Adults think they know what’s best for children, and usually they’re right.
The education system does need to change. But I don’t think the answer involves more public education and more time away from home.
I’ve been there, done that. I lived in China for many years and not only saw but personally experienced what more, more, more formal education does to kids — and families.
I think we need to rethink our education system and look outside the box.
But to look outside the box, we need to first look at what’s inside the box.
Fortunately, as an observant but typical 11-year-old kid, I can tell you.
While at school in the USA and in China, I enjoyed school. I had the best teachers and feel like I learned a lot.
The thing is, if you asked me what I learned, I couldn’t tell you. For some reason, it wasn’t etched into my mind. Maybe because there was so much information layered between 45-minute segments. Maybe it was because I was distracted. The kids around me were like chattering monkeys, constantly slipping notes to each other or gazing off into daydreams.
I think parents would be shocked at what classmates talk about and what things we are exposed to.
Parents assume school is an innocent, safe environment where we are learning 100% of the time. Or maybe they just want to believe it because they think they have no other option.
For a time, I did homeschool. I still got distracted (especially with Khan Academy math) but usually I finished my homework by noon so the rest of the day I could do and learn things that I like — like writing books. (I even took a High School Creative Writing course!)
At home, I don’t have the pressure to fit in or act someone different than myself. I can be me. And more than that, I learned how much I love family. I love cooking lunch for them. (I’m a better cook than my mom!) And hugging my baby brother when he wakes up from a nap.
But homeschool has its drawbacks.
I didn’t have the “crowd pressure” to get things done. I could go at a slower pace — sometimes too slow. Sometimes my mom wasn’t available to teach us or keep us on task. And sometimes I was just plain bored.
With all the innovation and new technology these days, it’s preposterous that we haven’t rethought and revamped our current school system. Sure, there are private schools that offer innovative methods of learning — but most parents can’t afford them.
I think it’s time the USA offered community-led educational options to fit the various family situations and student interests and personalities. For example, I personally would love smaller neighborhood schools (with around 10 kids per class) that ended at noon like Germany, or perhaps had a 2-to-3-hour lunch break like the siesta in Spain. That way kids could return home, bond with family and remember that school drama isn’t our entire world.
Parents and other available neighborhood mentors could take turns teaching subjects they are interested in or have real life experience in. Students wouldn’t be separated by age. Schools wouldn’t use the current grading system. Students could dive deeper on a subject of interest and even start doing short “internships.” Students wouldn’t move on in a subject until they fully mastered and understood it.
The point is that with all the technological advances we have at our fingertips — as well as the increase in youth suicides, drug abuse and lower test scores — perhaps it’s time we started truly investing in America’s future. It’s time we started rethinking our current education and started thinking outside the box.
Joy L. Moore is an ambitious 11-year-old who likes ballet, writing, swimming and playing outside.