Web Designer, Idaho, USA
I am a 30-year-old white male living in Idaho. I’m a web designer and social media specialist. I have also worked as a policy analyst, digital media manager, blogger, and journalist at various points in my life. I have always had a keen interest in history, government, and economics; and I have been very involved in politics and the political process since 2008. Today, I actually find philosophy more interesting than politics and am focused particularly on alternative ideas such as counter-economics, the sharing economy, agorism, voluntaryism, and unschooling.
Although I was educated at home, it was far from unschooling. I was enrolled in a formalized correspondence-style education which was formatted on a private, religious school. While it is not exactly what I would have preferred in retrospect, I believe it was far superior to a traditional public or private education. I had more leeway regarding scheduling and I was free from the bullying and peer pressure that are so endemic to both public and private schools.
My education was not confined to what I learned in the school portion of my day, fortunately. I read hundreds of books ranging from kid’s novels to scholarly books on history and economics. I borrowed countless items from my local library and enjoyed copying schematics and plans onto graph paper just for fun. I never felt much kinship with people my own age. Even as a young child, I preferred the company of adults. Children were boring to me and never wanted to talk about things that mattered.
Contrary to the hand-wringing of naysayers, I was never ‘socially awkward’ or otherwise unprepared for life in the real world. If anything, I was more prepared than many of my peers. Having not wasted the first two decades of my life learning how to interact with children, I was comfortable interacting with educated adults and discussing matters of importance. I never felt like I missed anything being educated at home, and to this day I am thankful I was not thrown into the lion’s den of public education.
Today I would classify myself as a lifelong student, but happily not a professional one. I don’t particularly enjoy formalized education even as an adult, and I find sitting in an uncomfortable chair and listening to a lecturer drone on about a topic for which even he can’t muster up any enthusiasm a colossal waste of time. To me, real education is not about teachers and students, but about the process of learning. I don’t need to be in a classroom or lecture hall to obtain knowledge, and I don’t need a PhD in order to impart knowledge to others.
Formalized education (be it Kindergarten or a Master’s Seminar) is far too rigid for my liking. I don’t want the pre-packaged bits of knowledge which someone else has determined to be the ‘right’ information for me to have. I don’t want to be told what I ‘should’ know on a subject. There is no universal bucket of knowledge which everyone must possess. Some incredibly intelligent people misspell common words while others with impeccable grammar can’t fathom even basic economic concepts. The classical idea of a “Renaissance man” who is knowledgeable in many fields is an interesting concept to aspire to, but it is an increasingly unreachable goal as both the quantity of fields and the knowledge within these fields expand exponentially. No one can know everything, and once that fact is accepted, the idea that self-appointed experts should determine what anyone should know becomes even more preposterous.
I don’t have any children right now although I expect that I will have at least one at some point in my life. While I don’t want to create any rigid absolutes for how I will raise her—I want to be open to all possibilities and adapt to her personality—if there is one thing I can say with at least 99 percent confidence, it is that I don’t want to send her to a traditional school. My reasons for this decision are numerous, but the most important is simply that I want to give my child the opportunity to be a unique individual with as much freedom and choice as possible.
When I first heard the word ‘unschooling’ several years ago, I assumed it meant the process of un-learning all the misinformation one tends to be taught in school. I soon learned that my supposition was incorrect and that it actually referred to a concept of education that rejected the rigidity of traditional schooling and instead focused on allowing students to choose their own path. I was enamored with the concept immediately as it combined two things I very much support—home-based education and personal choice.
In the modern, information age, I believe that education should not be focused on rote memorization and teaching to the test. If I need to know what year Columbus discovered America, I can ask Google—and hopefully come to realize that Columbus was 500 years late in ‘discovering’ America, never actually reached America, and was a horrible slave trader as well. Real education is about learning how to learn, not memorizing trivia.
I’m okay if my child doesn’t remember all the historical dates which were drilled into my head so long as she knows why history matters and how to look up the dates when she needs them. I’m okay if my child never wins a spelling bee so long as she can articulate her thoughts without struggling due to limited language skills. I’m okay if my child can’t do long division in her head so long as she can understand that borrowing a million dollars a minute when you’re already 18 trillion in debt is unsustainable. And who knows? She may learn all of the above and much more simply because she wants to and no one is telling her she has to. I’m okay with that outcome as well.
I can understand why some people are skeptical about letting their children direct their own education. Many parents have a tendency to be control freaks and want to micromanage every aspect of their child’s existence in the hopes that harm can be minimized and opportunity maximized, but the irony is that those parents often have the most screwed up kids of all. I don’t believe that healthy, well-adjusted people are the product of centralized planning. It doesn’t work for nations (which is why Communism always fails) and it doesn’t work for families.
An unschooled child may not think and act exactly like her peers. She may not learn the same things in the same years and thus may not ace standardized tests. She may know a lot about some things which interest her and very little about others which do not. These aren’t defects in the theory of unschooling, they are the point! Giving people freedom may be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. Personally, I look forward to seeing what my child will choose to learn and what will interest her. I will happily use those things to help her think about subjects like math and grammar rather than using stale books and boring word problems.
Traditional education is extremely authoritarian in nature. It affords little room for those who think differently or who deviate from the “the index card of allowable opinion” as Tom Woods likes to say. It is a system built on conformity and tradition which has little to no patience with those who refuse to fall in line. Such a system is one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I can’t imagine willingly putting my child into a box like that.
If you believe in liberty, spontaneous order, and peaceful parenting, then unschooling should be right up your alley. It takes the most fundamental principles of a free society and applies them to one of the most formative periods of a child’s life. It allows a child to become and to be their own person and to pursue goals and interests based on choice rather than coercion. To me, it’s the obvious answer to one of life’s greatest questions: How do I give my children a better world than I inherited? What better way than to give them the freedom to be unique individuals who can learn and grow and thrive in a world that isn’t built to control them, but to aid them in their pursuit of happiness. That’s the world I want to give my children. That’s the reason why I choose unschooling.