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It’s Only Natural that Kids Hate Schooling

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It’s Only Natural that Kids Hate Schooling

By Linda Dobson

SadLittleGirl schooling

All children deserve an education. It's sad and detrimental to society that what they get instead is schooling.

On the heels of Dr. Peter Gray’s blog post about the evolutionary roots of children protesting going to bed alone in the dark, he shares with us “Why Children Protest Going to School: More Evolutionary Mismatch.”

Basically, according to Gray’s post: “Most children in our society protest going to school. Am I telling you something new?”

Of course it’s a rhetorical question, and Gray goes on to patiently explain why children do so. We’ll get to that, but first I want to make a teeny little semantic distinction that’s important to this discussion.

School vs. Schooling

Children don’t feign illness when it’s time to go to the mall. They don’t dilly dally when it’s time to go to the movies, the library, or a restaurant for dinner. These places are fine. They do, however, feign illness and/or dilly dally when it’s time to go to the place (noun) called school. As a noun, it’s just a place.

I have long shared the idea that it’s “schooling,” a verb, an action word, that is the problem. It’s that which is involved in the action of “schooling” to which children object. This includes, but certainly isn’t limited to, being under constant observation, being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. “Schooling” includes getting conditioned to move at the sound of a bell, quietly listening to and not disagreeing with those above you in the hierarchy, and being told what to think in order to achieve “someone’s” definition of being successful. “Schooling” focuses on the system and measuring its products (the students) to the detriment of real education.

See also “‘Til School Do Us Part”

It’s my hope that this distinction helps all parents free children from the harm of schooling so they may proceed with their very natural abilities to obtain a wonderful education.

And speaking of natural abilities to obtain a wonderful education, let’s get back to Dr. Gray, shall we?

Why Kids Naturally Hate Schooling

One of the most cherished values of all band hunter-gatherer societies that have ever been studied by anthropologists is freedom. Hunter-gatherers believed that it is wrong to coerce a person to do what the person doesn’t want to do—and they considered children to be people…

…Throughout our immense hunter-gatherer period, children were free to play and explore all day, day after day, and in that way to educate themselves. Education was always self-directed.  In fact, the reason children are naturally so playful, curious, and social is because those traits were the motivating powers behind children’s abilities to educate themselves. Those “childish” traits were promoted and shaped, by natural selection, precisely to serve the function of education, in conditions of childhood freedom.

So, when we force children to sit in their seats and listen to a teacher and do just what they are told, every bone in their body, and every neuron and muscle, resists.  Their body tells them, “This is wrong. I need to control my own actions; I need to play at the skills that seem to be important to me; I need to explore the questions that I’m curious about, not ones that bore me; I need to pay attention to what people in the real world are doing, not to what this teacher, who doesn’t even seem to be part of the world outside of school, is telling me. If I don’t do these things that I need to do, I will not grow up to be a competent, dignified human being.” In hunter-gatherer times, a child who did not feel so strongly driven to run his or her own life and education would have grown up to be a misfit.

So, our children have instincts that drive them to educate themselves through their free play, exploration, and socializing. But we have schools that insist that they give up that freedom and do what they are told to do. The schools have never worked well, and even in theory can’t work well, because they always pit the school against the child and thereby evoke resistance.

I am positively thrilled to have company, particularly such wonderful company as Dr. Gray, sharing the message that we go about schooling in direct opposition to what is most natural for children when it comes to learning. I’m particularly happy for the company because we are drugging more and more young children so that they will give up on their natural inclinations and quietly resign themselves to schooling.

The idea that children can direct their own education, and can do it well, seems absurd to most people today; we are so conditioned to the idea that education requires top-down direction and coercion. But, for those who are willing to take a look at it, the evidence is overwhelming that the hunter-gatherer approach to education can work beautifully in our society today.

Many homeschoolers, those crazy, loveable families who remove schooling from their children’s lives so they may get on with a wonderful education, agree with Dr. Gray because daily they witness the truth with their own eyes.

All children deserve an education. It’s sad and detrimental to society that they get schooling, instead.



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2 Responses to “It’s Only Natural that Kids Hate Schooling”

  1. Hi Linda,
    I recently posted things I would do differently if I were starting over with homeschooling. The first thing is to not use the word “school.” That includes “schoolwork.” Children respond much more readily when you say, “Let’s take a walk and see how many different mushrooms we can find.” OR “Let’s play a game.” OR “Who knows how far China is from Africa?”
    Thanks for all your encouragement in this arena.

    • Isn’t it amazing how changing one little thing – like let’s not call it school – becomes great big change down the road? Thanks for sharing, and thanks for all of the encouragement you also provide Carol! Hope all is well with you and yours.

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