In essence, unschooling looks like life. Even still, it can be hard to picture. After all, most people haven’t experienced much life when it isn’t consumed by work and school. So I wanted to talk some about ways unschoolers choose to fill their days. I want to focus on teenagers, partly because I think it’s easier to picture younger children spending their time exploring and playing, and learning all the while. It can be harder to understand exactly what a teenager is doing with all that time. The other reason I chose to focus on teenagers is, as a teenager myself, I have more experience and knowledge with options for this age group. I thought about presenting this information as a few specific examples of possible lifestyles, but instead, I decided to break it into categories, so you can better the wealth and variety of options. I’m focusing on structured activities available for unschoolers because I don’t know how to break down all the millions of ways unschoolers spend all their time at home, outside and in their community.
Unschooling is fundamentally about choice, not place or way you choose to learn. Classes chosen actively absolutely fit into that category. A few different class choices:
- Community college. Lots of unschooled teens make use of community college classes. Many districts offer some financial support for dual enrolled (homeschool consider their school) students. Or other unschoolers choose to stop officially homeschooling and instead enroll in community college full time (some might argue that you are then no longer an unschooler, but that is a discussion for another time).
- Online classes. There are more and more options for online classes these days. I have a number of options for online learning on my resource page. Many college classes are being offered for free or very cheap online.
- Classes around the community. This category encompasses classes specifically for homeschoolers/unschoolers and anything else. Unschoolers get used to interacting with people of all ages and thus are likely to be happy to take classes with mostly adults or younger kids. They’ll likely care more about the subject matter and the way the class is taught then what ages the participants will be.
There are lots of good options in many communities. I’ll highlight a few different sorts of options, but you’ll have to research in your specific area to find out what’s available for you. There are a number of other options than just these two (and many teens choose to start their own small groups with people they know), but these are some main options to know about.
- Homeschool co-ops. Co-ops are generally a family affair, with classes throughout the day, taught mainly by parents (although sometimes kids will teach classes or they’ll choose to bring in an expert or community member to teach something). They can be a great resource, although if a teen is choosing to unschool without a parent able to take time off work, it may not be the best option for that family.
- Teen centers. There are a number of options specifically for teen homeschoolers popping up around the country. One model is North Star. Originally started as Pathfinder in Amherst, Massachusetts, there are now similar centers all over the country. The network of centers is called Liberated Learners. Another model is the Agile Learning Center. There are differences between the models (which you can check out on their websites) but the general premise of both is a place for teens who don’t go to school to meet up, hang out, take classes, and gain mentorship.
This overarching category includes of different kinds of work, both paid and unpaid. It’s hard (impossible) to talk about all kinds of work, but I’ll try to shed light on at least a few different alternative options. That is, I’ll skip things like working in fast food or some other job that anyone could come up with.
- Working at a place they love. Many unschoolers end up with a job somewhere that they really like simply by spending time there. They might tend to hang out there, talking with the employees and learning all the while, and then get offered a job when the business needs more help.
- Volunteering. Volunteering is a great way for anyone to help others and spend time working on something they care about. Unschoolers have freedom to schedule hours during work and school hours which can be a real value. Often volunteering somewhere and showing your skills can lead to a paid job.
- Internships. Unschooler spend time connecting with people of all ages. This can lead to an older friend working in a field they’re interested in. Internships often begin that way, but other unschoolers simply go and talk to someone they’re interested in connecting with for this kind of relationship. Unschoolers might reach out to someone for an internship or apprenticeship in a skill they’re hoping to get better at and gain knowledge about, rather than choose a class or learning from books or online (although those are also all ways any individual unschooler may choose to learn something)
This is just an overview of the out-in-the-community organized activities some unschoolers participate in. Around this kind of structured time, unschoolers work on writing novels, practicing music, selling thing they’ve created, visiting museums, conversing in a foreign language and so, so much more I can’t begin to list.
If you’re an unschooler, do you take advantage of any of these things? What did I leave it out? If you’re not an unschooler, does this clarify anything you’ve been confused about? Do you have more questions? Let me know in the comments!