How did you get interested in unschooling and alternative education?
Initially Berkeley gave me trouble--they wanted to shoehorn me in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department, which wouldn't accept most of my astrophysics units--but I was persistent and they eventually pointed me to the hidden "Independent Major" program, where I could design my curriculum from the absolute ground-up.
What's the connection with the Not back to school Camp?
My relationship with unschooling remained rather theory-based until I applied to work as a staff member at Not Back to School Camp in 2006. Grace Llewellyn, the director, accepted my application (you don't have to be a former unschooler or camper to work there), and I was suddenly face-to-face with 100 real-life teen unschoolers.
Not Back to School Camp is an incredibly supportive social environment for teen unschoolers, both new and old. I give it my highest recommendation for any teens who want to bolster their tribe of friends.
Where do you see the unschooling movement heading and what is the significance of this type of education on mainstream schooling models?
Unschooling seems to be getting bigger and bigger. The selection of conferences, camps, and other support programs expand each year. And media mentions, while typically slanted (see the recent Good Morning America piece), continue to appear. So "big" is one direction that the movement is heading.
Despite this trend, I don't see unschooling exerting any significant influence in changing mainstream schooling. Unschooling's power is in providing a positive alternative to school, but as a movement it holds no unified approach to breaking the school monopoly. I see lots of room for growth in that area.
Now for your book:Why did you write this book and who is the target audience?
Thus far, it doesn't seem that the book has penetrated very far into the mainstream market (e.g. it's not in Barnes & Noble). Lots of home/unschooling families are reading and enjoying it, and I'm glad for that. I'm still figuring out how to reach a larger audience.
Lastly, a little bit about what you are doing these days (besides writing the book). Any parting words?
Last month I ran my first leadership program (through my other company, Homeschool Leadership Retreats, which I plan to fold into Unschool Adventures). During this 2-week program based in Ashland, Oregon, I challenged our group of seven teens to go out and create short-term internships, mentorships, and job shadows based on their interests.
In the evenings, the other staff and I would run workshops on topics like communication, personality psychology, goal-setting, and learning theory, all tailored to the needs of teen unschoolers. The hope was that they would employ these workshop tools in the internship challenge.
And the trip was a total success--our teens mentored with university professors, got short- and long-term work internships (one turned into a paid employment opportunity), and interviewed local artists, among other pursuits. More importantly, they experienced a lot of failure and rejection and learned to deal with that in a constructive way. This was the real skill that I wanted them to get out of the program.
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