Ryan Farley



Current country

United States

When did you unschool?


Where did you "graduate"?


Describe your childhood education (through age 12).

From birth to age twelve my schooling was fairly structured. It definitely fell under the definition of homeschooling. 

Over time my parents both got busier and my education became a bit like swiss cheese. I was very advanced in some areas but very behind in others. I always had the freedom to choose what direction I wanted to go in and what I wanted to learn.

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

I was in several playgroups and co-ops when I was growing up. We went to park days and typically had two or three other social/educational events each week. 

Growing up, I mainly stuck to interacting with people around my age, though I never had any issues with communicating to adults or children.

Who made the decision to unschool you?

It was really a decision my parents and I made together. 

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

From ages thirteen to eighteen, I didn’t really have any rigid structure. I wasn’t doing math or writing or any of the “core curriculum.” I primarily focused on extracurriculars that I enjoyed, like Science Olympiad. When I was eighteen, I signed up for my first class at Austin Community College (ACC) because I wanted more structure.

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

My teen years were mostly consumed by improv and Science Olympiad. I was still in co-ops at the time, so my social time was mostly composed of performing or competing with my friends in the aforementioned events.

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

The way I interacted with people never really changed. I was involved in fewer community events at this point, and I had a job teaching improv to kids. I worked with younger students but I also ended up befriending the older teachers (they were all in their thirties). 

Did you receive a high school diploma or equivalent?

Yes. I stayed in “high school” for as long as possible, because ACC offers benefits for high school students who take college classes, but eventually I just checked a box that said I graduated and handed in my transcript. 

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

My main focus was building things for Science Olympiad. I worked on small contraptions like battery-powered cars and Rube Goldberg machines. I also focused on performing comedy.

How did you make the decision to go to college?

I felt a bit of peer pressure because most of my friends were nutty “I homeschool because public school isn’t intense enough” types who all went on to graduate high school early and go to college right away. I wanted to be like them but I also wanted to figure out a good future for myself.

What are you studying?

I studied a little bit of everything. I took a ton of random classes just to see what I was interested in because I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted. Now I’m more focused on maths, and I’m considering getting a degree in math. 

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

The hardest part was filling the gaps in my education. When I started college I couldn’t add or multiply fractions, which was kind of a problem. I dropped my college algebra class immediately because I had never heard of a polynomial. Luckily I was able to switch to remedial math and it was the best money I ever spent on a class. I went from having no understanding of math to loving it.

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

A little bit of both. On the one hand, having learned the required math in high school would have saved me a semester of learning the basics in college, and being forced to take a foreign language would probably have been good for me. But I feel that the freedom I had to explore and figure out what I wanted has made me a better person. And really, being able to learn in one semester everything that’s covered in four years of high school has reinforced my belief that the public school system is a scam and not worth it. 

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

Yes, from outside my family. My friends all supported me but they were also terrifyingly smart and well put together. That drove me to try to put myself together and to get a degree. 

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

Youth improv teacher and math tutor at ACC.

What is your current job?

Math tutor at ACC.

Why did you choose your current job?

Math is now something I’m pretty good at (I’m almost at the end of the math offered at ACC). I enjoy explaining things to people and helping them to enjoy it too. And money is nice!

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

I think it made finding work easier, specifically because I specialized in things. Getting a job in improv was easy because I was good at it and I had put a lot of time into it already. 

Getting a math tutoring job was easy too. I literally just walked into ACC one day and said “Hey can I have a job with something mathy,” and they looked at my scores and said “Sure buddy.” I think future jobs will also not be too difficult to acquire. 

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

Enjoy life and don’t worry about school. Everything you need is available at a community college for cheap and you’re not on a timer. Focus on finding things you enjoy.

What advice would you give to their parents?

Do your absolute best to let your kid explore things they’re interested in while still keeping some structure in their life. I think unschooling is a very intense and difficult job for parents, but if it’s done correctly it will have a very positive outcome. 

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

I would want to give them a childhood that’s very similar to the one that I experienced, but hopefully I’ll be financially secure enough that me or my spouse can stay at home and keep things a bit more structured. I would want to sign them up for college as early as possible, but I would give them total freedom to take as few classes as they want.

Published: August 2019