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School VS Education

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I recently went through my old college flash drive and found tons of old essays and stories that I’d forgotten about, so I might share some of them over the next few weeks. This is from my senior year, an essay assignment called “This I Believe.” 

I won’t pretend that I’m thrilled about this assignment. I have a lot on my plate right now with five classes, work kicking my butt, and a novel in progress. My kitchen is overflowing with dirty dishes, my laundry isn’t put away and my living room looks like my desk exploded. One more paper to write is like a fly buzzing around my face while my arms are full of books; annoying, stressful, and something that should be done away with. What’s the point?

Unfortunately, that’s been my mantra this semester. I’m dragging myself through my literature classes, trying to absorb these literary jewels but instead wishing I could be home writing or researching my genre instead. I take notes in lectures, chew pen caps in testing centers, and wade through pages of phonetic transcription and wish I were in a book somewhere, either my own or someone else’s. I graduate in May. I’ve taken dozens of classes, written dozens of papers, taken dozens of tests and what do I know? Not much. I even made a list of important things I’ve learned and I realize very few of them came from school.

I believe school is only a tiny part of education. A degree can get you a job, but the rest of your life is a mess if all your education occurred in a classroom.

I can read and write well. I partially credit my abilities to school, but I learned to write by reading and writing outside of school, reading and writing what I wanted to. I can make a soup or casserole with anything in my fridge. I can take care of kids, balance a checkbook, budget, and pull myself out of depression, but I didn’t learn that from a textbook. Learning happens through practice, trial and error, and help from other people.

Van Gogh said “I never let school get in the way of my education.” I’ve written that quote on top of pages of notes when I start to get overwhelmed by class work and feel my brain clog up like a drain full of hair. I remember to step back, get perspective, do my own thing for awhile and come back fresh so I can absorb what I need from school.

Bad attitude? Maybe. School is important to me. I’ve had some amazing teachers who helped me become better than I would have on my own. I’ve taken classes that have opened my mind wider than I could have alone. I’ve been introduced to some amazing books, ideas, and people I may have never discovered otherwise.

School is part of education, but only a part, not the whole . Education is learning from everything while retaining your identity and core values. Learn from school, people, experiences, trials, experiments, people, places, books, and your own thoughts. Life is a giant school really, but in the school of life, you are your own academic advisor. You choose your teachers, your classes, your curriculum. The world is your classroom.

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Unschooling myself

College graduation wasn’t as delightful as I’d hoped. I didn’t expect much and looking back I probably should have just had them mail my diploma, but I think I wanted some sort of recognition for the four years and thousands of dollars I sunk into this degree that left me with little in the way of actual life skills. Earlier that semester, I got bored in an art history class so I made a list of useful things I knew. I then highlighted the ones I’d learned in school.

Not many.

Feeling “Ripped off” doesn’t cover it.

Soon after graduation, I discovered the concept of unschooling. It’s hard to define, but basically unschooling is letting our natural learning instincts drive our education. Instead of forcing ourselves through school, we can let interests naturally develop and we will learn what we need in order to accomplish our goals. The heavens open and a ray of sunlight fell across my computer screen and I knew I’d struck gold.

I decided to give this unschooling thing a try and let my intuitive drive to learn lead the way. What did I do?

I read a ton of blogs.

Went for a lot of walks.

Read books.

Watched a season of Supernatural.

Freaked out because I was supposed to be a learning machine now, but I was just wasting time!

Or was I?

My unschooling resources mentioned “deschooling”, which is basically a recovery period. My brain was taking a much-needed rest, but even though I didn’t seem to be doing much, I later realized that I was learning!

Learning doesn’t always look like it does in a classroom. It doesn’t require textbooks or three-ring binders or hard metal desks. I learned all kinds of things from blogs and I researched topics that interested me. My brain sucked up info from everything around me whether it was books, tv, things I observed on my walks, and things I noticed happening in my mind and body now that I allowed them to run free.

So I urge you to take some time and let your mind loose. See the value in everything you do, even if it feels like you’re wasting time.