Maybe “Educational” Should Be a Bad Word


Calm down…I know what you’re thinking. To clarify myself, I am not against education, just society’s definition of it.

Just what exactly is considered to be educational by most people?

– Something that fits neatly into a  school board-approved subject- i.e. English, Math, Science, etc.

– Something which is learned out of textbooks, then tested and graded

– Anything which is covered in standardized testing and the Common Core

Makes sense, right? It’s all very straightforward…

…or is it?

An important question here is who decides what is considered to be educational? That’s easy….school boards and the government. Oh, boy. That’s a problem for me. Our government can’t handle running the country- the job we hired them for. Why would we throw something else at them for them to control, particularly, our children’s futures? I don’t know about you, but that’s a problem for me.

This brings me to my next point…what about the interests of our children that don’t fit into a neat little box? For example, Arianna loves watching makeup tutorials. This has evolved into her using my other kids as canvases for her own theatrical makeup experiments. She’s also turned it into a business; she charges a quarter for face painting. More recently, she’s started recording her own makeup tutorials and uploading them onto YouTube. Would the school board or NEA consider this to be educational? I can’t speak for them, but I doubt it. Has she learned through this? Absolutely.

You see, my problem with the word ”educational” has nothing to do with learning. My concern is this: shouldn’t anything that our child immerses herself in and surrounds herself with be just as important as any mainstream educational objective?

Another issue is something I may have caused myself with my children. Since I was always so concerned with fulfilling state regulations, I was constantly focusing on those schoolish subjects that my children had no interest in and devaluing their true interests because I thought they weren’t educational. There’s that word again.

Being a product of the public school system, I had these same views so ingrained into me that I contributed to my children believing that the things they most wanted to do weren’t worth it.

Thankfully, I’ve come to my senses. If a child is learning while they’re doing something, anything, it is educational.

Last week, London and Caollin were playing ”restaurant” for hours- making menus, taking orders, setting tables- the whole shebang. They were having so much fun.
The last straw came when London, who’s eight, came up to me while playing and said,
”Mommy, is this educational?”

I was floored!

What have I done? My little girl was more concerned with that than with enjoying herself. That’s when I decided to never use the e-word in front of my kids again. (2016- I do use that word now, but less frequently!)

Are my kids learning? Every single day. But that’s not what I want to focus on anymore. I want to focus on living.


What are your thoughts on this subject? Join the conversation!



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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

21 thoughts on “Maybe “Educational” Should Be a Bad Word”

  1. I agree with never putting a label of any type on learning. Everyone can’t be shoved into one tidy little cardboard box. I’ve been accused of being too structured with my kids, & that is yet another label. We have homeschooled our two, ages 16 & 13 from the beginning, and a “structured” environment without stifling their individual talents & interests has been successful for us–and they are happy! I’m thankful that as a homeschooling family, our children are involved with choosing tools to help them reach their full potential. No matter the method, as long as we are keeping our children’s best interests at heart, we are doing our part.

    P.S. Love the purple hair. My 13 year old’s current color of choice is royal blue. 🙂


  2. Yes!! I am planning on homeschooling. My twins are preschool aged, and I hate that everything is “educational.” I don’t buy into it. Learning is learning even if it’s not colors, shapes, numbers, letters, math, reading, etc. I hate the push, push, push on all things “educational.” It’s not true learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, go you too I have many of the same issues you do with the idea of education and educational. When my kids have been playing video games or watching TV by the hour, I do occasionally find myself saying, “Go do something that makes your brain grow :)” But I try to never say ‘educational.’ Now what brain growing is is open to interpretation. I try to distinguish “academic” from learning, rather than thinking educational. My kids may be learning Greek and Roman mythology, which doesn’t fit into the usual elementary school curriculum so is therefore not academic, but is definitely learning. As is learning to cook, write programming code, or design clothing. Not everyone is employed as a doctor, lawyer or banker – some people are makeup artists and ballet dancers and mechanics and chefs and video game story writers. The few subjects considered mandatory for school don’t come close to covering all the bases out there.
    Depending on who I am explaining it to (rather than ‘to whom I am explaining it’ which sounds weird and that’s something I’d tell my kids when we’re chatting about grammar), how much patience I have that moment and how genuinely curious the person is, I have different explanations. The easiest is usually to say ‘look at babies and toddler and preschoolers.’ You don’t sit them down and say, “Now it is time you rolled over/ learned the names of colors/how to walk. We shall study this.” No they were curious, interested, ready. You let them explore their world, you sang the ABC song, you mentioned the color of things as you talked and talked…and talked. And then for some reason, most people’s kids go off to preschool or kindergarden and the emphasis shifts to ‘you are supposed to learn to write your name/count to 100/say hello in Spanish’ and they stop running up to you to ask the name of that one dinosaur or what a whale sounds like because they’re told they are supposed to be focusing on what they’re told. And the adults stop talking. If you just keep talking to them, ‘there is a red stop sign’ morphs into ‘I read this newspaper article, what do you think of…’ and ‘mommy, how do you spell cow?’ turns into ‘I just saw a video on youtube; do you know why a magnet falls more slowly through a copper pipe if copper isn’t magnetic?’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I LOVE the sound of the learning that goes on in your house! And I know exactly what you mean when the kids start asking whether what they’re doing is educational! 🙂

    I rather like Lori Pickert’s project-based learning stages: research, creating, and sharing (which often leads to more research, and so the cycle begins again). We don’t do formal project-based homeschooling but when my kids are engrossed in something I often notice them going through the stages. For example, my daughter composed a song today using Garage Band: she watched videos to learn how to compose the music, made up lyrics, sang it to everyone and plans to record it.

    Reading about things like Arianna’s passion for make-up makes my heart sing!


    1. Thank you! I love what your daughter did, too! I am subscribed to Lori Pickert’s website. I don’t formally use it, either, but it’s great for introducing ideas to the kids!


  5. I think you are right. And I think the more that we can include fun in the learning the more effective that learning will be. Who says math can’t be fun? Right? And who says you can’t learn it while playing restaurant?


  6. Reblogged this on There's No Place Like Home and commented:

    I originally wrote this in 2014 when we were still in the midst of unschooling. Although our homeschool approach has changed since then, I still believe many of the philosophies that follow this style of learning. Learning happens all the time in all situations. I hope you find this post to be an encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have done it again, my brave friend. I love how you grab what no one is willing to talk about and then get right to the heart of the matter. I agree with everything you said. To be good educators I believe we need a healthy balance. Plain old hitting the textbooks must be used in certain high school subjects. We also need the homeschooling philosophy and allow our children to follow their interests which can present learning in all different modes. My graduation goal for my children is this: they have all the tools they need to take them in the direction God has for them to go. So far I have achieved that with three of my children and have one left to go. She is into writing literature so I make as much space as I can for her to work on it. That’s why homeschooling soooo much fun! I love it and so do they.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get so upset when I talk to other homeschool moms who just can’t get out of the school mindset and are completely blind tot he possibility that maybe schools aren’t always right. Like you said, textbooks make great tools, but a well- rounded education involves so much more than that.

      Liked by 1 person

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