This questionnaire was conducted for a research study of adults
who have unschooled, conducted by Dr. Gina Riley of Hunter College
and Dr. Peter Gray of Boston College. Reproduced with permission.
1. Please tell us about your history of
schooling/homeschooling/unschooling. Did you ever attend a school,
as a regular student, when you were between the ages of 5 and 16?
During the years when you were not in school, did you ever do
homeschooling - that is, school at home, following a curriculum
determined by your parents or another adult?
I've unschooled from the beginning, and have never attended any
school, nor did we ever practice homeschooling with a school-like
2. Please describe briefly how your family defined
unschooling. What, if any responsibility, did your parents assume
for your education?
If I were to come up with an impressive-sounding term to throw
around, "learner-directed education" might do. That
doesn't mean I made a curriculum for myself, gave myself tests to
do, and graded myself. That would be ridiculous. It really just
means continuing to do what all parents do as their toddlers learn
to walk, talk, and understand the world - let them explore,
provide them with things to discover and experiment with (also
known as playing), help when it's desired, and trust the natural
process of human learning.
3. In your opinion, why were you unschooled instead of going
to school or doing school at home? Is this something that both you
and your parents wanted to do?
My parents' experiences in school, and their discovery of the
works of John Holt led to their decision to unschool, before the
term even existed. Everything I heard about school from adults who
had gone, and other children who were going, made it pretty clear
to me that unschooling was the right choice. Plus I completely
loved unschooling, so there's that.
4. Are you currently employed? If so, what do you do? Does
your current employment match any interests/activities you had as
an unschooled child/teen? If so, please explain.
I am the co-director, webmaster and graphic designer of our
family website and business, The Natural Child Project (naturalchild.org),
I've edited several books we've published, including The
Unschooling Unmanual, and have contributed to other products of
ours such as our Unschooling Cards. I also have my own business as
a computer technician in our local community.
I've always been fascinated by technology, and unschooling gave
me the opportunity to put whatever time I needed into exploring
it. My mom brought home a Commodore 64 when I was three, and I
immediately began showing her how to use it. I consider myself
lucky to have been born at the right time in history to
essentially grow up with the personal computer.
5. Please describe briefly any formal higher education you
have experienced, such as community college/college/and graduate
school. Please list any degrees you have obtained or degrees you
are currently working toward.
I have not attended any type of college - I've continued to
unschool into adulthood and will continue throughout my life. I
think internships and apprenticeships would be the natural
extension of unschooling into the traditional workplace. If I
become interested in a field that seems like college would be a
good resource for, I would look into it - but I would still
consider it part of the unschooling journey, which for me simply
means following curiosity wherever it leads.
I don't care about degrees; formality is merely symbolic, and
symbols just represent things - I'm interested in the things
themselves. If I were to seek employment in a company, I would
prefer to work with those who would judge me by my accomplishments
and abilities directly rather than by a few letters after my name.
Of course, so far I'm just doing the entrepreneur thing.
6. What was your social life like growing up? How did you
meet other kids your age? How was your "social"
experience as an unschooler similar/different to the types of
social experiences you have now?
Most of my friends growing up were also unschooled or
homeschooled. We found other families through support groups and
friends of friends. I had a few school-going friends too, but I
couldn't relate to their problems. I've always been happy with a
small number of close friends.
As far as "then and now", I don't really see it that
way, or see anything that way for that matter. There haven't
really been any jarring transitions in the kind of life I've lead
- just a sort of organic, gradual development. I've always been
comfortable relating to people of any age, and have become more so
as time goes on.
7. What, for you, were the main advantages of unschooling?
Please answer both in terms of how you felt as a child growing up
and how you feel now, looking back at your experiences. In your
view, how did unschooling help you in your transition toward
Unschooling has been the single best thing in my life - heck,
it is my life, so this should be easy to answer… but
oddly enough, this is the toughest question in the survey! How do
you describe something that isn't really anything specific - it's
anything and everything. Living as an unschooler, I don't really
think about "unschooling", or even learning - I just
think of it as living.
"Unschooling" is just a word. It simply means
learning and living in a natural way. Learning by doing, the way
humans have evolved to learn for millions of years. And yes, it
still works in today's complex, high-tech world, because it's a
universal principle. It means learning things in ways that are
meaningful to you. It means owning your time, and being able to
explore and learn what you want to, when you want to. It means
In terms of the transition to adulthood, it allowed me to
simply continue to pursue my interests and develop them in my own
way. I feel the same about it now as I did as a child, just…
8. What, for you, were the main disadvantages of
unschooling? Again, please answer both in terms of how you felt as
a child growing up and how you feel now. In your view, did
unschooling hinder you at all in your transition toward adulthood?
I wouldn't say there are any disadvantages. Of course there are
challenges, as there always are with any path through life. The
main ones in unschooling are finding like-minded families, putting
up with ignorant, closed-minded people, and depending on where you
live, legal issues. These things are all possible to figure out,
and so worth it. And note that the solution to the current state
of affairs is, of course, more unschooling.
It's basically the same old stuff every social reformist has
had to deal with throughout history - those who have said "I
want religious freedom," "I want to vote," "I
want to sit at the front of the bus," "I want to marry
the person I love." Unschoolers are saying "I want to
choose how I learn." Fortunately, our society is becoming
more open to new ideas in general, but it has a ways to go.
Again, I feel the same way about it now as I did as a child, I
just have a better understanding of the intricacies of the whole
situation. And did unschooling hinder my transition to adulthood?
No - on the contrary, I'd say school has hindered a lot of
9. If you choose to have a family/children, do you think you
will choose to unschool them? Why or why not?
For me, it's all about choice - my children would be able to
able to try out whatever path they were curious about, be it
whatever kind of school, unschooling, or as yet undreamt of
opportunities. Hopefully there will be more progressive,
child-led-learning schools or open learning centers in the future
that could augment the unschooling philosophy and "bridge the
gap" between unschoolers and those who have yet to discover
unschooling or be able to unschool.