Episode 19 - Self-Education


Can you really be free if you don't know how to utilize the materials available around you to teach yourself?

My name is Ryan, and I am an agorist. Today we are talking about self-education.

As a child, I was homeschooled. The curriculum we used was heavily reading based. At the beginning of the year, my mother would present me with a huge pile of books, everything from history books to historical fiction to literature, science, and math. I knew that I needed to get through those by the end of the year. I was always extremely excited at the beginning of the school year.

I remember diving into the books, often focusing on the history books, historical novels, and readers. My mother allowed us to mostly direct our own education, so I would often skip books and topics that I didn't find interesting. I have always enjoyed hands-on science, but science books--for example--listing scientific facts and such were never that interesting to me. So, I would either skim through them or skip them entirely.

By the end of each year, I would have finished going through my math textbook, all of the history books, and most of the readers plus the read-alouds because I didn't want to wait for my mother read them to me.

When I reached high school age, I began going to school. I enjoyed hanging out with more kids my age, but overall I found it to be extremely boring and unengaging. One of the things that bothered me most was sitting through and listening to teachers drone on and on, teaching what was already written for us in our textbooks (but taking much longer than it would take to just read it ourselves).

I took to ignoring my teachers to the fullest extent possible. I'd read what he or she was talking about from the textbook and then check out. I'd spend that class time reading Tolkien and other favorites of mine. Sometimes I got in trouble for it, but I never understood what the problem was since I was not distracting anybody and I often made straight A's.

The differences between myself and my classmates really became clear to me in eleventh grade. It was late on a warm, Texas night that some friends and I were studying for a big trigonometry test. One girl turned to me and asked how to solve a certain problem. I was busy with my own work, so I asked for her textbook and turned to the page where that was explained. I handed it back and pointed, telling her to read there and she will get it. Rather than take the book from me, she stared at me with a blank expression. Confused, she told me that she didn't know what I meant. She said that if she wanted to read, she would read. But, her problem was that she needed to learn how to do this and therefore needed someone to teach her.

Later that night, I thought about her words and about my experience so far in high school. I realized that many if not most of my friends from school did not know how to teach themselves. They NEEDED to be taught by someone, even if the material was right in front of them and as clear as day.

Years later, someone asked me what the best thing was that my parents ever did for me. Without hesitation, I told them that homeschooling was the best thing that they had done for me because it taught me to teach myself.

I am still an avid reader and studier. I love learning and growing my mind. These days, I make my living as a computer application developer. I was never taught how to build a JavaScript application, but I learned through months and months of reading and studying using the plethora of materials available online. I got a Kindle Unlimited subscription and just got book after book on one topic after another until I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do.

The point of this post isn't that everyone should be homeschooled. The point of this post is that everyone should be able to teach themselves. If you cannot teach yourself, if you cannot learn and grow on your own, then you are stuck. You are at the mercy of others because you need them to teach you. If you want to be free, you need to be able to take care of yourself, and that includes being able to teach yourself. Sure, sometimes it might be helpful to learn directly from someone, to be taught face to face. But, the difference is that you aren't bound to that, you are free to choose and therefore aren't learning at the mercy of others.

The ability to teach yourself is one of the most important life skills that anyone could learn. It is a skill that I make use of every day and one that I want my children to have and use as well. I hope the same for you.

This is TechnoAgorist, episode 19.