Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grown Unschooler Vanessa Wilson: "As an unschooled kid, the world is full of so much that a school cannot give."

I invite you to participate in this project if you're a grown unschooler, and I invite everyone who's interested in reading more about grown unschoolers to check out this list of interviews.  Enjoy!

I am the self-designin', life-lovin', free mama to 3: Kassidy (5.1999), Noble (3.2007), and Najaia (9.2009). I have many interests that include personal growth, spirituality, beauty, simplicity, creative outlets, crafting, and other DIY projects. We are a whole-life unschooling family, and I walk a path toward gentle parenting while I undo the tangles of my past. We generally value natural and sustainable living, so this is very reflected in some areas of our life and in some areas or choices not so much -- without judgment. We are enjoying liberating ourselves from "villainous thinking" about all kinds of things that bring us joy. We are a very eclectic family, as we pick and chose what fits for each of us at any given moment. We strive to listen to our inner selves over outer "experts" -- some of us have an easier time of this, but it sure is fun peeling back the layers and resituating paradigms :) Community is very important to us and we look forward to living communally in a tight-knit tribe -- more than ever since gathering a couple times a week with our local radical unschooling group!

When did you become an unschooler?
Halfway through my freshmen year of high school, my mom took me and my brother out of school to homeschool on the road (we had homeschooled before), while she worked at super sales and state fairs. Our travels ended up being our curriculum.

How long have you unschooled/did you unschool?
Ever since, even though I chose to do an adult high school program 3 years later and go on to college about 5 years after attaining my diploma.

How old are you now?

Do you have any siblings?  If so, did they/do they unschool as well?
I have a younger brother who lived and travelled with us and unschooled. He was 6 years younger than me, and he went back to public school seamlessly.

If your parents chose unschooling, do you know how/why they made that decision?
Like I said, my mom just didn't do curriculum, mostly because we were so busy living. She had never heard of the term "unschooling" until I found it and started with my kids.

What do you think the best thing about unschooling is?
I attribute unschooling to my insatiable love of learning, both in life and in formal education. It was done for intrinsic reasons, totally self-guided.

What do you think the worst (or most difficult) thing about unschooling is?
The hardest part for me was not feeling like it was "normal". I didn't know anyone else who did it, and I got the impression from society that mom was just irresponsible and crazy-unconventional.

Did you decide to go/are you going to college or university?  If so, could you talk a bit about that experience?
I did decide to go to college. I LOVED the community college level (as was evident in my 3.79 gpa), but once I transferred to the university level, it became more about the degree than the wonderful stuff that it had been about before, and I slowly did worse and worse. I got accepted to a school for my master's degree and decided to not go and live some life. I'd like to go back to school someday, maybe. But I know I don't need it to be successful, to live a rich and fulfilling life, and I don't give my kid's these impressions either.

Do you feel that unschooling has had an impact on what methods of earning money or jobs you're drawn to?
Absolutely! I can only work a job that is intrinsically rewarding, and I know that I will always be okay by following my passions. My idea of a "career" is combining as many of my interests into money-making forms, and is totally unconventional. But the best part is that I am comfortable with the fact that this will probably change over and over as I live.

What impact do you feel unschooling has had on your life?
One of the biggest. I have already said that I attribute it to my insatiable love of learning, but it is also one of the most learning-filled times of my life. Those 3 years that we traveled were full of so much people-learning, as we visited a new state almost every week (or sometimes worked a state fair that lasted a month or so at a time). I spent so much time getting to learn about people and the different cultures of America. Because we were often at state fairs, we got to see the "best" of each culture. We traveled and got to see so many places and learned about the history of this country first-hand. It has impacted how I raise my children -- we unschool and are currently making plans to buy a home on wheels and travel until we decide not to, and see whatever our wheels will take us to see. 

If you could go back in time, is there anything about your learning/educational journey that you'd change?
The only thing I might change (but I love my journey and wouldn't REALLY change anything) is I would have learned about the term unschooling sooner, and maybe been introduced to authors like John Holt.

If you have children, are they unschooled?  Alternately, if you were to have children, would you choose to unschool them?
I do have kids. I was a single mom with my oldest, so didn't think it was possible to homeschool her, until my son was born and I found a way to stay home, and I've found a way since :) We are going on 4 years :))

What advice would you give to teens looking to leave high school?
Just do it. Find support of some kind, and never look back :)) 

What advice would you give to someone looking to skip, or to drop out of, college or university?
Follow your heart. There are SO many other ways to learn (that are cheaper!) and to earn a living. You can go back if you REALLLLY want to.

What advice would you give to unschooling parents (or parents looking into unschooling)?
As an unschooled kid, the world is full of so much that a school cannot give -- depth and breadth barely recognized. As a fellow unschool parent, I would say research your doubts because you will probably find that those things aren't really a problem once you've heard some differing perspectives on it all. The Internet makes all things possible :))


  1. Great article! I'm a 30 year-old single unschooling mom right now and it is definitely challenging...everyone keeps saying, "Oh, wouldn't it just be EASIER to send your son to school?" Not really! I do feel a bit judged at times, and things certainly haven't been easy at all lately is always great to read "success" stories! Keeps me going! Thank you!

  2. Sara, I have never met more single parents in a homeschool community than I have in an unschooling community! I believe it's because we are used to being creative and getting the best out of it all, so continue :)) Good luck with your adventure!!!

    I hope it's okay to include a link to my blog, in case anyone is interested in seeing more depth on this single unschooling mama's life. We can't have a strong enough support system <3

  3. Love this blog post!! you truly are a free mama!

  4. v is the one who turned me on to your blog and i'm so happy to see her story on the grown unschoolers interviews- i really enjoy the series, and this mama in particular. ;)