Junior Unschooling Dads, Testimonials

John Durso – Business Owner

Business Owner, California, USA

The first time I heard the term “Unschooling” was in a talk given by Debbie Harbeson at the 2011 Libertopia conference in San Diego, CA where she gave me a copy of her book: Okay Kids, Time For Bedlam. My wife Kelly and I devoured her book, hit Youtube looking for more, and found “Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life,” a lecture given at the Walker Art Center in 2009[1]; Kelly credits the video with “sealing the deal” for her.

Before our first son was born, Kelly was a biology teacher at a public high school; in her few years working within ‘the system’ she worked to establish a culture of mutual respect and individual personhood which the students seemed to really be starving for. Once our oldest son was born, Kelly decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I run a fire protection company with ~75 employees which unfortunately doesn’t afford me as much time at home as I’d like, but I try to make every moment count. After the kids are asleep we sometimes find ourselves staying up late discussing the finer implications of the non-aggression principle[2] in our parenting lives. It’s easy to become discouraged as an aspiring ‘peaceful parent’ when you fall short of your expectations when tensions rise; it’s exceptionally difficult to manage the needs, safety, and desires of five individuals (too often parents forget to count themselves among those who require care), but if you picture ‘peaceful parenting’ not as an end to be achieved, but rather a goal to be aspired towards, it’s easier to take pride in the small successes of everyday life.

Kelly and I look back at our years in public school and marvel at how little we’ve retained even from some of our favorite classes. Kelly’s experience differed from mine insofar as she was driven to get straight A’s, keen on pleasing others, whereas I applied myself to the subjects which interested me, and only did enough to get by in those which did not. My knack for test taking helped me earn good enough grades to be admitted to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where, in retrospect, I pursued my own version of unschooling without knowing what to call it. I got to know my professors and engaged them outside of the classroom, intent on taking from them the knowledge I wanted with little regard for their lesson plans.

I’m very excited to see my kids learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it. Once you’ve opened your mind to the idea that kids want to learn the things they need to know in order to do what they want to do, compulsory education looks insane. My oldest son got really interested in numbers when he was about two to when he was four; he was counting, then adding, finally multiplying, but then just lost interest and moved on to something else. It just seemed like such a natural way to learn; by stark contrast the schooling model of learning six different subjects simultaneously in prescribed blocks of time marked by bells really seems detrimental to any real learning and long term retention.

We feel given the realizations we’ve made we couldn’t live with ourselves forcing our kids to go to school, although there is the persistent fear of being all alone. We had a handful of families all with boys of similar ages to ours we saw on a regular basis, then as their kids started going to preschool, we drifted apart. Unfortunately as time wears on, our oldest son grows more bored and lonely in ‘baby groups’. We have two families we’re still close to, but they’re not completely committed to an alternative to school. So at this point we are seeking out other unschooling families with which to build our community.

[1] View on YouTube at http://skyler.link/astrataylorul

[2] See the Wikipedia entry for “Non-aggression Principle” at http://skyler.link/wikinap

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John Durso

About John Durso

John Durso is a business owner, running a fire protection company with several dozen employees. He can be found online at Facebook.com/john.j.durso.5.

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