Home education (aka unschooling, life learning, etc)

Yes. It is true.
I no longer attend school.
It is beautiful.

I am fifteen years old and I have only been in school for two years. I think it was really great for me to try. I learned a lot about myself and I made some wonderful friends.
But why?

Why are children made to spend fourteen years of their life in a BOX, treated like sheep, not given any trust or responsibility, stressed out to the highest level and given practically no interaction with people outside their age range?

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I could probably rant incorrectly for a while but I don’t really have the stamina.

I can tell you this, however. Today, if I was in school, right at this very moment, I would be preparing for the last class of the day, exhausted, awake since half six, having spent eight hours in a classroom cramming in ten mostly unneccessary subjects and with three hours of homework already piled upon me for the evening. There are, I can tell you, thousands of things I love to do. I would go home, sit, staring blindly at pages that make no sense, procrastinating furiously out of tiredness, when the outdoors was calling me, but I had no motivation to do anything. When I was in school, I did not want to play music. I did not want to draw. I did not want to write, or walk, or learn.

Today, instead of spending eight hours sitting in a classroom, I have spent two hours up the mountains, walking, taking photos, listening to trees, learning invisibly about the world. I collected hawthorn berries. I noticed that a particular species of spider was common of the trunks of ash trees. Getting home, I played guitar, figured out the chords to a few songs, and I continued writing a song. I helped cook a delicious lunch (Butternut squash, chickpea and sesame seed falafels with cucumber yoghurt raita if you must ask), ate, and now I sit, speaking to people across the world, learning Irish online, drinking ginger and turmeric tea and eating the hawthorn berries from earlier.
I am not tired after this. I am energized. Which mean that my day can continue, and get even better after three o clock, whereas in school that was the end of being able to do anything. I intend to continue the scarf I’m knitting. I intend to continue the crochet hat I started yesterday (I couldn’t find a crochet hook big enough so I found a stick and carved a surprisingly functional crochet hook in fifteen minutes) If I do end up watching TV, which generally doesn’t happen, it will most likely be a Ray Mears documentary on bushcraft (Although most of my attention while watching TV is usually on my knitting)
Tonight, I will probably go to bed early, as I spend my evenings drawing these days. I’ll continue listening to a lecture about global warming I got out of the library yesterday, and if I get tired of drawing I’ll continue the book I’m reading about food waste. Is there anything there that I did not learn from? I am calm, happy, relaxed. Today is one of my more fallow days, spent mostly at home and relaxed. Other days in the week are more busy. I do maths with another homeschooling friend one day, I meet a school friend and go to an environmental/peer leadership course/group another day, I go to French class another day, I help my mum with her Forest School work one day a week, I try to get to my writing club once a week too sometimes. I’m also starting my Gaisce award, an Irish award for young people which involves a skill, community involvement and a sport. I’m going to take up the Viol for my skill, do my environmental group as community involvement and either do yoga, tai chi or archery for my sport.

Now, answer this question. If you were/are a fifteen year old, which one of those days sounds more appealing? Rich? Full of true, life learning and skills?

I didn’t attend primary school, and yet when I went into school I got on as well as the people who had spent six-eight years in there already. And I was bored by the work given, most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good things too, but the drudging routine, the sheer pointlessness of it was not something I fared well with.

Some people may argue that school is very important, because without school, you can’t get into college, and without college you can’t get a job, and without a job you can’t get money, and without money you can’t have a family and a house and a pension and therefore you can’t be happy.


Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I’m sure there are many other reasons that you might think school is great. You might actually be one of the rare people who really thrive in school and love it, and if you are, that’s great!

But I’m just going to make a few points here, going through the thing I said before.
1. “Without school, you can’t get into college!”
You can get into college without going to school. There are many, many, alternative routes, and there’s also different types of homeschoolers/unschoolers, some with a strict curriculum and exams and some with completely free child-based learning. Most are somewhere in between the two. It does differ in different countries, but here, I know that if I want, I can study myself and do the leaving cert, or I could do A levels, or I could do FETAC level five courses, or many other things. School and college do not go hand in hand.
2.”Without college, you can’t get a job!”
Ehh… no.
There are certain professions, such as teaching, medicine, etc. which would be very difficult to pursue a career in without college. In this day and age, however, there are thousands more thing you can do with your life. Home education gives people time and space to develop their true interests and passions, so that when they do decide to go into the world, they are generally pretty sure of themselves and what they love.
A lot of unsure kids are coming out of the school system who are forced to pick what they want in life within moments and then an extremely large sum of money (that they then have to pay off for the rest of their life) is spent educating them in something they might not even be passionate about. Why??
I can reasonably confidently say that if I wanted to, right now, I could probably make a reasonable amount of money off what I love to do (With some effort and enthusiasm, which is currently somewhere not too accessible within me) Because I haven’t been in school for my life, I have a rather large range of interests and passions. I could not put any one of my passions above the other. (Although nature, environmental issues and human/animal rights are very, very important to me)
3. “Without a job, you can’t get money”
Well, depending on what you call a job. I don’t even like the term ‘job’. It indicates something you don’t want to do. And why would people throw away their lives doing something they hate? It’s a little beyond me, but it’s too common.
There are many ways of earning money. As I said before, homeschoolers often have superb skills and resourcefulness. Why have a ‘job’ when you can earn money doing what you love? And you can, if you want.
4. “Without money, you can’t be happy.”
Well, money does help in terms of things like food, shelter, travel, etc. Probably, getting older, money is handy. But it’s not necessary to hoard giant amounts of money to spend on things you’re going to throw away. There are ways of living without money, or much of it. Happiness does not depend on money. No.

Happiness. That’s what a lot of this is based on. No, you cannot have eternal happiness, it is impossible. Sorry. But you CAN live a fulfilling life, helping others and truly loving everyone and everything. No, homeschooling is not the answer, not to your life’s happiness and worth but I can definitely say that my life is the greater, the happier, the better, the funner, the brighter, the calmer, and the more beautiful for it.
(This post is based on my experience and thoughts, please don’t take it as personally attacking school or anything! I’d just like for people to see that there are many sides to life and that school is not the only way forward)

If you are a teenager or parent or carbon-based life form interested in homeschooling I would recommend you read The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn, I had it lent to me by a friend and am reading it and finding it really interesting!

20 thoughts on “Home education (aka unschooling, life learning, etc)

  1. Hi Amy, I’ve just been browsing your blog and wanted to tell you that it’s beautiful and so is your willingness to share your adventures and passion for the natural world. I am an unschooling mother of two, ages 9 & 10 so your writing on the subject resonates deeply with me. It’s thrilling to get a glimpse of what my children will carry forward in their lives!

    • Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how lovely it is to hear your kind words. It’s great to hear of people realizing that school is not the best way all over the world! I just took a look at your blog, wow! Living off the grid is a dream of mine for later in life!
      Thanks again!

  2. Dearest Amy! How great to read your blog! and how right on the ball you are with regard to school and home ed. I miss my home ed girl now, she’s busy living her own life, and I miss the HEN teen outings, but am too busy myself to really miss anything. It was the best route for us to take (and Clare went to school for both Junior Infants and 1st year too), I still recommend it to anyone who’ll listen. Keep up the blog – fascinating crafty stuff in it – love to all of you, Lulu

  3. Hi Amy, Very nice writing 🙂 Estelle is always studying and Drawing, I think the IB is a better system. But that is her, she is happy to never move from the desk, except for Friday night 🙂 As you say not ‘one size fits all’ it is very hard for kids who do not fit in school. I was in school as a child in body only, my mind did not come with, or left as soon as the teacher started talking. Estelle is very ‘auditory’ and can sit and listen for hours. Alanna hates ‘screen time’ it is the one thing that exhausts her in school, other kids love that bit? Isn’t it interesting, we are all so different. It sounds like you are doing what is best for you and you are so clever Amy 🙂 Best of luck with your daily adventures in learning X X

  4. Hi Amy, child of the trees and beautiful being that you are.

    I loved reading your clear and heartfelt words.You’re an inspiration !!!! Love love xxx
    Ps..Was great to see you fire starting in Glenmalure last weekend,would have loved to linger longer with you and Sally and the others ….hopefully we’ll get to another time soon.

  5. Amy, you are an inspiring person. I do really regret not home-schooling my son, who is now 18, so it is a bit sad for me reading your post – school was not good for him at all – but on the bright side he is nearly through it… your posts are truly inspirational – so keep it up…

  6. I didn’t know you had left school as well. I’d love to meet up with you sometime when I’m up in dublin. As of last week I’m officially an unschooler again. You speak about the school system so rationally and calmly. If you get me talking about school I immediately go off into an emotionally charged rant about the problems of the system. I’m totally in favour of a new system, a system where individuality and creativity are encouraged, a system based on trust and respect, where people know that their opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. Where non-violent communication is valued. I’d forgotten you had a website. I just stumbled across a link to it in one of the emails you’d sent me ages ago.Do you still go to the HEN conference every year?ciara

  7. Love this : ) It only took me a couple months of torturous homeschooling before we gravitated toward unschooling. I haven’t looked back since. My oldest attended Kindergarten and 1st grade and already had a fiery passion of hate built up for school. My other 2 have never been to school and never will be. I remember sitting in school daydreaming about getting out and “starting my life”. I never realized that I already had a life because compulsory school made life so miserable. Great blog.

  8. Hi Amy,

    Mary Aoife here! I really enjoyed your blog about the homeschooling. Its fantastic to hear your points about both secondary school and Homeschool life. I’m so relaxed and enjoying being homeschooled right now, I haven’t tried secondary school but if i’m happy and learning at home, i’ll keep going and I may try it in years to come!
    Thanks so much!!

  9. Pingback: Home education (aka unschooling, life learning, etc) | gypsy heliophilia family

  10. Forget just being a teenager and wanting your life, I’m an adult and it sounds like the best life! My husband and I have decided to homeschool / unschool our son, and I can say I really hope when he’s 15 his out look and understanding about what is really important in life is as amazing and inspirational as yours!!

  11. Love this post! I’ve been unschooling my four children for 9 months now and it’s the best thing we’ve fone. School wasn’t for them at all. Reading blogs like yours is really inspiring 🙂

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