Unschooling Educates

All during my son Colin’s childhood, I was concerned that school would dampen his intense natural curiosity. Unfortunately, since he and his brother lived with his Dad during the school year, he found himself locked in his room at his desk for the entire weekend “to study” if his grades weren’t up to snuff. This was the worst way to treat a child of such huge energy and natural ambition. His father also insisted he go to college, but he stayed only one semester, said that he was learning more in the dorms than in the classroom.

Luckily, Colin’s energy overwhelmed his conditioning.

Now Colin has invented the revolutionary, self-composting Garden Tower, recently featured on PBS.

Following a parallel path as the “unschooled” student below whose intense curiosity drove him to read, Colin’s intense curiosity drove him to youtube videos. See the story of how he invented the Garden Tower.

How Easy Was Unschooling?

October 13, 2013
by Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

It is clearly absurd to limit the term ‘education’ to a person’s formal schooling. – Murray Rothbard

It took a while for my brain to slow down the first year of not going to public school. My head was still swimming from the horrors of the earth and the burden to deal with them and “save the world.” Environmentalism, disease, slavery, holocaust, cancer, anti-drug/violence campaigns, presidential campaigns, eating disorders and maniacal cops coming in to scare us straight. This was just before school shootings were highly publicized.

Did anything good ever happen in history? Was there ever anything to get happy about? Oh yeah, the teachers got excited with the cloned sheep called Dolly and we were temporarily excited by the Macarena. Then there were the deadlines, the heavy books, peer pressure, following the rules, harsh punishments laced with shame, worrying about clothes, popularity and judgement from teachers and students. There were a lot of troubled students.For various reasons, my parents were not heavily involved in my unschool. We didn’t have curriculum. I want to emphasize this – no guidance, no curriculum. I felt embarrassed at the time because I was still trapped in comparisons and my homeschool friends had curriculum. I didn’t know it would turn out awesome. I didn’t know that resting from public school would bring peace and true desire for knowledge, understanding and wisdom (Trivium). The institution break served as a sling shot and there was no going back after launch. Seek and ye shall find.Most of my high school education came from just a few resources that didn’t take much time to read. Most of what’s in high school is complicated, unnecessary, and wasted time. The rest came from sheer desire of knowledge and reading tons of things I was passionate about. It’s amazing what intense interest can do to plow through obstacles – the obstacles being what is considered necessary information for college and adulthood. I was at college level by the time I entered a private high school to finish senior year (not necessary to do but that was one way to finish high school).Before my reading took off, I tried practicing with SAT and ACT test books. I couldn’t answer much and forgot about it. Just by reading tons of classic literature (my main interest) and discussing them with my homeschool friends at our book club, coming back to the test books was completely different. I got a great score and read a couple math books to bring that score up. I found my own learning technique to soar past years of text work. As it turns out, I never had to take those tests to start college. The undue pressure on students is really ridiculous once you see past it.

Here are a few core books I read. The valuable information got me through college as well:

Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

The Elements of Style

The Well Educated Mind (which leads through classical texts)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

Math Smart Junior II (advanced levels available)

Writing Smart Junior (advanced levels available)

A book about an unschool family that let their children’s interests guide them demonstrated the point of non-force, non-pressure education. The parents did not force reading or math at any point, believing as I believe, that math doesn’t really click until about age 12 anyway. Reading, too, was unforced. One of the boys was into dinosaurs – the obstacle for him became getting through the desire to learn more. This propelled him into reading until he was reading college level materials as a pre-teen to get his dinosaur fix. Their children became Harvard graduates.

Public school did nothing to help with life or social skills. It did drill to follow orders, and all students sensed the constant insecurity and fear of a authority. This fear – of authority, even parents – could be the biggest inhibitor toward real lasting education.

I still had and do have a lot to learn about life, communications, where I stand in this world and what my purpose is here. Unschooling catapulted me into a huge leap in that direction. There are some things I would go back and do differently if I could but I didn’t know any better. I would have taken even more structure out and stopped going by the “standards.” If I could do it, with relatively little guidance and support, I believe anyone can if this is their desire. Either way, no one should have to justify their chosen form of education.

Some resources from Activist Post:

The Homeschooling Revolution

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