“What if...”
An exploration of the “what ifs” surrounding Self-Directed Education.

“What if they don’t learn anything?!”

What if they do?

What if they learned all of the things they would have learned in a conventional school and then some. Would you love them more?

What if they learned everything there was to know about molecular physics? What if they could tell you things about molecules that went soaring so far above your head you weren’t even sure if the facts flooding your ears were just made up fantasies of a highly creative child? Would you brag about them more?

What if their focus lay in art? What if they spent hours perfecting the mixing of colors and the curve of their clay? Would you hang more things on the fridge?

If they learn all the songs to Hamilton and dive deep into the history of a man who was equal parts visionary and fallible? Would you cheer them on more than you do now?

If they performed on cue- sang the songs, played the piano, danced the dances, recited the poems, and answered all the questions on demand? Would you be more proud of them?

What if they could ace the same tests as the kids who go to conventional school? What if they were on “grade level”? What if they were even a little “advanced” in all the main subject areas? Would you feel more justified in your decision to follow their lead? Would serving that system you left give you more confidence?

“What if, instead, they did...nothing?”

What if days pass them by in peace and quiet, tea parties and quiet reading galore? Would that feel like nothing?

What if they let cool breezes blow across their faces and let mud squish between their toes for hours on end? If the mud they squished became pies and castles and paint in their little hands. Would you think less of them?

What if they never forgot how to enjoy a day? If they curled up on a warm window seat with a cup of tea and watched the world go by? Would they feel less magical to you?

If kindness ruled their tongues instead of scientific facts? Would you think less of them?

What if they played video games all day? Would you love them less?

If they played dress up for hours on end and painted their nails all the colors of the rainbow? If they made capes out of blankets and crowns out of paper? Would you believe them to be less intelligent?

What if they refused to touch a math workbook, never memorized the periodic table, and refused to read Shakespeare? Would their lives seem less valuable to you?

What if they don’t read until they’re 12? Would you like them less?

What if they built legos structures that took hours of their time and focus, without regard to outside pressures? What if they used 7,842 tiny blocks to make a forest fit for a family of stuffed animals? Would you deem them less successful?

What is success?

What if you defined love, value, intellect, magic, pride, and success so radically that they didn’t rely at all on your child’s ability to perform, compete, or impress?

What if you focused what little time you had left with them in your home on connection instead of expectations?

What if your fear that they aren’t doing “enough” were causing them to question their own value and worth? Would you recognize it? Would you do things differently?

What if you recognized that your child and all children are hard-wired to learn, no matter how slow or meandering the progress may seem? Could it change your perspective? Would it?

What if you recognized your own power and magic as a facilitator to your child’s learning? What if you could see your power and magic reflected in your child’s eyes when they looked up at you? Would it change your approach?

What if every time you wondered if they weren’t learning enough you instead envisioned the tiny human you first welcomed earthside and took note of all the skills, knowledge, and ability they have gained without any formal instruction? Would you give them more space?

What if you stopped pretending it’s even remotely possible to complete an education without any gaps in knowledge? What if you accepted the gaps and allowed for different gaps than the ones you anticipated?

What if they don’t learn anything?

What if that isn’t possible?

What if there is no such thing as “nothing”? What if you chose to value each interaction, interest, and exploration as important because they’re important to your child? Would your relationship deepen?

What if they don’t learn anything?

What if they do?

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Tipping Points Magazine amplifies the diverse voices within the Self-Directed Education movement. The views expressed in our content belong solely to the author(s). The Alliance for Self-Directed Education disclaims responsibility for any interpretation or application of the information provided. Engage in dialogue by reaching out to the author(s) directly.

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