Entrepreneur, North Carolina, USA
Editor’s Note: The following is a lightly edited version of an audio recording submitted for this book.
My son went to public school for five years. I didn’t understand for a long time the damage it was doing. When I grew up I went to public school for the majority of the time; there were a couple of times I went to private school but it was just kind of one of those things where it is just ‘that’s what you do.’ I didn’t even think about it when he was a certain age, I just thought ‘time to go to school’ and that’s what he did. Over the years of him being in public school I noticed that he wasn’t interested in any of the things that they were doing. He wasn’t really learning the things that they wanted to him to learn and he was just recoiling from the whole situation, and I started to realize how damaging it could be. So I decided to take him out and get permission from the State of North Carolina to homeschool him.
Once he was home I realized that it was a bad experience at school, so he had to wait a while and I didn’t want to push on things that were considered ‘learning’ because ‘learning’ in school was a very traumatic experience, so I let him have his space; I let him do his own thing and I figured ok, that is going to be a temporary thing and then we will start doing the school work later. Then I started doing some research about unschooling, doing your own thing, and since you are highly motivated in what you are doing, you are actually learning a whole lot doing your own thing. Playing and experimenting and exploring and doing things like that. So back then I was selling and repairing used appliances I was travelling around and he would go with me everywhere I went basically. He saw me negotiate with customers, he was experiencing that, he was experiencing the whole selling and buying and the work involved with everything and how much effort it took me to make money. That was another thing that when he was real young he took care of his own finances, so he was able to experiment with money and buy and sell things at flea markets and different places and he would have money and then he would spend it, and then he would sometimes regret it, sometimes he was happy and sometimes he would resell things that he had bought and would maintain a certain pool of money. He was learning a lot of negotiating skills and the value of money and having money and having his own property with the money. That was his and he could do what he wanted with it. I think that was a really good thing and I think that is something that should be taught to children that as soon as they are able to count they have their own money and they have some kind of control over their own finances almost immediately because it takes a long time to grow those skills.
So now he is 19 and an only child, we are not going to have any more; my own parents were on and off, breaking up, getting back together, they moved around all over the country, so I went to twenty-seven different schools. As soon as I went to one school and got a little bit settled we were moving again and stuff like that. All the changing scenery and all the different people I got to know didn’t really make me realize the slow grind of staying in the same school for so long. Looking back I guess that was a positive thing that I wasn’t completely deteriorated as far as my character in public school because I was able to move around and meet different people and everything was more fresh and new so the school experience, at least at that time, didn’t seem as bad. There were sometimes it was but it was new and, you know, when you are new to a school people give you the benefit of the doubt and they are not so hard on you, they are a little bit nicer to you. Those were all positives.
When I first took Jacey out of public school I got a lot of pushback from other people. They thought it was a bad idea, they didn’t understand, they just thought I had to go and complain to the school and stuff like that, but I was just really going with my gut at the time because I hadn’t really done any research or anything like that, this was a while ago and I didn’t have fast Internet and that kind of stuff so I was more going with my gut. If I were to go back in time and reassure myself I would say that that is the best decision, because for one thing just getting out of the public school is such a positive part of the whole process. What you do after is just icing on the cake as far as what a child learns and things like that. So just getting out of the negative is such a huge positive. That is the main thing, number one that you have to understand is that public school is a forced situation and it literally grinds down the character. The child must adapt to the psychotic environment and they have to push themselves down. They have to shrink themselves. They have to chip off their own personality to match the insane environment knows as public school. So just not being in that situation, just that is such a great positive. That right there in itself, if the child remains illiterate the rest of his life—that is what a lot of people think, if you aren’t in school you are not going to learn anything and that is just completely ridiculous, but let’s just say that was true—then at least they can be themselves besides conforming to an insane environment.
Of course learning how to read is nothing; learning math skills, learning negotiation skills, learning all of these skills that are actually important in your life in their context. Learning math on a timed test or learning math on a worksheet is not in any productive context. It’s just busy work. Something that is just arbitrarily put onto you as a child and you don’t understand what the purpose is. There is no purpose in that moment. When you are actually trying to figure something out because you are trying to accomplish something, then the math skills and the reading skills and the history skills and whatever skill it is that you need to accomplish what you want to accomplish, literally your brain can wrap around just about anything so rapidly and in a fulfilling manner because it is something that you want to do. So you have this momentum of desire that ploughs you right through all the learning hurdles.
All those things just started happening and I was just kind of passive in the whole unschooling thing, not passive but not really like “Hey sit down, it’s time for schoolwork,” and stuff like that, or this is what we are going to do now. That didn’t really happen and I realized that if I just get out of the way, then learning is accomplished through his desires on what he wants to do. It was just like an amazing transformation from really recoiling and not having any desire to learn because of such a negative situation in school, and then slowly transforming into—wait a minute—loving learning and wanting to learn everything possible to be a better person, to have a better life and to be positive and productive toward other people. That is the whole unschooling thing in a nutshell. A quick, easy explanation of how I experienced it; it wasn’t through reading books and going through a methodology, it was just like escaping a traumatic situation and then realizing that this is a much better situation; this is going to work way better than going to public school for sure. Yes, I did have some doubts in the beginning; I thought “Maybe this isn’t the right thing,” but I went with my gut as I was seeing a negative situation, and responding to that. I was reacting to the negative situation. For somebody who is actually considering this in advance, going into it with some understanding, it will be the absolute best thing you can do for your children, yourself, your family and everyone around you. In the end this is the direction that people are going. It’s crazy to me that public schools still exist now that I have experienced this better way, but that is from my perspective. I think eventually it’s just going to phase out, hopefully anyway, as soon as possible.
Those are my main points there as far as the whole transition process. Do the right thing. Don’t worry about it. Your kids will amaze you, and just being there as a facilitator, you will start learning more yourself, actually.
One of the biggest concerns that a lot of people have, I think, is college. They have this mindset that you have to go to high school and get good grades in high school so that you can have SAT scores, and so you can have a diploma and all of that stuff in order to get into a good college; and why do you need to get into a good college? So that you can get a good job and stuff like that. There are lots of studies that show that people that graduate college make more money and stuff like that but there is also a lot of opportunity costs there to factor in that a lot of people don’t factor in. Besides that point, my son Jacey is here, he is 19 and I wanted him to explain what he plans on doing with his future, so you can just get an idea of what a person can do in a situation of unschooling for the majority of his life. He went to public school for five years, and there was a transition time of trying to recoup from that.
Jacey, what do you plan on doing? Do you plan on going to college anytime in the future?
“Since I wasn’t forced to go to high school it gave me the luxury to go ahead and work on my skills and my life goals then. So now I am already pretty adept at the skills that I have that I need to fulfill my life goals. I have my goals, I have them figured out, I know what I want to do as far as a career goes and I would not go to college because they are just not compatible to what my goals are, what I want to do, what I want my career to be. I don’t think they can in any way efficiently improve the skills that I need and the mindset that I need to fulfill my goals.”
Your goals require a lot of skills so this is something that it would take forever in college to learn how to do right?
And are you planning on sending any of your kids to public school?
“Never, any school. Never.”
Ok so there you have it. Those are the main things and thoughts on the subject. It is kind of a personal thing and everyone is in different situations, so it is kind of one of those things that if we can throw out some information, then hopefully it is useful to somebody, and of course we will be glad to talk to anybody who would even consider taking their kids out of public school, much less unschooling or homeschooling, or whatever.