ADHD, getting started homeschooling, homeschooling

You Can’t Force Your Child to Learn

Knowledge is the salary that a child receives from his time invested in schooling.

Just like money is the pay an adult receives for his invested time in a job, an education is the payment a child receives for his time invested in school.

The time and energy invested needs to worth the payment or –-just like an adult-– a kid will quit.

If a worker is forced to work when he doesn’t want to –against his will– that’s slavery.

That’s morally wrong.

Is it any wonder many children hate school?

They are forced –against their will– to do something that they don’t see as valuable.

To them, what they are receiving is not worth what they are being forced to invest!

Let’s be honest, eight hours a day, five days a week, for twelve years is a humongous investment!

Don’t fret if you have a child like this –one who isn’t thrilled with the current system.

You have the power to change this situation!

You can do these two things:

1. You can convince him or her to change what they’re willing to invest, by making your case and explaining the importance, by convincing them that an education is worth it, but …there’s no guarantee that this will work, and you cannot force them to accept it without the child feeling like he or she is a slave and stuck, like they’ve been wronged, and this will cause anger and resentment –it will make everyone miserable. So, you will have to convince them of its value –not just force your way on them. I hope you can make your case convincingly!


2. You can change your educational expectations to something that the child is interested in or something that they are motivated to learn –something that’s worth the time and energy to the child such as… letting them follow their interests, learning at their own pace, using media for school, unschooling, using delight-led learning, gameschooling, worldschooling, lifeschooling or funschoolingbasically changing the approach you use for their education.

Giving the child a voice in what they learn and how makes the child feel like they are not a victim of school: you cease to be a victim when you have power over your future, when you are investing in your own future!

The current method of forced education –which is used in both brick-and-mortar schools and profusely in homeschool— causes damage.

I’m less worried about the kids who scream that it’s not fair than the ones who don’t notice that they’ve been given no choice, the ones that don’t notice that the standard school system approach treats children like they no right of refusal –like they are just cogs in a machine instead of real people with preferences and personalities.

I am very concerned about children who just go along with it without standing up for themselves –more concerned about those kids than the ones who resist.

If you have a child who complains about this treatment, be glad!

You have a child who knows how to stand up for themselves and refuses to be mistreated!

We wouldn’t accept that treatment as adults.

We wouldn’t stand by and allow ourselves to be given no rights, no options, no choices, no individuality, and no respect.

So, why do we force it on our children?

Just because it’s socially acceptable neither makes it morally right nor in the best interest of the child.

Hey, parents, you are selling school –most likely homeschooling if you are reading my blog– to your child.

Your job is to convince them that the investment in education is worth their time.

How good are you doing at selling it?

Do you need to sweeten the deal?

Do you even know what your target audience (i.e. your child) wants?

Do you know what they see as valuable?

What’s important to them?

If the knowledge alone is not enough to motivate them to learn, what can you do to add motivation?

Aside from punishment which will just make them resent school and learning more.

Does your child need a reward system that will add to the payment of knowledge they are receiving for their time invested?

You’re not bribing your child; you’re treating them with the same respect you would expect from someone who is using up your time.

Do you choose to do things you hate with no benefit for it?

You cannot force a child to learn.

It may seem like you can, but even children who go along with forced learning are just learning the minimum to get by and quickly forget it.

I mean, truly, how many of those names and dates from history class do you really remember?

The only children who truly succeed in this system are the ones who comply and do what they are told without asking or caring why.

I don’t want my children to blindly follow and never question why they are being forced into things or why they are not treated with respect.

Learning is like eating: it is a voluntary act.

Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating. ~ Katrina Gutleben

Your child has to choose to do it.

Imagine the damage that would be done if we threatened our children when they didn’t eat –or worse yet if we force-fed them?

That would be child abuse.

And, yet, in our society, it is socially acceptable to force-feed children information against their will.

Then, we adults get upset and indignant when they resist the force-feeding, resent us, hate school, and don’t remember what they have learned.

We are aghast that by age twelve or thirteen many of them want to jump ship on a system that has been disrespectful to their opinions, preferences, and needs since they were very small.

Our current system is simpler for the adults to implement (i.e. a simpler way to deal with large numbers of children with little adult supervision), therefore the kids are expected to comply –even if it is damaging to them.

The problem isn’t with the kids –have you noticed that the smarter the kid the more likely they are to resist the status-quo method of education?

The problem lies with the expectation that every child be the same, be given the same education, learn in the same way and in the same time.

The problem isn’t the child: it is our approach and our expectations.

So, I dare you to change your expectations.

I challenge you to treat your child with the same respect you would expect and not force them into servitude to a system that does not have their best interest in mind but instead leaves them with a hatred of learning, an inability to see the value in choosing to learn, not striving for excellence, but doing the bare minimum to get by.

It is a system that does not value the child or the child’s needs.

Let your child choose to learn.

Give your child power over their own education –a say in their education.


Sarah Forbes

P.S. For my personal experience with the damage done by the brick-and-mortar approach to education, see this post about Deschooling.

For more information on how I homeschool, see this post about Delight-led Learning and Why Child-directed Education is Vital to Homeschooling.

For more information about letting children learn at their own pace, see this post called There’s No Behind in Homeschool.

Did you know that there are many ways to educate a child, and that the current popular system is neither best for the child nor the most effective? See this video for more information (and don’t let the title put you off –it’s a great video! But there are a few swear words, just a heads-up.).


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