Confessions of a Reluctant Teacher

July 30, 2009

How Unschoolers Fare in the Real World

Filed under: unschooling — christinag503 @ 11:54 pm
Tags: , , , ,

One of the main criticisms of homeschooling and unschooling is that children who are raised to be independent and self-directed will not be able to ever find a ‘real’ job.

To that I say: GOOD.

Most adults with the types of ‘real’ jobs these critics have in mind find them distasteful. They don’t like being stuck inside, behind a desk, for most of their waking lives. They don’t like the stressful commute, or being unable to spend time with their families or prepare a decent dinner. They don’t like dealing with bosses who force them to perform tedious or unpleasant tasks, sometimes for no apparent reason. However, they have to do everything their boss says, with a smile, because the boss has the power to punish them.

Why do we teach our kids that this is a stable and fulfilling life to which they should aspire? I know that there are exceptions to this situation, and there are many people who enjoy their desk jobs. (I know I do!) But there is a fundamental disconnect between what adults say to children about work, and what we actually train them to do. While graduation speeches and “little books o’ wisdom” exhort young people to dedicate their lives to doing what they love, we spend twelve years teaching them that misery and boredom is a necessary part of every weekday. We teach them that they should devote nearly all their time to subjects and busywork that they barely tolerate, let alone “love.” They learn to constantly submit to randomly assigned authority figures, instead of looking up to and learning from people who actually inspire them. What we have here is a severe case of failing to walk the talk.

“But Christina,” I can hear you say, “that’s the way the world works.” Baloney! The only reason people put up with crappy work situations, such as mentioned above, is because we train them to do so, when they are young and their brains are malleable. Our institutions teach this lesson, and then we reinforce it with example. Many adults are caught up in the cycle of spending their weekdays at a meaningless, maddening job, looking forward only to when they can dull their psychic pain and get a hit of artificial stimulation by watching TV, going shopping, and/or getting hammered (or high; pick your poison). Does that sound like a life you’d want to get used to?

Which brings me to my main point: yes, it probably is difficult to get unschoolers to join the rat race of the ‘real world.’ I’m sure there are some who do. But for those who try and fail to fit in with corporate culture, it’s not the end of the world. There is a way that they can continue to do what they did previously (namely, doing work of their own choosing, under their own direction, that they enjoy so much that the work is nearly indistinguishable from play)—it’s called SELF-EMPLOYMENT. The number one thing an individual can do become a productive member of society while (is this actually possible?!) still truly enjoying his or her life is to “CREATE and DELIVER real value.” I’m quoting from Steve Pavlina’s inspiring article, “How to Make Lots of Money in a Recession.” He continues:

Creating value means expressing your unique talents and skills in a way that can potentially benefit others.
Delivering value means ensuring that other people are actually receiving and benefiting from the value you’ve created.”

That sounds much better than devoting your time to becoming a well functioning, albeit miserable, cog in a large machine. I really encourage you to take the time to read the whole of this inspiring article. (I know I just said the word ‘inspiring’ twice within the space of a few sentences, and normally I hate that, but I use the word ‘inspiring’ a lot with Steve Pavlina. It’s just so apt! It’s hard to think of a more fitting word, other than ‘electrifying,’ ‘eye-opening,’ and ‘motivating.’ Not that I necessarily agree with everything Steve says, but…the man is thought-provoking!)
And if any parents are still worried about their children eventually entering the marketplace on their own, without large, well-financed corporations to feed, protect, and entertain them, I’ll leave you with this idea to chew on, also from Steve Pavlina’s brilliant (Brilliant! That’s a good one) article, “10 Reasons Never to Get a Job.”

“Does putting yourself in a position where someone else can turn off all your income just by saying two words (”You’re fired”) sound like a safe and secure situation to you? Does having only one income stream honestly sound more secure than having 10?”

It takes a lot of hard work to start your own business. But so do many of life’s most enjoyable and rewarding activities: growing a garden, playing an instrument, raising a child. The time will pass anyway. Why not spend your limited days doing hard work that brings you joy? And give your kids the same chance, while you’re at it.



  1. Christina, I saw your a post of yours on GetRichSlowly today and commented on it. You have ideas that are consistent with many of mine. Can you please email me? I’d like to do some sort of link or reference to your site, but I have a few questions, that I don’t want to cover in an open forum like this. Also, your site doesn’t seem to have a general contact capacity.
    Thanks! Kevin

    Comment by Kevin@OutOfYourRut — July 31, 2009 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  2. “Why not spend your limited days doing hard work that brings you joy?”

    Because the best way to get me to hate doing something is to pay me to do it.

    Comment by JSmith — August 4, 2009 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

    • LOL! Also a good point. It can be stressful to combine business and pleasure. I know some people who have struggled with this. But by that definition, you’d end up hating whatever you did to bring in income. In that case, I hope you have decent co-workers, a livable wage, and lots of great hobbies to pursue outside of work!

      Thanks for reading!

      Comment by christinag503 — August 4, 2009 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

  3. […] Gremore presents How Unschoolers Fare in the Real World at Confessions of a Reluctant […]

    Pingback by Carnival of Unschooled Life: The “Not-Back-to-School” Edition « The Expanding Life — September 1, 2009 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  4. What we don’t need is more cogs in the machine! I can only hope that my kids will follow their own paths and define their own successes. Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Angela — September 2, 2009 @ 2:42 am | Reply

  5. LOVE this. our family is extremely entrepreneurial, and our 7yo unschooled daughter is, too. great, great points!

    Comment by jessiev — September 3, 2009 @ 3:02 am | Reply

  6. […] shaping our lives, instead of just believing what are told about it: we’ll never be able to cope with adult life unless we are forced to do unpleasant things; degrees and credentials are the only tickets to […]

    Pingback by You heard it here first: I am Deeply Unqualified to talk about this stuff « Confessions of a Reluctant Teacher — January 5, 2010 @ 8:03 am | Reply

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