Making Practical (Holistic) Choices For Education: A How-To Guide

Over the past 2 years or so, it has become more obvious that the public education system is no longer about education, but providing a service - that of glorified babysitting.

  This is, of course, through no fault of the participants within the system - neither the teachers nor the students are to blame. The system itself is designed for neither maximum impact nor efficiency, but instead serves as a sort of glorified babysitting service for working parents.

Let's chat about why that is, and what we can do as parents and educators to find a practical (and reasonable) alternative. 

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So why, you ask, do we still have this massively inefficient system in place? What is stopping us from vocalizing our opinions, and doing something concrete about it? How does this continue to be accepted as normal, and "good enough?" Why haven't we looked at, and taken steps towards, alternatives?

Quite simply, because it still works - well enough. Our kids know their math operations (for the most part), how to read, and how to write. Isn't that enough? And on the plus side, your children have built-in babysitters during the majority of the work day.

I'd argue it's not. Teaching the basics of reading, writing, and 'rithmetic may have been fine 30 - 40 years ago, but it's an outdated system now. When was the last time the curriculum was updated? Depending on what subject is being discussed, you're looking at anywhere from 10 - 20 years ago. Years. That means the requirements for material taught, not even for material learned, has not been refreshed or analyzed for relevancy for longer than your child has likely been alive. 

The old adage, "Don't fix it if it ain't broke," comes to mind here. This sort of mentality does not apply to schooling or education in any sense of the phrase. While the current schooling system as an institution is certainly not completely broken, it leaves much to be desired in regards to authentic, genuine, and quality education.

How do you go about fixing this sort of systemic problem?

Baby Steps: The How-T0

It always helps to take one thing at a time.

1) Quit trying to fix the system as it is, and instead, build a new one.

2) Recognize that there will be a process of unlearning a majority of the things you thought you knew about education.
3) Find multiple supports for guidance and help.

Quit Trying To Fix The System: Build Your Own

This may seem like the most radical idea that's been suggested, but it's really the only one that makes sense. It has the added bonuses of increasing individual control over educational content, encouraging true learning, and fostering closer relationships with children and students. Building an alternative school system looks different for everyone, but one thing is for certain: it requires time, finances, dedication, and parental involvement.

 For those who may be questioning where the time comes from, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. While each family or individual has different time constraints on them, forming small groups or pods for supporting younger children in their learning journey is a great solution, as we discuss later in this post. The finances? Think about it - if your children are not in public school, the money that would go for their education taxes can now be designated for alternative learning. You're not being asked for more money; you're simply allotting it to a more valuable area. Dedication? That's a personal drive, that no one but you can decide if it's there or not. As for parental involvement, that is a non-negotiable if you wish to provide your children with an alternative form of learning.

Taking a step backwards from what has always been considered "the norm," is difficult - no doubt about it. But when it comes down to it, it is all about your priorities. What is truly important to you? If it is of such importance, let your priorities reflect that.

Mindset Change: A Process of Unlearning

The absolute hardest part of alternative education is learning to let go of some of the most societally ingrained ideas we have about education. One of which is the idea that children must be learning for 6+ hours a day.

Our brains, capable though they are, are not meant for consistent stimulation or rigid formation. We are, by our nature, creative beings. There have been blogs, studies, and research experiments galore on this subject, and a simple Internet search will bring up millions of results, thousands of which are reputable. We, as humans, need time for relaxation, for rest, for play, and for the enjoyment of life. We were not meant to have every moment of our time planned and accounted for. And yet, this is precisely what a typical school day promotes: a rigid and refined structure, from which there is little deviation.

This is one of the most common things parents struggle with, in particular, when they move from the public education system to a more holistic approach. Something that may be helpful, to overcome this mentality, is to take a good long look at your children. Are they happy with school - the academics portion of it? Do they get excited to learn about things? When you ask them what they learned in school, do they start in on the most exciting thing in the whole wide world?

Because if they don't, you're better off finding something more holistic for them.

Another piece of advice: be honest with your kids. Encourage them to be honest with you. Unlearning these systems of indoctrination take time and effort, on everyone's part. It's okay not to have all the answers. 

A Network: Find Multiple Supports

While it is okay not to know everything, finding a network of support that can provide a variety of services for your alternative educational needs will help with some guided direction. No one person can do it alone, and there's no shame in that. We wrote another blog about the importance of finding your tribe, found here. The added responsibilities of educating children doesn't have to be all on your shoulders; actually, it's better if it's not. Parents should absolutely take a crucial role in their child's learning journey, but it doesn't mean they have to be the only role their child sees. A large part of "doing" alternative holistic education is knowing that you're not alone, and that you aren't responsible for absolutely everything.

You can ensure quality education and foster that lifelong desire to learn within your child by making sure you choose the right sort of education. There is no one-size-fits-all, not when it comes to learning. Trust the process of unlearning and the journey of holistic education - it will take you much further than anything else ever will.

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