Entrepreneur, New York, USA
My name is Jeremy and I am the father of four year old twin girls. My wife and I are still contemplating whether or not we should add to our brood, but for now our two little ones keep us plenty busy. While my wife is doing the stay-at-home mom thing, I am in and out running my pet-sitting company. It’s the kind of work that I end up bringing home, as we board dogs in our house, and that allows me much more time with my girls than your typical working dad receives. In my spare time I co-host a weekly podcast, have been learning audio/video editing to help out with our burgeoning podcasting network, and enjoy doing hands on projects with my kids. I also try to find time to continue my studies in the fields of history, economics, and philosophy.
I was raised by two public school educators and spent much of my young life thinking that I would follow in their footsteps. By the time I reached high school, though, that thought started to change. I was always considered a good student, with excellent grades and a relatively high IQ, but the longer I stayed in school the more bored I became. It wasn’t until years later that I finally put the pieces together, but on some level I realized that all I needed to do was memorize certain information and I could ace every test. That realization was the beginning of the end for my trust in the public school system. The further away I got from school, the more I realized that I had been woefully underprepared for life. At first I believed that this was due to me not applying myself to the fullest, but I later came to realize that this was by design. When I reached my thirties, I started to re-learn history and became aware of the Prussian schooling model that had been put in place over 100 years ago. That’s when everything started to make sense. I now understood why real economics, actual history, philosophy, and logic (outside the field of mathematics) were not featured in the curriculum: having access to this knowledge can circumvent the obedient citizen endgame that the Prussian system sought to accomplish. It was at that point that I vowed should I ever have children, that they would not be subjected to the public education model.
When I first met my wife, she had been in the special education field for quite some time. I was both surprised and pleased, however, when we began to discuss the possibility of having children and she informed me that she would be in favor of home-based education. She explained that she had her doubts about the education system after being on the inside for so many years and that she also had friends whose kids were thriving in a homeschooling environment. When we found out that my wife was pregnant, we both committed to the idea of keeping our future children out of public school. After our twins were born and started to grow, we began investigating different curriculums and making connections with other parents that were already involved in homeschooling situations. We received a lot of excellent feedback and were certain that we were making the correct decision by following this path. Being given the blessing of my parents, the aforementioned former public school teachers, was an added boost of support that, as I have come to realize, is often lacking in other homeschooling families’ so-called support systems. We continued to do our research but assumed that it would only be a matter of settling on a particular curriculum once our girls became of age. It was around that time that a new wrinkle was added: I heard a woman named Dayna Martin being interviewed about being an unschooling mother.
I first became aware of Dayna when she was on Jeff Berwick’s podcast. I had heard mentions of the idea of unschooling, but mostly just in passing. My initial reaction was that it seemed like lazy parenting, so I didn’t bother to pursue the idea any further. While I rejected the notion of public schooling, the thought of no structure whatsoever seemed like a recipe for disaster. After hearing that interview, though, I began to wonder if I had dismissed the idea of unschooling too quickly. I decided it was time to take a deeper look and I soon realized my original error. I had made the same mistake that so many others had done and continue to do; I assumed unschooling equated to virtually no learning and zero guidance. I hadn’t even bothered to consider the positives that such a situation had to offer before dismissing the idea based only on the perceived negatives. With a renewed sense of interest and a more open mind, I began to research the concept of unschooling more honestly than I had done in the past. What I came to realize is that my initial reaction could not have been more wrong.
Once I actually began to take a serious look at what unschooling had to offer, it did not take me long to change my original position. Where I had thought it was a form of lazy parenting, I realized that it was just giving a child more options. Where I had thought it meant a very ‘hands off’ approach, I found that parents still played a vital role. This wasn’t about letting kids do whatever they wanted, it was more about letting them choose what topics interested them. I found that I would still need to help them with the basics like reading, writing and arithmetic, which my wife and I had already started to do around the age of three, but then it would become my job to be their support system. I could guide them when needed, give them ideas to get the ball rolling, and be there for them if and when they became stuck. This was the answer I had been seeking; a way to break free of the cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all mentality of the so-called public school system. By giving kids the option to choose what subjects interested them, or by finding ways to implement their outside interests into learning experiences, they were given the opportunity to expand their horizons and learn at an even faster pace than I had been allowed to by being stuck in a rigid system. They could replace the litany of useless knowledge thrust upon them by standardization passed off as education with real world knowledge, and start gaining actionable skills years before it was considered to be socially acceptable as the “right time.” This was the ultimate opportunity for kids to be able to reach their full potential!
I was sold. This was the path I had been in search of and I stumbled upon it at just the right time. Not only will my kids not be forced to sit and recite useless information for years on end, they will also be able to start formulating a life plan years before their contemporaries. Many of the unschooling kids I have come across already have even started their own businesses before the age of sixteen. Not only are these children well-mannered, well-socialized and well-spoken but they also possess a drive not often seen from kids that are grinding their way through 15,000+ hours of the one-size-fits-all monotony that passes for education in public schools. Many of these same kids, the ones who decide that they would like to go on to college, are starting their junior year of college at eighteen and are head and shoulders above their classmates in a myriad of ways. The choice of, well, choice has opened doors for them that many kids never even knew existed until much later in life. That is what I want for my kids. I want them to live their lives as they see fit, to take whatever path they see as bringing them the most long term success and happiness. Unschooling will give them every opportunity to achieve just that. This is not to say that kids in other situations do not possess the same capabilities, but rather that those kids are given extra roadblocks that I refuse to put in front of my own. My job is to help guide them, not hinder their performance. That is why unschooling makes the most sense to me. As I started off this piece by saying, my girls are only just turning four as I write these words. My wife and I may start with a hybrid of homeschooling and unschooling to get the ball rolling. That may be yet written in stone but we both know what our preferred endgame looks like: our kids engaged in purely self-directed learning and making our own educations literally look like child’s play. I honestly can’t wait for them to start showing up dear old dad.
 Read Education: Free & Compulsory by Murray Rothbard; available in several formats at http://skyler.link/amzneducation