Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You Got Unschooled!

I talk a lot in interviews. Whoa, that has the potential for misconstruation. Misconstruction. Missed-mentstruation. Misunderstatement. Let me elucidate.

I talk a lot in interviews… about my approach to learning and where it came from; my thin-slicing, shortcut lifestyle. Besides that, I really don’t talk much. I let my smile drift forward, and let my headshots do the talking.
“Dad. Stop. Just tell me how the $#!+ to spell ‘sugar.’” 
That was me, frustrated, typing up a report on my 3rd grade homeschool field trip to the Pepsi Bottling Co. I wanted to convey the importance of sugar in the soda-making process, but I couldn’t for the life of me spell the damn word, and my Dad is one of those “sound it out” types. Sure, grrr. The computer screen mocked me with DOSsy blue blinks. Who was going to read the report? Actually, that part was a bit unclear to me. Why was I writing it? That I could answer. I was writing because I loved everything about Dr. Pepper (and by extension, Pepsi), I was homeschooled, and I had nothing better to do.

Unschool Lesson #47: Power Stances

The Huff n’ Puff Post recently posted an article about Unschooling, which is the practice of allowing students to explore and learn based on their interests and not on a specified curriculum. Damn, talk about hitting the nail in the face with a hammerhead; suddenly I am retroactively an advocate and graduate of the unschooled lifestyle. I didn’t adhere to a lesson plan. Instead, I was released on a daily basis into the Colorado wilderness to “not die.” I also bathed standing up and showered lying down, but that is a tale for another day.

At the brawny age of 9 I was directing my 4-year-old brother to hack down cacti with a machete while I brought a pot of water to boil over a campfire. I was attempting to make peyote, something I’d read about in some piece of Western fiction or a drug-abuse pamphlet (same thing!). Once in a week or two, when I wasn’t reading or Unschooling my brother (or being schooled by my sister in anything that required athleticism), I was asked to complete a math assignment or something equally lugubrious. I would immediately fish out the Teacher’s edition of my math workbook and fill in the answers. Then, I would reverse engineer the problem from answer to question. After about fifteen minutes, I would be all learnt up, and I was ready to rush out into the yard to play lawn darts with the cat.

In the Unschooling article, they mention a kid named Xander who, along with some buddies, recently “spent a couple of months with a blacksmith to learn how to forge their own swords.” Stick that into your sheath and poke it. This little guy knows how to forge steel using advanced metallurgy techniques while his “schooled” counterparts are learning something pointless, like cursive. C’mon, if Latin is dead, then cursive is coughing up blood on its voluptuous deathbed. Little Xander must’ve been candy-striping with his sword again. 

Et tu, Cursivus!

The article also offers a peek into the life of “perky teen” Zoe Bentley. They never really get into what makes her perky, but one can imagine that one would encounter many perky things in a life so untethered.  Zoe is in hot pursuit of an expertise in Exogeology, the study of the geology of other planets.

I can see why an increasing number of parents are embracing the idea of unschooling their children. Short swords and falling space rocks. One kid is blowing flaming hot pieces of mediveal knowledge onto 21st century steel while the other looks to the ground for crumbs from the sky to learn about the ground on another planet. As you can see, what you learn at unschool is nearly the opposite of learning karate on the playground (which is listed as #1 benefit of attending public school).

I owe much of what I am to the Unschooled lifestyle. Now I have a new term to drop on the police when they come around asking why I’m having so much cactus shipped to my house. 


  1. power stances can only be learned if you are unschooled. thats what i was not taught.

  2. your body is a weapon. wield it wisely.