I pulled my son out of school for a day to teach him about the world.

My son has been whinging about having to go to school almost every morning this year. He has absolutely no idea how lucky he is to go to a good school with some amazing teachers where he gets to foster friendships and learn so much he didn’t previously know.

Philip turns 12 this year so he’s becoming harder to influence. My earnest speeches about how appreciative he should be, how he should value every moment and enjoy school instead of dreading it falls on deaf ears. I am one more eye-roll away from turning to stone. Drastic action was required.

There was no way I was going to let my son forget how much he loved to learn.

Philip has such a thirst for knowledge, such incredible interest in so many topics. He’ll talk to my husband about the economy and my brother about programming. He and I watch documentaries together – our most recent ones being about computer hackers Anonymous and the amazing Aaron Swartz – and Philip will teach himself things at home. He’s learning to touch-type, he’s learning how to program, he creates code, videos and websites.

He’s one smart cookie with a brain that moves at a million kilometres per hour when presented with a topic that interests him. If something doesn’t interest him, he does very badly. That’s not the sort of personality that does well in a traditional education setting like primary school.

pulled my son out of school
Philip in the Science building. Image: Supplied.

It’s always confused me that in primary school and high school we teach our children to look the same, act the same and think the same. I know this is overly-simplistic, there are reasons for all of these things. However when they finish high school and enter tertiary education the opposite is true. Kids look different, act differently and think outside of the box. It’s not only encouraged, it’s required.

I’m starting a new course at Macquarie University in Sydney in July. I had been in the Master of Research program but unfortunately didn’t have the research skills needed to complete it. A kind lecturer sat me down and explained to me that I was competing with students with five years of research experience. I withdrew and I think she expected me to disappear. Instead I applied to do an undergraduate degree in social science, then I’ll do a Masters in that field and then I’ll beg to re-enter the Master of Research program with my five years of research experience completed.

I’ll be in my late forties by then but ask me if I care?


The brilliant Kate de Brito was asked on Mamamia Out Loud  if she thought you could your career later in life, even if that would require further education and she said, “Well, you’re going to be 34 anyway but you’re just not going to have a degree if you don’t start it now.”

You can listen to the clip from the Mamamia Out Loud podcast here. Article continues after this clip.

I understand the mixed signal I sent Philip when I pulled him out of school for a day to come to O Week with me but I felt it was important. I wanted to show him that it’s okay to hate school, to dread going, to resent how he needs to behave at due to the very nature of hundreds of young children needed to be educated in one location, necessitating a curriculum, rules and regulations, however that shouldn’t effect his love of learning. His feelings about having to attend school shouldn’t take away his love of learning.

So I pulled him out of school and we hopped on a bus and spent the day at uni. It was such a valuable day and heaps of fun. It’s not often that I get one-on-one time with Philip. He has a more active social life than I do.

Philip was gobsmacked by how big the campus is, how many building there are and clubs with stalls covering every hobby and activity and interest. The uni really put on a good show with music, iced tea samples, lots of freebies and a festive atmosphere.

What really came across is that you can take the thing you love the most and fashion a career out of it, no matter how fringe, how left-of-centre, how non-traditional.


pulled my son out of school
Philip at the Physics Club stand. Image: Supplied.

We found the Physics Club and Philip spent a lot of time talking to the physics students about their display. They’d show him a piece of equipment and Philip would immediately identify how it was able to function. I was bloody proud of him but stayed back and gave him his space.

While furiously snapping photos that I sent straight through to my husband.

We then found the Anime Club and after that Philip asked to see the inside of some of the building, preferably the ones in which science and computing were taught.

The science building was like a museum with an incredible display of artifacts. I showed him the massive lecture theatre and we sat down for a selfie.


When we arrived home he happily completed his homework for the day and we talked about all the incredible things his future could hold, regardless of whether or not he ended up attending university.

This morning he still grumbled when I woke him up. He still took ages to get dressed and forgot to brush his teeth until I reminded him. He dragged his feet when it was time to leave and groaned when I told him to put his iPod away as I drove up the driveway at his school. At least know he knows why he is there.

Philip loved his time at Macquarie University and made this video on the bus on the way home. Article continues after this video.

School isn’t just a place for parents to park their kids while they do other things. School is about education, learning, sharing knowledge, discussing themes and concepts, figuring out the career in which we’ll be best suited, navigating friendships and later colleagues, managing our time, so many incredible things.

If he remembers any of this at least once today I’ll be so happy. I’m also pleased that he’s been reminded why I want him to treasure his time at school and why I choose to spend so much time at university learning and expanding my mind. He gets it, he supports it and he wants it for himself. Mission accomplished.