Living for the Future
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The most important moment of our lives is not in the future. And that is the most important thing on my list of reasons why I’m glad my family is unschooling.
In the public schools I went to, the sole focus was that I had a job to do. My job was to do well in school so that in a decade or so down the road, I would have a good job, a nice big house and a sports car. The whole of my efforts, on a daily basis, had everything to do with the future. In the future, I believed I would be a success. In the future, I would finally have what I wanted. I would hear that someday, if you work and study and do what we tell you, it’ll all come together for you. It was all about the future. Your happiness is in the future. Your success is in the future. It will all come later. It’s almost like a Pinocchio syndrome: You won’t be a real person until you get out of college, then the real life will start. The wooden child will become a magnificently fleshed-out happy person, with great health benefits and a six figure income.
So, what we do in our home life is focus on what is happening right now, because we can be sure that this is the moment that has been given to us, not the one in some far future. Now is the time to celebrate being together, not stressed out preparing for a huge test that has a child in tears.
I am not trying to criticize public education. Many well intentioned methods can go astray; I think this one is further astray than most people realize. For some kids whose present lives aren’t that great, school might be able to fire them up about things, or inspire them to try something new or broaden their horizons. But I think there are other ways to do this without the focus on the future.
What I really learned from focusing constantly on the future was that the present moment was not important. Who I was at that present moment was not important. What I knew at that present moment was not important. I came to believe that all knowledge, learning and intuition paled in comparison to what I was to become.
I now see this as a fundamentally flawed way to look at things. As an adult, I had to fight to grasp the notion that my accomplishments were not the things that determined my value as a human being. Now, my kids don’t look into the future and think, “Someday I’ll do something great.” They aren’t being prepared for the future in this fashion. They are living in the moment. Instead, they know, without a doubt, that who they are already is what makes them great – not what they may accomplish in some far off future. Once, when asked, “What did you do for homeschool today?” my son Quinn responded, “What I would say is, well...what we did for homeschool...was...we just...we were ourselves and we did what we were doing, that’s how we homeschool!”
I’m glad my kids don’t have to question if they know “enough” yet. Instead, they live with the constant knowledge that whatever they know is always enough. They live in the knowledge that the moment is all we have and that it is enough. At the end of every day, they know that there are lots of things they would like to do and learn and see. But they also go to sleep every night knowing that they are complete. Their life isn’t unfinished; it just starts again the next morning and it’s an adventure.
What happens when you teach someone for darn near twenty years that what they are really wanting is still just out of reach, in the future? I think that they grow up, still looking around for what they were promised. Something is missing and they can’t quit put their finger on it. How will they likely end up seeing their lives, even at the age of fifty? I’ll tell you that after all those years of practice, it’s one lesson they’ll never forget: “I’ll be happy in the future.” And that is where they will continue to seek their happiness – in the future.
I have heard that our kids can’t just do what they wish and must learn something so they can grow up to be happy, productive people. This oft-repeated illusion is the main reason that our family still unschools. It’s our attempt to help our children preserve their true natures, until they can do so on their own. It’s to help them remain grounded in what we consider the truth of how life unfolds...not in the future, but now.
I believe that the most important time to be awake and alert in our lives is in the present moment, right here and right now. I believe that our happiness actually resides in how connected we feel with the living world around us and the people in it. Our ability to trust ourselves and to believe that we are wise beings with the ability to teach and learn – at any age – is crucial to filling that big empty spot you see present in so many adults and children alike. I believe that time, freedom and trust is the educational environment that most fosters this unfolding in children. They are the foundation stones for peace in this life. These are things that do not have to be taught. But they can be forgotten. Take it one step further...they can be unlearned.
As an adult, if you haven’t found these answers for yourself, within yourself, then you won’t believe your children will find them within themselves either. If you are still trying to get money or a good job to make you feel fulfilled and successful – even if it’s not working – the promise of it working someday is still present. You will encourage your child to walk the same path.
Unschooling, for me, really isn’t about education at all. It’s about living and being in the moment. It’s about being unhurried and seeing that there really is no reason to hurry. It’s about learning from my children as I watch them learn. It’s about one-day-at-a-time and the amazing opportunity we all have to really experience this day instead of just getting through it.
Charlie Morris and his family live in Chapel Hill, NC. At home, he juggles the roles of home-based business owner, writer, and unschooling, stay-at-home dad. He loves sharing his passion for perspectives that may lead to open minds and open hearts. Through being at home, he has had the opportunity to ponder the less obvious aspects and impacts of unschooling on life and society at large. He is an avid practitioner of Tai Chi and Chi Lel and loves all outdoor wilderness pursuits. Charlie is the author of two books, including Voyage Home: One Family’s Experience of Unschooling.