“Is This Going to Be On the Test?”

When I was a child, I spent the bulk of my growing-up time in public and private school classrooms. For me, school was neither terrible nor wonderful. It was just what I had to do to get the paper. What exactly did this paper prove? That I was smart enough to not completely fail. That I was capable enough to not have a nervous breakdown before graduation. That I could follow orders: line up, raise my hand, recite the expected answer, and speak only when spoken to.

Classroom Chairs

The paper didn’t prove I was a stellar scholar. It didn’t prove my sharp wit, kind heart, vast knowledge, or interesting outlook on life. It only proved I didn’t suck bad enough for them to kick me out before my 13 years were up. And it proved that I could conform to the mold of a good student.

Some would argue that traditional schooling teaches kids to take orders and conform to regular society. This is the most efficient way to teach our children how to become productive workers, obedient citizens, and good consumers. But are we teaching them how to succeed in a meaningful way? And how to be happy?

Maybe this model worked generations ago, when people graduated from their schooling into a safe and predictable way to make a living. But the world is changing. It’s imperative in today’s world that we raise a generation of people who have practiced innovation and creativity and who have learned to think critically. We need people coming up who know that coloring outside of the lines is the only way to come up with fresh ideas and that sometimes asking the difficult questions is more important than having the appropriate answers. We’re headed into an era where it’s crucial that we learn to get along peacefully, share resources, work collaboratively toward positive change, and understand that each one of us is responsible for our own learning.

Instead, we’re teaching kids that doing well means you aced the test, not that you thought critically about the questions. We’re encouraging them to be competitive. Winning is important. Getting to the top is the only thing there is. We’re encouraging them also to be close-minded and, yes, I’ll say it, downright mean. If the girl sitting next to you in English class doesn’t belong to the right team or club, live in the right neighborhood, or wear the trendy sneakers, it’s “normal” for you to ignore her, talk about her behind her back, or even ruin her undeserving teenage life. Bullying and exclusive friend groups have long been a smoldering fire in the history of traditional school–and now technology like social networking has poured gasoline onto it.

But, this is just an expected part of childhood. A rite of passage. No one ever said growing up was easy, right?

Is school then simply a free babysitting facility that pushes kids into the box of conformity while teaching them only the answers that are on the test? Is it a strange oligarchy where the minority is happy and well-off while the vast majority is miserable, disgruntled, struggling, even suicidal? Is this how we want to handle the youngest and brightest brains in our country–stick them in an institution until they’re so used to following orders and being kicked that they’ve forgotten how to love themselves and love their life, ask critical questions, be creative, think outside the box, and work collaboratively? But at least we DO teach kids the very important cultural values of how to want more than they have, how to be competitive, how to be busy, how to lack awareness, how to be suspicious of those who are different, how to multi-task, how to lack focus, and how to ace every test using very limited and selective attention. And, yes, all of that is on the test.

But what if it could be different? What if our schools were filled with students and teachers who wanted to be there and wanted to learn? What if there was no such thing as grading, no such thing as a test? What if kids were encouraged to learn as much as they wanted to about the things that interested them? What if we let kids lead their own learning? What if we taught them that kind and loving acceptance of others is the only true requirement? And, if they act mean, they get kicked out? What if we could show our students instead of telling them? And give them a feeling that school is a wonderful privilege instead of a dreaded responsibility? That learning is a beautiful, intriguing life-long journey and not a brief period of hell before you can quit and never have to learn again?

It can be different. It can be different with a unique school model that may or may not exist. I’m sure many schools exist that model a wonderful way for kids to learn and grow into their best possible selves. I’m not knocking every school and certainly not any teachers. But I am saying that there’s something broken in a system that doesn’t teach kids to honor themselves, each other, and the love of learning. Homeschooling is one way I’ve found to have this perfect learning environment. It gives the control of education and values back to the parents, lets students explore and expand their minds on their own schedule, and gives children security and self-esteem for the bulk of their day. And… it’s a free and legal schooling option in all 50 states.

Nothing was terrible in our experience of sending our kids to traditional school for the last seven years. But I don’t want their childhood to be “neither terrible nor wonderful.” I want it to be absolutely wonderful! And I feel as though the rewards can be greater for them if we shift our thinking–though it’s a bit counter-cultural–and begin to think of learning as naturally as we think of breathing. And so the great experiment is on for my family. I filed the required paperwork with the school district today and we start homeschooling our four children tomorrow.

What do you think about homeschooling? Are we insane or inspired?


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Writer, mother of four awesome kids, and free thinker, Domini Hedderman is the author of the book, Exit Normal: How We Escaped With Our Family and Changed Our Life, which tells the story of her family's six-month sabbatical in Belize. Since the trip, she and her family are homeschooling and traveling extensively. Her soul mission is to inspire others to live the life of their dreams. Check out her other website at http://www.ExitNormal.com.

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6 thoughts on ““Is This Going to Be On the Test?”

  1. Definitely inspired! I wish you all the best! Homeschooling has been a wonderful experience for my family. Of course, there are days, but it’s very rewarding.

  2. Have been homeschooling (predominantly unschooling) for 20+ yrs now, and for us I don’t think there was a better choice. With such diverse personalities, learning styles, interests, etc of our 9 dc they have all been able to be the unique people I think they were created to be, rather than forced somewhat into conformity.

    Like Dawn said, there are days!!!

    No choice is perfect, but unschooling has been near perfect fit for our family.

    Expect growing- and de-schooling pains.

    All the best.

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for the advice! I think homeschooling will go beautifully with travel. As we prepare to take a 3-month road trip out West, we are already enamored with this learning style–all of us, even the kids!

      That said, as a newbie, I’m sure I’ll need advice and support moving forward so watch out for any “what have I done??” posts sure to hit the blog. ;/


  3. We have been homeschooling for 10 years now and it is certainly the right choice for us. I hope that our children are raised to be creative and are enabled to be who they really want to be.

    • Hi Alison,

      Thanks for reading. I’m glad to hear about 10 years of success! As we begin homeschooling, I am nervous but so glad that it feels right. Leading by instinct has always worked for us in the past so I don’t know why this would be any different.


  4. We homeschooled for 14 years. For reasons too long to mention, my girls tried senior high in private schools. What they realized was that the students there didnt love learning and reading like they did. They were always excited about new subjects and classes but classmates thought that was strange. I cant count the times they were asked if they had to write a report on the book they were carrying only to answer “No..I’m just reading it for pleasure!” They were also way ahead in most subjects yet the only textbooks we used were math and english. Everything else was just lots of library visits, reading, family projects and field trips which we all enjoyed. It was the best days of my life and I hope for them as well. Have fun and learn for the enjoyment of it. It will pay off in the most miraculous way!

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