Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grown Unschooler Chloe Anne Spinnanger: "The best thing about unschooling is freedom!"

Remember that grown unschooler questionnaire I posted quite a while back, the one that lead to the publishing of a lovely bunch of interviews with grown unschoolers? Well now I am thrilled to be resurrecting that series, with this interview with Chloe! I hope you enjoy reading it, and if you're a grown unschooler, I hope you'll consider filling out the questionnaire and becoming part of this series as well. And now, I'll hand things over to Chloe:

I am Chloe, I have been educating myself since I was 9 years old. Instead of schoolwork or "homework" I spent my time doing other things. 

Instead of Phys. Ed. I was riding my bike with my brothers or friends every day, and hiking in the woods with my dad and  my dog. Instead of English class,  I read Jack London and Anne Rice and Shakespeare (among countless others), and when I was twelve I wrote a two hundred page Adventure novel with characters based on friends. I then got myself a copy of the current writers and illustrators market and learned about how to get a book edited and published. Instead of science, I watched the Crocodile Hunter religiously, I read the origin of species, and numerous zoology books from the library, and then I went outside and hunted down frogs, salamanders,turtles, snakes, I taught myself how to identify them, and where they lived. I  had the time for many  "Extra-curricular activities" such as volunteering at the library, horseback riding, martial arts classes, training my dog, tye dying tee shirts, going to music festivals, museums, or just to the park to play, hike, or swim. 

Now I am an adult but I still feel like a kid, and an unschooler, because my learning didn't stop when I walked out of school. I am always learning, I am always seeking out what I want to know, what I want to do, and how I can make a difference in the world. Unschooling has made me who I am, and I am an unschooler for life.

When did you become an unschooler?
 4th grade officially, I realized it at about 12. 

How long have you unschooled/did you unschool?
 10 years.

How old are you now?

Do you have any siblings?  If so, did they/do they unschool as well?
Yes I have two younger brothers who have never been to school in their lives.

If your parents chose unschooling, do you know how/why they made that decision?
At the time I think I was too busy enjoying life to pay attention to my parents motives, but I can say that I know their decision was influenced a lot by other local families who unschooled.

If you chose to leave school, can you talk a bit about what led to that decision, and how the actual process of leaving went (how did your parents, friends, teachers, etc. react?  What were the challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?).
My parents made the ultimate decision, but I was fine with that! I was lucky enough to be leaving school in the same year as two of my best friends, who's parents were also deciding to home school. So I was pretty fearless about leaving, I couldn't wait.

I remember being so happy that I was going on summer vacation and never coming back, I told all my teachers, I don't remember their reactions but I wish I did.

What do you think the best thing about unschooling is?
The best thing about unschooling is freedom! The freedom of your mind: The freedom to read what you want, do what you love, be friends with anyone you want, follow your dreams, and to question anything. The freedom of your own time, to pursue what you want. The freedom of being able to live life in the real world instead of just preparing for it. 

What do you think the worst (or most difficult) thing about unschooling is?
Probably other people's ignorance and closed mindedness. Schools train us so well to believe that we cannot learn or be successful without them, and it's difficult to tell people who think this way that you don't do schoolwork at all.

Did you decide to go/are you going to college or university?  If so, could you talk a bit about that experience?
I went to college for two years and just recently took a semester off. I really just wanted to try it out of curiosity. I was very excited, and loved most of my classes. 

Did you decide not to go to college or university?  If so, could you talk a bit about that experience, and what (if anything) you decided to do differently instead of college?
I decided to stop at the moment to step back and decide what I want to do with my life. I don't look at college as the only option for creating a happy and successful life. If I decide to become an English teacher or a zoologist, then I'll be going back to College. If I decide to become a novelist, a world traveler, or a farmer I will have no use for it.  

Are you currently earning money in any way?
I am currently working for my boyfriend's family's business in which we do catering making pizza on a firetruck. It is a lot of fun!

What jobs/ways of earning money do you, and have you, had?
My first job was as a volunteer at a local horse farm when I was 12, it was hard work and long hours but I loved it more than anything, I learned about working as well as learning about caring for, riding and training horses. If I had been in school I would not have had nearly as much time to spend doing this. 

I worked in a small pet store when I was sixteen, I worked there for two years and made some lifelong friends in the process. I was able to work a lot more hours than the other high school age kids working there. 

When the first pet store I worked at closed, I worked at Petsmart, doing dog training and grooming, but I ended up leaving because I hated being told what color socks to wear and having a script to spout to each and every customer. 

I have also done waitressing for the past two years, along with numerous other restaurant jobs, which is a little hectic but good money and sometimes a lot of fun!

Have you found work that's fulfilling and enjoyable?
Yes. Because of my working experience I know how important it is to me to have a job that I really enjoy, something which I can dedicate myself to. 

Have you found that unschooling has had an impact on how hard or easy it is to get jobs or earn money?
 I never once had a potential employer look down upon the fact that I did not go to high school, And when I was younger I had a huge advantage being able to work weekday hours, when the high school kids had to give up their weekends. 

Do you feel that unschooling has had an impact on what methods of earning money or jobs you're drawn to?
Unschooling has taught me to be self motivated and to do what makes me happy. I never had someone telling me that work isn't supposed to be fun, and so I only sought out and kept jobs which I enjoyed.

What impact do you feel unschooling has had on your life?
 I can't imagine what I would be like if I had gone to school! I know I would be less mature, due to cliques etc. Thanks to unschooling I didn't have to try to impress anyone, and I become friends with whoever I like.
 I know that I would not read as much as I do. My appetite for reading would be suffocated by being forced to read things that are not of my choosing and having no time to read the things that truly interest me thanks to 6 hours a day or more spent in school as well as homework.  

I would not be so independent in seeking out the things that I am interested in.

I would not question authority as much, or at all. 

If you could go back in time, is there anything about your learning/educational journey that you'd change?
 I would have kept doing Ballet, which I gave up on when I was 13 because I saw that most girls had been doing it since they were very young and I had not. But I love Ballet and wish so much that I had kept to it.

If you have children, are they unschooled?  Alternately, if you were to have children, would you choose to unschool them?
I cannot wait to unschool my own children someday! It is one thing that is very, very important to me.

What advice would you give to teens looking to leave high school?
Read the Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn!! It is inspiring and funny, and full of resources! It will give you the information to know what you are doing, as well as the confidence to do it.

What advice would you give to someone looking to skip, or to drop out of, college or university?
Follow your dreams! What do you love most in the world? What could you spend your life doing that would make you happy every single day? Do that! And if College is needed, then go, if not don't go!

What advice would you give to unschooling parents (or parents looking into unschooling)?
Also read the Teenage Liberation Handbook, it is written for teens but it is a wonderful book for parents as well. Also try Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto. Go to some conferences, meet some local unschoolers (because there are more of them than you think!). Think about your own values, what kind of people do you want your children to grow up to be? Independent, self driven thinkers and learners?  The first thing to do is educate yourself about it. 

Is there anything else you'd like to talk about or add?
I am forever thankful to my mother, for always believing in myself and my brothers, for educating us in ways school never could, and for showing us what life is about. I only hope I can be as good as you someday.


  1. Very inspiring. Thank you for taking time out to respond! As an unschooling parent who still worries sometimes, reading about grown Unschoolers really helps me get centered.

  2. Thanks so much for that. I am unschooling 3 kids (with brief stressful intervals in school) We live in a rural area where EVERYONE sends their kids to school so we struggle with isolation but you have reassured me that its worth it.

  3. I unschool my kids (after growing up as a "good student", going to college, getting the degree and career, etc). It is so nice to read grown unschoolers' stories.

    I really appreciate these interviews. I'd love to follow Chloe if she's got a public Twitter account.

  4. ditto dragonfly to the east and kelly. thinking about the long-term helps, sometimes we get bogged in the day to day/small stuff. we've just been on holidays out of school season and were battered by questioning about school attendance; some people out of genuine interest but many i think not liking seeing kids having fun. arrrg! what's that about? best, terry

  5. Brilliant blog. My husband and I are/will be home educating our son, who is just 3 1/2. He amazes me every day with how much he learns just from living.

  6. Thanks for this wonderful experience, I just decided to quit from school my two daughters, 4 and 7 years. I know it is the right choice, just wondering if I am going to be good enough.

    Is there a twitter account that I can follow.

    Thanks again, I want my kids to be happy and follow their heart as you.