Imagine a World Free from Compulsory Schooling

Last week I wrote a pretty controversial post about the government’s role in the educational system. One of the points I made that is nearest and dearest to my heart is that school should not be mandatory. The government is not the parents- we are.

This idea brought about some wonderful and thought-provoking comments. So thought-provoking , in fact, that today’s post will be my attempt to address some of the questions that were raised by this non-conformist notion. Keep in mind that my responses are strictly my opinion, and I’m in no way claiming to be an expert on this sort of thing.

This is simply my way of putting forth the proposal, what if???  

What would happen if school were voluntary?

Q:  What of people who would take advantage of the non-mandatory policy to not bother to school their kids at all?

In order to answer this question, let’s take a look back in time. Education, as we know it, has only been around for less than 2% of recorded history. That’s it. Sometimes it may be hard for those of us who’ve grown up with school always being a fact of life to realize that this is not the way things have always been done.

If you take a look at the history of government schooling, it was primarily instituted in order to train factory workers for the booming industrial revolution. In fact, there are many people, myself included, who truly believe that the educational institution has actually set us back by taking away our self-sufficiency and instead made us a population driven by consumerism instead of ingenuity.

One homeschool approach that is ever increasing in popularity is unschooling. In short, these families simply live life as if school didn’t exist. Their children learn through living their lives and often working alongside their parents in daily tasks. It would be a terrible mistake to say that these children aren’t learning. It is impossible to separate learning from life.

Just as babies do not have to be given lessons in learning how to crawl, walk, or talk, children who are given the freedom to explore are often much better able to make sense of the world than those who are stifled by sitting inside a school building for 30 hours a week.

Suffice it to say, formal lessons are not the only way to learn.

Q:  How do we ensure an educated society?

Well, how well is our educational system doing in educating our society today? For starters, the illiteracy rate hasn’t changed in ten years, despite all of the calls for early childhood education. An astounding 14% of adults in the U.S. fall below basic in their reading ability. Interesting fact- the literacy rate in MA before the institution of schooling was at 99%. It’s never been that high since the inception of compulsory education.

Today’s schools have become factories for drilling and test prep. Teachers today are no longer able to actually teach because they’re too busy either proctoring standardized tests or preparing their students to take them. Despite that fact, our nation still scores horribly.

I don’t see how we could do any worse.

Q: If the schools aren’t mandatory, wouldn’t people balk at using taxes to finance them?

Of course they’re going to balk. 😉 That doesn’t stop other voluntary publicly funded programs like Head Start, WIC, Medicaid, etc. People are never happy to have their hard earned money taken from them, but it is going to happen whether we like it or not. If anything, taxes would decrease because not as many students would be attending.


My thoughts:

I know there is no perfect solution. I know there are kids who have hard lives and are better off in school, which is one of the primary reasons I think we should keep them in place, but on a voluntary basis. There are no easy answers. But one thing I do know is that something has to change. It’s time for this social engineering experiment to come to an end. We will never see real change until those in charge recognize that fact.

Unfortunately, though, I don’t see that coming anytime soon.



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.

35 thoughts on “Imagine a World Free from Compulsory Schooling”

  1. Shelly, I think you’d be interested in agency based education. It’s the idea of ending compulsory education in favor of being able to use our God-given gift of free agency to choose education for ourselves. Their website seems to be down but there are some videos about it on You Tube. I’m all for ending compulsory education. I’m just thankful that homeschooling is legal and I hope more parents wake up to the ugly realities of public education.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have a dear friend who agrees with your perspective. She and I talk about this stuff and I do remind her that what would work fantastic for loving, honest, kind, interested parents is a disaster for the ugly situations. For some kids school means 8 hours outside of the poverty and violence they live in. It means 2 warm free meals. For the best of those kids its is a means of permanently escaping their parents fate. My kids will never need someone from the government to force their parents to feed them, let them play, teach them how to cook and how to read. But they are simply not the only kids.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I absolutely agree with you, which is why I said this at the end of the post:
      “I know there is no perfect solution. I know there are kids who have hard lives and are better off in school, which is one of the primary reasons I think we should keep them in place, but on a voluntary basis.”


  3. Interesting post. You bring up a lot of good points. I think our public education system has a lot of flaws that’s why I love that there are so many different options. From online schools, private schools and even home schooling. If public school isn’t the fit for your family, you can find something else that works.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. There are so many options that are better than public school. I think that, unfortunately, most people just do public school out of habit without thinking about whether it’s actually the right thing.


  4. Shelley,
    I stopped by via the #DancingWithJesus Linkup I have never before thought of education like you have discussed. I don’t know if we could ever go back to the ‘way it was’, but I do think our education systems in North America need reform. Schooling is so intense here in Canada that kids are stressed out at such young ages from the pressure. We’ve gotten onto the Hamster Wheel of the nations and I don’t foresee how we could get off the ride? Parents need to be intentional with their time and make sure family is a priority. Thanks for your thought-provoking post.
    ~Sherry Stahl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here in the U.S., education reform has been stuck at the “more standardized testing” principle for so long that none of the education bureaucrats can actually see how harmful and unhelpful standardized tests actually are! It’s so sad, and you’re right. The key is for parents to be proactive and to make thier voices heard.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If truth be told most of us wen tot school, college even Uni but still dint feel educated. WHy because our MINDSET was never addressed. We leave school with all kind s of non-serving attitudes ad thoughts. So In some case compulsory schooling may not be for every child. Specially when that child becomes a super entrepreneur despite not achieving much in mainstream education. Thanks for Sharing at the Pit Stop

    Julie Syl Pit Stop Crew

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a proponent of home schooling and unschooling. However, I don’t think it would serve us to eliminate compulsory schooling. Not all parents are as good as you. Many children would lack any kind of education, especially those from families with uneducated parents or parents who could not spend time schooling their children due to the need to work and provide for their family. Also, the definition of what it means to be literate has changed many times through the years. It no longer means that a person can write his or her name, which was the definition at the turn of the century. The standards for literacy have risen many times since then. I used to be a teacher. What was considered reading at a first grade level in the 1980’s would be a remedial level for a kindergartener today. Today’s students in 4K are learning what was once taught in kindergarden and first grade. When I went to school, double digit multiplication and division were taught in fourth grade, today they are taught in second grade. I do not agree with many of the education movements of today, but eliminating public schools is not the answer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t say eliminating them was the answer. I said that they should not be compulsory, meaning that, like Head Start programs, they should be available for those who choose to use them, but there should be no laws forcing parents to send their kids to school.


  7. Shelly,
    Finding something that works for you and your family is important. And yes families should be able to make that choice. I have seen excellent home schools and I have seen very compassionate public school teachers. As a former public school teacher I see the problems in schools – trying to find the best way for each child to learn in a classroom of 30+ isn’t easy or perfect. But my students did learn, did have fun and did learn to get along with others – because I expected it. I am now a strong supporter of homeschooling as I see parents put their hearts and souls into the lives of their children.
    I would love to help – but not sure how. I am an author/illustrator of Christian children’s books. I would like to be more involved with the home school community to help and to see what they need.
    Blessings to you,
    Following you from Sitting Among Friends,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you ever contacted homeschool groups or co-ops? Many of them are willing to pay teachers to teach certain classes to groups of kids. Or maybe you could offer your services as a tutor. We homeschoolers love teachers like you who want to get involved! Maybe you could even offer a story time for homeschoolers. These are ideas off the top of my head, but I assure you that if you offer your help in any way, they’ll be delighted!


  8. After reading not only your post, but all the comments, I’m thinking about the VPK program. I don’t know what it’s like in other states, but here in FL every child can go to Pre-K for free – and it’s voluntary (the “V” in the “VPK.”) You can bet that the kids who really need it go – it’s free daycare, right? – but since it’s voluntary, parents like me don’t have to worry about it. Perhaps that’s evidence of what could work, if school was no longer required… So happy you continue to join us at #FridayFrivolity, Shelly!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We don’t have VPK, but lots of kids here do go to Head Start. That’s exactly what I had in mind when I thought of a voluntary school instead of a compulsory one. I also thought exactly what you said- many parents wouldn’t pass up the free daycare, anyway. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s something to think about…I also really can’t stomach the idea of sending my young kids into a classroom environment for hours every week, and I love that homeschooling (even though we’re only doing “preschool”) gives us all kind of freedom learn in the ways that work best and are most welcomed by my littles. I’m still uncertain as to how deeply I could embrace unschooling, though. It just seems too scary!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We did try unschooling for two years, but finally decided that it wasn’t for us. My kids learned a lot in that time, but we do much better with the structure that relaxed homeschooling brings.


  10. This is super! We “schooled” 4 of our five kids. Started no formal education until they were 8. We took whatever days off we needed, never registered them, taught what we wanted them to know – true American and world history – most of it was from stuff they were interested in. The only thing we really made them learn was how to read.

    They are all grown, super creative, capable and college educated. Living successfully.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this! Though I’m only starting out in motherhood, as my daughter approaches her 1st birthday my husband and I are thinking of education. We are in favor of homeschool until 10 or 11 grade. Mostly so the child has the freedom to learn how she wants, and so she isn’t limited to 8 hrs a day. Also schools
    In Florida are so tired of parents not being activity involved in their child’s education that when you voice a concern to the teacher, I’ve heard the teacher tell the parents butt out and let Susie figure it out on her own. Ok sure but she’s still a kid and sometimes kids do need guidance.

    Liked by 1 person

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