Michael Stellman



Current Country

United States

When did you unschool?


Where did you "graduate"?


Describe your childhood education (through age 12).

Unschooled. I was encouraged to learn how to read (which I did with enthusiasm) and do basic math. Other than that I pursued what I was interested in, which ended up being mainly percussion, piano, and theater.

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

I played well with others. The neighborhood we lived in when I was ~6-10 had a big backyard that connected to several other families’ yards, so we had multiple playgrounds and plenty of kids our age to play with.

As far as interacting with adults, I think I was respectful and polite, but I don’t recall having much meaningful interaction with anyone older than a teenager.

Who made the decision to unschool you?

My parents, mostly my mom.

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

Unschooled. I chose to pursue music throughout this period. My parents encouraged me to continue developing math skills, which I did for fear of falling behind my peers. I went to Austin Community College (ACC) at 16 and started their program for Music Business, Performance, and Technology.

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

I played soccer every week with a group of other homeschoolers. I was involved with theater until I was 16, and I had a large friend group in the theater community.

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

I became active in a historical recreation group called the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and the majority of people at those events were older adults. I learned how to be friends with people much older than me.

Did you receive a high school diploma or equivalent?

We created a Creative Village Academy diploma that I never really needed, since I was already enrolled at ACC. Transitioning from being a “high school” student enrolled part-time at ACC to being a full-time college student was relatively seamless.

During your teen years, what did you end up focusing on, working on, or learning?

I learned plenty of history, math, sociology, psychology, and other useful knowledge. But I chose to focus on music. By the time I reached the end of my teen years I was a proficient pianist, drummer, and producer/songwriter.

How did you make the decision to go to college?

I wanted to learn new skills within the music world, meet new people, and make connections.

What are you studying?

Music Business, Performance, and Technology (a 2-year Associate’s Degree that I received Fall 2018).

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

The hardest part was structuring my free time in a way that allowed me to keep up with assignments. The easiest part was paying attention in class and studying for tests.

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

ACC is probably easy for anyone to get into.

Did you feel pressure to attend college? Did that pressure come from within your family or from outside of your family?

I felt some pressure, from both within and without my family.

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

My first job was at a rock climbing gym ages 16-18. After that I got into the food service industry, and I worked in a restaurant as a host and then as a server off and on from ages 19-22.

What is your current job?

Live Sound Engineer.

Why did you choose your current job?

Being a live sound engineer entails running audio tech for live shows at venues. It’s an interest of mine because of my passion for music, and I have a knack for it because of my background in music production. I took a few classes at ACC for live sound, interned with my instructor at the venue where he worked, and eventually I got hired on as a contractor. 

It pays pretty well and it allows for a lot of flexibility.

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

Probably easier. I don’t think I would have been able to develop this skill set in a conventional upbringing.

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

Take time to explore potential new activities/passions. I think it’s important that I was able to experience several different potential paths before settling on the music-oriented path that I’m on now.

What advice would you give to their parents?

Trust that your child will be eager to learn if you let them lead themselves. If there comes a point that you feel that they’re “wasting their time,” think about the value of what they’re doing and why they’re choosing one activity over another.

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

I would unschool them unless they expressed a desire to experience school.

Are there any other thoughts you want to share?

Unschooling helped me become who I am today. I am extremely grateful that I was given space to breathe and grow on my own, to learn how to be self-directed, and to learn how to be motivated without needing external pressure or a deadline.

Published: August 2019