Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Grown Unschooler C. Kennedy: "I was unschooled from the day I was born."

A note from Idzie: The first interview with a grown unschooler I ever posted was in 2010. Over the next two years, I was happy to share a total of eight interviews with various adult unschoolers, ranging in age from 17 to 30, and all with such varied and fascinating lives and things to share. Now I'm thrilled, after quite a while without any interviews, to present a new one! The grown unschooler questionnaire still resides under the grown unschoolers section at the top of the blog, and I invite any adult unschoolers to fill it out. Thank you to C. Kennedy for kicking these interviews off once again, and I hope you enjoy reading what she had to say as much as I did!

C. Kennedy is a playwright, puppeteer and Orientation and Mobility Specialist currently bumbling around Philadelphia. In between producing, writing, performing and working for the State of NJ, she enjoys: traveling around the world, learning languages, aerial silks, cooking, reading, and performing as her alter ego, SeƱor Papos (alongside her partner Jeremy Prouty as La Rosa Peligrosa, Jota). for more info.

When did you become an unschooler?
I was unschooled from the day I was born.
    How long have you unschooled/did you unschool?
    I still consider myself an unschooler. I attended undergrad from when I was 18-21 and grad school from age 25-26. Other than those 4 years, plus one community college class when I was 17, I have never attended any sort of school. 
      How old are you now?
        Do you have any siblings?  If so, did they/do they unschool as well?
        One younger brother who was and still is unschooled. He has not been to college.
          If your parents chose unschooling, do you know how/why they made that decision?
          My mom was the primary factor. She was a grade A student and always considered very bright. When she graduated college she felt as though she knew nothing, and that she had spent her life memorizing things so as to ace a test. She read some Holt, Gatto and the Teenage Liberation Handbook and decided to give my brother and I the option to unschool. My father was supportive. We were both given the option to go to school at any time and chose not to.
            What were the challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
            None really. I had zero problems getting into undergrad or grad school, 3.84 GPA in undergrad, 4.0 in grad school. I have always had lots of friends and activities, a supportive family and have had a really happy life. I'm a theatre artist so I've struggled to make that work financially, but have finally found a part time job where I am financially comfortable and have enough time to pursue my creative work. That doesn't really have anything to do with unschooling though, more to do with how artists are compensated and regarded in our society which is another issue entirely.
              What do you think the best thing about unschooling is?
              Freedom to pursue your own interests. I love writing/reading and as a child I would read and write for literally entire days. I love that you can manage your own time, which allows you to focus on and accomplish tasks, as well as learn to budget your own time. I'm told by nearly everyone in my adult life that I'm the most highly self-motivated person they know, and that I'm amazing at multi-tasking. I credit this to unschooling entirely.

                What do you think the worst (or most difficult) thing about unschooling is?
                I don't really have anything negative to say about it. Oh! I was never sitting around bored in class, so I never learned to doodle. I'm terrible at doodling. That is a detriment. My handwriting is also bad because I didn't do handwriting drills. Which isn't really all that bad in our modern computer age, but I do become slightly ashamed of it at times. 
                  Did you decide to go/are you going to college or university?  If so, could you talk a bit about that experience?
                  I have an M.S. in Orientation and Mobility. 

                  Applying for college originally: Took the ACT when I was 15. Got a decent score (26 I think). Decided I would retake only if my college of choice did not accept me. Auditioned for college of choice. Was offered a scholarship based on audition (theater school). Was told I "might need a GED, we are not sure". Took GED and in the meantime, send college a curriculum that my mom and I typed up (basically a book list and list of activities I had done/community college class I had taken). Was accepted into the honors program at the college based on that. Then received my passing GED score which was no longer needed.

                  Applying for grad school: Took MCAT, scored 96 percentile. Told by admissions that they "love" homeschoolers because they are self motivated. 

                  Undergrad experience: I was a little nervous at first just because I'd never really written an essay, and had only taken a biology class at community college, no other school-type classes. Overworked myself the first semester and turned in everything way ahead of time/studied frantically. After the first semester I realized I was trying wayyyyyy too hard, relaxed and still continued to get mostly all A's in my classes, without all the freaking out. Didn't really find anything particularly difficult about switching to classroom based learning, although I did find myself easily slipping into "memorize for the test then forget it" type studying. So much easier than actually learning anything! But way more effective in a classroom setting. 

                  Are you currently earning money in any way?
                  I work part time as an Orientation and Mobilty Specialist, teaching individuals with blindness or visual impairments travel skills. I also work as a standardized patient, and usually about 2x a year produce a script I've written which doesn't earn me much, but usually breaks even and allows me to pay myself and the performers a small stipend.
                    What jobs/ways of earning money do you, and have you, had?
                    Wayyyyy too many. Waitress, actor, acting teacher, HR admin, telemarketer, caterer, haunted trail guide, promo model, standardized patient, orientation and mobility specialist, nanny, and all around craigslist odd job filler.
                      Have you found work that's fulfilling and enjoyable?
                      My work as an O&M specialist is fulfilling and enjoyable. I am financially stable and able to save for my future while maintaining flexibility that allows me to pursue my theatre/puppetry work. I find the work challenges me to think about the way we perceive our world, and is highly rewarding as I teach people to travel to the places they want and need to go to in a safe and efficient manner.
                        Have you found that unschooling has had an impact on how hard or easy it is to get jobs or earn money?
                        Not really. Being a puppeteer/playwright, yes. Unschooler, no. 
                          Do you feel that unschooling has had an impact on what methods of earning money or jobs you're drawn to?
                          Eh, maybe? Hard to say. I'm truly passionate about my artistic life and my life as an O&M instructor. Oh! Sure! I was never content settling for a job I didn't enjoy fully, or wasn't financially secure in. I would say unschooling probably assisted me in not settling for a job I'm not fulfilled by/can't grow in, and also has given me a firm foundation in keeping my artistic life alive.
                            What impact do you feel unschooling has had on your life?
                            Nothing but positives. I'm self motivated, and consider myself a lifelong learner. Last year I learned arial silks and trapeze, the two years before, Spanish. This year it's Italian. I try to learn something new all the time.
                              If you could go back in time, is there anything about your learning/educational journey that you'd change?
                              I'd make myself start learning Spanish earlier. I wasn't really motivated to do that as a kid. Oh well. I've learned it now and am working on Italian. After that, French. Hopefully German too before it's all said and done. Most people I know don't know a second language, so I don't feel behind. It's just I think it would have been easier to learn when I was younger.

                                If you have children, are they unschooled?  Alternately, if you were to have children, would you choose to unschool them?
                                If I do in the future, definitely.
                                  What advice would you give to teens looking to leave high school?
                                  Read the Teenage Liberation Handbook/John Taylor Gatto/John Holt. Educate yourself on what unschooling means, and make an informed presentation to your parents. Find other unschoolers online and have them talk to your parents. Write me and tell me to talk to your parents!
                                    What advice would you give to someone looking to skip, or to drop out of, college or university?
                                    If college is being paid for in full by a scholarship/amazingly rich parents, then go. Get it over with and get your degree in whatever. It will give you a leg up in applying for anything even outside your field. It may not be the most enjoyable, but if you're not going into debt over it, than it will be worth it. I don't really use my undergrad degree, but I sure am glad I had it when I went to get my Grad degree.

                                    If you have to foot the bill then think second thoughts. What do you really want to do? Does it absolutely require a college degree (med school? law school in most states?)? If it absolutely requires it and you are sure that's what you want to do, then you need to keep going.

                                    If you're not sure what you want to go into/your field does not necessarily require a degree, then hit the pause button. Maybe spend a year interning part time (whatever you can afford. intern one day a week and work the rest, or whatever you need to do) in whatever it was you were getting a degree for, see if it really fits you. Then if you absolutely have to have a degree to go into it, back to school you go. But you may be able to get into the field without a degree.

                                    Take community college courses. Every single one you can. Way cheaper. Make sure the credits transfer to whatever school you're going to.
                                      What advice would you give to unschooling parents (or parents looking into unschooling)?
                                      Trust. Read the Teenage Liberation Handbook/John Taylor Gatto/John Holt. Educate yourself on what unschooling means. Find other unschoolers online talk to them. Write me and talk to me!


                                      1. Great interview! Thanks for posting. :)

                                      2. Love Candra and her YouTube Posts on Unschooling, I currently work and do unschooling, her insight gave me a lot of hope in doing this journey among other authors etc...she was unschooled while her parents worked which, I found out(amazing)!