Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Happiness Now!
My unschooled daughter tells me her good friend finds her ‘intimidatingly happy.'
"You are always so content, so relaxed so..happy," the friend complains. Yes, complains.
This is a friend who has seen the world; she has traveled the seven seas and visited a crazy number of countries. She has private tutors and her family is heavy on culture.
She is enrolled in a prestigious high school program this fall and her future looks bright. But she is not happy. She never feels good enough. She feels compelled to compete and to continuously prove just how much she knows. My daughter is happy. She tells me that it is important to her that she enjoys her life. “I like to enjoy my life,” she says. It is a worthwhile goal.  

She is happy she tells me, because she is pursuing the things that make her happy- be they difficult or challenging they are her personal interests and that spurs on happiness. Intrinsic motivation is what compels her to push herself forward and ‘up her game.’ 

Too often I hear my other daughters' friends bemoan the fact that they do not have the time to do the things they love to do. School keeps them so overworked.
These are the lucky ones. So many young people no longer believe in their dreams. They have become shy or even apologetic and furtive in what they want. Others have no idea of what moves them.
In the last few months, some of their closest friends have confessed to struggling with depression and feelings of worthlessness and even suicidal thoughts.
I can only wonder at what part compulsory schooling is playing to contribute to such a dismal picture of the world young people will inherit. With all the hussle, stress, competition, constant messages pertaining to scarcity of jobs and resources, it's not an inspiring picture. Kids are told in no uncertain terms that high school is their one and only shot at a ‘good life.’ Of course unschoolers know that is not true. My kids know it’s a lie. High school is not the ‘be all end all’ for a bright future.

When it comes to happiness, it almost feels like there is an unspoken taboo around being happy. 

It begins when we are young and we are indoctrinated into believing that happiness must be earned. It is not a question of contentment being our natural birthright.  Rather, we must not be permitted happiness until we have completed such and such a chore or done our homework etc, etc.
No wonder that to many of us, being happy feels....wrong. We feel guilty if we are happy, shielding our joy from those who might find it offensive. Seems to me that what is socially acceptable is being ‘en route’ to happiness; getting there, almost there, will be happy when this, that or the other is taken care off.
Only the rich and famous are exempt: they deserve happiness. The rest of us should act miserable.
How rotten is that? I find that people who unschool actively work towards refusing this view; instead try to claim for themselves, happiness now. Maybe it’s because unschooling leans towards pursuing what you love to do-right now-rather than, someday, somewhere down the road?

Comments welcome!


Ann Duncan said...

Thank you for your great post.

People find my unschooled daughter content, happy, very enthusiastic about life. She had a friend complain about that, as well.

May this content, happy tribe increase!

rfs said...

@Ann-May our happy tribe inspire others to be happy too!

Anonymous said...

There's the on going debate about what is causing kids to commit suicide. Bullying comes up time and time again. But how many people consider that it schooling is the biggest bully? Schools kid kids.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that schools make students unhappy. I've enjoyed 12 years of public schooling as have many of my friends. I have dreams and goals and laughter in my life. Going to a public school does not necessarily make your life a living hell and cause depression.

rfs said...

@Anon-I agree with you. Schooling is the unspoken bully.

rfs said...

@Anon-I agree with you too! But I think that schooling deprives us of and usually distracts us from our true interests and especially works a number on our self-knowledge, our inner voices- confounding and messing us up in subtle and not so subtle ways. This is not to undermine your experience at school. It is just to point out that you can never know how much you have lost by being institutionalized -not having grown up unschooled. Everything has its price to pay.

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