I revel in the embrace of summer, when children are again a part of the community and a part of the natural landscape! It brings me such joy to see children jumping in the waves at the ocean, running through a wooded trail, exploring plant and animal life, digging in the sand, climbing trees, creating artistically in the community or leaping from boulders into a rocky basin gorge. I reflect with warmth and love at how September for my unschooled son has always been a relaxing and relieving time- yet another month to extend the joys of summer; the beginning of another cycle of him living and learning in freedom.
However, for the majority of the children in society, the “Back-To-School” nightmare seems to get an earlier start every year. Many schools are forcing children to return to school in late August, two weeks earlier than when I was a child. In mid-July, advertisements on TV, the radio, online, in stores and in junk mail flyers begin threatening children a month too soon about the impending dread of school. It strikes me as very passive aggressive that our culture takes a condition that most children find so distressing- being confined against their will for nine months of the year- and throws it in their face relentlessly during the second half of their summer time.
Last year, I wrote a three-part post about how the mainstream media presents “Back-To-School” with as much fanfare as if it were a holiday– I discussed how such media saturation perpetuates a cultural myth of school being an inevitable duty of life to which families must succumb. Perhaps more concerning is that even independent media sources, such as natural health, natural parenting and natural family living magazines, present traditional schooling as if it is positive, necessary, inescapable and obligatory.
By mid-summer, sharp photos of children holding notebooks and pencils, wearing freshly purchased clothing and awkward, posed grins plaster magazines, supplements and free monthly papers. The pages are packed with light, upbeat (and trauma-oblivious) articles about “preparing” children for “Back-To-School” routines. Whether the magazines are mainstream or natural family living, the same “Back-To-School” article themes recycle every year:
- Lessening the trauma of “The First Day of School” (yes, some articles actually admit that school is traumatic, yet push school anyway!),
- Getting your children’s bodies back on a “school schedule” (despite how unhealthy this is for your children’s bodies),
- “Easing” (downplaying) the anxieties your children feel about school (as if being confined to a chair in a concrete building for six hours a day, being forced to be in conditions that are completely opposite of everything that nature intended for a child’s body, mind and emotional development, isn’t something anxiety-inducing!),
- Getting ready for “the homework battle” with your children (rather than getting ready to advocate for your children’s need for play and free time),
- “Dealing with” peer bullies (while ignoring that being subordinated by disrespectful adult bullies is what causes peer bullying in the first place), and
- Packing “healthy lunches” (while ignoring unhealthy school rules that won’t allow your children to eliminate bodily wastes, exercise or have snacks and drinks when needed).
All of these school-submissive articles miss a critical point: None of these traumas of separation, “preparation”, anxiety, unhealthy school schedules, ridiculous rules, homework and bullying are necessary because schooling isn’t necessary!
The carefully selected stock photos of happy-looking children give parents the impression that “Back-To-School” is good for their children and that children should be agreeable to surrendering their freedom, playtime, bodily integrity and basic needs in order to conform to the factory-process of schooling.
Parents, it is time to tune into parenting instinct rather than media conditioning! Traditional schooling is developmentally inappropriate at ALL ages and hurts children on so many holistic levels, including physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively, intellectually, neurologically and even sexually. Traditional schooling disrupts and injures the parent-child attachment relationship which is meant to be intact until the adolescent child reaches adulthood on his or her own timetable. The thousands of school children diagnosed with behavioral “disorders” and learning “disabilities” and subsequently drugged with dangerous chemicals are evidence of these facts.
Nature Has the Answer: Unschooling!
Nature doesn’t put out monthly magazines, newspaper supplements or grocery-store-freebie-rack circulars with articles about children and learning. Nature doesn’t put out cheery office supply store flyers and frenzied clothing store commercials to advertise its NOT-Back-To-School offerings. However, nature has the same educational advice for September 2012 that its had since the first child appeared on the planet: Let children play.
In other words, nature has always “said”, let children at all ages live and learn naturally, in freedom and in joy, through exploring, creating, investigating, observing, collecting, inventing, musing, dreaming, running, leaping, jumping, climbing, shouting, singing, laughing and being. Nature has always intended that children of all ages spend their time primarily in the loving embrace of close parent-child connections, family bonds, mixed-age friends and involvement in a vibrant community.
Nature has always intended that children’s time be balanced with the solitude to metabolize deep thoughts, insights, feelings and experiences. Nature has always made clear that the needs of the body and the psyche are to be met when when the needs are first experienced.
Through the phenomenon of play, nature has the only “curriculum” sophisticated and advanced enough to simultaneously meet the holistic, learning and developmental needs of all children at all ages. When children follow their own interests and passions and have intense fun in the process, they learn, excel, achieve, grow and develop to their highest potentials!
Unschooling’s “curriculum” of play and child-directed learning is congruent with nature’s intent for children. Despite its growing popularity, however, unschooling isn’t a trend, a philosophy or even a “style” of education. Unschooling is simply a new name for ancient wisdom. Learning through interacting physically, emotionally and mentally with the natural environment, following interests and passions, or, playing, is how children lived for thousands of years.
With the onset of agriculture, adults began to interfere with childhood by forcing children to work for them. At the dawn of civilization, adults also began to force children to train and apprentice for military and religious purposes. At the height of industrialization in the mid-1800’s, the United States government began confining children to developmentally inappropriate, prison-like schools in order to produce obedient military, factory and labor forces. In the consumeristic new millennium, most citizens are addicted to material objects, electronics, digital media and junk food. The obsolete, 1800’s-style obedience training system is still maintained to ensure the perpetuation of a global society of heavy consumers, workers, political soldiers (of all types) and media watchers.
Despite what the trendy commercials and smiley magazine articles tell you, school isn’t about your children’s education, learning or healthy development. School’s entire purpose is to separate your children from you, their families, friends, communities and from themselves in order to train them to take their place in the global marketplace, as both workers and consumers. “Back-To-School” should be appropriately renamed “Back-To-The-Conditioning-Cell”.
I encourage you to look past the grinning stock photos, bubbly commercial actors and flimsy, child-denying articles and realize that “Back-To-School” isn’t a holiday, a celebration or a fun time for children- It is a marketing goldmine for those who profit from the materialistic, academic and social anxieties it triggers.
After the September fashion show fades and the bland tedium of nine months of schooling solidifies, most children will be longing for every weekend, snow day and vacation week they are allowed… And longing for next summer!
Live the joys of summer all year long! This September, celebrate NOT-Back-To-School by allowing your children to experience the exciting, inventive, freeing, fun and playful experience of unschooling, or, learning naturally. Revel in the adventures you and your children can find in nature and in your community and be sure to connect to your local homeschool groups.
My six free So You Want to Unschool Your Child or Teen? videos can help you get started on your family’s unschooling journey. My unschooling coaching services will provide in-depth personalized support to both new and veteran unschooling parents with every step of the unschooling process, from start to graduation.