The purpose of this book is to encourage the teen to make their education their own responsibility. They can remain at school, or as a homeschool take only some classes, or find apprenticeships, volunteer, or even skip directly to college. In short they are designing their own self-education, where ever it may happen. Along the way they develop a better idea of themselves and many more life skills then they would in formal school.

via Cool Tools – The Teenage Liberation Handbook.

I have not read this book but, based on the review alone it is the book I wished someone had given me at the start of high school. Perhaps it will save a few others who are there or have children there.

I was a terrible student by the time I got to high school. It was not because I found the subject matter difficult. Quite the opposite. I was bored to tears.

You see, as a child I was a voracious reader. From the earliest time I could read, you almost never saw me not reading something. If I was ever idle the first thing I would was to grab the nearest thing I could read. I was reading at a college level by age eight. And, most of what I read was non-fiction reference material. For instance, my Grandmother got me a set of encyclopedias yearly — World Book, Britannica, Childrens, etc. — and I read as many of these from cover-to-cover as I could. My Mom would get me a Time Life Book Series collection on Christmas for several years. Each one had a theme like Space or The West (with real saddle leather covers). I would read these over and over again too. Of course, it was not all serious. There were plenty of comics, Mad Magazines, fantasy classics, and the occasional novel.

Therefore, by the time I reached high school, school seemed very forced. Not only did I know a lot of the material but I would have rather been given a book and told to come back and prove that I knew it by writing an essay on the subject matter (standardized testing being too uncreative for me). And, in some particular areas of my interest, I often knew more than my teachers could have taught me (English and History to be specific). In order to combat and rebel, I started skipping classes or making up wild and elaborate stories about myself. I would pay no attention in class or mark multiple choice tests into a one time pad cypher that, if decrypted, would have revealed my feeling on the very act of taking it (“This is Stooopid”).

I likely would have flunked out if not for the intervention of three teachers who, separately, reached out to me and got to the root of the issue. All were perplexed that this “seemingly bright” kid was doing so poorly. They cut through my bullshit and discovered that I knew the material, was bored out of my skull, and could prove it to them as long as it did not involve a standardized test (you should have heard the three hour debate my History teacher and I had about the The War Between The States). I passed all the classes that allowed me such flexibility in my own education with high marks.

All of this is to say that I believe our education system is broken. The one size fits all model it is based on is for producing a different kind of human than is required in this modern age. It needs to be redesigned from the ground up to give our kids the flexibility to truly learn (and, more importantly, to develop a love of learning). Since that is not in the best interest of anyone currently in control of such things, the time is ripe for kids to take education into their own hands as I ultimately did.

And, I would be remiss if I did not say how much I fear for my daughter as she enters Kindergarden next year. We are not quite sure yet what type of learner she is. My wife had great success in the traditional, college-prep private school, she attended. She succeeded in the traditional system as many do. Beatrix has attended a very “by Maria’s book” Montessori pre-school for the past two years with a strong belief in fostering the self-motivated child. Therefore, between all of these factors, Beatrix could go either way or somewhere down the middle when it comes time to enter a more traditional system.

We chose the school we are sending her to largely based on it’s reputation. It is not only the top-rated public elementary school in Saint Paul but there is a strong emphasis on reading. I’m hoping this mix of traditional and self-directed translates to a good learning experience for her. But, you can be rest assured, that the moment it stops working I will advocate for change and do whatever is on my power to ensure that she has the framework to design her own education. And, if the institutions of learning are not there to support it, if I have anything to do with it she can and will opt-out.

In the end, I hope all of this information helps start similar conversations and reflection about education in your home. Because we owe it to our kids and the future of our societies to ensure that we are raising strong, smart, active learners.

I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.