Starting A School

To a parent who wrote about joining a few other parents in forming their own school, I said,

“Thanks for news of your school. One piece of heartfelt advice. People sending their kids to your school must be made to understand that if there is something they think those children must be taught or must learn, basics or whatever, it must be their responsibility to do that teaching, and to do it in their own home —or at any rate, away from the school. The school must be a place where people come together to do the things that interest and excite them most. Otherwise, you will be torn to pieces with arguments about whether the school should teach reading or arithmetic, or teach it one or four hours a week, or whatever. Believe me, I speak from the bitter experience of many people.”

And this would be my very strong advice to any group of unschoolers who want to start a school as a way of escaping compulsory attendance laws, or giving their children a place to meet and be with other children, or for whatever reasons. OK to have rules which say, more or less, no fair hurting or bothering other people. Every human society has these, and children expect them and understand them. But the school must not try to compel learning, if for no other reason than this, that people will argue forever, and with increasing bitterness and anger about what kinds of learning must be compelled.