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Beyond School by Wendy Priesnitz
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School Free by Wendy Priesnitz
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Life is Good Unschooling Conference

Advice from a New Teen Unschooler

Tips from a New Teenaged Unschooler

Written by
Jeff Maxim

When he wrote this article in 2013, Jeff was a fifteen-year-old unschooler ignoring cultural norms and as a result finding plenty of opportunities and adventures. He is an avid writer and had recently started his freelance writing business. Email him at jeff.to.the.maxim@gmail.com or visit his blog at http://jeffsowlbear.tumblr.com.

Ditching the conventional educational systems can be scary and different. I became unschooled at the start of this year and have had a crazy ride in learning about how to learn freely. It was so unfamiliar and different that it took a while to figure it out and capitalize on the opportunities it offers. In this article I will share with you some tips about learning freely.

1. Sit back and relax.
Most new converts to a free education often stress out because they try to focus on productivity. The unfamiliarity of this new lifestyle doesn’t subtract from the stress either. I would advise taking time to relax and really find out what makes you happy and catches your interest. It may be a week or two months but never less. Use this time to deschool and rid yourself of the misconceptions that may be ingrained into your mind.

2. Find your passion!
Now that you have had some time to think about what makes you tick and what interests you, you probably have at least somewhat of an idea of your passion. Now use this time to put it to the test and see if it is something you enjoy. Perhaps after actually testing those interests out you find out you enjoy none of them. That’s okay. By deciding that those ideas weren’t for you, you have probably learned a lot about yourself. This makes you better equipped to find out what really interests you. Keep on investigating until you have something you really enjoy. It may be hard to slow down and figure it out, but it is worth it.

3. Kill the weak ideas.
One of the big problems I have had is weak and fruitless ideas. Now that I could choose what I wanted to learn, my mind came up with so many ideas – big and small. Something to check for while figuring it out is if you have the means of pursuing it, whether it is money, skills, or any other resources. Also check for small ideas that have more steps than needed and have over-complicated the process. I don’t find it too useful to try to track productivity with scientific precision, but just check if it is helping you reach your goals.

4. Break projects down into manageable pieces.
Chopping things up into bite-sized pieces is also very important. So many people fail before they even start because the task seems so big and they don’t know where to start. Figuring out the steps needed to complete the task is half the battle.

5. Just do it.
Preparation and research are really important but don’t let them be an excuse for not actually doing something. Abstract reasoning is a very powerful and helpful tool but it alone is flawed. You don’t know if the new type of tire is going to work until it hits the road. Sometimes, I would spend a lot of time and energy preparing for something but then I’d put it off for a long time because I was scared. After waiting so long, I would finally do it and come across some huge problems that I didn’t anticipate so I got overwhelmed and gave up. If I had taken action early on, I would’ve been able to handle it.

6. Dive in headfirst!
I had been trying to cut my day into sections and would get pissed at myself if I didn’t follow the schedule. I was unconsciously replicating school because I didn’t know what else to do. I wouldn’t allow myself to dive head first into something and forget about everything else. That just messed up everything! Now I give myself the freedom to do that and I am still able to keep weekly obligations. If you want to be good at something, you need to practice it often. You hope that you enjoy it so it is easy to keep up but, hey, stuff happens and you forget it. In order to keep on track and give myself freedom, I don’t track things per day but per week. So if I want to practice writing around four hours a week, I just make a note for the week with my goal and a counter of how much I have done so far. That way, I can regularly practice while still giving myself the freedom to either practice not at all or devote the whole day to it.

7. Be productive...sometimes.
In the conventional educational system, productivity is getting a good mark with some predetermined standard and on some predetermined work, regardless of how you felt about it. Life is not predetermined and you do not know what is going to happen next. School teaches you not to be flexible or think out of the box, which is what is needed in the real world. Also in the conventional systems, there is no reward for getting work done more efficiently and quickly; there is just this praise of going through the same hoops everyone else has gone though. Most importantly, there is no consideration of how you feel and what interests you. Some really crappy event might happen and you feel like doing nothing that day and that is fine if that is what you need to do to process it.

If there’s one thing that I want you to get from this, it is to just be self-aware and authentic. Having a free work ethic rests around one thing: You!

When you are free, it is you who decides what you do and that is why it is important to be conscious of yourself. No one knows how to run your life better than you.

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