Unschoolery http://unschoolery.com An Undefinitive Guide to Unschooling en-us Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:41:13 +0000 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator What if you didn't need to earn grades or a degree? http://unschoolery.com/what-if By Leo Babauta

My colleague Derek Sivers, a writer I much admire, wrote a fantastic piece today that you should go read right this second: What if you didn't need money or attention?

As I read his article, I found myself nodding ... not just as an entrepreneur, but as a unschooling parent.

Because the arguments are the same in both cases.

If you have a job you hate, or a business that you don't really believe in, it's not only worse for your happiness, it's worse for the world. You're just doing it for money (or attention) and not because you care, not because you love it, not because it will make a difference.

Now shift this to education: why do kids go to school? Because they have to. Because it's compulsory, because it's expected, because everyone else does it, because they need to get the degree, because they need to get a job.

But if this is how you approach learning, that's also how you'll approach your job or business. You'll do it because you have to, because you need the money, because everyone else does it.

Unschooling, and the smarter entrepreneurs, take another approach.

Unschoolers (ideally) learn because it's something they're interested in. Because it's fun, or fascinating, or they care.

They do projects not because they're forced to, but because the want to.

Right now, my four unschoolers are each working on a project they chose and they really want to work on: 3D animation, creating a cupcake business, making a music video, and making a newspaper. Not because these will earn them money, or move them towards a degree or a job or better grades. Because they want to. Because it excites them.

This is what you want to teach your kids. Because it's how they'll live their lives into adulthood.

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Wed, 19 Mar 2014 20:27:21 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/what-if
The Damn Good Guide to Unschooling http://unschoolery.com/guide By Leo Babauta

This is for anyone considering starting Unschooling, but not sure where to start.

Start with one article at a time.

Getting Started:

  1. What is unschooling?
  2. Principles of awesome unschooling
  3. If you're an entrepreneur, you should unschool
  4. Why unschooling is the best incubator for young entrepreneurs
  5. De-schooling: Getting school out of your head
  6. So what do unschoolers do?
  7. Learning to socialize, for unschoolers
  8. When should you start unschooling?
  9. Can (and should) unschoolers go to college?
  10. Unschool of hard knocks: Kids starting their own businesses
  11. Uncertainty, not knowing, and unschooling
  12. Unschoolers learn the same way adults learn
  13. The people you know are incredible unschooling resources
  14. Unschooling resources

Questions & Concerns:

  1. How can unschoolers learn math?
  2. How will my unschooler get a job?
  3. How to deal with your family's anti-unschooling feelings
  4. The worry that your unschooler isn't learning what he should be learning
  5. The problem of motivation & unschooling
  6. Can you unschool if both parents work?

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Fri, 14 Mar 2014 04:36:32 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/guide
Won’t kids just watch TV and play video games all day? http://unschoolery.com/wasting-time By Leo Babauta

One question parents have when they consider or start unschooling, which lacks the structure of traditional school, is, "If I don't tell my kid what to do, won't they just choose to watch TV and play video games all day?"

And this is a legitimate concern.

The short answer is, "Yes, possibly, at first." But as always, the short answer doesn't give you the true picture.

The true answer would be:

  1. Yes, kids will watch TV and play video games sometimes, possibly a lot in the beginning.
  2. But kids get bored with that and might want to do other things.
  3. Also, video games and TV aren't necessarily bad. Nothing is bad unless we decide to put them in that category. Actually, there are lots of positives to be found in those activities, given the right context.
  4. Finally, consider yourself: why don't you play video games or watch TV all day? What you answer is interesting, and I'd like to get more into that.

So let's go into each of these a bit.

In the Beginning, Tons of Video Games
If you take a totally unstructured approach to unschooling, and let your kid to anything he wants, then yes, there will probably be lots of TV and video games. Why not? Those are totally fun activities.

So imagine this scenario: you tell your kid she can do whatever she wants. She's in charge. She decides, "Great, video game fest!" And she goes crazy with the video games. She plays all day, then the next, then the next. Weeks pass. After awhile, she's played every game she owns, and gets bored. She wants to do something else.

That's when she starts finding fun things to build, or maybe wants to go outside to play, or maybe listens to some of your suggestions for things to explore.

But this scenario doesn't take into account reality: you're there with her. You're doing other things, setting an example. Maybe some of the things you do will inspire her, or at least get her curious. Even if she plays video games all day, she is learning by watching you.

And you might suggest things, ask her to go places with you, ask for her help with something you're doing, expose her to things that might get her curiosity going. So you just being around changes the equation.

Video Games Aren't Bad
Parents tend to think of video games as a waste of time, perhaps even harmful. I've not seen evidence of this. The evidence I've seen (both personally and in the literature) show that there's no harm in games, and in fact there are some good things to be found.

What good things? Try problem solving. Persistence. Decision-making. Strategy. Imagination.

And that's for regular games. Minecraft is an example of a different type of game, where kids are creating and building things. It gets pretty amazing.

TV can also be good, though I'm not as big a fan. There's storytelling and humor and history, but there's also commercials and negative role models. So you need to provide context for them.

How Adults Get Motivated
Ask yourself why you don't play video games or watch TV all day. There are typically three responses:

  1. Because if I did, I wouldn't get paid. This is the same motivation of why kids learn at school. They have no other choice. So when they start being unschooled, and now have a choice, they go crazy with the freedom. But later you realize that if you have a choice, your life is now your responsibility. But anyway, being forced to learn is a bad way to learn about how to be motivated. You're not really learning motivation then, and then as an adult you don't have those skills.
  2. I do play video games and watch TV all the time. It's a problem. There are people who have this problem, and procrastinate. They haven't learned motivation skills. Kids will have the same problem. But as a parent, you can help them work through this problem, and show them what you do, and figure out solutions together. Then the kid won't have the problem as an adult.
  3. I have other things I really want to do. If you're inspired to create something, to build a business, to help people ... then you wake every day wanting to get to it. You see video games and TV as a waste of time. Or maybe as something to do once in awhile to relax, but not all day. This is the magic spot that kids can get to too, if you show them how. And in fact, even without your help, they'll probably figure this out after awhile.

So yes, kids will go crazy with their freedom. But once they've figured out something they really want to do more, things get really interesting.

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Thu, 06 Mar 2014 17:35:19 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/wasting-time
Unschooling While Going to School http://unschoolery.com/traditional By Leo Babauta

A friend recently asked:

"As parents who don't feel they can take the plunge into fully unschooling, what can we do that will give us some of the benefits of unschooling while still having our kids in a traditional school system?"

Great question. And this is one of the brilliant things about unschooling -- there's no one way to do it. It's a mindset and an approach, not a method. It's about breaking free from the reliance on a teacher for information, allowing the student to direct his own learning, to be self-reliant, to figure things out, to break down the line between Learning and Life. They're the same thing -- learning doesn't only happen in a classroom or while you're doing homework.

So how can you unschool while going to a traditional school? However the hell you want! :)

Seriously, you don't need me to tell you how to do it, though if you're looking for suggestions, here are a few:

  1. Start your kid young on the unschooling philosophy. Before school starts. Most parents do this anyway, but slowly withdraw from the process once the kid starts going to school. But anyway ... you can get the kid interested in learning by exploring with her, helping her pursue her curiosity and interests, building stuff together, reading together. Talk to her about what learning is, how she can do it on her own, how she doesn't need someone to spoon feed it to her. Then she'll have the right mindset as she goes to school.
  2. Raise a rebel. Schools try to teach kids to follow orders, to be obedient and listen. That's great if you want them to grow up following orders. Instead, I'd suggest teaching your child to think for himself, to take initiative, to understand what's needed and to figure out his own path. But also to work with others -- this is a key skill that takes practice. So think for yourself, but collaborate. Allow him to challenge the teacher's ideas, in a respectful way, and to propose alternatives, to question things, to take initiative.
  3. Do stuff after school. Learning doesn't start and end at school. That's just a part of it. There's a ton of fun stuff you can do with your kid in the few hours you have together, and of course on weekends. Not schoolwork, but fun projects, exploration, building.
  4. Encourage her to start a business. This is an awesome way to learn, to build skills, to do things that she's passionate about. She can do a lemonade stand at 7 years old, a car-washing service at 10, start programming a video game at 12 or 14.

That's a good start, but I encourage you to explore and figure this stuff out with your child. And read about unschooling to get a better idea of the philosophy and ideas for what you might try.

All that said, I encourage you to think outside what you think is possible -- read about your unschooling options.

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Wed, 26 Feb 2014 22:48:12 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/traditional
If You're an Entrepreneur, You Should Unschool http://unschoolery.com/entrepreneur By Leo Babauta

I talk to other entrepreneurs a lot -- often founders of startups here in San Francisco, or online publishers like me. And when I do, if they're having a kid soon or have a young child, I invariably give them my pitch: you should unschool.

I like to give this pitch to expecting parents, or parents of young children, because the truth is, they're the best candidates for considering this radical form of education. Why? Because parents with their kids already in school tend to not want change, and tend to be invested in the school system. No parent wants to believe they've been making a huge mistake, and so if you've been sending your kid to school for years, to believe in unschooling is to admit you've been wrong (in their eyes).

There are exceptions, of course -- my wife and I pulled our kids out of school (one was in middle school, another in late elementary), because we felt the school system wasn't doing a good job with our kids. We started to see the problems with trying to mass educate kids in a way that makes them not want to learn, bored, just following instructions.

But parents who aren't in the school system yet are the most receptive to the idea of breaking from the norms.

And entrepreneurs tend to be very receptive to breaking the norms. Very receptive. They love challenging traditional ideas, love taking a new route if it offers the possibility of huge returns compared to the safe route that everyone else does.

So. If you're an entrepreneur, you should unschool. You'll love it.

Here's why.

  1. You dislike following orders. You are an entrepreneur because you wanted to be your own boss, wanted independence and don't like to just implement someone else's orders like a robot. You have a mind of your own. You want that for your kid. Teaching that can be very hard. Actually, let me take that back: kids are born with a mind of their own, but they get that suppressed by the school system, which is predicated on everyone following orders and doing what they're supposed to do in order to absorb the facts that the school system has decided they need to know. People who come out of the school system are going to be good at following orders (either that, or they'll have trouble in the system, or they're so strong they survive the school system with a healthy sense of self despite being told what to do for 12-16 years).
  2. You want your kids to love learning. You know, as an adult who is figuring new stuff out all the time, that learning is amazing. Kids in school tend to think learning is boring, and they show up because they have to. They start kindergarten loving to ask questions and explore new things, and they come out of the school system wanting to be anywhere but school, bored with whatever they're forced to learn, wanting to escape.
  3. You are comfortable with risk. Sending your kids to school is a risk everyone takes (what if the system does a bad job?), but because everyone else takes it, it seems non-risky. It seems like the right thing to do. Like getting a job and a paycheck. But unschooling, while it's also risky, comes with huge upsides. It's not for the faint of heart, because you have to do something that's really outside the norm, but you aren't afraid of risks. You want a kid who grows up to be awesome, and unschooling is a great path to achieve that.
  4. You want your kid to learn to innovate. Kids who grow up to be innovators are the ones who will conquer the world. Kids who shy from innovating will likely take boring jobs. Schools teach kids to follow orders, do what everyone else is doing, and they punish kids who do things differently. How will that lead to innovation?
  5. You don't trust the government to know what your kid should know in 18-20 years from now. The school system teaches kids a set list of information they think the kids will need as adults. Which is 18-20 years in the future. How can we know what knowledge -- what data set -- will be relevant in 18-20 years from now? No one, not you or me and certainly not the department of education, knows what jobs will be like. We didn't know what today's jobs would be like 15 years ago, and the pace of change is only accelerating. Some government committee decides what kids should learn, and I don't trust them to decide correctly. Instead, why not teach the kid skills for learning on his own, instead of a dataset? Teach the kid algorithms for figuring out life, rather than memorizing facts that might be useless in 20 years? Then the kid can adapt and learn anything necessary to do what he wants to do as an adult.
  6. You want your kid to be passionate about what they do. Finding something you're passionate about, and learning to make a living off of it, is one of the keys to happiness in my experience. Schools absolutely don't teach that -- they surely didn't when I was going to school, and they didn't when my kids were in school. They teach you to go to college, so you can get a job. So much fun! But what if kids start doing what they're passionate about at a young age, instead of being told that's not what they were assigned? What if kids start their own businesses at a young age, and figure out how to make some income from what they love, well before they become an adult? That's awesome, and you know it.
  7. You want to learn and explore with your kid. Let's face it, when you send your kid off to school, you are outsourcing the care and education of your kid to the government (or a private school). That's awesome, a load off your back, because you have a business to run. But this means you aren't really involved in their education, even if you ask about their day later. You don't really decide what they learn, what values they learn while they're at school, etc. And you aren't a big part of it. You want to be, I can tell. You love spending time with your kid, and you want to be a big part of all the cool things they'll be learning. You'll learn with them. You might not think you have the time (more on this below), but if you could figure out how to make the time, you'd love to do it.

What if you don't have the time? I'll admit, unschooling takes more time and effort than traditional schooling. But you are not afraid of putting in time and effort for something that's really important to you. Think of a kid as a new startup you've created -- are you going to get the startup going and then let someone else run it? Hell no, this is your baby, you're going to be a part of it. You're going to make the time for it.

That said, there are things you can do. If you have a spouse, you can split time so one person can focus on business while the other works with the kids. If you have family members (let's say one of your parents) who have extra time, they can help out. It can be a team effort. You can even have a babysitter/nanny if that's necessary, but get the kids going for the day and leave them to work on their own for a few hours while someone else watches them. And best of all, you can teach the kids to be independent, learn on their own, explore on their own, while you get work done, and you can just join them when you have time. Kids should be independent anyway.

Yes, unschooling is a scary undertaking, full of risk and hard work and learning and uncertainty. Perfect for you.

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Thu, 20 Feb 2014 16:15:11 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/entrepreneur
Goals as a Learning Tool http://unschoolery.com/goals By Leo Babauta

Some of you might know that I'm a fan of letting go of goals, or living/working without goals ...

So you might be surprised to know that this week, I decided to encourage my kids to create 2014 goals and a plan for accomplishing those goals.

What gives? Well, I thought I'd use goals as a teaching/learning tool in our little unschooling adventure. I've found goals to be unnecessary for accomplishing things, but I don't believe goals are evil, especially if you use them right. And they can be a useful tool to learn about something.

In this case, I'm helping the kids to learn about achieving things. It can be easy in life, and in unschooling, to let the days pass by without doing anything important or exciting. That's fine if you have a job and are getting a regular paycheck, but if you own your own business or are an unschooler, you don't have that luxury. You can take a few days off, but eventually you're going to have to produce.

And so how do you get motivated to do something good? Well, there are lots of ways. Some possibilities:

  • Find a project that excites you and get up each day looking forward to working on it. This is what I do most of the time. You don't need a goal to help you get up and work on something exciting.
  • Find a partner to work on something with you. Being accountable to a partner helps you stick to the project.
  • Be a part of a team doing something awesome.
  • Be a part of an accountability group -- people who are working on different things, but hold each other accountable for what they're doing. This can be a formal group or just your friends checking in on each other.
  • Help people. When you have someone to help, it motivates you to do stuff.
  • Find inspiration. Surround yourself with inspirational people.
  • Declare your goals or habits or project publicly. Report publicly.
  • Get motivated by needing to pay the bills. Go out and find clients or customers.

There are other possibilities, but you can see that there's not just one way to get motivated to achieve.

Goals aren't necessary for all of these, but setting and working on goals can teach you about a bunch of them. Once you've learned about how these work, perhaps you can do them without goals if you like. Either way is fine.

So what am I doing with the kids?

Here's what we're doing as a family -- this includes me, Eva, and four kids (ages 17, 14, 9, and 7):

  1. We reflected on what we did in 2013. This helps us to feel good about what we accomplished, learn about what worked and what didn't, and think about what we'd like to carry on from 2013 to 2014.
  2. We brainstormed ideas for 2014 goals. The kids didn't always know what they wanted to do, so we helped the two younger ones by throwing out ideas. No bad ideas -- anything is written down. The older kids figured it out on their own, though I did give them a few ideas.
  3. We picked goals from the brainstorming. I asked the kids, "From this list, what is the one thing that excites you most?" We wrote that thing at the top of a new list. Then repeated the process until they weren't excited about any of the other things. Now we had a list of actual 2014 goals.
  4. We asked ourselves, "If I were looking back on 2014 a year from now, would I be psyched to have accomplished all of these goals?" If the answer was yes, we had our goals.
  5. We came up with a plan for achieving the goals. The goals are great, but they don't happen by themselves. Some of the goals are daily activities -- draw every day, or practice Japanese or piano. Others are weekly -- go to yoga class once a week, or sew every Thursday afternoon. Others are big one-off projects, like do a science project or build a warlock kit (not sure what that is, but I'm excited to find out). We wrote down the plan for each of our goals.
  6. We decided on accountability. So on the 1st of each month, we're going to meet as a family to do a status update on all of our goals. How did we do the previous month? And we have accountability partners that we're going to do a quick check-in with each Friday.

And that's what we did the last two days. I think it'll be good for the kids to learn about all of this, and I'm happy they're excited about what they're doing.

Is this the only way to unschool or learn about achieving? Not at all. But I think it's a fun experiment.

By the way, here are a handful of our goals (not all by one person):

  • Make music videos
  • Write a novel
  • Learn Spanish
  • Learn Japanese
  • Make one animation clip a month
  • Learn piano
  • Learn guitar
  • Make a warlock kit
  • Get cupcake business going (take online orders)
  • Do chemistry experiments
  • Meditate daily
  • Do yoga twice a week
  • Journal daily

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Thu, 16 Jan 2014 16:25:31 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/goals
Unschooling: Am I Ruining My Kid's Life? http://unschoolery.com/ruined By Leo Babauta

Yes, you absolutely are. Because not getting a high school education like everyone else means your kid will know nothing useful, and be unready to get a job and unsuited for life.

OK, sarcasm aside, let's take a look at this question sincerely. It's a legitimate worry, because unschooling parents are taking a big risk -- if everyone else is doing regular schooling, that's the safe play. Doing something radically different with something that could affect your kid's future life means you're taking a huge risk with a potentially huge downside, right?

Well, actually I don't think so. Let's look at the risk ... and in doing so we can see at why unschooling is actually improving your kid's life.

The Non-existent Risk

If you're unschooling your kid, could it ruin her life?

Well, let's take the worst-case scenario.

She does nothing during her unschooling years, and watches TV and plays video games. She learns very little math or English skills, never studies science or history.

Well, that's highly unlikely. First of all, kids learn to read if their parents read. They want to learn to read stuff on TV and can't play video games without reading, to start with. But if you read to your kid, she'll learn to read.

Second, they'll learn a little math. Counting, addition and subtraction, at the very least, to get by on a day-to-day basis.

And kids are curious. They ask questions, and if you help them find the answers, they'll learn a lot. If you show them how to find answers, that's a valuable skill right there.

Take the kid places once in awhile. Set an example by doing interesting things and learning stuff on your own all the time. Talk to the kid.

So the realistic worst-case scenario is that the kid does very little, but still learns some stuff. And here's what the kid really learned:

  • Some basic English and math skills;
  • Random things they're interested in;
  • How to learn and find stuff out on their own;
  • That curiosity is good;
  • That you don't need to conform and do what everyone else does.

There's more, but that's a great start. Now the kid is 18, and perhaps is behind others in job skills, but can easily learn a few things on her own and catch up. Plus she hasn't had curiosity driven out of her, and knows how to teach herself, which is something many kids who go to school don't have.

The More Probable Scenario

That's the most likely worst-case scenario ... but actually I've never really heard of unschoolers who end up learning so little. In reality, unschoolers do a lot of things beyond watching TV and playing video games (though those activities aren't necessarily worse than others).

What are unschoolers more likely to do?

Here's a more likely list of activities over the course of an unschooling career (besides just TV & video games):

  • Reading novels;
  • Getting into topics like animation or Greek mythology and diving deep into them;
  • Creative projects like dollhouses and starting a Youtube channel;
  • Learning guitar or piano;
  • Traveling a bit and learning a language;
  • Drawing, making comic books, writing short stories, writing a novel during NaNoWriMo;
  • Geeking out on science and doing some cool science projects;
  • Going on nature field trips and learning about bugs and ecology;
  • Doing pushup challenges and running 5Ks;
  • Learning to program and making an iPhone app;
  • Starting their own small business.

The list could go on and on. Over the course of a year, a kid might only do a few of those, but over the course of 10-15 years, the list would be much longer.

And you could see that they don't have to cram a lot into each year to have a long list of activities, skills, things they really learned about.

And here's what they really learned:

  • How to teach themselves;
  • That they don't need an authority to hand down knowledge or tell them what to do;
  • How to overcome fear of the unknown;
  • How to have confidence in themselves;
  • How to start something and get excited about it and finish it;
  • How to motivate themselves;
  • That learning is fantastic;
  • That an unconventional life is a good one;
  • To think for themselves.

And so on. This is a list of skills that an entrepreneur might have. That a fantastic employee might have. That someone well-prepared for life might have.

That's not ruining her life. That's creating a great life.

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Sat, 21 Dec 2013 16:26:57 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/ruined
When Should You Start Unschooling? http://unschoolery.com/starting By Leo Babauta

When should the unschooling process start? Can and should you start at preschool age if you have a young child?

There's no right answer to that, of course, as there are never any "right" answers in unschooling. It's all about figuring out what works on your own -- though your experiments can be informed and inspired by what others are doing.

And so I'll share my thoughts here, along with what we did, with the idea that you'll figure out your own answer through experimentation and discussion among your family.

The first thought to share: unschooling starts at birth. Unlike school, which starts at a legally mandated age and involves the trauma of leaving your child with strangers while he cries (I had to do this several times), unschooling doesn't have a defined start. That's because unschooling is the same as living.

Unschooling means you learn to tie your shoes, you play games, you explore nature, you learn to talk to your family members about various things, you break and fix things, you are curious about new things. This happens when you're a baby, a toddler, an old person, and everything in between. So the answer, if you have a young child of 2-4 years old, is that you've already been unschooling.

The second thought to share: you can start in small doses. This goes against what I said above, but if you want to "start unschooling", you don't have to do it wholesale. You don't have to yank your kid out of school or preschool immediately. You can do it after school, in the evenings, on weekends, during breaks. What you do could be anything, but basically you can do fun things and learn together with your child and start teaching him or her to be autonomous.

Do it a little bit at a time, and gain confidence that you can do it and you and your child like it, and then transition to all the time if it works out.

The third thought to share: the sooner you start the discussion in your family, the better. An important part of the unschooling process involves a group discussion. It means talking about these ideas with your spouse or partner, with the child, with your parents and siblings, with others who care about the kid's education. They don't all have to be on board, but it definitely helps, and even if they aren't on board, perhaps you can start educating them slowly.

Involve as many people as you think necessary in the discussion, in helping to do research, in learning together. Even if you don't actually start unschooling (whatever your definition of that is), you can start thinking about it, talking about it.

What We Did

If you'd like to know our story, here it is in brief:

  1. First, two of my kids from my previous marriage decided not to be unschooled. I offered it to them but they were already in school and enjoyed going, so they stayed in school. Even though I wish I could have done unschooling with them, I totally support their decision, and they've turned out completely fine and I love them to death.
  2. Second, two of our kids who were unschooled (the older two), were already in school -- grades 4 and 6, I believe. We talked with them and they agreed to give homeschooling a try (we didn't start with unschooling), and we took them out of school. There was a large transition period, for all of us, when we moved from believing in the ways of school to figuring out what we could do if we abandoned school's methods and ideas.
  3. Third, our younger two kids (who are now 7 and 9 years old) never went to school. They were in preschool (actually it was just daycare) when we decided to homeschool the two older ones, and we just stopped sending the younger ones to daycare. We all stayed home, and did things together. Again, we started homeschooling in the beginning, but soon after transitioned to unschooling. So they started at preschool age, but life wasn't really much different for them -- being a young kid and doing "unschooling" are really the same thing. The main difference was that they stopped going to preschool and were no longer destined for the classroom.

That's our story and we're sticking to it. It's not what you have to do, by any means, but maybe it'll show you that various paths are possible, even within one family.

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Thu, 12 Dec 2013 17:44:07 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/starting
Unschool of Hard Knocks: Kids Starting Their Own Businesses http://unschoolery.com/cupcakes By Leo Babauta I tell all my kids they should start their own businesses someday. I think it's an amazing way to make a living, an amazing mindset to have, and it's a school like no other that you keep learning from all the time. Besides marrying my wife and having my kids, starting my business is the bes]]>

By Leo Babauta

I tell all my kids they should start their own businesses someday. I think it's an amazing way to make a living, an amazing mindset to have, and it's a school like no other that you keep learning from all the time.

Besides marrying my wife and having my kids, starting my business is the best thing I've done.

And then a little while ago, I realized that there's nothing stopping them from starting a business now, while they're young.

Yesterday my 14-year-old daughter Maia became the first to officially launch her business: a vegan cupcake venture!

I encouraged her to start one a few months ago, and in that time she's experimented with a handful of recipes, doing taste tests with her siblings (who have absolutely loved the process of course). She's found recipes that worked.

And this past weekend, she decided to take her cupcakes public.

So I helped her build a very simple webiste (a placeholder really), she picked a name and a domain, she made a hand-painted sign, she got her ingredients ready.

And then yesterday she made two different vegan recipes (cinnamon cardamon, and toasted coconut), decorated them nicely, put them on trays, and the entire family headed over to Dolores Park to sell cupcakes.

Mostly Maia sold them with her little sister Noelle, who carried the sign and yelled "vegan cupcakes, one dollar!" as they walked past people. The cupcakes sold like hotcakes. They sold two dozen in about 20 minutes, giving them $24. Maia decided to give Noelle $5 for her efforts. Win all around.

What does starting a cupcake business have to do with unschooling?

There's no better education, in my opinion. They're learning:

  • How to start something
  • How to try even when something is scary
  • How to brainstorm and come up with ideas
  • How to test things
  • How to deal with failure
  • How to learn from feedback
  • How to make a website
  • How to price, and adjust pricing
  • How to sell and deal with customers
  • How to have fun while making a living
  • Math and economics
  • That they're awesome human beings

These are incredible things to learn at an early age. I don't think schools teach most of this (maybe the math, but math is more fun when you're doing cupcake expense and revenue calculations). And what a fun way to learn -- when it's something you actually care about!

My other kids have ideas in the works for their own businesses. And now they have their sister's incredible example.

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Mon, 02 Dec 2013 15:06:24 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/cupcakes
The Family Pushup Challenge http://unschoolery.com/challenges By Leo Babauta

I love issuing challenges to my family.

This past weekend, I issued a Pushup Challenge. Basically, it's a 6-week challenge where we follow a program, doing 5 sets of pushups for 3 days a week.

We started with a pushup test on Sunday -- see how many pushups you can do in a row in one set. That's just for assessment.

Then, based on the assessment, we follow the plan on 100pushups.com. Is the goal to do 100 pushups? No, it doesn't matter how many you can do by the end of the challenge. Is the goal to beat our other family members? No, we're just trying to stick to the program to see what kind of progress we make. It's a lesson in habits and self-discipline.

We're doing it as a group. We set up a Google Spreadsheet to track our progress, and we can all see if everyone is sticking to it. We have a reward (Cinnaholic for breakfast, and lasertag & miniature golf & go-carts and batting cages after) but we have to all complete the challenge to get the reward. We'll have to encourage each other, remind each other, push each other.

It's a great team-building exercise, great bonding, great learning experience.

Everyone is doing it, from me and my wife to my 20-year-old to my teen-agers to my 7-year-old and 9-year-old. And yes, Noelle the 7-year-old is doing full pushups, which surprised me!

We're learning about ourselves, and our boundaries, and what we're capable of.

Does it have to be a physical challenge? Hell no. Feel free to do a drawing a day challenge, or learn as many digits of pi as you can. It doesn't matter what the challenge is. Do it for fun, do it together, and learn along the way.

Update: Here's a copy of our Google Spreadsheet log.

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Wed, 27 Nov 2013 16:50:39 +0000 http://unschoolery.com/challenges