Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Frustration of Being That Unschooled Person

You know, sometimes I'm overwhelmed simply by how much my priorities, ways of relating to others, and just myself in general, has changed this past year.

One big shift in priorities being the decision to no longer be as involved, online or other places, in unschooling advocacy as I have been in the past, of course. Because at this point? I just get so damn frustrated all the time with the way people look at and treat me, with their swift and wildly inaccurate assumptions, rude queries, and possibly worst of all, simply how much of who I am and how I behave is attributed only and completely to the fact I was unschooled  (am? I'm uncertain what educational labels I currently want to identify with). Especially when it's people who I think are cool and want to get to know better, people I consider part of my community, who seem to be (most likely subconsciously) doing this. It can feel remarkably hurtful to be reduced to nothing more than That Unschooled Person, whether deliberately or not.

Luckily, most of the folks I consider cool to start with really are nice folk, so that phase passes, but it's still pretty frustrating when it feels like this has to happen with most (though not all) of the more traditionally educated people I meet and get to know.

And yes, I do recognize that this happens for many different reasons to many different people. I could just as easily be That Anarchist Person or That Queer Person, I guess.  But, that doesn't really happen to me personally. It's always about unschooling.

I am just so tired of dealing with all that shit.

I was at a fundraising party for a cool art space last night, and the one unpleasant event to mar the evening was a person, upon finding out I'd never been to school, who somehow imagined it was appropriate to turn to me and ask me a math question. Everyone else at the table I was sitting at seemed as taken aback as I was! 

I got those types of very rude and condescending questions frequently while growing up, but this is the first time in several years that that's happened to me. I'm 21. You'd think that, even to the folks who justify being that rude to kids, that they'd realize that type of behavior SERIOUSLY crosses the bounds of politeness when dealing with adults.  I don't mean to imply that this type of behavior is more appropriate when it's aimed towards kids, and as an adult I certainly have a much easier time handling stuff like that. But it most definitely is more surprising and unpleasantly unexpected!

My response was simply and truthfully that I decided years ago not to answer any quiz questions people rudely asked me.

And hey, I gave them my blog address, so maybe they'll wander on over here and gain a better perspective on what unschooling is, and maybe even behave in a much more respectful manner to the next unschooler they meet.

For those wondering, no, my new level of frustration with dealing with other people's shit does not mean I regret unschooling. It does mean that I just wish people would get over it already, though.  I thought by now I'd be done with all the annoying questions and reactions, and it's slightly depressing to realize otherwise. I find myself wondering if people will still be quizzing me on my math skills when I'm 40, or if by then they'll be too busy attempting to quiz my own kids, no matter how old they are, and scolding me for being so irresponsible as to unschool them.

Believe it or not, to give a bit of a life update, I continue to be really happy.  Life is good.  But this blog keeps floating through my head, demanding some acknowledgement, and pouring out a few recent  frustrations felt, for better or for worse, like a cathartic thing to do! 

Me being happy. See, I told you I was!

For the last couple of months, I've been volunteering with what's essentially a catering kitchen, that works to support a really cool new art and community space called Le Milieu.  It's a great project and group of people, and I'm so happy to be involved!

I've also been thinking, recently, about maybe taking a university course or two. Thinking about how much easier my life would be if I could just go through the bit of bureaucracy needed to get into university, and then check "university" off in the next set of little education boxes I need to mark. No longer would I confuse any government or otherwise bureaucratic organization, seeing how I seem all "educated" and whatnot, but not having that piece of paper to prove I'm good at memorizing shit and am thus truly "educated."  It shouldn't matter, and almost always it doesn't end up mattering, but it does take longer and lead to more confusion than I like dealing with. I don't know if I will end up taking a couple of classes, but it definitely is something I'm considering.

And in the meantime, I'll continue to do what I've been doing: work in kitchens, experiment with fermenting various things, hang out with friends, read good books, spend way too much time shopping in thrift stores (though not too much money, since I am pro at this), play music, ponder moving closer to all the action (aka downtown Montreal instead of the outskirts), and generally enjoy life.  I think that's a very good plan.


  1. As the mother of three unschooled kids, it actually makes me feel better to read of your frustration. To explain, it doesn't make me feel better that you are frustrated, but that this type of frustration is not unique to my family. We end up having a lot of conversations in our family about how to present our unschooling lifestyle, as more often than not people really don't care to know, or their knee-jerk reactions are rude (quizzes or completely off-base assumptions). I've spent the last 15 years going between talking about it openly, trying to talk about it without applying the label, and feeling like I'm better off just keeping my mouth shut and letting people assume what they will. I guess I'm saying that I appreciate your frustration and I'm glad you've taken a moment to share it with us.

  2. Knowledge is acquired through institutionalised infusion of gathered facts.
    Wisdom is a long shot. A rare pearl in the ocean of life, that comes by only through experience.

    I can relate to what you wrote, though, I am continents away.

    I am trying hard to be a writer and wish you could read a portion of my manuscript and give your feedback.

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  3. glad to see you happy, and i totally relate to your frustration. [hugs]

  4. I unschooled until taking college (university) courses from the age of 17 to 25, and like you I went through waves of being really interested in home-based education as a phenomenon and how it had helped to shape who I am ... and then pushing back against the idea that it was some sort of bellweather for my different-ness.

    For what it's worth, it does become less of an issue. I'm thirty-one now, and even when I purposefully talk about my background as a home-schooler most people aren't actively interested, unless they themselves are thinking of not sending their own children to school so want to talk about it in a parent-to-former-child way. It's self-evident that I'm a happy, functioning, adult contributing to society and making my way in the world ... so I think a lot of the anxiety people used to have around me (will she make it?! will she be normal!!?) just doesn't come to the fore any longer.

    Hopefully it will be the same for you! I continue to follow your projects on Facebook and here with great interest and wish you the best on your food adventures :)

  5. How annoying to STILL have to deal with poorly-educated buffoons.
    Also, my opinion about getting into college, and PAYING for it, if a person can get through the admission and PAY process of college, I believe one deserves a diploma!

    Good luck with that, Karen

  6. After spending five tumultuous years in the system my eldest pleaded with me to take him out of "school" Knowing absolutely nothing about homeschooling I followed my nose and eventually found the courage to try it.It was at this point that the public but more surprisingly the homeschooling community left me feeling like I had to choose a style and then a label to define what sort of homeschoolers we were.I dutifully started labeling ourselves as "eclectic" so I would have an answer to the inevitable first question at the homeschooling meetings and events.I really had no idea what we were! I felt silly saying it and after several years of experimenting with various approaches to learning I decided to not answer that question anymore.A reply would instantly peg us as a certain breed and I didn't feel I wanted to be associated with any one tribe just so we could be understood.Labels are too limiting and really don't have much to offer in revealing how useful we might be or who we are as people.
    The unschooling label seems to carry the heaviest burden and your outpouring of emotion here seems to confirm that.
    When I first heard the expression unschooling it was attached to your name.My first thought was,what a cool name! but mostly I thought how courageous to be so forthright about your journey considering all the negative attention it attracts.I suggest and hope you find a way to re fuel yourself ,carry that label with pride or maybe drop the label altogether and just be...You are a happy spark in a topsy turvy world-don't forget that!

    (Would love to chat and introduce my boys to you one day so they (and I ) can learn from your experience.)


  7. How rude of the person to test you. At any age it is unacceptable and rude, but especially to do it to an adult as an adult! I think your reply was marvelous. People are compelled to act in this way due to their their own insecurities. Don't let their insecurities be yours.

    I think it's awfully liberating to attempt to live without labels. I know it's impossible to live without any, but to minimize them is a great feeling. Why as humans must we label everything and everyone! No longer do I feel the urge to label my family as unschoolers. We just are. I like it better like this, and it feels like the pressure is off to live up to a certain label.. Hugs.

  8. Keep being who you are. The world needs more and more people like you (and like me :P ).

  9. I, too, am a unschooling mom and I still find at times it's easier to say we homeschool just so I don't feel that I have to answer someones questions about my children's capacities. I feel your frustration and please understand that you are who you are because of unschooling. You are absolutely fabulous. I just sent your interview with your mother to my husband (I am at work writing this. lol) and we are both breathing a sigh of relief that we made the right decision. Keep doing you! I know you are not my child, but I am proud of you and you are our hero!

  10. I am thankful for this (your) blog. My wife and I are beginning the journey into un-schooling with our three children. We've determined not to refer to our method of learning with a label for the very reasons you mention above. I look forward to reading more, so we can get an advanced picture of some of the things we should expect as we move forward. Thank you for acting on the courageous urgings of your soul.

  11. Hi,

    Very inspirational blog.

    I am a 15 year old home educated young person. I live in the UK.

    Lot's of people ask me about being home educated and sometimes the questions can get quite rude. I am frequently asked "is it legal?"

    I think unschooling is very interesting. However it must surely take a lot of courage on your part.

  12. I have nominated your blog for a Liebster Award, an award for new-up-and-coming blogs. Please check out my blog post!
    You are one of my faves!


  13. Good for you! Do what you want to, and where your heart leads. And by the way I really like that neat blue sweater!

  14. I am an unschooling mom to three children and I absolutely love this post! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as I too have gone through similar questioning regarding my decision to unschool.

  15. I have just read the majority of this post to my almost 10 year old daughter. She wanted me to ask you if you ever had schooled friends growing up and how you dealt with the pressure of other kids who seem to think it's ok to quiz, and question incessantly about why she isn't in school. I am encouraging her to stand up for herself in these instances but the peer pressure is so hard, sometimes. I ache for my kid who is The Unschooled One, some days. Anyway, thank you Idzie, for sharing your journey. I find your posts to be so incredibly inspirational and your voice is so refreshing.