Homemaker, Utah, USA
I grew up in a suburb of Seattle, WA called Federal Way and lived there until I left for college at the University of Utah. While studying there I met my wife, Marianne, and we now live in Layton, UT with our 2 children, Camden, 5, and Cleo, 2.
Growing up I attended government schools with no real idea that anything else existed. I had a vague idea that some kids went to private schools, probably from movies, and knew that they were expensive. I don’t recall understanding that some kids were homeschooled until I was probably in college. I believed all the myths about homeschool kids (socially inept, limited by parents’ knowledge, generally weird and overly nerdy) without ever even looking into the research. I received my degree in Exercise Science about a year after my wife and I were married. I was offered a teaching position at a charter school in Ogden where my wife’s cousin was the director (probably a little nepotism).
Teaching P.E. and Health to seventh and eighth graders was an especially interesting time. For me, the only good part of seventh and eighth grade was making friends. I hated many teachers, thought homework was a waste of my time, felt pressure to conform, and learned very little. My parents both worked my entire life and seemed to always be worrying about money, so the idea that school could be something else never crossed their minds. They knew I didn’t like school but were probably just happy I never got into any real trouble.
While I was teaching we were required to administer standardized tests and make sure the kids stayed quiet for many hours. I was assigned to a group of eighth graders with a colleague of mine. As we stood around, he showed me a book he had brought and was reading during the testing. The book was Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto. If you’ve never read anything by Gatto, know that he taught in public schools for many years (30+, I believe) and was a fierce critic of the compulsory education model. The book resonated with me so deeply. It was as though someone watched a detailed video of my schooling experience and explained why I felt so frustrated, undervalued, and derided. Then it was as if they looked into the future and saw why I consistently underachieved, never even coming close to realizing my potential. It’s hard to put into words what effect reading that book had on me.
The simple spark truly changed my life. I read books and articles about unschooling, Sudbury-model schools, lifelong learning, and so forth, with newfound interest and vigor. I even tried to apply the lessons I was learning into my classroom, with fascinating results. It led me to looking into alternatives to almost everything in my life because school was such an institution in my world, one that I had never questioned before.
One aspect of unschooling that stood out most to me was the idea that life is learning. You don’t really start or stop learning. You just decide where to put in the effort, even if it seems like you’re not doing anything. That freedom has really only been available to me since I left the university and I’ve loved it. I haven’t always focused my attention on the best learning I could receive but I am now fully aware that it is my own choice, which all by itself motivates me to seek the best I can.
This style of education would have suited me so completely that I sometimes can’t imagine my children doing anything different. That event occurred about 5 years ago and I’ve learned to not let my enthusiasm for something overrule my better judgment or rational thought processes. My wife, in contrast, loved school. She loved the external motivators and didn’t feel pressured in the same ways I did. My son would start kindergarten this fall (2015) and I do have some reservations about unschooling. Though I don’t believe the ideas about kids needing public education for social reasons, my son doesn’t have many friends in the area. Just to meet other kids I want to send him to the local school. I loved meeting people at school so it seems easier to send him there.
Honestly, outside of that, I have no other fears about unschooling. For me, one of the most powerful things I’ve learned is that options exist. Maybe my children will go to school all through high school. Maybe they’ll love it. Maybe they’ll hate it. But I want them to be aware of the options available to them.
 Available in several formats at http://skyler.link/amznmassintruct