How Will Your Kids be Prepared for the Real World (Unless They Go to School There?)

It’s the number one opposition homeschoolers face from doubting questioners, and unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles preventing parents from deciding to homeschool: parents want their children to be prepared for the real world so they think they must send them to school.

Stop: who got us to think upside down? Essentially, what this means is, we feel like the best way to prepare our children for the real world is to take them out of the real world, put them in an unrealistic world all day for twelve years, try to simulate the real world, and then tell everyone this is the only way to prepare them for the real world. It’s hilarious just writing that out!

“Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.” Resource for Kids

All I want to do here is to help people who want to homeschool but are gripped with this irrational fear to “let it go!”  This is not an attempt to put down anyone, but to offer a discerning look at an often misunderstood topic. If you’re happy with the simulated circumstance (and many are), this isn’t about convincing you to homeschool.

However, we should all want to talk and think like rational humans so for the sake of everyone who must make this important life decision about educating his child, we at least need to make it based on the facts and truth of reality. It’s a bit like my choice to bottle feed my first baby. I knew I would have to go to work and I was still in school and so I decided to bottle feed because I didn’t see a way to breast feed. I did not, however, pretend bottle feeding was better or even the same as nursing in order to justify my decision. I knew it was second best, but it was the decision I felt I had to make. Regardless of our decisions, we need to at least be honest about them.

How schools must recreate the real world

In the first several years of school, especially, a classroom must try to recreate real life which is hardly possible, making the classroom second best for real learning. That’s not an insult, it’s simply a truth, like saying real hair is preferable to a wig. Exploration, creativity, freedom, hands-on learning, it is all greatly limited if not extinguished, in the classroom.

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

I was thinking about this as my 5 year old asked me what time it is. I’ve never given my children clock worksheets–we have a clock on the wall. And when they begin to be aware of time and the clock, I show them, until they understand, how time works. That’s it. They all learn to tell time. (Same way they learned the English language.)

We don’t even have phonics books. We use phonics as we sit down with books together, sounding out letters, blends and memorizing sight words, and eventually, they begin reading.

We don’t read books about “opposites” or colors, or numbers; all those things exist in our daily conversations and children are remarkable learners. It comes naturally in real life. We learn about vegetation outside, we classify real birds and real trees when we go for walks. We talk about current events at the dinner table, asking probing questions that require thought and analytic skills.

We discuss lifestyles and how to handle different situations after we leave events, family gatherings, or vacations.

Life teaches.

Hygiene from a health book? No. Weather? It’s there.

Is it reading about the solar system (a perfectly wonderful thing to do) or would the words come alive if they were just given a telescope and notepad to chart their observations?

Another unrealistic thing (necessary only for keeping order and tracking of large groups) is the idea of “school in” or “school out”, deadlines, and grade levels. I could write a book, but suffice it to say, it’s optimal to embrace learning (i.e. “school”) as something always happening, without the confines of time and space. We will never learn all there is to learn; why not develop a mindset of always-learning what is in front of us and what we need to know to enhance our gifts?

As they get older, what then? Is real life being confined to rooms lined with desks and people the same age with little time for conversation and interpersonal exchange? Or is it being allowed to mingle, in the real world, observing and attempting adultish things? Exploring all their interests? Following their passions? Figuring things out on their own?

Do we “sit down and do school”, ever? Yes, but not because it’s necessary. We mostly read a lot, I give writing assignments and go over those for proper grammar and usage, the older ones have a formal math curriculum (I’m tweaking this a lot) and they do copy work. Most everything though, can be and is being learned in the context of real life. There are far more pressing things than whether our children can recall the area of a trapezoid (Google it if you need it!)

Keep in mind, the evidence consistently shows that qualities employers desire (if the goal is to work for someone else) hardly ever include test scores or the ability to memorize facts, etc. It’s almost always about character, communication skills and the ability to solve problems–all most easily learned in the real world, where children are free to satisfy their curiosities and find solutions, an amazing trait the Creator gave us all when we were born. In fact, even most highly specialized jobs provide on-the-job training, requiring the capacity for learning, not a specific set of facts already learned (which most students forget anyway).

(Yes, I know there are those needed jobs where students must still jump through the hoops of the system (achieving certain test scores, etc., homeschooled or otherwise). Thankfully though, even this is being widely reconsidered as the job industry is discovering how a college degree or other “certification” may not always be a comprehensive representation of a person’s expertise. More and more are seeing the benefits of apprenticeship/hands-on training.

If you worry about your children learning to cope in the real world, I don’t blame you; consider homeschooling them.


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