[Disclaimer: This post talks a lot about some things about (most) schools that aren’t so good. I want to mention beforehand that I completely recognize that school does a lot of important things and they aren’t all bad, and I want to write a post soon about the value and usefulness of school. I also recognize that all schools don’t teach this stuff. Sometimes, I generalize, to keep from repeating over and over “most schools” and “often schools” but it’s not meant to undermine schools that work hard to fight against these things]
Have you ever had a conversation about the fact that you unschool with someone who goes to school? I imagine you have, it seems to happen a lot. For me those conversation often go something like this:
“Where do you go to school?”
“Oh, I don’t go to school.”
“Well actually I’m unschooled. That’s when [and then I try to explain unschooling as concisely as I can].”
“Wow. That really awesome you can do that. But I would never be motivated enough. I would just sit on the couch all day reading/playing video games/watching television.”
This conversation normally ends in me trying to tell them they would be motivated, but also that those interests are totally valid ways to spend your time. I’ll get into the second part in a different blog post because today I want to focus on that first problem. The problem of doubt in personal motivation, and how to rise above it.
What school does:
Well, school certainly doesn’t help with this problem. Most often, school seems to be the main reason people lose faith in themselves. In my mind, I see a set of steps of how we end up with so many people doubtful of their ability to motivate themselves:
- First, schools teach that children can’t be expected to learn things on their own. Schools teach that a child won’t be interested in learning on their own, so schools have to force them to learn. They do that by teaching that learning looks like a textbook and completing problems that someone else has already done.
- The next step is for schools to use bribes to motivate students to do the boring work they’re assigning. The schools show time and time again that you just can’t learn anything without outside motivation, normally in the form of force and threat (spoiler: this isn’t true!).
- Then, schools repeat over and over that they’re preparing you for real life. That school is teaching all the lessons and skill you’ll need to know to be a competent and confident member of society. Which leads to the obvious conclusion: if you can’t motivate yourself in school, you won’t be able to motivate yourself in real life.
What to do about it:
What can we do to counteract this attitude? If you’re moving from going to school to not going to school, you may want to go through what’s called deschooling. Deschooling is the word we use for losing the school mindset and reclaiming your love of learning. It can take completely different amounts of time for different people, but many unschooling advocates say you should allow a month for every year of school you attended. That’s just an estimate, because deschooling is really a word to define a certain part of your unschooling journey. During your deschooling time, you may not be interested in anything that looks remotely like school. You need time to to realize that your time is your own. That you can learn what you are interested at the pace that works for you. Allow that time for deschooling and don’t try to rush it, that will just make it take longer.
A couple other things you can do, inside of school or out, still school age or not:
- Engage in your hobbies no matter what people say about them. If you like, recognize how much you’re learning from them (look up things like “what you can learn from video games”, if you aren’t sure) but if that makes your passions less fun, don’t worry about it.
- Talk to others about the things they’ve done using language that encourages better feelings about themselves. Try things like, “Wow, that much have taken a lot of motivation.” Or, “I’m really impressed by your drive.” Remind the people around you that they can motivate themselves.
What do you think? Do recognize the motivation within you? What did I miss? Any other strategies for combating this doubt? Let me know in the comments!