Thursday, July 7, 2011

Insecurities and an Anniversary: Three Years Blogging and Writing from the Heart

So, I haven't been writing here much lately.  Actually, it's been a month since I wrote anything at all!  Part of that reason was the Summer Montreal Unschoolers Gathering (which was really wonderful.  I'd write a post about it except I didn't take any pictures, and just words seems like it would be boring...).  But most of the reasons I haven't been writing here lately are the same reasons I haven't been writing all that much in the last several months: writers block, not being able to find topics that really catch my fancy, trying to focus on things not related to computers...  And largely, not feeling able to talk about what I'm feeling on this blog.

I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. celebrated it's third birthday yesterday (though there wasn't much celebrating since I didn't realize until today that yesterday was the third anniversary of this blog!).  When I started writing it, I had a vague idea that I wanted to prove to both myself, and whatever rare reader stumbled across my blog, that unschoolers really do learn things all the time.  That unschooling really "works."  But as I grew more confident in unschooling, and as my writing/blogging skills improved, I started to focus less on my-unschooling-life-as-it-happens, and more on the philosophy of unschooling, using my life to illustrate the points I was trying to make.  I enjoyed (and still enjoy) writing that type of post.  Apparently, so do other people!  I started, as most blogs do, with virtually no readers (family doesn't count).  And now, three years later, just through Blogger's follower tracker (which only counts people who have a Blogger account and choose to follow this blog through their account) I have nearly 430 followers.  This blog's Facebook page has over 1,800 fans.  This blog has gotten big!  And through blogging, I'm speaking at a conference again this fall (possibly two, as I've been invited to a vague conference that may or may not be happening in Montreal, as well), am recognized by name at most education things I go to, and have been asked (though whether I say yes or not depends on a lot of things) for film, radio, article, and blog post interviews.

I was really excited for awhile about all that.  To a lesser extent, I still am!  But I've realized there's a huge downside.

Many people seem to look at me now as a Voice Of Unschooling, and I find myself thinking, did I do that?  I guess I did, though I didn't really realize what I was doing.  I like sharing my unschooling experiences,  so that's what I've been doing for the last three years, but I guess I just never knew it would get so big.

Because now I feel like there's a lot of pressure.  As a Voice Of Unschooling, not only am I expected to say smart things, and the things I say are often taken very seriously, but my voice is taken as speaking for all unschoolers.  Not always, of course, but it feels like it often enough to make me uncomfortable.  I don't speak for all unschoolers.  I just speak from the perspective of an Idzie!  And yes, my perspective is based on actual experience: it's valid, and thought out.  But it's still mine, not any one groups'.

So it's hard to write about what's really on my mind right now (or the things that have been on my mind since last fall, really), because the things that are are on my mind are both deeply personal, and I'm afraid would reflect badly on unschooling.

Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it: I don't think, especially right now, that my life is a good example of unschooling.  I feel like I've somehow put myself on this pedestal, with lots of people looking up at me, and I'm just going what?  How did this happen?  I'm not the person you think I am!!  I'm insecure, I deal with a lot of self-hatred, I'm not earning any money (did you hear that??  I'm 20 and I'm still living off of my parents!  Doesn't that make me a failure at life??), I really, really don't know what to do with myself...

And it would be different if this blog still had a smaller readership (not that I'm complaining: I still am proud of what I've accomplished in regards to this blog, and honored that so many people want to read it).  When fewer people read this blog, I knew that pretty much all of them were supportive.  But now?  I know I could get some comments that, in the state I've been in for much of the past months, I wouldn't be well equipped to handle.  And there's this huge pressure--knowing that people look to this site for information when writing articles on unschooling, or send the link to the disapproving grandparents--that they'll see my insecurities and failures, and go "oh, grown unschoolers are insecure failures!" (because you know that everyone blames unschooling).

Which is one of the main reasons I've been writing so little on this blog lately.  And it's also why this post had to be written.  Because to me, writing has always been about honest expression: I'm not happy unless what I'm writing feels genuine.  So, I am putting a few of my worries out there to be seen and possibly judged, because I want this blog, no matter how big it gets, to be an honest expression of what I'm thinking and feeling, in regards to education and my life in general.

But, I still don't think I'm going to be writing all that much in the coming days.  Please be patient as I sort out my life.


  1. I very much enjoy your blog not because I see you as a "voice of unschooling" but because it makes me think. I am a public school teacher, so the entire concept of "unschooling" seemed a little strange to me at first, but I've learned a lot about the values of your experience ... and have incorporated these lessons into my pedagogy and even into my classroom, believe it or not.

    In terms of blogging about the personal, it's hard. I'm at a place where I can't blog in directions I want to for a whole host of reasons, and when you're being careful about what you're blogging about, it creates a kind of writer's block that's pretty tough to overcome.

    Just keep smiling ... it'll come. And PLEASE keep writing ;-)

  2. Thank you Idzie for being human. This blog is for you, we just benefit from itvfrom value you provide us. If you were the amazing unschooling robot, this wouldn't be so valuable. You have some great grand unschooling introduction content that stands the test of time, and then you have more personal stuff too. Do what brings you joy. If its the blog, great. But don't let it become a chore or get in the way. Go explore the world and find what you want to spend time on next!

  3. Idzie, it's not about what you do, how you "turn out". It's about who you are. I just love who you are, the way you express yourself. You're finding your way, as we all are. Sometimes we need to recenter, to take a breather, and get quiet with ourselves for a space of time. You seem to *get* that. ~Laura

  4. idzie, i have a feeling you are feeling the way many of us mainstream-schooled kids felt around age 22-24. you're just doing it sooner because you're that cool. i think so so so many people in that early twenties area are in the same boat, i know i was. that doesn't say anything about unschooling and if someone thinks it does, they're not reading the rest of your writing very well. i'm glad you are being real about it. i like the blogs that are really coming from the real person, and i've felt that way about yours all along, so i'm glad you're laying your insecurities out there- we all have them and believe me, we can all relate. happy anniversary oh voice of unschooling!

  5. You've garnered enormous success with your blog. Congratulations! That is just the way it goes when you become outspoken on an issue. People might try to box you in. YOU might try to box yourself in!! Don't. The unschooling philosophy is nothing if it does not allow you to embrace CHANGE- whatever form that takes.

  6. I think that your self-awareness speaks volumes about the "success" of unschooling in your life. No need to worry about that. You're twenty - you have all of these possibilities and narrowing them down is harrowing. As an unschooler, you are keenly aware that the world is your oyster, so to speak - so many others just follow the path that others lay before them - high school, college, career in whatever you majored in - regardless of your actual feelings about what you're doing. You GET IT so much more than others at your age. Rock on, Girl! I think expressing the uncertainty is a positive for unschooling - NOT a negative.

  7. Well, freedom is hard, and conventionally schooled people don't get to deal with it until they have "finished" whatever rat race they have started on - or maybe never.

    Alan Watt has much to say on this:

  8. You are a highly intelligent woman and I appreciate all you have shared about your ongoing personal Unschooling journey.

    I admire your honesty and love your style of writing. You're unique, you're YOU and it pours through your blog and Facebook pages. I love that!

    As for the "pressure" you are feeling - that's totally understandable! To go from a personal blogging to public speaking is HUGE....leaps and bounds! I'm sure at first you were thrilled but as time has gone on you have had time to really let it all sink in. I personally know a hand full of people that have benefited from you sharing your information/experiences (me included)! I wish you could understand how much of an impact you really have had on so many people. In the same breath I want you to know that you have say in what you do with your life. Just because you were unschooled and started this blog does not ultimately mean that you must stick it out and attend every conference and interview you are invited to. Just as you show your true self in the pages of this blog you need to BE your true self always. Please do not let other people pressure you into doing things you don't want to do and/or be someone you do not want to be. Please. :)

    You go ahead and post on this blog when you feel like it. Any "true" reader (follower) of your blog will still be here checking in on you whenever it is you decide to share more of your thoughts.

    In the meantime just relax, clear your mind and really let the Universe guide you along your way. What is it that you *really* want to be doing with your life? That blank canvas is right in front of you. Grab a paint brush and begin creating what YOU really want. :)

    I'm just sharing some of my thoughts and/or opinions with you here. I really enjoy your blog and I will continue to cheer you on and support you in any way I can.

    Thank you for being YOU! ;) {{hugs}}


  9. I went to a conventional school. Catholic all girl school actually. I even went on to university because that's what successful people do, aparently. Still, at 20, I was doing what I didn't want to do because I had no idea what I did want to do! I had no idea who I was because school, then uni, took up so much of my time AND kept telling me what I should be.

    At 20 I went through what my family called a "phase"... stopped removing my body hair, let my hair dreadlock, wore clothes that pleased me, became so passionate about saving a particular forest I went to live on the blockade for 5 months while still studying at university.

    Now, I'm 27. I have 2 children. I still don't remove body hair, I still wear clothes that please me, I don't have the dreadlocks anymore but I'm still going through that "phase", much to the dismay of some of my family. I like to call the "phase" simply getting to know myself. I don't think I'll ever know myself fully, that's what life is, isn't it? Learning who we are, what we want to do with this part of our lives, learning about our world.

    School got in my way, once I was free of school I was able to get on with some real, full time learning. Not this part time learning I'd been able to do in the times I wasn't at school. That is why we're choosing to unschol our kids. We want them to have a head start on getting to know themselves. We don't want to waste their time telling them what they should be interested in, and who they should be.

    I appreciate your blog. I appreciate your perspective. I also appreciate your individuality & acknowledge how different you are from who my children will be. How different you are from any other unschooler. How different you are from any conventionally schooled 20 year old...

  10. Oh, and as for what you want to do with your life career wise... Why not start with what you want to do this week? It might end up leading you to how you want to make money for the rest of your life or it might end up leading you to how you want to make money just now.

    My most favourite person in the world, who you actually remind me of (you look alike, you dress alike & you rave about similar issues), is currently hitch hiking, train riding & boat catching back to Australia from Scotland where her around-the-world travels have taken her. She's done all sorts of jobs, all of them in line with her ethics, but that's about all they had in common. Money is unfortunately necessary in the western world, but you can make it in so many ways, you'll find a way that is authentic to you.

  11. Hmm, I mean my most favourite person in the world who is not part of my blood family.
    I'll stop multi-commenting now ;)

  12. Anyone who thinks that a 20 year old still needing to figure out life is a bad reflection on *whatever* kind of schooling they had needs to take a better look around at 20 year olds! I thought I had it all figured out when I was a teenager- I graduated highschool at 16, got my associates degree at 17 and got married and moved across the country to go to a private college. By the time I was 20, I was living with my parents again, with a baby, unemployed, and not a clue what I was going to do next. Life takes all kinds of twists and turns and the type of schooling you have doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it (and I went to private school, public school and was homeschooled, so which one can my experience be blamed on?!)

    Not very many 20 year olds are influencing, encouraging and providing food for thought for so many people as you are! Nor are very many humble enough to recognize that they don't know everything and are willing to admit they still have things to figure out. I wish you the best in your journey of self discovery!

  13. Hi Idzie. I've only just found your blog again. I've dipped into it a few times over the past two years. Once when I followed a link and found your inspiring piece on learning to read. A year ago we were in the throes of moving our family into an 18ft yurt with no plumbing or electricity, and I found you again when I googled homemade shampoos. I'm very far away from you in Ireland, and a different generation - I'm 39 - but you've had a very positive influence on my choices. Thank you!

    I would echo the lovely comment above about freedom being difficult. But your comment about being dependent financially at 20 makes me wonder - is that a problem? If it is a problem financially, then you aren't as free as all that. If you have to get a job then I recommend a book called 'What Colour Is Your Parachute' by Richard Bolles - brilliant at helping you work out what job you want. And doing the wrong boring job for a while is also fecking brilliant at focussing your mind on what you'd like to do!
    If it isn't a problem financially then now is maybe one of the few chances in your life to do something that isn't financially viable but worthwhile to you.
    If you end up travelling, there's a mattress here for you. Come and help us build our cob house by hand and share your crazy intelligent eloquent ideas with us! (come in summer, when you can camp). Or even come and wwoof on the farm... Deirdre x

  14. As I read you, I remember when I was young (I am a unschool mom 45 years old now) and I see my children and I see almost every stage of my life. I think the problem is to try to be as free as possible in a world that denies freedom. Difficult to choose his own well-being when almost all eyes (circle, media executives) on everyone who is free ... derogatory or envious? The unschooling is against the grain of the dominant culture, it does not make it such an error or an impossibility, just a big problem. Me neither, I don't make money (is money an important thing in life, or even a goal?), Me too, I live with my family, as you (living with parents is living with family, isn't it?). When I read you, I know you're living the same thing as the other unschoolers, but I know that you don't represent either, cause you're unique, as everyone is. Everyone is different even if all humans have the same needs. Being careful not to be repressed or forced to express yourself is still a lot. When one chooses to be true (as you do), we also chose to reject everything that is wrong around us and sometimes it's a heavy burden. The generations before us could not resist the bid so it is always difficult to be yourself in a culture where it is forbidden since the age of 5, often sooner. Idzie, take care of your dreams. Listen to your heart, no one else. I say it, but I have to do it too, you know.
    I leave you with a quote from Rene Char, in French: "Impose ta chance, serre ton bonheur et va vers ton risque. A te regarder, ils s'habitueront."

  15. It’s unrealistic to think that at 18 or 20 or 22 (which is how old I am, and at the moment living at home) you will magically become an “adult” and will have your entire life figured out. Life is not like the Sims where the game characters grow from teens to adults in one fell swoop when they blow out the birthday candles. Please, check out this article: I think you’ll find it insightful and it speaks some truths about today’s realities. I think it’s courageous of you to continue writing through thick and thin over three years, and truly admirable.

  16. I'm sure a lot of commenters already said this, but here goes. Some people are going to think of you as an example of all unschoolers, but you can't help that; all you can do is hope they'll learn enough about unschooling to realize their mistake (and I don't think it would take too much deep thinking about the nature of unschooling to get there). Probably like a lot of your readers, I'm a parent to young children (two girls, ages 18 mo. and 4 1/2 yrs). I have taken so much inspiration from you (and your sister and mom) in the last month or so since stumbling onto your blog---thank you! I'm so happy to hear that you have insecurities and difficulties just like the rest of humanity. Your candor and self-awareness give me hope! After all, a lot of people are half-hidden/lost beneath a giant caked-up layer of BS by the time they reach their early twenties---I'm still trying to scrape off the last (I hope) bits of mine, and I'm thirty-seven. So...congratulations, and please, when you can, keep blogging about yourself. You are changing the world for better.

  17. Thanks for sharing everything you have; I've really enjoyed your words over the years, and look forward to more, in whatever form they might take :)

  18. I value your blog. I value your insight and perspective. I'm flailing around trying to figure out how to educate my two young sons (6 1/2 and 4), my parenting skills have stagnated as of late, my patience has melted in the heat, my motivation was whipped away in the F5 tornado that spun through my town in May, my marriage is in shambles, and my ability to continue to defer my student loans is about to come to a screeching halt. And despite all of THAT, I sit here in the middle of the night, trying to figure out how I can wiggle out from under the pressure from my "family," in-laws, husband, and friends, to dump my Big Boy in public school from 7:40am to 3pm in a classroom of 24. I turn to your blog as a source of inspiration, motivation, validation. Sometimes it's as if "everybody" expects me to be a perfect parent and my sons perfect children solely because I've homeschooled him (them) for kindergarten. And really, I've done NOTHING except provide resources to quench his thirst for various subjects/inquiries. THAT is what should be going on at my place. But whenever there is a "speedbump" in "behavior," right away "everybody" wants to say or imply that I (he) wouldn't behave in whatever way, IF he was IN SCHOOL. It's like school is the cure-all, the snake oil for EVERY "issue." So, I totally understand your not wanting to work through your personal insecurities HERE, in this venue. My own blog began as a place to "work out" my "issues" but I find myself somewhat sensoring my posts because it's possible and likely that my readers are people who "know me." (Yeah, all 4 of them...) Maybe you've outgrown THIS particular blog. Or this particular medium? Maybe you need a publisher? Perhaps that newfound anonymity would free your words? Either way, I'm glad to have found you. Thanks for sharing.
    Ever so sincerely,