Saturday, January 8, 2011

Profiles of Adults Who Were Passion Driven Students - Their Secret? They Didn’t Go To School.

As an innovative educator I find unschooling so interesting because the grown unschoolers who speak about their experience all seem to be motivated to learn and attribute this to the fact that their learning was not driven by grades or test scores, but rather by following their passions. Take for instance James Marcus Bach, author of Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar which describes how he found success in a highly technical field without the benefit or burden of a conventional education. He says, this.
I have almost none of what my teachers used to call "self-discipline." Instead of discipline, I am driven by passion. Now that I'm in my forties, I want to share what I've learned about learning.
Idzie Desmarais author of I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write shares this.
Unschooling creates people who are motivated! The act of placing the power over learning and life into the individual's hands is both empowering and motivating. What this motivation people see in unschoolers really is, is simply a joy in learning and discovery that is found far more rarely among those who are schooled.
Their sentiments aren’t unique. Unschoolers seem to have loved their learning experience and they want you to know it. If you want to hear it, then you’ll appreciate this compilation of profiles of grown unschoolers.

Life Learning Magazine - Personalized, non-coercive, active, interest-led learning from life (unschooling)

I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. - The life and times of an unschooling vegetarian animistic green anarchist hippie child.The Unschooler Experiment - An exploration of the lasting influence of home education and a celebration of people who question and experiment.It is about experimenting and, to quote M.K. Gandhi, about being the change you want to see in the world. radio free school - Tantrum space for people who eschew factory learning in favour of unschooling, open source learning, community based, learning without school. Teacher George Haines shares this unschooler profile story on his blog


  1. First of all, I think, there is two groups of unschooled people.

    First group is the people who could not go to school because of problems such as helping family, lack of school or lack of money. Because of their passion to learn, they managed to find a way to learn new things and now we are reading their success stories. (Ex: Francis Collins, a manager of The Human Genome Research Institute and current director of the National Institutes of Health).

    Second group is the people who dislike school and did not continue.

    But in both cases successful unschooled people worked hard in the area that they had passion, and this helped them to be successful.

    I think, one can find unschooled mathematicians and scientists in the first group and there is no or few in the second group.

    The reason is definitely the education system. I mean, today's curriculum wants to teach mathematics, science and social sciences. Gifted people such as musicians, artists, sportsmen and actors do not enjoy schooling and as a result, they drop school and focus on their gift.

    Solution is not promoting unschooling, but opening different kinds of schools with specialized curriculums starting from grade 2 or grade 3. I mean, a musician can say: "I dropped high school and paid more attention to music. Now I am a successfull musician" But the truth is, he/she would be more successful if he/she could study in a music school starting from primary.

    Finally, I believe that today's schools waste talents with teaching general curriculum. Best solution is opening different schools for talented students and guide them to learn things that they have talent and passion.

  2. @Physics Teacher, thank you for your provocative comment. I think I may love comments I disagree with the most because both my thinking and the commenter grows.

    Not being an expert on the topic or unschooler myself, I’m not sure if your two categories are correct, but I do know that there is a group of unschoolers who never attended school, so it wasn’t necessarily, that “they” didn’t like school. It was a choice for parents in what they felt was best for their children...regardless of what the child's passions were ultimately.

    I kind of disagree with your assessment of today’s education system. While it does focus on readin, writin, rithmetic, n science, it has often done so in ways that do not foster the passion or interest even in students who ultimately ended up being passionate about those topics. For instance, I LOVE reading and writing, but in school I wasn’t empowered to read what I wanted. They sucked the joy I had out of books by over analyzing them and often telling me my analysis was wrong. Instead of writing things I was interested in, I had to write about what other people wrote. I never had the chance to develop my own ideas. YUCK!

    I know many others like me. For example, I wrote about Aaron Iba who Google recently hired after paying him 10 million for a cool product he developed (and I loved). He was clinically labeled as a “multiple problem child.” Even though he ultimately became a computer program guru (which by your definition should be a passion that today’s school foster), his passion was not respected. In fact they claimed he couldn’t sit still and focus. He says because what they wanted him to focus on was boring and he had other interests. I felt the same way in school. You can read that post here

    I disagree that the solution is not promoting unschooling. I think for many students this is the exact right solution, for others it may not or perhaps can not be.

    I do agree that opening different kinds of schools with specialized curriculum makes a LOT of sense but even with that option, we have to remember that ultimately, students own the learning and we need to give them more freedom when it comes to that.

    BTW...stay tuned for a post coming to my blog in the next couple days that does just what you suggest.

  3. I think it's a mixed bag. I love learning and I attended a parochial primary school, two years of private high school then three years at a public high school, US Navy, College, Graduate school and more. I'm very much an auto-didact too, but sometimes I really benefit from the socialization that traditional education settings bring. Absolute anything is skewed. Passion is an inside job.

  4. I'm so glad you you're doing articles on unschooling! It's a way of learning that I'm very passionate about, and that I love sharing, so I always love to see it talked about in new places, love seeing the concept introduced to new people... So thanks for doing what you're doing!

    @Physics Teacher: I don't particularly want to get into each point that I disagree with: just suffice it to say I disagree! However, I do want to let you know that you're entirely wrong about unschoolers falling into those two categories. I know very few--no, scratch that--I actually know no unschoolers who fit your first group, though there are probably a few somewhere. All the unschoolers I know either never went to school, were pulled out of school by their parents at some point, or chose to leave school themselves. In all of these cases either the parent or the learner believed that the learner in question was better off outside of school for whatever reason (common reasons are the lack of choice and freedom found for students in school, students being especially "ahead" or "behind" in school, feeling that school just wasn't a good fit for their child/themselves, or a fundamental disagreement with the institution of schooling and all it stands for and does).

    Unschoolers are a varied lot, who go into a wide variety of fields, and why they ended up as unschoolers doesn't seem to have any bearing on what things they end up being drawn to.

  5. I also disagree with the 1st comment. Though there are those that fall into those 2 categories, my children do not.

    I think you'll find fewer and fewer people in the first category though it was probably quite common in the early-mid 1900's. I know many older people, before such strict compulsory attendance laws, who had to quit school at a young age to help out the family, often due to the death of a parent or just the fact that they were so poor, they were more valuable at home or working than getting an 'education'.

    As for us, my oldest son spent 2 years in public school when hubby finally allowed me to pull him out to homeschool him. We unschool. My son LIKED school, but it was killing his natural inquisitive nature and natural childhood curiosity. He liked hanging out with friends all day, but the sad fact is, he wasn't LEARNING. Since we began unschooling, his love of learning has returned. He still get plenty of socialization, is learning much, much more, and now hates the thought of going back to public school.

  6. Hi all thanks a lot for commenting on my post. First of all I must clarify a point. I believe that homeschooling does not mean unschooling. All teachers agree that reducing class size and one on one tutoring will improve the learning of student tremendously. Therefore, under supervision of a caring parent, Homeschooling might be better than schooling. Because, children may have bad friends and unqualified teachers in schools, moreover, school curriculum is a general one and clever ones will feel bored while average ones struggle. At the other hand, parents can provide a safer environment, choose the friends, and adjust the curriculum for the child. Finally, I am also fan of homeschooling if parents are well educated, can find enough free time to help their children and help their children to find friends and socialize.
    What I understood from unschooling is; the child dropped or did not attend school, and parents did not provide supervision.

    In conclusion, homeschooling and unschooling has different meaning for me. And my comment is written for unschooling. I agree with your ideas about homeschooling

  7. nice research Lisa. thank you so much for the stories.

    i believe the advantage we have today is that, even within public ed, we can now personalize. it is all about choices. because the best learning, the best life, comes when it comes from within. compulsory anything seems to compromise. it seems to shut the mind/heart/soul down to whatever degree.

    and i think when we offer up those choices, it improves the math and the science experiences as well as the art and music, etc, because now everyone gets to prune and amp, and get at what matters to that particular intrigue. as opposed to the one size fits all version. and - now the facilitators/mentors/coaches/teachers are owning it as well. imagine how rich.

    i'm thinking we need to focus on school as life, not a building, not a type. specializing is good, but that can even pigeonhole. i'd rather it was all open, no vouchers to go a certain place, unless we think there are infinitely many vouchers to each person. permission to go anywhere at any time. let a learner bounce, just like life.

    malleable spaces of time, place, people.

  8. Hi
    What I understood from replies is people think that unschooling and homeschooling is same thing.
    Homeschooling may be more effective than public school education under certain conditions such as:
    a- parents who care and discipline the child
    b- Continuous supervision to the child within day.
    c- Well educated parents who have knowledge in different areas.
    d- Effective usage of technology and
    e- friends that can socialize the child.

    If the parents cannot provide those things to the child, and additionally, if the child drop or do not continue to the school result will be an uneducated citizen.

  9. @Physics Teacher: Seeing as I AM an unschooler, I'm very aware of the difference (see my post Unschooling Is Not Relaxed Homeschooling: However, you don't seem to be aware of what unschooling is or how it works at all, yet seem to think it's still okay for you to make statements about how bad it is. Seeing as you show no understanding of what it is, that seems a bit judgmental of you! If you read any of the profiles above (which are of unschoolers, not homeschoolers) you'd find that they are most certainly educated people. They're just not schooled people!

  10. @Idzie, thank you so much for providing perspective and clarifying misconceptions. It is most powerful to have insights of those who were unschooled to best explain. Much appreciated.

  11. Thank you posting articles on this subject.
    I am not an official unschooler (i live in the Netherlands and by law it is impossible except when you have say certain religious believes)
    I am born in 1971 and fortunate with parents who supported their children in striving for their passion. However in a time when education was like it still is. I disliked having to go to school especially high school, i skipped classes a lot. I just about managed to get my high school diploma and started a study (like we all did) i stopped on the first day with that. From that moment on i have been able to fill in my life with the things i want to do. I left for France lived and worked there, moved to London before coming back to Amsterdam. I worked for multinationals in high positions, perform and give workshops as a poetry jockey (a collective of freeminds sharing the passion that resides in people)we teach them freewriting, storytelling.Both in white or black schools. I do this for children from 4 to suit and tie. I basically have been doing things that in holland you wouldn't normally not have been able to do without a degree...I consider writing about this since there is too little focus on the alternative way people can chose (even at a later stage). See also my cv on linkedin