Can unschooling prepare children for the future?

Your future is coming!! Are you prepared? You are told as you enter an escalator with no option of going back and walls too tall to climb. There is no choice so forward you continue, trying to take notice of all the things available on either side of you. You start grabbing, you start to prepare.

Your future is coming! It is like a bomb ticking down and you must stock the shelter. You quickly realise there is no time to gather fresh ingredients, cook the meals or savor the taste so you transition to the canned goods and horde as many as possible. Soon you aren’t even reading the contents, there is no time and fitting the criteria becomes a good enough test.

You are almost at the end now, you look back over the shelter you’ve been filling for the last 12 years and smile. The walls are crammed full, you can’t quite remember what you’ve put there but there is a lot. Surely enough. Surely everything you need.

You’re ready. You take a deep breathe and leap… when the ground suddenly jars you. It isn’t this dramatic drop you were expecting. It’s flat, open, wide. There’s no escalator, no walls, no arrows. Which direction do you go?

Maybe your cans can help guide you. You look back over them and realise how many you have no idea how to use, how many you don’t like at all and how much has simply expired in the time it has taken to get here. Very few are actually usable. You start to question what this whole experience was actually about…

People often express concern about our children’s future in relation to the choices we are making. What if they are not prepared? Aren’t you compromising their options? Might they grow to resent you?

They are threatening considerations but the implication that school is this magic immunisation for all the fears we hold about our children and the possibilities of their life seems a little misguided. It has me thinking a lot about how we actually see the future.

When I began school, I don’t think anybody could have predicted the world my cohort would have been released into – during that decade we saw the rise of the internet and ways in which to access it became more and more accessible; from computers in our schools, to our homes and then to devices we carried with us most of the time.

Of course with all that came a completely changed atmosphere of access to information – how do you teach to a constantly moving mark? To a variety of unique people all kicking towards different goals?

School might lead you to believe otherwise but if you want to go through your whole life never learning history or complex maths (or whatever) then you actually can do that and still have a worthwhile, content existence. Just in the same way many people go through their life never learning more than surface depth information about all range of things that are not forcibly pushed through schooling. For a society to function, we need a large variety of contributions.

Obviously I hope my children don’t grow up resentful. I can accept them questioning or disagreeing with our choices but they don’t need to be a victim of their circumstances, whatever they want to do I am prepared to help them achieve that and I know that they are capable too; I am open to their criticisms and direction, I am always here to assist however they think would help and there are options, always.

You can go back and get a year 12 certificate as an adult if that ends up being important or necessary (or they could choose to go to school at some stage before that). And they have the added freedom of working towards their goals as soon as they present themselves, their education can constantly be flexible and tailored to what they actually want and need for their current life and the future they are building.

From my perspective, I don’t necessarily agree with everything my parents choose for me as a child but I do respect them and appreciate them and understand they were doing what they thought best. Being a parent is rarely about the choices we make but all that is going on in the background, the relationship we have with our children and the intent behind our actions so I hope they will always be able to appreciate our motivations even if they disagree with the choices it brought.

At the end of my schooling a lot of my cans were unusable – information that was filed merely to pass a test that I had no idea how to actually apply to real situations I encountered, information that had expired and become irrelevant as the world shifted and new discoveries emerged, information that did not interest me or the directions I wished to pursue that I would most likely never access again.

I did not feel prepared. And yet I still built and am building a future that feels worthwhile, that brings me contentment. I have seen this with many others I know too and it showed me how much room there is for error, to wander and stray. In theory, we could “waste” an entire childhood on enjoyable, immediately relevant and interesting things and there would still be space for them to move in whichever direction as an adult even if it was something completely opposite to anything they had done prior.

When I stumble across things I can’t do or do not know, I figure out a way to learn it and that is how my children are acquiring skills and knowledge. That drive and process is something that is forever relevant, forever useful. And it is something that is instinctual, we are naturally curious beings. Just knowing there is the option to learn anything is very powerful too.

Any choice can go wrong but for us, we felt there was greater risk to invest into school – giving up freedom of family time and personally driven pursuits amongst other things – specifically for it to pan out in a certain way ie. a successful adulthood for our children. If it didn’t work out, what a devastating cost to have paid and even if it did, that price is still so high considering our ideals and priorities.

We wanted our children to have the space to build their own lives straight away  – to their own specifications. Space with abundant time for exploring the world and being with friends and family – for living today. Of course we hope they have brilliant futures, of course we hope we are investing in a way that contributes to that but it is not really in our control, it is in theirs and that is what our choices acknowledge. For us – regardless of what happens on the other side – right now our children are happy, contributing, growing, thriving, learning, living and no outcome could take that part away from our family. This choice is not outcome dependent.

You don’t need to scare children into understanding how precious life is when you spend each day living that truth.

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