Maya Toccata



Current country

British Columbia

When did you unschool?


Where did you "graduate?"

British Columbia

Describe your childhood education (through age 12).

I went to public school.

Describe how you interacted with other kids around your age in your childhood.

I grew up in a great kid-friendly neighborhood, so most of my friends were my neighbors.

Who made the decision to unschool you?

I read Grace Llewellyn’s Teenage Liberation Handbook at 13, and I lobbied my parents hard.

Describe your education in your teen years (ages 13-18).

This is when I quit school and unschooled. 

Describe how you interacted with other people around your age in your teen years.

My friends and I started a weekly unschooling teen meet-up. I also met people in “extracurricular” activities like drama class.

Describe how you interacted with people much older or younger than you during your teen years.

I was very fortunate to grow up in a village-like neighborhood in the middle of a big city. There were 82 families in my housing co-op “enclave” and we all knew each other from sharing communal spaces and co-op events. I’d babysit littles and play capture the flag with older and younger kids. My parents were part of various committees so I had lots of opportunities to connect with 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 probably spent the most time learning about midwifery, but there was a lot of other stuff I was interested in — Shakespeare, vegetable gardening, essential oils, hat fashion… 

How did you make the decision to go to college?

When I was 24, my husband and I decided we were ready to become parents. Three years later I was still not pregnant and I felt like I was wasting my life waiting for a baby to come along. I figured a career goal and full course load would help keep me focused and happy.

What did you study?

AA in Liberal Arts (Math-Science)

What was the hardest part of the transition to college? What was the easiest part?

The hardest part was learning when NOT to give something my all. As an unschooler, I enjoy diving deep into topics, so I have a hard time moving on if I don’t feel like I have a full and complete understanding of the current topic. The easiest part was having a whole bunch of teachers ready to spend their time teaching me stuff.

Do you feel like your unconventional upbringing made getting into college more easy, more difficult, or both?

It really didn’t come up. Because I was older (26) I just took the placement test and was off to the races.

Did you feel pressure to attend college?

No. Most of my family didn’t attend college. 

Describe the kinds of jobs you’ve had in life so far.

Various retail jobs, baker, bookkeeper, camp administrator, personal chef.

What is your current job?

Permaculture designer.

Why did you choose your current job?

Permaculture is the most inspiring topic I know of. I was inspired to get my design certificate after living in the desert for a few years and seeing a huge need for water harvesting, local food production, waste recycling, etc etc. No one else was providing permaculture services, so my husband and I started our business.

Did your unconventional upbringing make it easier or more difficult to find paid work?

Easier in the sense that I’m comfortable networking and have a lot of skills that are useful to people. Harder in the sense that it set the bar really high for how I spend my time. Since I’m choosing to prioritize spending my time homeschooling my kid, growing my own food, and investing in my friendships and community, paid work feels like something I’m trying to squeeze in around everything else. It’s not that I have trouble finding paid work, it’s more that my unconventional upbringing made money and career less of a priority.

What advice would you give to someone beginning their unschooling/alternative schooling journey?

My advice is to ignore the advice of “follow your bliss” — too much pressure. Instead, follow your curiosity and ask yourself what big problems you’d like to help solve.

What advice would you give to their parents?

Don’t worry.

If you choose to have children, what school/unschool experience would you want for them?

I have an eight-year-old and we are homeschooling. We aren’t radical unschoolers by any stretch (we spend about an hour a day on structured academic stuff), but John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and Grace Llewellyn had a huge influence on me, so I have a very low tolerance for busywork and standardized tests. 

Published: October 2019