In my observation, many parents who decide to homeschool their kids do so out of idealism or as a reaction to the absurdities of the school system. In either case, they may not have invested much of themselves into understanding two fundamental requirements of life: Purpose and Path. A few who have invested a little have gotten so confused that they have become allergic to these and other words associated with them. Therefore, sooner or later, the majority of homeschooling parents do a last-ditch attempt to help their kids get formal certificates.
So, what do parents do to address their confusions, anxieties, regrets and heartache? They fervently search for methods, tools and experts to help their kids land one leg in the mainstream. Ultimately, what parents want for their kids is a “well settled life characterized by a steady career leading to building some financial assets and a happily married family life.” They believe that once this is achieved, then in a leisurely way, their kids could turn their attention to exploring Purpose and Path. We, as parents who grew up with that mindset, have followed that path and know that this is the recipe for mid-life crisis that never ends.
Pursuing a “well settled life” or a life focused on a “higher purpose through a particular path” both have some Non-negotiable requirements (NNs):
- Self generated and unwavering discipline
- Above average capacity for awareness and willing concentration
- Opportunities to cultivate virtues and values
Now, where can we buy the above three requirements? Ok, if outright purchase is not possible, can we at least borrow them for a while until we settle down? We could if someone could find a way to lend them to us. We could always pray to god and beg for them. But we never learned how to pray well, so that too is ruled out. Well, there is no escape but to invest ourselves fully into exploring and figuring out how to acquire the NNs for ourselves and our kids. It is hard work.
The mainstream (in every domain including education) has survived and grown the way it has in order to work around the NNs. A school or a university is a business with multiple product and service categories. Each product or service is created as a substitute for a part of one of the three NNs that a student lacks. Institutions mostly fail their students. In a small percentage of cases where they succeed (with the help of sophisticated tools and methods), they create graduates who have managed to acquire knowledge and skills without self-discipline, awareness and willing concentration. Having had no opportunity to cultivate virtues and values, they are fully ready to sell or even undersell themselves to any organization that is designed to shield them from their lack of NNs (with the help of sophisticated tools and methods) and provide them a comfortable life. These are the organizations that create countless, unwanted products and services, pollute and destroy the planet and nurture a culture of fear and greed. What about the students who fail? Of course, they become slaves with collars of different colours. This is the short story of how kids of well-intentioned parents ended up creating the world we live in.
Going away from the mainstream used to be unthinkable and a suicide mission since the time the mainstream was created until the turn of the century. By the way, the mainstream was created through centralized governments and mass-market, global economics following the two world wars.
With the advent of information technology turbo-charged by the Internet, we live in an Information Age. Now, charting one’s own path towards one’s own purpose has become immensely possible at least for the middle class and above. While the Information Age is absolutely necessary, it is not a sufficient condition for blazing our own trail. We still have the NNs to deal with. Very fortunately, we live in a country with ancient technologies built over millennia precisely to address these NNs.
The importance of NNs has been well established in the last few decades with the rise of gurus who offer these technologies through their corporations-like ashrams. We don’t know yet if the business world has co-opted the gurus or vice versa. Nevertheless, these ashrams are certainly better than nothing for parents who want outsourced solution to help their kids master the NNs.
The alternative is for people to form small groups, collaborate online (and in person to the extent possible) to focus on the NNs. A gram of improvement we can help our kids achieve in their Non-negotiables, a ton of improvement they will see in their personality, knowledge and skills. With a few grams of NNs in place, our kids will not need certificates to make a life. In fact, they will make a life before they are of adult age.