheerful, patient teacher, and his children love him. This is a very big thing.

    Just so you can see that there are ‘sides’ to this teaching business that aren’t always addressed.

    God bless you, Connor!!!

  9. Amy
    April 7, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    If you’re going to homes school, you’ve got to read, “The Well-Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer. It sets out a framework for a classical education with a focus on first learning the facts, then analyzing them, then learning to express opinions about subject matter. It has enough resources that you can plan a curriculum that is tailored to your kid and advocates flexibility which is after all a main purpose of homeschooling. My oldest is only 3 1/2 but if you have similarly-aged kids we should co-op . . . eventually.

  10. Pierce
    April 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    Connor,

    I’ve been a reader for a little while now and appreciate your blog and views. As a bit of a fan, allow me to express disappointment that we don’t see more posts covering current events and how it relates to latter-day liberty. I’m hinting at the Cliven Bundy issue.

  11. Amber
    May 1, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    My public school story is somewhat similar in that I didn’t actually start *learning* until after I left college. I’ve always been a very good student, getting straight As and such, but when it came time for me to find work, I was scared to death. All of that schooling did not prepare me at all for being a self-sufficient adult in the real world. So when I learned that homeschooling existed, I knew that I wanted that for my children.

    Childhood (and especially the youth years) is the time for people to learn and grow, because they can safely devote all of their time on gaining such a great education. It’s much harder to get the great education you need when you have to work for a living, and when you have dependents. How much time and effort has to be used to undo the negative effects of wrong education? Who or what is being neglected in the meantime?

    So I’m glad to hear that you’ve come to the decision that freedom in education, even in the home, is vital. I completely agree.

  12. Charity
    June 20, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

    How long have you been homeschooling?
    We have been at it for several years.
    There does need to be a balance between structure and child-led learning…especially when the teenage/high school years come.
    Please keep that in mind.
    All the best!

  13. Iimx
    June 26, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

    Siddhartha Gautama was home schooled, and protected against seeing old age, death and disease. It eventually brought about his real quest for the truth….

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Forced Taxation to Fund Schools — For the Good of Society? | Connor's Conundrums - November 10, 2014

    […] This commentary is full of logical fallacies. I definitely benefit from others’ education, which must be contrasted against schooling—the highly regimented, pedagogically watered down, and bureaucratically micromanaged daycare system in which millions of children are now eagerly placed by parents uninterested, unwilling, or unable to shoulder this aspect of their parental stewardship. The result is alarming, suggesting that heavy schooling does not really result in adequate (let alone excellent) education—which, in many cases, happens outside any formal schooling, and often in spite of it. (This definitely was my experience.) […]

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