I made a post on my tumblr (click the link to see it! and answer yourself!) this morning asking for any help/advice on how to convince my parents to let me stay dropped out and to pursue unschooling. I tweeted it and Shauna (an unschooler for life!) saw my tweet. So she sent me an email with TONS of great advice. I thought I’d post it plus my response.
Here it is:
Hello Clare! It’s Shauna from Twitter. :-)
You wrote an excellent and thoughtful Tumblr post about presenting the unschooling idea to your folks. I’ll try to re-create an expand upon the answers I sent to Tumblr (I did them through my iPad, which doesn’t always submit stuff correctly).
I think the method that you use to present the idea to your parents (video, PowerPoint, speech, etc) matters less than the planning and content of what you say, which you’re obviously already thinking about very carefully.
Some ideas from me:
- - Give a list of pros and cons about unschooling, and explain why you’ve concluded that unschooling is the best option for you. Mentioning recent experiences that have helped you will be good evidence.
- - Outline your goals for yourself in the next year, which can be specific things you want to learn and do (“finish writing that play”, “find an acting mentor”) or more general things (“improve self-discipline”, “discover own strengths”)
- - Lay out your plan for how to go about unschooling (well, as much as one can when the core idea is to follow your inspiration!): any people you might consult with, places you might visit, other resources you’ll use, what your days might look like, etc.
- - Explain clearly what you will need from your parents (rides to the library, money for acting classes, their trust, suspension of judgment until you’ve had 6 months to explore this, etc).
- - Present a plan for how you’ll evaluate how you’re doing with the unschooling, what’s working, what’s not, and how you’ll change your approach as you go. I really believe that in this kind of thing there’s no such thing as failure, only lessons that help you improve for the next round.
- - Have a list of things that you’ll agree to with your parents, which will be something you discuss and put together as a team. These kinds of things could range from “continue to care for the dog” to “read a book per month.” Listen to what their concerns are about your plan, and try to find agreements that will be good for you but will help set their minds at ease.
I was lucky, I dropped out of pre-school at age 3 (or rather, mom pulled me out because I was miserable being told what to do) and my parents were completely supportive of the idea. I unschooled all the way through high school (did community college instead) and even now that I’ve finished my Master’s I still consider myself a continuous unschooler. :-) Around ages 11-13 I was all about math, so I got way ahead of where I would have been in school for that subject, while I wasn’t terribly interested in history so I didn’t really explore that. Later in life, namely in college, I had a reason to want to know history so then I took a class and started reading about it, so it was fun because I wanted to be doing it. I always tell nervous parents that yes, maybe your kid won’t touch on every subject that would be forced down their throat in school, but when they need to learn something they’ll learn it, no matter what point they’re at in their life. The absolute most valuable skill you can get through unschooling is the ability to teach yourself, because believe me you’ll be doing a lot of that for the rest of you life! On a job, in a new activity, in a new friendship, you’ll be learning new things all the time. Having the drive and the confidence to teach yourself is more important than any facts or concepts you could know.
Anyway, I’ll stop blathering on, but please feel free to ask me any questions or let me know how things are progressing as you plan to talk with your folks!
P.S. I’ve been through some of the EZO content but not all of it, I really want to get more involved. I know you all are supposed to be fictional characters, but you’re also real people communicating about yourselves, and I feel like the situation you’re in is completely real. So I’m acting accordingly. :-)
and my response:
thank you so so much for your input! All the information you gave me is so important and helpful! first off, just wondering if you’re okay that I post this email (and my response) on the EZO website? Just let me know!
EVERYTHING you wrote is so so helpful, but here are some specific things that especially struck a chord with me:
- ”- Give a list of pros and cons about unschooling, and explain why you’ve concluded that unschooling is the best option for you. Mentioning recent experiences that have helped you will be good evidence.” I REALLY need to think about the cons. I OBVIOUSLY know the pros, but to express to my parents that I know there may be some negative aspects of choosing this path will definitely help them believe that i’ve done my research!
- ”- Explain clearly what you will need from your parents (rides to the library, money for acting classes, their trust, suspension of judgment until you’ve had 6 months to explore this, etc).” I think this might be my parent’s biggest point for telling me “no” (if that’s what they do). They both lead busy lives and putting me in public school is the easiest option for them. I need to make sure I figure out specific things that I would need them to do and make sure that list is not so long…hmm
- “Around ages 11-13 I was all about math, so I got way ahead of where I would have been in school for that subject, while I wasn’t terribly interested in history so I didn’t really explore that. Later in life, namely in college, I had a reason to want to know history so then I took a class and started reading about it, so it was fun because I wanted to be doing it.”
Although I’ve officially decided that unschooling is what I for sure want to do, there’s still A LOT for me to learn about how it works—things that I might not learn until I actually experience it. These bits of information about your personal experiences are so helpful when it comes to figuring out my own style of learning. I can sometimes kind of get stuck in my own mind and to read about other people’s paths really helps me to step outside of my thoughts and experiment more with different learning styles. I think unschooling is great i the sense that it completely gives you that freedom to experiment!
Again I cannot explain to you enough how helpful your ENTIRE EMAIL was for me. I’ll definitely use it as a guideline when putting together my presentation for my parents.
p.s. the way you’re interacting with me as a zed omega is PERFECT! I would love to hear more from you!! From what I’ve seen, you definitely have lots of great stuff to say!
and her response to THAT:
Yes, feel free to post anything from our conversations. :-) I really need to write my letter to the whole EZO project; I’m in the midst of putting together my personal “education manifesto” to solidify what I believe about learning and why, so this would be great for me too! When I was at the #140edu conference in July I kept saying that I was there gathering troops for an educational revolution, and I found many kindred spirits! What became clear was the fact that hundreds of different people and organizations are exploring non-school ways of learning and potential alternative education systems. We just need to arm ourselves with enough information (anecdotal as well as scientific studies) to convince the powers that be it’s time for a change!!
You’re right about point 2: it’s “easiest” for parents with jobs to have their kids in school. You’re past the age where kids really need a day-to-day supervisor, but parents always have their own ideas about when that age is. :-) Hopefully they’ll be open to you being more on your own (clearly you’ve survived summers on your own without any disasters!).
I’m guessing you’ve heard of these books before (I mentioned one of them to Nicole a while back), but have you looked up The Day I Became an Autodidact or The Teenage Liberation Handbook? Those both date back to my teen years, so they’re not necessarily reflective of the current legal and cultural situation for unschoolers. But Autodidact especially is one girl’s story of dropping out and making it work. Hearing about other people’s paths definitely helps you figure out how to forge your own!
I’m going to read up on all the Tumblrs from EZO and try to pay more attention to the other venues. I absolutely love this project!!
Hang in there,