My son, Brycen is a free spirit, much like Mom! When his sense of intrigue and curiosity envelop him (which it does nearly every minute of the day), there is little that can distract him from passionately exploring, creating, wondering, questioning, researching and playing. Unfortunately, State legal requirements for homeschoolers are the few times in my son’s enriching life when he must take a break from living and learning and instead perform some task in order to produce some product for our annual portfolio that will cover some requirement in some mass-determined “subject” that some unknown person decided was necessary for all children his age to “learn”. Of course unschoolers know that nothing forced is truly learned, only finished and produced.
My son covers all of the State required “subjects” on his own, but not in watered-down, irrelevant, lifeless public school form, but in a creative, hands-on, playful, deep, kaleidoscopic manner- often at the college or Graduate school level. This morning, after finishing his crafting of two chain mail bracelets, my son and I spent almost two hours in Socratic style defining and dissecting the words “existentialism” and “gestalt”. In the later morning on our hike, we observed that when trees begin their life inside of a dead tree’s stump and the stump later rots, their root system grows above ground, at a right angle, like a false trunk shaped like a chair. Tonight, my son researched castle floor plan blueprints and taught me that moats were built not to prevent people from getting across to the castle, but to prevent enemies from burrowing an underground entrance! (Who knew?!)
The only time I see my son distracted, unfocused and uninterested is when he is doing something artificial to meet State requirements in a certain “subject”. Otherwise he shows total focus, concentration, reverence and devotion to learning the intricate, complicated, mind-splitting details of things his spirit, mind and body call him to do, explore, play, make, think, invent and master. Learning happens all the time whether he is alone, spending hours with friends or family; whether he is singing, playing music, reading, playing D&D, inventing, crafting, writing, playing, running and climbing outside or building forts in the woods. What will help school paradigm-suffocated law makers and “educators” see and understand all of this? Much like the kids they try to force-feed “lessons”, if law makers and “educators” are not internally motivated to learn another way, they won’t. However, if they really do care about the “education” of youth, maybe the words of a child would “teach” these people that children must be the authors of their own learning.
Following is an editorial my son wrote. It was printed in the April 26, 2011 Foster’s Daily Democrat as a Letter to the Editor, almost exactly the way Brycen wrote it. Here is his original version:
Homeschoolers Should Live and Learn Freely
by Brycen R. R. Couture, age 17
I am a human being and I have feelings and thoughts. I am not some underling of society. As an unschooler, I feel that I should not have to perform for the State with their homeschool requirements; for what they consider education. How certain subjects are expected to be learned is less than relevant to my life and yet I find that I waste precious time of my life on these requirements when I could be enacting my dreams and passions.
I find it ironic that in the very state where its slogan is “Live free or die”, our youngest citizens are confined to a dark mockery of education. I’m referring to public school or any “educational requirements” put onto children who are unschooling or homeschooling. This most certainly is not following our state slogan, “Live free or die”. Shouldn’t it trouble you that this is the case? I can hear the responses now: “Children should be in school” or “These homeschoolers need regulations.” I disagree very strongly. Children should be free in all aspects, the way nature intended, whereas public schools and homeschool requirements are an imprisoning box of mediocrity.
As an unschooling family, my Mom and I are free-spirited, free-thinking people and the State homeschooling requirements are only a source of anxiety and annoyance. Unschooling is living and learning the way children have always learned and lived in nature-based societies. It’s being in harmony with our family and community. Unfortunately, due to residing within our out-of-touch culture, we are still forced to pamper and satisfy the requirements of the system. That is not living freely.
I don’t think I should have to meet prescribed requirements because I am busy living my life to the fullest right now. I am so far ahead of the State requirements that I feel held down and held back by being forced to demonstrate subjects in a way that is completely irrelevant to my life. I’m not internally motivated to meet a standard that’s given to the mass population but does not meet my needs as an individual. What right do people who haven’t met me have to impose these standards on me?
I’m sitting here crafting, building and creating the pieces of my life that are relevant to me. As a musician and song writer, my music takes up an enormous portion of my time because I want it to– because its my passion. When I have to stop living in order to please the State, I don’t feel good about it. It doesn’t feel right. Why should I have to stop living because you tell me I have to prepare for a future that I am living now?
I’ve released my first CD at 17 years old, now. I perform my music now. I’ve written a book which is in the editing stage now. I’ve been interviewed for a movie now. I do children’s rights work now. I’ve booked myself on the radio, now. I’m part of NH Media Makers now. I started a club and ran my own business from ages 12-15. I’ve been speaking to the public full of professionals since I was 12. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in the newspaper for my community activism, now. I like to bike, socialize with friends, make chain mail, calculate dice probabilities, invent games, build forts, cook, play Dungeons and Dragons and I have a close relationship with my Mom, all now. I am writing this to New Hampshire now; I’m not waiting around for the future!