Sunday, February 08, 2009

Kev's Essay

Okay, so I am posting this again. This is Kevin's edited version of his essay that he wrote last summer. He has gotten quite a few comments lately on his grammar so, rather than have him endure any more, I will post this. I'm sure there are still a few grammatical errors so if you are going to comment on the grammar please offer some constructive criticism that will help him be a better writer, rather than rude comments that just hurt feelings.

Education From the Free Eye by Kevin Snavley

All my life I have unschooled; that was just life, how things were. The only thing that could be considered school is the year of pre-school I attended; of course that's all fun and games. Regardless of how good life was I always wondered in the back of my head what it was like to be in a school building all day. Is it really horrible? Do you sit there for hours on end being lectured by crazy teachers and doing hours of homework? Or is it fun, with lots of cool people and what you really "should" be doing with your life? Somewhere in between these thoughts and the influence of my public schooled friends I got worried about "catching up" and being on par with the rest of society. For a while, around age twelve, I always wanted to be on-track with the kids at school. It was probably because I felt less intelligent than them, which really wasn't the case. They just knew more meaningless facts than I did. They knew more of what our SOCIETY deems as "common smarts". It took me until last year to fully understand that and to truly understand the joys and philosophy of unschooling; the things that make it so much better than public school, the key to genuine learning.

For as long as I can remember the only friends that I had went to public school. If they didn’t go to public school, they were usually strict homeschoolers. The only true unschooling friends I have are my cousins, who live over 4,000 miles away. So in a sense I've grown up with hybrid thinking; one side struggling to decide if public school is bad or good and then one side completely supporting unschooling. My parents have always told me the reasons why public school is not ideal. Not only that but I've heard my Mom debate it numerous times. Of course I couldn't understand it like they did. I hadn't had the same life experiences as them. So inside I continually battled with myself. It was slightly neurotic, because I wouldn't care for a long time and then suddenly I'd have a small panic attack and decide I needed to catch up.

In my mind I always had horrible writing abilities. I had bad hand writing (still do!) and really the only people that ever read my writing were my parents or close friends. Which didn't really help a lot because most of my close friends are really good writers as well and my parents are my parents, you know? I guess because I had never been to school I felt slightly inferior and probably had bad self esteem. It took me until I was fourteen to finally decide I needed to see into this unknown world so I could figure everything out. Why is public school widely considered a necessity? Why do my parents and unschoolers everywhere say it's so wrong? And why is unschooling so much better? Can I REALLY survive 21st century America without it? I got all of my answers.

I would be lying if I said I went for one hundred percent personal reasons. I had one friend in particular who was pro-school and thought I was wasting my life. In a way, I wanted to prove to her that I could do it, in turn becoming a reliable resource to say if school is a waste of time or not. To be honest, up until I started writing this I forgot about that completely. I kind of kept the fact that this whole thing was an experiment in the back of my mind. While in school it does feel nice to be "normal". But is it best? For the sake of writing this I'm going to skip through the school year and spare you the details of explaining the entire nine months. School was most of what I expected, the whole face of it anyway; it wasn't quite as horrible as my parents said it was, the days went by fast most of the time, it wasn't intensely boring, and I got to see my friends. However, I noticed how little socialization time there is. I'd expected a lot more because everybody always says, "I get to hang out with my friends!!". This is definitely not my definition of hanging out. It seemed like a stupid reason to want to be there; still, understandable enough.

After a few weeks of school I quickly started to realize who I am; I wasn't stupid, not even close. If anyone was stupid it was the other ninety percent of the kids there. Everybody loved my writing, my Honors English teacher included. I did great in every class despite never having formal lessons. That's when I realized the irony; the kid that an average adult would deem to be stupid due to "lack of education" is doing better at the school game than most of the students in the entire building. It's just funny how much weight is put on something so ridiculous. If I can get good grades without ever being officially taught something, SO CAN EVERY OTHER KID OUT THERE. Grades mean nothing. School means nothing. I'm not trying to sound condescending, because at the time I felt anything but, it's just a simple realization and proof that school is unnecessary.

My favorite classes were Jazz choir, Japanese and English. I looked forward to those every day. Though something I really began to hate about the school day was waking up at 6:30am, staying there for six hours, and then swimming for another 2 hours before going home to do meaningless homework. It felt like a waste of life, time and energy. If I had it my way, I would be there for 3 classes and swimming, so towards the end of the first semester I got pretty lazy and ended with a 3.3 GPA. Still, better than most kids, but not really my best. If I was going to be at school all day long for nine months, I was definitely going to prove to those school nazis that on America's education scale, I am not any less intelligent than anybody else. Second semester I ended with a 3.8. Throughout the whole year I couldn't stand the fact that I was surrounded by unmotivated, stupid (not the academic way, but in the general manner they acted) people. Another trend I noticed was the word "can't". EVERYBODY uses that one - “I can't become this”, “I can't do that because I'm not smart enough”, “I don't have the looks for this”, etc.

I learned why a lot of the kids there are unmotivated, immature or annoying. Most of it is due to loss of motivation, and the fact that they've lived in this world (public school) practically their whole lives. I finally came to the realization that if I had to endure that nonsense for nine years, I probably wouldn't be the person I am today. Friends have told me that I would have been the definition of an honors student, I say, “no”, I would have been a lazy bum that wanted nothing more than a couch and TV in life. I might add that I've learned a lot from TV, but you get my point. The thing that has made me a responsible, smart and motivated human being IS due to my unschooled life. As stupid, annoying, unmotivated (whatever a huge portion of the public school kids are), you really can't blame them. There are some people that can relate to me and a few in school that get annoyed with the same stuff I do, but they don't completely understand either. You never really can unless you have lived a free life. Also, I noticed that my friends were coincidentally some of the lesser annoying people in the building, friends I made BEFORE going to school. Some personalities are strong and can endure twelve years of school plus college, most cannot. Between some teachers telling them they're not good enough and wasting years of their life on something that doesn't really matter, they get fried. Most of the time it goes unnoticed too and you just kind of... evaporate. I started to feel the same thing happening to me in just those short nine months. Every thought you have, dream you want to fulfill, inspiration that strikes you, it all goes on the back burner because you're slammed with everything else, and eventually you just forget how to live any other way altogether.

The whole nine months all in all were good for me though, negatives and positives. I learned that with unschooling you can learn MORE than most public schooled kids do. I learned that the things my parents have told are not complete heresy. I experienced something that I had never done before. The mystery was gone. Best of all, I can now defend the unschooling philosophy without any doubt in my mind, while being credible in my accusations against the system.

Would I recommend sending a kid to school their entire life? Absolutely not. It's much too easy to lose your way, too easy to become just another drone without that spark; dreaming of "success" and money but failing to be creative in achieving it. One thing I would advise though is to find fellow unschoolers because support is important. I'm a perfect example. Would I recommend a current unschooler attend school? If it's going to do them good as it did me, sure. If they want to see what it's like, sure. Otherwise, it's going to seem like a shit hole, plain and simple. It would be beneficial for everyone to see what it's like, but not everyone can go through it with the same view point. So like everything else in our unschooled lives, it's up to us to make that decision.

I can't say I had a bad experience, probably the opposite. Like I said before, I learned a lot about myself and the philosophies I'm submerged in, negatives and positives. But it's also great to feel like you're a part of something. There's this building full of 1200 kids that will be there right alongside you, people to relate with, interesting and amazing people as well- some you might never meet otherwise. It's fun occasionally and there ARE opportunities. And of course, the classic "my friends are there". At this point, I think it would just be easier if I moved so I could break all of my attachments. As ridiculous, unneeded and meaningless as school is, parts of it tend to grow on you. So here I am, the year I thought would never end completed and I have to decide what I want to do for the remaining three years. Over the last few days I've really been reflecting about what I truly want. Is it to finish high school, deal with everything I don't like and benefit from the things I do? Or stop, maybe go straight to College, and just start focusing on what I want to achieve in life? That's something I'll be thinking about for a while.


Shady Lady said...

I thought Kevin's essay was fabulous the first time. I am stunned that people would be so rude. The essay was and is amazing and stands on it's own, correct grammar or not. If I can read it and take it for the value in it everyone else should be able to. After all, I'm the one who during conversation corrects grammar in my head. Please tell Kevin that his essay rocks...both versions!

Heather's Moving Castle said...

My husband has talked about Kev's essay with me and he was impressed. I think it takes a lot to impress him too. It is hard to get his attention and it did. I have the first one linked to my blog. Thanks for sharing it again. I was wondering if Kev's article got published yet?

Snavleys said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Snavleys said...

Well, it was partly a misunderstanding on my part. The person that I was responding to was actually responding to the prior poster who commented on his grammar. My bad! She set me straight and I stand corrected, with my tail between my legs, lol. The prior poster made a rude comment regarding his grammar so I still needed to re-post for my own peace of mind. I'm really glad so many people enjoyed the essay and I think it has a lot of relevance in the unschool world.

Mama Tara said...

Wonderful essay, Kevin! Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing with others.


Zsanett said...

I actually liked the first version more. It felt more spontaneous, and to me it conveyed the unschooled spirit better. Still, the overall message is just as awesome, thank you for sharing!

Andrea said...

Thank you for this post, I really needed it! Winter in VT has zapped my enthusiasm and I was having some serious doubts about what I am doing with my kids. Best of luck with whatever you decide to do, and keep posting for those of us who are just starting out and really struggling!

Melanie Thompson said...

This is the first time I'm reading Kevin's essay. We recently moved to Iowa from Nebraska and the homeschooling laws here in Iowa are so restricting. We have a great supervising teacher (who is also a homeschooler) and without her, I don't know how we would have survived here!

I was a biology major/Enlish minor in college and let me tell you--if a student of mine came to me with an essay like that, I would be THRILLED. Maybe it needs more editing, but maybe it just needs to stay the way it is.

Your essay has refreshed me considerably and I may be able to survive the next few weeks of homeschooling because of what you've given me in this essay. My next question would be: When can I expect your next motivational essay, because I'm going to need it soon!!!

Thank you very much, Kevin.

Snavleys said...

Kevin will be speaking at the Life Is Good Conference. Conferences are always full of encouraging,motivational words and people so maybe meet us there?!

Mel said...

I studied English and journalism in college, and, while I didn't go through Kevin's essay with a fine-tooth comb, I was very impressed by his level of written communication. I would say that he is more than proficient as a writer.

Did he end up going back to high school?

Snavleys said...

Kev is currently taking two classes at the highschool and a few correspondence. For some reason, he is wanting more "formal" education so we support his endeavors. It's interesting though that the subjects he enjoys he plugs along with fine but the subjects he doesn't like he has hardly done anything with, as far as the correspondence goes. Unfortunately, he has put himself in the system and has to play somewhat by their rules. I'm sure the correspondence office will be phoning me soon with concerns that some of his subjects are way behind. Oh well! He says there are things he misses about being at the school full-time. I think it mainly has to do with him feeling a part of something, even if that something is a jail. He misses some of the daily happenings.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That was amazing and inspirational!

Anonymous said...

Clear headed. We need more of that in this world.

Stacey said...

Kevin your essay was and still is brilliant. I met a Master's student during my History degree who was amazed when his supervising professor said, "I know the first year student's writing goes beyond disgraceful, but as long as the name is written in the correct spot you give them a 'D'." Your writing is very well paced and the thoughts well organized - the grammar will come although I saw very little wrong with it. Way to go and I've passed your essay onto many who are just starting down the unschooling path with their children - including me! You are an excellent example of the philosophy!

Stacey (Mom to 3 boys in Calgary, Canada)

Alisha said...

I just wanted to say that I appreciate this post very much. My husband and I are very much on the fence about Homeschooling/Unschooling and reading a perspective from a teenager is extremely helpful.
Thank you for this.
Alisha (my son is only 3 and I am already agonizing about school)

Woodsykris said...

My friends Heather and Cliff are coming to stay with you this summer. All of our Iowa unschooling friends are so happy for their opportunity, and now, after reading this, I am even more excited for them. I get that your son wrote this in 9th grade? Sounds more like an early 20-something. I'm going to post this to my FB so some of my mainstream/schooly friends can read.