Many of the articles that we publish in Life Learning Magazine are by and about unschooled teens and those we’ve come to call “grown unschoolers” – people who have learned without school as children and teens and who are now adults. I’m not fond of the term and always want to ask, “Oh, when did you grow out of it, and why on earth did you do that?” I think the label demonstrates a link to the school way of thinking, which says that learning stops and starts based on one’s proximity to school or on one’s age. Please let us not forget that we are always, by definition, life learners (or grown unschoolers, if you will).
Of course, we all inevitably reflect our pasts and the way we were educated…or how we educated ourselves. Most of us who went to school for any length of time are victims of that; in spite of the unprecedented ease and importance of continuing to educate ourselves as adults (and the impossibility of not learning!), we still often to forget that learning never ends.
Fortunately, once we’ve truly deschooled ourselves, we take it for granted that an education is a naturally occurring, continuous process of taking in and processing information and ideas from our lives – and that we never grow out of learning. Even when someone who previously learned without school chooses to attend school, they retain the autodidactic mindset.
That’s why I think it is so important that we are building up a body of public knowledge – via articles like the ones we publish in Life Learning Magazine and other places, and the research done by those few academics who “get” life learning – that demonstrates the ongoing benefits of living and learning without school.
One of the important benefits is the fact that those who grow up having independence of thought and action have no need to rebel against their parents when they become adolescents. For the most part, and to some degree or other, grown unschoolers have been trusted with other life decisions beyond academic ones. Whatever terminology you use, as a parent, to identify your family as living school-free, once you have learned to respect and trust children and young people with their own educations, it just seems natural to expand that thinking to some other aspects of parenting. And because trust and respect have a hard time coexisting with the artificial separation of ages and stages that is so common in our society, these young people, as this article by a teenaged radical unschooler puts it, are “not driven to radical behaviors for the sake of tasting freedom.” Or, as my eldest daughter and now one of those grown unschoolers remarked when she was seventeen and listening to her conventionally parented peers complain, “There’s nothing to rebel against in my family!”
I look forward to the day when respect for both children and self-education are the norm. Perhaps then there will no longer be a reason to label people as “grown unschoolers” any more than there is now to call someone a “grown public schooler.” As grown unschooler Peter Kowalke has pointed out, labels can render us two-dimensional.