Sunday, April 25, 2010

Unschooler Eli Gerzon:"I love my life."

Eli Gerzon of is a grown unschooler or 'worldschooler' as he likes to call it. He shares his insights into finding one's own true path:

Going against the entrenched mainstream belief that to have a successful life you have to get higher ed can you define your idea of what success means?

Both my parents are college drop-outs who have started their own successful businesses so I never really thought you needed college for success.

For me, real success is being able to provide for whatever family I have and doing all I can to share my true gifts with the world and make some sort of meaningful contribution. In some ways that's more pressure than "conventional" definitions of success. In other ways, it's a very simple, humble, and humbling thing: you figure-out what you can do, you put your whole heart and all your smarts into it, and on some level you accept whatever big or small part you end up playing.

The way to find those "true gifts" I think is by following your bliss: your joy will naturally lead to what you're meant to do, what you truly want to do. But by "naturally" I don't mean easily! It can require facing some real challenges. Still I've found that after, or even while, facing those challenges I find real meaning and happiness.

Are you working at things that bring satisfaction as well as $$?

I've been busy recently with two things that bring me satisfaction and money. Since 2002 I've run my own natural landscaping business that I've used to make a living and finance my travels around the world to over a dozen countries.

Inspired by all the learning and growing I did during those travels, I started Worldschool Travel Tours in 2008: small group travel especially for homeschooling/unschooling teens and young adults to gain awareness of the world and experience personal growth. I'm leading my third tour this summer to Japan: July 20th-August 10th: And there's still space available for one or two more teens who want to experience Japan this summer!

Landscaping gives me a great, simple, daily satisfaction. But with Worldschool Travel Tours I get a deep and meaningful satisfaction when I see or hear about how much a young person has grown and changed from experiencing a whole new part of the world.

Tell us about your educational background and the pros and cons of an unschooling lifestyle.

I went to a Waldorf/Steiner school for 1st and 2nd grade and then public school until 9th grade. At age 15, I chose to leave school and did homeschooling/unschooling for the rest of high school.

Why I chose to leave is something I've written a lot about. You can find a speech and an article on my site about it: But suffice to say I had been frustrated for years with the lack of concentration on real learning and I think school was crushing my soul, to be honest.

The cons of my unschooling lifestyle have been that I've often had no idea what I was going to do with my life. That's been very challenging for me. I have been tempted to go to high school or college for the relief of being normal and having a set track to follow for awhile.

I've taken a few college classes and loved them. But I know I couldn't stomach going full time. Otherwise, who knows, I might have?

The main positive aspect of this lifestyle is that I have created a life I'm happy with and proud of. I've explored the physical world and the world of ideas in a way that may have been impossible if I was attending high school or college full time. In the end, because I didn't follow the usual track I've had the opportunity to find my own path that does actually work for me. It's not set, I can change it any time, but I'm happy with the direction I'm going right now.

Do you like the world you live in? How would you like to see it changed?

I love the world I live in and I want to see it change in many ways! Everywhere I've traveled around the world I've found an unbelievable amount of richness and beauty in the natural world and in people and the art, of all kinds, that they create.

As far as what I'd like to see change: we need to stop causing our own self-destruction and figure-out ways that actually work for us to live together in small or large groups. I spend a lot of my time trying to figure-out how we'll do that!

I don't think there's one answer or model to follow. Recently, I've been thinking it's about two things: foolishness and wisdom.

We need to be foolish enough to try new or old things that other people, or even parts of ourselves, think are ridiculous. We need that free-thinking and doing. Unschooling is a perfect example of this: what a ridiculous idea! Trust children? But, beautifully, gloriously, thankfully, it works.

In our foolish explorations of the world we need to learn from ours and others experiences and gain wisdom on which we can all build and create things that work. I call this "worldschooling".

Wisdom is when you have a deep understanding of something based on enough real life experiences that you're able to know when and how to apply it to other situations. We need to care about, work for, act on, and build upon wisdom.

What words of advice can you offer a young person who is trying to convince her parents that school/higher education is not the right place for them at the time?

Be persistent! Parents want to know that their children are going to be alright. Show you've done your research, you really care, and are really insistent about living without school for now. Let alone the info itself, when they see your dedication they can imagine you can apply it to other areas of life.

I have known high schoolers whose parents were reluctant to let their child leave school, or unschool, but the parents really came around. As far as college, it seems like it's usually the young person her/himself who wants to go to college.

I think they're often looking for an adventure, a challenge, meaning, and even a passage into and acknowledgement of adulthood, actually. My advice: travel! It's such a cheaper and more meaningful and real endeavor. Even the parties are better.

Still, sometimes it can feel like you'll never find your own path. And maybe you will decide to go to school or college and that will become part of your path.

But I decided to continue putting my trust in myself, my communities, and the world rather than a single institution, and for me it's paid off well: I have found a path that works for me and I love my life.


Jen Silver said...

Well said! What a great interview! I'm definitely going to repost...

Eli Gerzon said...

Thanks Jen! Also, I wrote a post on my blog about this series of interviews and the relationship that unschooling has had to college over the decades. Here's the link for those who are interested:

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clementine said...

Interesting interview.
Too bad it costs so much to travel. I'm sure that more kids would travel if they could afford it.

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