Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Experiences Aren't Universal: Why Personalized Education is Important

People seem to have a lot of ideas about what types of experiences other people--especially children, teens and young adults-- should be having.

Thus we get a whole bunch of faux-concerned (or, hey, maybe some actually concerned) individuals saying “But what about prom? That was such a great night for me.”

“How are children supposed to learn about adversity? I grew stronger through dealing with bullies.”

“It’s about the whole college experience, though! That’s where I learned to live independently.”


Some things, like the bullying, I believe are wrong no matter what. But for other things, they can definitely be important milestones in many peoples' lives.

They don't have to be, though. What some experience as a milestone, others won't feel to be a big deal, and still others will never have that experience and not miss it at all.

This isn't just the case in events and milestones related to schooling, either. For example people who espouse travel as a form of self-discovery frequently seem rather dismissive of people who don’t like to travel, and dismissive even of those who do like traveling but are merely “tourists,” and are not properly pursuing self discovery through life on the road, and backpacking, and couchsurfing. Or how some people believe that all young adults should experience living entirely on their own, without even roommates, as some attempt to learn how to be a "real" adult.

People seem to frequently make the mistake of thinking that because something is meaningful and helpful in their own lives, then it must be meaningful and helpful in everyone’s lives. Which means everyone should do X, Y, or Z important thing as a Right of Passage or a Way to Find Yourself.

Sharing what’s worked in your own life can be really helpful and inspiring to others. But don’t make the assumption that just because it worked for you, it’s going to work for most (or even many) other people. We’re all individuals with different paths to pursue.

This is one of the reasons I love unschooling so much. As I've said numerous times, when asked what my favourite thing about unschooling is or why I think unschooling is important, one of the best things about unschooling, in my mind,  is the personalization of our education,  as we pursue what we truly want and need to learn. This holds true for learning without college, as well, and attempting to build a life as an adult that feels in line with our desires, our values, and our strengths.

It’s wonderful knowing that people have gained joy and personal growth in their life thanks to an experience they had in school, or an epic backpacking trip they went on, or painting every day, or living entirely alone in a cabin in the woods, or adopting a religion. It’s great reading about the myriad of ways people are living meaningful lives and doing important work. But of all those paths, we’ll each find different ones inspiring, different ones that make us go “wow, I want to do that!”

There’s much good to be had in embracing a variety of ways of living, as long as they do no harm to others. Realizing that what’s right for us may not be right for our sibling, or our friend, or a stranger on the internet, is important as we share what's worked in our own lives.

In embracing life learning, a philosophy all about finding the most meaningful and personally relevant path in each individual's life, it seems to me we're making an important step in creating a world where we all have a lot more personal power in the shape our education, and our life, takes.

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