Category Archives: worldschooling

7 Reasons to Send Your Child to School and 1 Reason To Unschool

(Please view this same post, with the latest comments and many other new posts, at my new blog location:

A mother on Twitter just referred me to a blog post she wrote entitled, Seven Reasons I’m Sending My Child to School and Three Big Reasons I Wish I Wasn’t. She said I helped inspire her to write the post and I’ve actually been inspired to write a post in response.

She has considered homeschooling and unschooling, she knows many people who are taking that path, but right now she’s chosen to send her daughter to kindergarten.

Here’s my responses to her 7  reasons she’s sending her child to school and my 1 reason not to send your child to school and embrace the freedom of homeschooling/unschooling/worldschooling:

1. Reputation. We live in the catchment area for the best elementary school in the school district….Parents I meet who are teachers tell me it’s the best….

People, especially teachers, usually have no idea how joyful, free, and full of learning, life can be without school. They’re comparing this school to other schools. Even when it comes to academic tests the average homeschooler out performs their peers by an unbelievable margin (here’s one study from 2007 and another from that just came out this August, 2009).

That’s not even getting into the things that can’t be measured and are really important. And the “best” schools often put the most pressure on students to perform well on tests: not to actually learn.

2. Location. The school is not only in our catchment area, it’s a ten minute walk from our house…. The school is also surrounded by farmland and forest, not shops and highways – a lovely rural school setting. I went to two different elementary schools, which both backed on to forest and trails. I have the fondest memories of running through the woods and along a stream bank, making forts under the big trees and exploring inside rotting stumps. These days such school properties would be fenced to keep predators out. And this school is fenced too. But my daughter will have a lot of fun walking there at least….

I also love to explore the woods and think it’s wonderful thing for children. But I’m sorry: you don’t seem to really believe some of your reasons! You acknowledge that your child will be fenced in at this school. Won’t your child have much more of an opportunity to wander and explore the woods, and everywhere else, if she’s not stuck in a school stuck inside a fence?

3. Everyone thinks she should go. For a variety of reasons, our daughter has been assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). After two and a half years of observation and tests, the results came back negative. We continued on with more testing afterwards and everyone finally came to the conclusion that she is a “high-spirited” child with a language processing disorder and a smattering of other significant, but not diagnosable, issues.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say: “There is nothing wrong with your child.” Children under five years old are all over the place, they’re full of life: it’s healthy! I’m so glad everyone did come to the conclusion that she is just “high-spirited” and doesn’t have anything diagnosable. But, again without knowing her, I’d say the only thing “significant” about her “issues” is she’s a kid.

Mainly, I’d pay attention to what seems like an issue and ask yourself if it really is a problem at all. Pay attention to the present not what track “experts” say she should be on.

One of her challenges has always been large groups. However, when we anxiously sent her to pre-school last year we discovered that she does very well in group settings, as long as her parents aren’t there. If we are, she becomes whiney, clingy and won’t play with the other kids. If we aren’t there she follows the group norm and participates…. We agree that she responds well to structure and feels comfortable with caring adults who interact with her. She gets challenged by being in this kind of milieu, but unlike at home, she accepts learning how to face the challenges, and with support, often comes through them with newly instilled pride….

This sounds wonderful and understandable. We depend on our parents and when they are gone we are forced to rely on our own resources. It’s great you’ve realized the wonderful way your daughter benefits from being in groups without her parents.

I’d just assure you: your child can have that experience with homeschooling. Some homeschoolers hang out at home during the day and do their socializing with schools kids after school at different structured activities: sports, dance, theatre, yoga, etc. where you wouldn’t have to be present.

And especially since you know so many homeschoolers you can also trade off with them for who takes care of the kids and runs activities and outings on different days.

That of course leads into your next “selfish reasons”:

Now For The Selfish Reasons…

4. I need a break. I’m frustrated that her behaviours appear to be somewhat out of my control. She doesn’t respond to the gentle discipline techniques of my attachment parenting style. She also has a trait aptly named “negative first reaction” which means she always says “no” before she says yes, and all the patience I’ve practiced with her “disagreeableness” is finally wearing thin. We will only be apart two and a half hours a day five days a week, but I know it will be enough time for me to re-charge and be able to be a more loving and patient mom.

5. I will get to spend some 1:1 time with our other daughter. I think it will be nice for my youngest to get mommy to herself for a little while everyday. I have a very strong bond with my oldest daughter. I changed my life around so I could be a stay-at-home mom for her. I think it’s time for my youngest to benefit from my full attention.

First of all I don’t think this is selfish. But  it sounds like you also need a break from your frustration with your daughter! Maybe she doesn’t need to be disciplined at all, even in a gentle way. Maybe her behavior doesn’t need to be controlled. Letting go of these expectations might be like an amazing vacation for you!

Still, I acknowledge I don’t know what it’s like to actually be a parent. Of course you want time alone. And free childcare from school every weekday could be very attractive.

But I think you can get time alone with homeschooling and unschooling with a little creativity.

6. It takes a village to raise a child. As my daughter grows up I hope that her life will be touched by many caring grown ups who will help her to develop all the many facets of her burgeoning personality. I don’t believe in raising my child in a vaccuum, and even though homeschoolers often participate in homeschooling groups and many extra-curricular activities, with me there by her side, she would be. I accept and welcome all “teachers” in her life.

I really think your child will get to so much MORE experience of the community and the world as a whole with homeschooling than with going to school: that’s part of the reason I like to call it “worldschooling”. And again, I think you can send her to homeschooling group activities without sticking around in the immediate area.

And I think unschooling parents would tend to be a lot more caring than teachers with dozens of new kids every year. And some “teachers” don’t care at all or are just plain mean and I would not welcome them into your child’s life.

7. I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom forever. As much as I value homeschooling I also want to get on with my life outside the sphere of motherhood….

Again, I don’t know what this is like but I can really appreciate what you’re saying. Still, I think with unschooling your child will be far more independent at an earlier age than if she goes to school. You may have much more of an opportunity to pursue your own interests. And that in turn will help inspire her to pursue her interests: children learn by example.

Now here is my ONE real reason to not send your child to school:

I don’t want to sound strange but you talk about the importance of breastfeeding all over your blog. I imagine you’ve felt this bond between you and your child. You’ve connected to a light, a life force inside of her. You’ve seen that complete beauty in your child.

I really think, school is going to damage both that beauty and the bond you have with her.

Some would say school as we know it was specifically designed to do that: make people into good tools and break up the power of families and communities.

I’d say school is a machine that isn’t necessarily out to crush, damage, or control our souls: that just tends to be a by product of its function.

School tends to make us view the persistent and uncontrollable ways our souls want to shine and express themselves as an inconvenience. Many, or probably all, of us who went to school try, to some extent, to cut ourselves off from our soul as a way of survival.

It’s a hard road trying to regain your whole soul after that.

My selfish reason for wanting your child to homeschool/unschool/worldschool and not go to school is I think it’ll help make this a better world to live in! We need more people who are in touch with their whole soul and aware of the world; more people who follow their bliss and their passions down new paths that lead us to solutions to big problems and whole lotta joy!

Freedom/unschooling/worldschooling/life is DELICIOUS. And it’s true what you say: your child will still get a taste even if she goes to school. I just want her to have the WHOLE thing.

I’m glad to hear you’re ready to pull your child out if things don’t work out and you are just doing what you think is best for her at this time. And I know of at least one unschooler who went to just kindergarten and then unschooled very successfully the rest of K-12. Still, from my experience in Waldorf/Steiner schools, “good” suburban public schools, AND unschooling: I think you understand I still encourage you to reconsider unschooling!

(Please view this same post, with the latest comments and many other new posts, at my new blog location:




Filed under homeschooling, reasons to homeschool, unschooling, worldschooling

Unschoolers Reclaiming Homeschooling Term

I’ve thought a lot about all the terms for homeschooling: unschooling, worldschooling, self-education, life learning, autodidact,  etc. I just read a post defending the term “unschooling”. Idzie’s a grown unschooler from Montreal who has a very cool blog called I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. She  makes some very interesting points in this post.

When I left school at 15 and started homeschooling I really insisted on using the term “unschooling”. I wanted everyone to know what I was doing was completely different than school. When people hear homeschooling they often think of kids sitting around the kitchen table doing worksheets with teacher Mom, a.k.a. “school at home”.

That was completely different from what I was doing: following my own passions teaching myself or at least directing who and what I would learn from, a.k.a. “unschooling”.

But over the years I’ve had mixed feelings about the term unschooling because as Idzie notes: “[Unschoolers who have issues with the term unschooling] say it’s too negative, or that it’s still using school to define their learning journey. Many unschoolers also say that they prefer to describe unschooling in a positive way to people, explaining what they do instead of what they don’t do.”

That was part of my motivation for coining the term “worldschooling”: I figured the whole world is my school. It’s descriptive and positive.

Still, Idzie, points out most people assume you still do all the school stuff in addition to learning from the world unless you say “unschooling”. Once you’ve indicated all the things you don’t do, you can then get into the things you do do.

I think it’s a good and realistic point.

Still, I’ve been thinking about the term homeschooling in reference to my term worldshooling: if worldschooling means the world is my school, then homeschooling could just mean my home is my school.

Then one could explain, “That doesn’t mean just my house is my school, that means everything that’s around me family, friends, libraries, parks, stores, markets, etc.”And that’s the truth: all homeschoolers learn and use resources from all around them.

Since everyone knows the term homeschooling and it is the legal term it is nice to be able to use it proudly by reclaiming and redefining it.

Then we can use whatever words and terms we like or find helpful in defining how we live and educate ourselves.

I love words!



Filed under homeschooling, unschooling, words, worldschooling

Diversity, Unschooling Conferences, and Steinbeck, MLK, and Gandhi Quotes

I was inspired by a quote from John Steinbeck to write more about race, racism, and welcoming diversity in the homeschooling scene and at unschooling conferences. I also quote Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. from a great YouTube video you can watch here.

In 1961, Steinbeck talked with a wealthy white man in New Orleans, who admitted, “Surely my ancestors had slaves, but it is possible that yours caught them and sold them to us.” Steinbeck acknowledged this. Then the man explained:

“If by force you make a creature live and work like a beast, you must think of him as a beast, else empathy would drive you mad. Once you have classified him in your mind, your feelings are safe…. And if your heart has human vestiges of courage and anger, which in a man are virtues, then you have fear of a dangerous beast, and since your heart has intelligence and inventiveness and the ability to conceal them, you live with terror. Then you must crush his manlike tendencies and make of him the docile beast you want. And if you can teach your child from the beginning about the beast, he will not share your bewilderment.”

I think we all feel huge empathy for our fellow human beings and feel shame when we wrong them in any way. It’s a miracle that social creatures are given: we are unable to hurt others without feeling responsible and hurt ourselves.

Still, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“So often people respond to guilt by engaging more in the guilt-evoking act in an attempt to drown the sense of guilt.”

(The quote starts around 1:30 in this great YouTube video and you can read the interview here.)

There are many ways we try to avoid guilt and shame that result in more guilt and shame. This can be totally unconscious especially, as this southern white man says, if it has gone on for generations.

A  lot has been acknowledged and healed, and huge progress has been made in the area of racism against African-Americans and everyone else. And a lot of shame has been shed.

Nevertheless, as Gandhi put it when he had a transformative experience with racism:

The hardship to which I was subjected was superficial – only a symptom of the deep disease of color prejudice.  I should try, if possible, to root out the disease….

The disease has still not been completely rooted out: significant racism exists today and old wounds and shame have yet to be completely healed.

I think sometimes when white people see African-Americans they feel confronted with an unacknowledged shame they fear and this can in fact result in racist behavior or just avoidance of the people or topic.

I had a lot of fear about writing about race and racism in my Homeschooling, Unschooling, and Diversity and Welcoming Diversity at Unschooling Conferences posts. I didn’t know how the white people who love the unschooling conferences would react or how African-Americans and other people of color would respond.

But I tried to write in a gentle and honest way. When I finally did it, tons of people viewed the post and some people shared their own stories and encouraged and thanked me for raising the issue. Personally, I’ve felt really freed through my writing on the topic.

And I hope ultimately it results in people being more welcoming and there being more diversity in the homeschooling and unschooling scene and at conferences.

I think the potential is great with homeschooling and unschooling in so many areas including progress in learning about diverse cultures and welcoming all people.

What I can’t stress enough is the more we do make an effort to do this the more we will naturally pass it on to our children. Instead of teaching our children “about the beast“: let’s teach our children about the beauty we can see in people of all races, from all backgrounds.

As usual, we teach mostly by example, which I think is both a sobering and inspiring thought.



Filed under diversity, homeschooling, quotes, race, travel book, unschooling, unschooling conferences, worldschooling

Freedom, Fear, and Unschooling

After I left school and started unschooling,  I had freedom, I put my trust in myself, and  I did a lot of healing work. Still there was a fear inside me that took me years to be fully aware of and make the choice not to let it control my actions.

Recently I rediscovered a poem I wrote during my second year of homeschooling/unschooling in high school, when I was about 17 years old that surprisingly addresses this fear.

In the beginning of the poem I say:

But once the song’s over or the race is done
I’m just me again:
Scared shitless
Living heartless
Terrified of investing myself
In something or someone else

(You can read the whole thing here.)

I had trouble convincing people about unschooling, freedom, and their ability to direct their own lives partly because of my own emotional wounds regarding the subject. But I realized years later I also had a fear of being effective, fear of success, in talking to people about freedom and unschooling. There was an element of self-sabotage involved.

There was a part of me that knew it was possible I could very effective in talking about these subjects: I could help inspire people to leave school, or let their children leave school, have freedom, be trusted, and pursue their dreams.

That would be a truly wonderful thing and have so much meaning to me. For some reason, I think because of, not in spite of, that fact it’s also very scary. I’ve found that:

The more meaning something has to a person, the scarier it can be.

The more meaning something has the more painful the disappointments can be. You can feel pressure and new responsibility. With real success your life can change. And I always try to remember when I feel anxious:

Change, even if it’s good change, can be scary.

Writing these blog posts about unschooling, freedom, trust, diversity, and healing, then hearing how some have connected with them and been appreciative of them has had so much meaning to me! I’ve also definitely felt some fear and anxiety: I’ve heard from my toxic voice as my uncle Robert Gerzon calls it.

But the other thoughts that have come to my mind are:

“I love my life!” and “I feel free. I feel like writing is setting me free.”

More and more I’m letting parts of my true self come out and be heard. And it feels good! It feels like it’s taken years and epic journeys to get to this point, actually.

I guess it’s good to remember that when I feel disappointed or frustrated that there aren’t more people trying to learn and live in freedom or pursue what has meaning to them when they do have freedom: it takes time and is challenging.

Still, I hope that in talking about my own experiences it encourages others to make the choice to be free, the choice to use their freedom, the choice to follow what has meaning to them, and finally, the choice to do what has meaning to them regardless of fears that may stand in their way.


Filed under adult unschoolers, change the world, freedom, homeschooling, lifestyle design, unschooling, worldschooling

Homeschooling, Unschooling, and Diversity

I was recently inspired to write about the need to welcome diversity in the homeschooling community: people of all races and backgrounds can benefit from the freedom and empowerment of homeschooling, unschooling, and worldschooling. And the homeschooling community and the world can benefit from the presence of that diversity.

Then I read about the incident of racial profiling against Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the pre-eminent African American scholar from Harvard University who was arrested by police after being accused of breaking into his own home and getting upset at the policeman, just down the street from me in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s a clear sign that racism is still a problem when a middle-aged scholar is arrested for “entering ones home while black”.

It’s always been my dream that homeschooling could help with the issues around race and fear and hate for supposed outsiders. I performed a rap poem in 2002, when I was 18, called “Whole Education Without Getting Schooled”, in which I said:

“Whole” as in complete with unity

With everyone part of a community

When you know everyone is interconnected

Propaganda that says “hate,” is ineffective

(You can read the whole rap poem here.)

I still think that homeschooling, or worldschooling as I like to call it, has great potential for broadening people’s horizons and breaking down the barriers that separate us.

A common concern about homeschooling is the students could become sheltered when in fact, as worldschoolers, they have the opportunity to have the whole world as their school rather than one building, in one neighborhood, in one city.

One thing is clear: according to a study done in 2007 “Home schooling improves academic performance and reduces impact of socio-economic factors.”:

Hepburn (of the Fraser Institute which did this study of homeschoolers in the U.S. and Canada) said evidence clearly demonstrates that home education may help reduce the negative effects of some background factors that many educators believe affects a child’s ability to learn, such as low family income, low parental educational attainment, parents not having formal training as teachers, race or ethnicity of the student, gender of the student, not having a computer in the home, and infrequent usage of public libraries….

The study also reports that students educated at home outperform their peers on most academic tests and are involved in a broad mix of social activities outside the home.

(You can read the whole article here.)

Homeschooling allows people to grow freely. This improves many aspects of ourselves, one of which is achievement on standardized tests. It also allows our spirit as a whole, our soul, to soar.

Homeschooling is not an elitist option only for wealthy, “well educated”, white families with two parents in the house. On the contrary it seems to be a powerful way for disadvantaged people to get ahead.

And I’m told that more and more people from diverse backgrounds are reaping the benefits of homeschooling. At the same time I’m disappointed at the lack of diversity at the unschooling gatherings I’ve been to. In my next post I’ll address this issue as best I can.


Filed under diversity, homeschooling, race, unschooling, worldschooling

My Unschooling and Trust Journey

In my last post I talked about how trust is key in unschooling. To learn to be free we need to trust ourselves even if things start out rough, and they certainly did when I started unschooling!

Decompression” is what unschoolers call it when you start unschooling and “do nothing” for awhile. My first several months homeschooling I hardly left the house (following that stereotype about homeschoolers!) and had only ultimate frisbee and cross country running as organized activities: nothing resembling school or academics! But honestly, more than that, I was just an angry and unhappy guy.

It’s kind of like cleaning up a big mess: often things get messier before they get nice. There’s a lot that comes to the surface and needs to be sorted out: things to decide to keep or throw away. Sometimes it’s very hard to throw things away! And it takes a lot of trust in the process when things look pretty bad on the surface.

Many people thought I was making a bad choice when I left school. Sometimes my reaction was very strong against this, but ultimately I thought, “I’m just going to try doing this myself and see how it goes. If I need to, I’ll go back to school, but I’m gonna try relying on myself.”

Underneath my initial anger and defensiveness about homeschooling and unschooling, I had doubts, fears, and insecurities all along the way; still do. I’ve been humbled from the beginning with the mistakes I’ve made after I left school and even more while I travelled the world!

But by the end of that first year of unschooling things were getting a lot better: I was working on an organic farm, going to a wilderness survival school, then even taking great courses at a community college and going  to homeschooler classes that people organized. But my real education came from all the healing work I did sorting through things and healing wounds that were stopping me from doing what I really wanted to do.

Through unschooling and exploring the world around me, worldschooling, I’ve come to honestly understand what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve learned to accept the wise and caring guidance from others when I need it, reject the false fear based pressure from some, and follow my bliss and inner knowing and learn from my mistakes.

Despite my insecurities, in the end, with my actions, I put my trust in myself. Looking back, I am so thankful for that journey I started a decade ago. Again, when I wanted to run my own business and I was reluctant to go to college, some people weren’t sure it was a good idea: I decided I’d see how it went. Including some ups and downs, it continued to go well, so I continue to put my trust in myself.

I still have more worries and fears but they don’t stop me from continuing to learn and grow. They don’t stop me from shining my light and loving my life.


Filed under adult unschoolers, grown unschoolers, homeschooling, starting unschooling, trust, unschooling, worldschooling

Unschooler Peter Kowalke Interview about College

Peter Kowalke is a 30 year old lifelong homeschooler/unschooler and the creator of the Grown Without Schooling (2001) documentary about ten grown homeschoolers who “explore and candidly discuss the lasting influence home education has had on their lives” as it says at Peter Kowalke and the many adults he has interviewed in the documentary and his magazine columns followed the “unschooling” philosophy in which students follow their own interests without having to follow a set curriculum (click here to read more about the definitions of homeschooling and unschooling).

Many people would be surprised to hear that this works at all! As thousands of unschooling families around the U.S. and the world will tell you and show you, unschooling does work, often in truly wonderful ways. Unschoolers go on to many versions of success (check-out my post Links to Successful Unschoolers). But maybe because it is so out of the mainstream unschoolers concentrate mainly on the positive. Peter Kowalke’s Grown Without Schooling documentary was new in that it openly discussed the challenges of unschooling as well. Many unschoolers were relieved by this, others found the documentary too negative.

What many people may not realize is Peter was in the middle of a very traumatic experience with college when he made the documentary. Eventually he graduated with a degree in journalism but those wounds stayed with him. Many unschoolers and homeschoolers go on to graduate college and clearly not all have such difficulty as Peter Kowalke did. But maybe he was somewhat of a canary in a coal mine: more sensitive, aware, and out-spoken about problems that affect all college students on some level.

I think we can all, unschoolers, homeschoolers, everyone else can learn from Peter Kowalke’s experiences and observations. And hopefully parents and young adults will realize college is not always best for some and there is at least a choice, while Peter Kowalke felt like there wasn’t for him….

The Interview in His Own Words

“I didn’t even realize it was an option.”

My parents loved college and there was just sort of this expectation that I would go to college. I didn’t even realize it was an option. We were still in the phase of homeschooing when there weren’t enough people who seriously questioned this notion that the ultimate validation of homeschooling was to go back to school! The ultimate validation is whether or not I could get into college and do well in college! I didn’t critically understand what the problem was but I sort of felt in my heart that there was something wrong. I didn’t particularly want to go to college. I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew that much. I sort of got roped into it and I lived under that fear. My whole life I saved money and it was like, “You’re saving for college.” Even as a kid college was this big bad thing looming down the horizon for me.

I went away to Hampshire College which kind of sounded unschoolerly. I didn’t know where else to go. By that time I knew that a traditional school didn’t make a lot of sense so I went to Hampshire when I was nineteen in 1998.

Grown unschooler/homeschooler Peter Kowalke: "Imprisoned by College?"

Grown unschooler/homeschooler Peter Kowalke: "Imprisoned by College?"

I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I was into reading a lot of lay quantum physics books: Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku; books by Richard Feynman; pored over Scientific American, etc. Like a good unschooler, I was broad. I’m interested in weight lifting; I’m interested in writing; and here came the science side to me. That was real sexy and exciting stuff.

But at the end I knew I wasn’t a quantum physicist because there were people who knew so much more. I actually tried not to be involved with the campus publications because all through my teen years I was defined as the guy who ran that magazine: I ran a little magazine all throughout my teen years. That was my life. My identity was editor and chief. So I wanted to go to physics. But when I got to Hampshire I discovered: “Let’s face facts, you’re really a journalist. You love being an editor because that’s what you do. It’s not as sexy as physics but that’s only because you don’t know physics and you do know journalism. You do know what it’s like to be an editor, so yeah, there’s some bad sides. But there’s bad sides to physics too.” So the best thing to come out of Hampshire, was that I became the youngest person to be the editor and chief of the college newspaper. And despite my intentions to not get involved at all with campus publications!

“Every college out there, more or less, gives up its soul.”

But overall it didn’t work out. Part of it is I’m very reluctant to talk about the Hampshire thing. When there were injustices done I called the administration on it. I worked at the paper and saw the seedy underbelly of how the administration worked. That gave me pause. And some of the weirdness at Hampshire disillusioned me. At the same time I was starting to realize why I was always reluctant about college. And that was basically that college was a continuation of the school system: it’s K-16.

And just like 5th grade is vastly different than high school. College is very different than fifth grade but still the fundamental assumptions and underlying structure and philosophy of it is still the same even at a Hampshire because all colleges are accredited. And basically a college lives and dies by its accreditation. That means they have to do a certain dance for the agency that accredits them. Every college out there, more or less gives up its soul. That’s why you don’t see any viable accrediting alternatives to college at this point. So I saw that, that’s why I said “I’m gonna do it on my own.” And I continued to unschool through college.

Part of the reason I made the Grown Without Schooling documentary was I was trying to discover why college didn’t work for me. Is the system really as messed up as I think it is? I was trying to understand my homeschooling experience. It was an opportunity to soul search and be helpful for other folks. With the documentary and these grown unschooler columns I may be, on some level, trying to answer the question: How do you live as an unschooler in a society that believes in school? And will believe in school, I don’t believe in my lifetime I can change that.

“Unschool in a Schooled Society”

One big problem I’ve faced is figuring out how to live in this society that’s structured around the school mentality when I don’t believe in the school mentality. I’m not in a position to be completely self-sufficient and divorce myself from society. I wouldn’t have enough friends. I wouldn’t be able to make my own food, and housing and all those necessities. And I wouldn’t have the community. I can’t do it all myself, I’m very aware of that. So I have to live in society on some level. I have to figure out how to live in society but at the same time not give up what’s truly important to me, my life, and the philosophy that’s truly important to me. This has been a struggle for me for many years.

I wrote an article earlier about meeting the mainstream: how much to give into the culture and how much to stay true to yourself. I was very lost when I wrote that article. But now I’m found. I’m a magazine editor. And that’s what I’m good at because I was a magazine editor as an unschooling teenager; that’s the lifestyle I’m used to and expect and have conditioned myself for. So it’s nice to actually be doing that and to be doing it with an interesting magazine. I’m glad I’m working for a wine and beer and spirits magazine instead of an air conditioner magazine! Who wants to be the editor of air conditioner monthly! You know? I have a pretty sexy magazine and it’s something I’m interested in and I’m living true to myself. Things aren’t perfect. But it’s a lot better now than things have been since I was forced to go to college. I think I’m finally recovering from the major sidetracking that was college. College knocked me off of my trajectory in life and I’m just now getting back.

“Hopefully I’ve learned from that experience.”

I do believe society sort of forced me to do something that wasn’t healthy for me. Parts of it was very happy. Other parts it was hellish. And I really hope I never have to go through that again. I hope that I’ve learned from that experience. There weren’t enough people to guide me or maybe there were guides but I never ran across them or I didn’t know how to take their advice. But I had to stumble into that pit and deal with it. And hopefully I’ve learned so that I won’t have to do it again. Now the pessimist in me says I probably will step in the pit again! (Laughs) But we’ll see, maybe I’ll get lucky this time. Or maybe I’ll have somebody who will have been there and will help me avoid it by and large. That would be very, very nice. I don’t need to make that kind of mistake again myself. I don’t need to have another trauma that was as traumatic as the college years were for me. I would like that to be a once in a lifetime trauma.

The Hampshire experience really showed me that life is not all stars, that it can be tragic, and unexpected and cruel.

When you’re driving your car before you’ve gotten in an accident there’s a certain invulnerability that you have and then you get in an accident that’s bad. And then you think, “Oh my God: every time I drive I could actually get myself killed, or injured, or crash!” You realize that it can happen to you in fact. I think that has happened to me in my life so there is an element of tragicness. What I’ve tried to do is embrace life and say to myself, “There is tragedy: there could be tragedy at any moment. So enjoy life right now.” Don’t be a hedonist. Planning is very important, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of enjoying the moment. And it doesn’t take anything to enjoy the moment other than a positive outlook.

(Eli Gerzon again: I published this interview on my site before. But I decided to post it again on my new blog so more people could find it and comment and discuss the issues raised. And of course I can add pictures now!)

Grown unschoolers, left to right: Peter Kowalke, Eli Gerzon, and Peter Griffin (one of the subjects of the Grown Without Schooling documentary) hanging out after the Connecticut Homeschoolers Conference in fall, 2007.
Left to right: grown unschoolers Peter Kowalke, Eli Gerzon, and Peter Griffin (one of the subjects of the Grown Without Schooling documentary) hanging out after the Connecticut Homeschool Newtwork Conference in fall, 2007. Peter Kowalke spoke and led a grown homeschoolers panel discussion.
In this photo Peter Griffin flashes Quahog gang signs. Eli Gerzon tries to learn. Peter Kowalke thinks we're funny.
In this photo Peter Griffin flashes what must be Quahog gang signs. Eli Gerzon tries to learn. Peter Kowalke thinks we’re funny. We are unschoolers… and we’re cool. (Both photos by Mae Kowalke, Peter Kowalke’s wife, who he met while interviewing her for the Grown Without Schooling documentary!)


Filed under adult unschoolers, entrepreneurship, grown unschoolers, homeschooling, unschooling, worldschooling