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
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:
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.
When he wrote this article in 2013, Jeff Maxim 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
or visit his blog at http://jeffsowlbear.tumblr.com.