The Open-ended Rabbit Holes of YouTube and Gaming Instead of Carefully Crafted Curricula


I was sharing a picture of Giant’s Causeway (above) in Northern Ireland with its naturally formed hexagonal stones. My unschooled son nonchalantly exacts, “Oh, I heard about that place on YouTube.”

School and curricula are no match for the mind of a child freely pursuing his passions day in and day out.

It’s like when MatPat (of Game Theory, Film Theory) was incorporating an in depth discussion about telomeres into his dialogue about Wolverine in Logan (an X-Men film) the other day.

I thought to myself, where are the thought police right now who question whether or not my child will learn what he needs to know by not following curriculum?

Why can’t they be a fly on the wall hundreds of times per day when this happens?

What 9-year-old is sitting in a school classroom engrossed in an adult-level discussion/lesson on telomeres and how our lifestyle choices impact longevity and health because of these chromosomal tips, a concept that I only just learned about in 2011?

How many times a day does a child in school learn something so intense, so useful in every day life… something not dumbed-down or droned into the homogeneous heads of 30 kids who would not otherwise be choosing the content they are force fed?

His mind is like a computer, logging data, forming connections, building a comprehensive reference library, applying advanced sequencing to achieve outcomes (like when he is solving puzzles to hack security systems in Watch Dogs 2).

Exponentially, I am seeing the thread that extends from my own tech-less childhood to his fingertips-knowledge-consumption based on unpremeditated (e.g., not prescribed) rabbit holes that ultimately form a network of neural memory beyond any finite framework school can dish out.

It is a network mirrored in star systems, tree roots, and fractals. His human computer system heralds an evolutionary leap while their grandparents lament “kids today” – oblivious to the gap.

His generation has completely cut the ties to rotary phones and the days of only three major MSM networks. These kids were birthed alongside YouTube and drones. They raced the singularity.

So, why do we still rely on school and the antiquated authoritarian system to raise offspring?

My son follows any of his nearly 240 (and growing) YouTube subscriptions while balancing on his skateboard in our living room, as the Lego body parts he leaves around get slapped to the floor by his cat, Stampy, named after a favorite YouTuber from when he was a bit younger.

I find him flailing Nerf guns as he spins through martial arts moves while gleaning random facts, or bouncing between Xbox and PC gaming, taking short breaks outside that sometimes turn into longer breaks, watching videos, Skyping with friends, stopping to consider whatever catches his attention, without ever being told he’s had enough media or screen time for the day.

And I bring him food. The child eats whenever he’s hungry, and no one is forcing him to sit through lessons with a growling belly.

Even though he’s not in school, he is in the know about the latest popular anything that kids and teens are into, including critical assessment by YouTubers of some of mainstream society’s less intelligent behaviors.

Because he’s not caught up in the fervor to homogenize his tastes with same age peers, he holds critical opinions of the content he absorbs and chooses his own favorites with purpose and relevance as opposed to choosing only what’s trending.

Unschooling is a lifestyle in which a child achieves interdependence and discerning maturity, life coping skills, compassion, integrity, and independence beyond that of many schooled peers.

People see what they want to see, especially if what they see confronts what they know deep down to be inherently wrong with the main stream path.

I connect when I can with the increasing tide of awakening spirits who embrace that we can wait no longer, that we must create the proverbial change we want to see. Some are like-minded radical unschooling families, but many are simply families who embrace the principles of whole life learning in their every day lives. They afford others the same respect and compassion and forgiveness they’d like to receive, themselves, observing no hierarchies in age, economic status, or cultural heritage.

Unschoolers have our icons, such as John Holt. Many of us graduated from the attachment parenting philosophy, so our icons cross psycho-social and biological roots from John Bowlby to the nurturing compassion of neurologist Gabor Mate’.

I’ve read here and there that my child – as a whole life unschooler  – is among about 10% out of approximately 200,000* unschooled kids in the US (probably a low number in 2017) who experience such full freedom as a child needs. 

He doesn’t even realize how significant he is in terms of human growth and development in our society until someone in a position of authority tries to inject him with arbitrary reasoning, which to him isn’t reasoning at all! Imagine his offspring! Imagine our world full of children raised in freedom and compassion.

That makes me look within. It leads me to determine, whether I can escape my conditioning, or deschool enough to accept the scary notion that I am raising a child through very brave parenting, or rather, partnering.

I am using tools of trust, compassion, and respect to risk raising a child without restrictions, limitations, rules, punishment, coercion, or judgment of how he chooses to spend his time. Without concern for what he learns… only that he has the freedom to determine how he learns. And we are almost 10 years in. That is half of his childhood. We are half-way along the path to adulthood.

How simple is this, really? It is a choice. But, for most, it doesn’t feel like a choice. Most are so overtly conditioned that they do not see that they have a choice. Others do not have the support in place to take the jump.

But, people get old and they die. Eventually, the awakening tide – inclusive of all elements of resistance to the homogeneity of human suffering, the breaking free of old paradigms, the rise of compassion, and the dissolving differences that divide us as humans – will guide us to not turn away from the truth that we were born of this earth to live as free beings.

Kids can’t be stifled forever in four walls, waiting to pee and eat. School is an antiquated tool that is writhe with dysfunction.

Parents of unschoolers have exited the system, carefully crafting new paths for our children that start with embracing everything that drives their passions.

In fact, schools are even adopting our principles, incorporating mindfulness and self-directed learning into curricula and into the structure of school days in hopes of turning things around. But, none of these measures will save school, for it is founded upon the greatest flaw in our society that causes any such gains to unravel – the authoritarian paradigm. What eventually transforms and arises in its place will transform society along with it. And that is at least what I’m trying to do with one child.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s