When did you unschool?
Where did you "graduate"?
Describe your childhood education (through age 12).
When my parents presented unschooling to me, they requested that I complete math and English courses via the homeschool curriculum we had worked with before. Everything else was my choice. I remember feeling really excited to focus on the arts (and less so on science and math). I looked up articles and created projects for myself, like book reports and papers.
Over time, I definitely felt a loss of motivation on my part. Once I started working in the service industry, I felt more motivated to wake up and work than to write an essay.
Looking back, I see a lost kid who didn’t realize that she needed checklists and hands-on projects with due dates. I chose to start college early because I felt that the structure of college would benefit me more than staying at home. It did for the most part, but slowly I realized that I was more interested in managing projects and presentations in the workplace than in completing academic assignments.
Describe how you interacted with other kids around your age in your childhood.
Growing up, I didn’t get a lot of outside interaction with kids my age. I had a small gym group that was a huge highlight in my week, but in the rural area where I grew up, it was hard to find a community that shared my values.
I felt very awkward (as most teenagers probably do!), whether I was interacting with adults or other kids, but my parents always pushed me to try out opportunities where I could make new friends. I had a big family, so we formed a strong bond through unschooling, but I regret not going out and experiencing more.
The high school nearby allowed me to take just one class, and I met some of my first good friends through that community.
Who made the decision to unschool you?
Describe your education in your teen years (ages 13-18).
I was in charge of my education for all subjects except for math and English, but I feel like I lacked the motivation to start projects or impose structure. I did best when someone gave me a task and I could complete it within a specific time frame.
Describe how you interacted with other people around your age in your teen years.
I made a few friends from the local high school, but mostly I found my community through work and through my parents’ job (they direct and manage a summer camp). I liked getting to hang out with people during a shared experience, like working the same job or coping with the same difficult situation.
Describe how you interacted with people much older or younger than you during your teen years.
I worked with the counselors at my parents’ camp, which allowed me some one-on-one time with older people. I loved working with the kids at the summer camp as much as I liked working with the adults. I consider myself more mature than many people my age, and I think this is partly due to having experience talking to people of all ages.
Did you receive a high school diploma or equivalent?
During your teen years, what did you end up focusing on, working on, or learning?
I ended up focusing on English and Psychology, which I discovered with help from my mom.
How did you make the decision to go to college?
I decided I needed more structure and a grading system to keep myself motivated.
What did you study?
I studied English, Psychology, and basic languages. I hold no degrees.
What was the hardest part of the transition to college? What was the easiest part?
The consequences that college posed definitely felt more severe than those of a disappointed parent. I had to accept failure and wake up the next day and strive to do better.
Do you feel like your unconventional upbringing made getting into college more easy, more difficult, or both?
Both. I think my upbringing helped me to match my older classmates’ maturity, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the amount of work or the structure I would need to adhere to.
Did you feel pressure to attend college? Did that pressure come from within your family or from outside of your family?
I never felt pressure to attend college or to finish out my degree. My parents just wanted me to make enough money to support myself and be happy. They continue to wish only the best for me.
Describe the kinds of jobs you’ve had in life so far.
I’ve worked service positions (waitress, barista, etc,), childcare, and management.
What is your current job?
Why did you choose your current job?
My last position was a corporate role with a lot of responsibility, where I oversaw 100+ people in a disorganized environment. I barely saw my fiance, I was always stressed, and I just wanted to improve my mental health. I have always loved working with kids and choosing a job as a nanny seemed like the right path to help me take back control of my schedule and my life.
Did your unconventional upbringing make it easier or more difficult to find paid work?
Easier. My parents taught me honesty, integrity, and kindness. I think those I’ve shown those values in every position I have interviewed for.
What advice would you give to someone beginning their unschooling/alternative schooling journey?
Push yourself. Decide what you love and go all in. It’s okay if you change your mind, or if you feel like you need more structure. Explain what you need to your parents and work with them to create a curriculum that functions for YOU.
What advice would you give to their parents?
Keep an eye on your child. Freedom is important, but kids can’t always motivate themselves. They might need an extra push from you and they need you not only to listen, but to take action when something isn’t working.
If you choose to have children, what school/unschool experience would you want for them?
I would enroll my kids in a private school. I would do extensive research to make sure the school was a positive, healthy environment. To me, having that kind of social experience seems like the key to a good upbringing.
Published: August 2019