Friday, May 7, 2010

Growing up Unschooled, Melissa's Experience

In an effort to help further understanding of unschooling and hopefully dispel some mis-perceptions about how they "turn out" later in life, I've interviewed a few adults that were unschooled growing up. Melissa is one of them, and was kind enough to answer the many questions posed by myself and my readers. I hope you enjoy this little peek into her life! 

My name is Melissa & I am the single parent of Edwin Mark (5 1/2) & Tamra Rose (6 months). I co-sleep, do child led weaning, use organic cloth diapers at home and I "wear" my children to work. Ok, not my five years old anymore...but I used to! :) I am the manager of An Organic Market, have worked as a Doula, helped teach Child Birth Classes, am interested in writing a book (or two!), correspond online with people to come up with or help with nutrition plans, I love to cook & create "new" recipes. I am extremely passionate about Organic-living; eating, healing, growing, building...I am excited by it all.

What ages were you unschooled and how old are you now? 
All my school age life. K-12th. I am 28 years old. 

Do you know why your parents chose to unschool?
Though my parents were very successful in school they did not enjoy the experience. They thought there had to be a better way, so they first started with the idea of homeschooling & from there they realized that you don’t have to "teach" a child to walk, to talk...why are we forcibly "teaching" our children other things. And it just gently went on from there. 

Did you have siblings that were unschooled as well? If so, how many, and can you tell us a bit about what that was like? 
Yes, I am the oldest of four & we all where unschooled. We were all involved with our family business and had different activates that we enjoyed. I remember it as loud, comfortable and fun. I think we have a special bond because of the extra time together. We are all good friends and closely tied together.

What was your parents' working situation? Was one of them a stay-at-home parent? Do you think working parents can unschool?
At first my mom was stay at home, but then she started our business & we then went to work with her.  So yes they sure can! My parents did it & I am doing it myself. :) 

Did you ever feel like you were missing out on anything?
Every once in a while in high school I would think maybe I was missing something. Then I would talk to a friend (they were all in public school) and quickly realize that no, no I was not missing anything! :) Also I liked to travel & often my friends where jealous of my flexible life that allowed me to take off at a drop of a hat.

Did you ever want to go to school? If so, did you express that to your parents, and how did they respond?
Yup, about 7-8th grade I expressed interest in school & my mom said I could decide in high school. When high school rolled around I was no longer interested however.

Were there things you didn't learn that you wish you had? 

What do you do today for work and/or hobbies?
I am a partner & manager of An Organic Market. I enjoy baking, cooking, photography, writing, small amounts of gardening :), taking my kids on trips, eco-activism.

What (if any) disadvantages did you have to face since becoming an adult because of unschooling? What advantages have you had?
Some advantages I found were teaching me flexibility, motivating me to choose my own paths in life & taking responsibility for my choices. 

If you have kids, what form of education have you chosen for them and why?
I do have kids & we are unschooling! It fits my life style & I enjoyed it so much myself as a child/young person. 

Do/did you have any trouble with routines and schedules?
I have never found that to be a problem. 

Did you ever resent you parents for unschooling you? For not doing what is "normal" compared to other kids?
No I never did. I am very pleased by the way I was raised. I feel like I am very successful, can think outside the box and am very much a go getter in life. 

How well do you feel unschooling prepared you for adult life? 
I feel like it has done an amazing job to prepare me for many reasons! I had lots of opportunities to try different jobs at a young age, to try so many different things year after year with no pressure to just pick ONE thing and stick with it. When I found something that I loved, I would stick with it and incorporate it into my life or file it away as a reference to use at a later date. I have always been able to talk to and with adults, always working with/around adults, traveling, and volunteering. Thus, when I wanted to get a job I was able to have a great conversation with the person hiring me and never really felt uncomfortable about the whole experience. 

Would you change anything about your experience? 
No I would not.

What kinds of extra-curricular activities did you take part in? 
Art classes, Dance classes, Horseback Riding, Martial Arts, Crafting.

Did you feel like you missed out on things like sports or prom?
I did not miss a thing! ;-) I went to prom and dances. My brothers and sister attended dances and proms. My brothers also played basketball and one brother was the captain of the varsity basketball team. 

Did you go on to college? If so, how was the adjustment? 
I did not go to college; I never felt a calling toward it. I have taken and will continue to take at different time’s classes online.

How did you adjust to having to do thing that don't always make sense because an employer wants you to. Or did you end up working for yourself to avoid that?
When that did happen I felt that I was able to take it in a stride. What I did learn from it was that thought I can if I have to, deal with that, I don't want to. So because of that I am a partner/manager of our family business. And yes, that does feel better. At least then I really only have myself to blame for stupid decisions. :-) 

Were you the only in your area, or did you have a community/support locally?
There were other homeschooled families in our area. We really were the only ones that Unschooled. There were lots of activities that we could have taken part in but we pretty much stuck with our sports/dance, youth group stuff and work. If we had had a need for support though, there where people and events/activities available.

What things were you the most interested learning about/what things fascinated you the most? 
I love to read and write. So anything that came up that I did not know about, I would go to the library or now get online, and research research research! Until I had satisfied my need to "know". :-)  I am a hard core researcher now, and my real passions are herbal/homeopathic/child rearing type issues. I was also interested in drawing/painting/crafting, but I always ended up putting that down and picking up a pen or sitting down at the keyboard to express myself.   "Math" was never my strong point. That is until I had to have a budget to live on, had to balance my checkbook, needed to buy a car, convert a recipe, or at work (hellooo ordering budget!). Now, though I would say I don't LOVE things math related, I feel very confident in my ability to figure any problem out. 

At some point were there limitations to unschooling? If so, What educational method replaced it? 
Hmm, limitations? No, not really. My whole life has been "unschooled". Just because at some point I needed/wanted to take a class or learn something from someone other than a parent or myself does not change the "unschooling".

As an unschooler, do you feel that you have a unique relationship with your parents and/or siblings?
I think that I do! We are very close, I am really good friends with my parents & my brothers & sister. We are constantly interacting, working & traveling with each other. I can't imagine not being able see or talk to them daily. We all use each other to bounce ideas around, and we all help each other achieve goals. 

How do you react to authority? 
I am fine with authority. I don't have an issue with people in authority. It's just part of life.

What were your favourite things/places to learn from?
Books! :) Really, books & the internet are my favorite things to learn from. Also just trying things to get the feel of whether or not it is something I could want to do long term.

How do you feel that you persevere when times are tough at work? How did you learn to cope? Do you feel that your coping skills could be better?
Well, I feel like I cope well. My parents always encouraged us to stick with a project and see it to its end. Then after that we could decide on that experience whether or not it is something we want to continue doing. I feel like that really helped stick with stuff. I can try something, and give it time, even if there are times of general "sucking" I see the value in persevering.

What were the laws about home/unschooling like in your state? How did your family deal with them? 
Washington State is a pretty nice place to unschool/homeschool. Here are our laws:

Under Wash's Homeschool Law, the instructional activities must be provided by a parent who is instructing his or her children only and qualifies in one of these 4 ways: 
1 - be supervised by a certificated teacher for one contact hour per week, OR... 
2 - have earned 45 college-level credit hours or 1 year of college, OR... 
3 -be deemed sufficiently qualified to homeschool by the superintendent of the school district in which you reside, OR... 
4 - have completed a course in home-based instruction at a post-secondary institution or vocational-technical school. (Note: you do not need such a course to "qualify" ~ according to the state ~ if you already qualify in one of the first three ways. 

 Did you attend college? Was it challenging to get in?
Nope, I have used online classes but never attended college. 

Has it ever caused you problems to not have a high school diploma?
No not at all. It is a non issue. 

Melissa Roloff 
An Organic Market
a greener way to shop 

Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children


Amanda Tarpening said...

Thanks for such a great interview!

Wrap Your Baby said...

Thank you, Melissa! I hope that unschooling will liberate my children from the assumption that they must go to college and get a corporate job (without limitting their options to do so if they choose to).

I am hoping to imbue my children with an entrepreneurial spirit and I want them to be able to live comfortably while doing what they love, as it sounds like you do!

Jessi said...

Thank you! As a partially unschooled adult myself, I can really relate to this - it's great to read others' experiences and see where they are in their lives! What an inspiration! :D

Jessica said...

This was a nice interview. She's obviously successful with a business. The only thing I worry about is her poor grammar and inability to use commas correctly. I assume this was an email interview? Well, sections like "I do have kids & we are unschooling! It fits my life style & I enjoyed it so much myself as a child/young person." and "There were lots of activities that we could have taken part in but we pretty much stuck with our sports/dance, youth group stuff and work." make it look like she can't form complex sentences. I know this happens in public school too, but most of the high schoolers I know write better than that. Written communication is a life skill. I had trouble understanding what she was saying because of the way she wrote. How could she not pick up something so important? Especially when she says she was interested in writing as a child. Grammar isn't some formal, archaic thing that's unimportant in a digital world. It helps people comprehend what your trying to say.

Anonymous said...

Hold on, Jessica, if you're going to comment on the way in which another writes, you need to be, in my opinion, fairly good at it yourself. In regards to your last sentence: "It helps people comprehend what your trying to say", shouldn't that be "what you are" or "what you're".....?

Jessica said...

Anon from June: I knew I would make some grammar or spelling mistake, and someone would comment. Isn't that what always happens when you complain about someone else's writing? Still, there's a big difference between using "your" instead of "you're". I know the difference; I just made a mistake in my haste to finish writing. It is really common to mix them up because they have the same pronunciation. Just dictating the words in my head, I typed the wrong thing. You obviously you understood what I meant to say. I consider that successful communication.

I really am not that nitpicky. If someone makes a simple mistake, I can just accept that as a typo/accident. What I was trying to write earlier was that her writing skills where below average to a point where I couldn't understand some of her points. I would have to go back and reread it to figure out what she meant. That isn't just a little thing; it actually harms her ability to communicate with the world.

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