Hackschooling Makes Me Happy: A 13 Year-Old’s Uncommon Wisdom

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hackschooling-makes-me-happyHackschooling Makes Me Happy: A 13 Year-Old’s Uncommon Wisdom

Disruptive thinking is a useful thing.

It encourages difficult questions, conversations, and rethinking of trends and directions. It isn’t always a comfortable thing, usually occurring when other strategies for change have failed.

Computer hackers–the principled, noble hackers with specific goals and a moral code anyway–take the same approach, in the same way graffiti artists tag urban structures or activists disrupt deforestation by climbing a tree and refusing to come down.

They force themselves into situations–and consequently force those circumstances in question to respond to them. Seems kind of selfish, but it’s one of the most powerful tools for social reform.

13 year-old Logan LaPlante–the forward-thinking little school hacker in the following video–loves learning, but had a problem with the system. He believes students should explore their own curiosity, show passion for self-directed learning, and above all else, be happy.

So he hacked his schooling.

Hackschooling Makes Me Happy

by Logan LaPlante (transcription source lybio.net)

When you are a kid, you get asked this one particular question a lot, it really gets kind of annoying. What do you want to be when you grow up? Now, adults are hoping for answers like, I want to be an astronaut or I want to be a neurosurgeon, you’re adults in your imaginations.

Kids, they’re most likely to answer with pro-skateboarder, surfer or minecraft player. I asked my little brother, and he said, seriously dude, I’m 10, I have no idea, probably a pro-skier, let’s go get some ice cream.

See, us kids are going to answer something we’re stoked on, what we think is cool, what we have experience with, and that’s typically the opposite of what adults want to hear.

But if you ask a little kid, sometimes you’ll get the best answer, something so simple, so obvious and really profound. When I grow up, I want to be happy.

For me, when I grow up, I want to continue to be happy like I am now. I’m stoked to be here at TedEx, I mean, I’ve been watching Ted videos for as long as I can remember, but I never thought I’d make it on the stage here so soon. I mean, I just became a teenager, and like most teenage boys, I spend most of my time wondering, how did my room get so messy all on its own.

Did I take a shower today? And the most perplexing of all, how do I get girls to like me? Neurosciences say that the teenage brain is pretty weird, our prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped, but we actually have more neurons than adults, which is why we can be so creative, and impulsive and moody and get bummed out.

But what bums me out is to know that, a lot of kids today are just wishing to be happy, to be healthy, to be safe, not bullied, and be loved for who they are. So it seems to me when adults say, what do you want to be when you grow up? They just assume that you’ll automatically be happy and healthy.

Well, maybe that’s not the case, go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, boom, then you’ll be happy, right? You don’t seem to make learning how to be happy and healthy a priority in our schools, it’s separate from schools. And for some kids, it doesn’t exists at all? But what if we didn’t make it separate? What if we based education on the study and practice of being happy and healthy, because that’s what it is, a practice, and a simple practice at that?


Education is important, but why is being happy and healthy not considered education, I just don’t get it. So I’ve been studying the science of being happy and healthy. It really comes down to practicing these eight things. Exercise, diet and nutrition, time in nature, contribution, service to others, relationships, recreation, relaxation and stress management, and religious or spiritual involvement, yes, got that one.

So these eight things come from Dr. Roger Walsh, he calls them Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes or TLCs for short. He is a scientist that studies how to be happy and healthy. In researching this talk, I got a chance to ask him a few questions like; do you think that our schools today are making these eight TLCs a priority?

His response was no surprise, it was essentially “no.” But he did say that many people do try to get this kind of education outside of the traditional arena, through reading and practices such as meditation or yoga.

But what I thought was his best response was that, much of education is oriented for better or worse towards making a living rather than making a life.

In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson gave the most popular Ted talk of all time. Schools kill creativity. His message is that creativity is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.

A lot of parents watched those videos, some of those parents like mine counted it as one of the reasons they felt confident to pull their kids from traditional school to try something different. I realized I’m part of this small, but growing revolution of kids who are going about their education differently, and you know what? It freaks a lot of people out.

Even though I was only nine, when my parents pulled me out of the school system, I can still remember my mom being in tears when some of her friends told her she was crazy and it was a stupid idea.

Looking back, I’m thankful she didn’t cave to peer pressure, and I think she is too. So, out of the 200 million people that have watched Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, why aren’t there more kids like me out there?

Shane McConkey is my hero. I loved him because he was the world’s best skier. But then, one day I realized what I really loved about Shane, he was a hacker. Not a computer hacker, he hacked skiing. His creativity and inventions made skiing what it is today, and why I love to ski. A lot of people think of hackers as geeky computer nerds who live in their parent’s basement and spread computer viruses, but I don’t see it that way.

Hackers are innovators, hackers are people who challenge and change the systems to make them work differently, to make them work better, it’s just how they think, it’s a mindset.

I’m growing up in a world that needs more people with the hacker mindset, and not just for technology, everything is up for being hacked, even skiing, even education. So whether it’s Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Shane McConkey having the hacker mindset can change the world.

Healthy, happy, creativity in the hacker mindset are all a large part of my education. I call it Hackschooling, I don’t use any one particular curriculum, and I’m not dedicated to any one particular approach, I hack my education.

I take advantage of opportunities in my community, and through a network of my friends and family. I take advantage of opportunities to experience what I’m learning, and I’m not afraid to look for shortcuts or hacks to get a better faster result. It’s like a remix or a mash-up of learning. It’s flexible, opportunistic, and it never loses sight of making happy, healthy and creativity a priority.

And here is the cool part, because it’s a mindset, not a system. Hackschooling can be used anyone, even traditional schools. Soo what does my school look like? Well, it looks like Starbucks a lot of the time, but like most kids I study lot of math, science, history and writing. I didn’t used to like to write because my teachers made me write about butterflies and rainbows, and I wanted to write about skiing.

It was a relief for my good friend’s mom, started the Squaw Valley Kids Institute, where I got to write through my experiences and my interests, while, connecting with great speakers from around the nation, and that sparked my love of writing.

I realized that once you’re motivated to learn something, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time, and on your own, Starbucks is pretty great for that. Hacking physics was fun, we learned all about Newton and Galileo, and we experienced some basic physics concepts like kinetic energy through experimenting and making mistakes.

My favorite was the giant Newton’s cradle that we made out of bowling balls, no bocce balls. We experimented with lot of other things like bowling balls and event giant jawbreakers.

Project Discovery’s ropes course is awesome, and slightly stressful. When you’re 60 feet off the ground, you have to learn how to handle your fears, communicate clearly, and most importantly, trust each other.

Community organizations play a big part in my education, High Fives Foundation’s Basics Program being aware and safe in critical situations. We spent a day with the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol to learn more about mountain safety, then the next day we switched to science of snow, weather and avalanches.

But most importantly, we learned that making bad decisions puts you and your friends at risk. Young should talk, well brings history to life. You study a famous character in history, and so that you can stand on stage and perform as that character, and answer any question about their lifetime.

In this photo, you see Al Capone and Bob Marley getting grilled with questions at the historical Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City, the same stage where Harry Houdini got his start.

Time and nature is really important to me, it’s calm, quiet and I get to just log out of reality. I spend one day a week, outside all day. At my Fox Walkers classes, our goal is to be able to survive in the wilderness with just a knife. We learn to listen to nature, we learn to sense our surroundings, and I’ve gained a spiritual connection to nature that, I never knew existed.

But the best part is that we get to make spears, bows and arrows, fires with just a bow drill and survival shelters for the snowy nights when we camp out. Hanging out at the Moment Factory where they hand make skis and design clothes, has really inspired me to one day have my own business. The guys at the factory showed me why I need to be good at math, be creative and get good at selling.

So I got an internship at Big Shark Print to get better at design and selling. Between fetching lunch, scrubbing toilets and breaking their vacuum cleaner, I’m getting to contribute to clothing design, customizing hats and selling them. The people who work there are happy, healthy, creative, and stoked to be doing what they are doing, this is by far my favorite class.

So, this is why I’m really happy, powder days, and it’s a good metaphor for my life, my education, my hackschooling. If everyone skis this mountain, like most people think of education, everyone will be skiing the same line, probably the safest and most of the powder would go untouched.

I look at this, and see a thousand possibilities, dropping the corners, shredding the spine, looking for a churning from cliff-to-cliff. Skiing to me is freedom, and so is my education, it’s about being creative; doing things differently, it’s about community and helping each other. It’s about being happy and healthy among my very best friends.

So I’m starting to think, I know what I might want to do when I grow up, but if you ask me what do I want to be when I grow up? I’ll always know that I want to be happy.

Thank you.

Hackschooling Makes Me Happy: A 13 Year-Old’s Uncommon Wisdom