this is a tough question because it really all depends…

some subjects are obviously just interesting to me at the start such as english, psychology, language, art etc…

but when it comes to motivating myself to learn about math, science etc… it can be a bit harder. I think for me, it’s all about somehow translating these subjects into real life or into something that WOULD normally be interesting to me.

I know that math and science is just as important for me to learn as english is so this is where the “work” part comes in. I’m still trying to figure out how to make these subjects more interesting to me….do you have any ideas?

please let me know!!


Anonymous writes: I love your blog! I’m looking towards unschooling (and hopefully graduating from college)…got any tips?

Clare responds: hey thanks! that’s great that you’re actively seeking out other methods of getting your education. Unschooling looks like a great option, doesn’t it?? And that’s awesome that you KNOW you want to graduate from college because that will help motivate you to REALLY learn the stuff you need to to get there!! As of right now I really have to say I don’t have any tips…I’m in the same boat as you are!! I’ve been thinking about unschooling and although I’ve gotten great advice from people around me, I am unsure about all the specifics…The best thing I could tell you is to find a community of people (maybe check out my friend Nora’s FB or Tumblr—you can find the links on the website) that are or have been unschoolers/homeschoolers and ask them for advice. The biggest thing I think is to stay motivated. Remember your long-term goals (graduating from college) and KEEP AT IT! Even when it gets tough. Thanks for checking out my blog! Good luck!!

Clare writes:

I made a post on my tumblr  (click the link to see it! and answer yourself!) this morning asking for any help/advice on how to convince my parents to let me stay dropped out and to pursue unschooling. I tweeted it and Shauna (an unschooler for life!) saw my tweet. So she sent me an email with TONS of great advice. I thought I’d post it plus my response.

Here it is:

Hello Clare! It’s Shauna from Twitter. :-)

You wrote an excellent and thoughtful Tumblr post about presenting the unschooling idea to your folks. I’ll try to re-create an expand upon the answers I sent to Tumblr (I did them through my iPad, which doesn’t always submit stuff correctly).

I think the method that you use to present the idea to your parents (video, PowerPoint, speech, etc) matters less than the planning and content of what you say, which you’re obviously already thinking about very carefully. 

Some ideas from me:

  • - Give a list of pros and cons about unschooling, and explain why you’ve concluded that unschooling is the best option for you. Mentioning recent experiences that have helped you will be good evidence.
  • - Outline your goals for yourself in the next year, which can be specific things you want to learn and do (“finish writing that play”, “find an acting mentor”) or more general things (“improve self-discipline”, “discover own strengths”)
  • - Lay out your plan for how to go about unschooling (well, as much as one can when the core idea is to follow your inspiration!): any people you might consult with, places you might visit, other resources you’ll use, what your days might look like, etc.
  • - Explain clearly what you will need from your parents (rides to the library, money for acting classes, their trust, suspension of judgment until you’ve had 6 months to explore this, etc).
  • - Present a plan for how you’ll evaluate how you’re doing with the unschooling, what’s working, what’s not, and how you’ll change your approach as you go.  I really believe that in this kind of thing there’s no such thing as failure, only lessons that help you improve for the next round.
  • - Have a list of things that you’ll agree to with your parents, which will be something you discuss and put together as a team. These kinds of things could range from “continue to care for the dog” to “read a book per month.” Listen to what their concerns are about your plan, and try to find agreements that will be good for you but will help set their minds at ease.

I was lucky, I dropped out of pre-school at age 3 (or rather, mom pulled me out because I was miserable being told what to do) and my parents were completely supportive of the idea. I unschooled all the way through high school (did community college instead) and even now that I’ve finished my Master’s I still consider myself a continuous unschooler. :-) Around ages 11-13 I was all about math, so I got way ahead of where I would have been in school for that subject, while I wasn’t terribly interested in history so I didn’t really explore that. Later in life, namely in college, I had a reason to want to know history so then I took a class and started reading about it, so it was fun because I wanted to be doing it. I always tell nervous parents that yes, maybe your kid won’t touch on every subject that would be forced down their throat in school, but when they need to learn something they’ll learn it, no matter what point they’re at in their life. The absolute most valuable skill you can get through unschooling is the ability to teach yourself, because believe me you’ll be doing a lot of that for the rest of you life! On a job, in a new activity, in a new friendship, you’ll be learning new things all the time. Having the drive and the confidence to teach yourself is more important than any facts or concepts you could know.

Anyway, I’ll stop blathering on, but please feel free to ask me any questions or let me know how things are progressing as you plan to talk with your folks!

Happy Tuesday,


P.S. I’ve been through some of the EZO content but not all of it, I really want to get more involved. I know you all are supposed to be fictional characters, but you’re also real people communicating about yourselves, and I feel like the situation you’re in is completely real. So I’m acting accordingly. :-)

and my response:


thank you so so much for your input! All the information you gave me is so important and helpful! first off, just wondering if you’re okay that I post this email (and my response) on the EZO website? Just let me know!

EVERYTHING you wrote is so so helpful, but here are some specific things that especially struck a chord with me:

  • ”- Give a list of pros and cons about unschooling, and explain why you’ve concluded that unschooling is the best option for you. Mentioning recent experiences that have helped you will be good evidence.” I REALLY need to think about the cons. I OBVIOUSLY know the pros, but to express to my parents that I know there may be some negative aspects of choosing this path will definitely help them believe that i’ve done my research!
  • ”- Explain clearly what you will need from your parents (rides to the library, money for acting classes, their trust, suspension of judgment until you’ve had 6 months to explore this, etc).” I think this might be my parent’s biggest point for telling me “no” (if that’s what they do). They both lead busy lives and putting me in public school is the easiest option for them. I need to make sure I figure out specific things that I would need them to do and make sure that list is not so long…hmm
  • "Around ages 11-13 I was all about math, so I got way ahead of where I would have been in school for that subject, while I wasn’t terribly interested in history so I didn’t really explore that. Later in life, namely in college, I had a reason to want to know history so then I took a class and started reading about it, so it was fun because I wanted to be doing it."

Although I’ve officially decided that unschooling is what I for sure want to do, there’s still A LOT for me to learn about how it works—things that I might not learn until I actually experience it. These bits of information about your personal experiences are so helpful when it comes to figuring out my own style of learning. I can sometimes kind of get stuck in my own mind and to read about other people’s paths really helps me to step outside of my thoughts and experiment more with different learning styles. I think unschooling is great i the sense that it completely gives you that freedom to experiment!

Again I cannot explain to you enough how helpful your ENTIRE EMAIL was for me. I’ll definitely use it as a guideline when putting together my presentation for my parents. 


p.s. the way you’re interacting with me as a zed omega is PERFECT! I would love to hear more from you!! From what I’ve seen, you definitely have lots of great stuff to say!

and her response to THAT:


Yes, feel free to post anything from our conversations. :-) I really need to write my letter to the whole EZO project; I’m in the midst of putting together my personal “education manifesto” to solidify what I believe about learning and why, so this would be great for me too! When I was at the #140edu conference in July I kept saying that I was there gathering troops for an educational revolution, and I found many kindred spirits! What became clear was the fact that hundreds of different people and organizations are exploring non-school ways of learning and potential alternative education systems. We just need to arm ourselves with enough information (anecdotal as well as scientific studies) to convince the powers that be it’s time for a change!!

Ahem…. anyway!

You’re right about point 2: it’s “easiest” for parents with jobs to have their kids in school. You’re past the age where kids really need a day-to-day supervisor, but parents always have their own ideas about when that age is. :-) Hopefully they’ll be open to you being more on your own (clearly you’ve survived summers on your own without any disasters!).

I’m guessing you’ve heard of these books before (I mentioned one of them to Nicole a while back), but have you looked up The Day I Became an Autodidact or The Teenage Liberation Handbook? Those both date back to my teen years, so they’re not necessarily reflective of the current legal and cultural situation for unschoolers. But Autodidact especially is one girl’s story of dropping out and making it work. Hearing about other people’s paths definitely helps you figure out how to forge your own!

I’m going to read up on all the Tumblrs from EZO and try to pay more attention to the other venues. I absolutely love this project!! 

Hang in there,


Other posts and tweets by Shauna here and here.

This is a response to A’s post.


I’m really sorry about your experience. Before I moved to my new school I was bullied a few times. I wasn’t a thin child, I wasn’t fat either. I didn’t really care at the time though, and no kid should. One day a “popular” boy called me “fatty” in front of the whole class and teacher, guess what happened, nothing. The teacher didn’t do anything and no one stood up for me. I was a quiet child, still am, but I always stuck up for myself and others. So I told him to shut up and he did. I pretended that it didn’t bother me but it did. The rest of the year he made different comments on my body, which I later realized was sexual harassment. There was always a teacher around, and he never got warned or talked to, never brought to the principals office. Nothing. The last day of school in 8th grade is the last time I saw him, he wrote something terrible in my yearbook I had to scribble out. 

I’m really glad you brought up bullying because I wouldn’t have said any of this if you hadn’t. Bully’s are not only a factor for teenagers dropping out, but also in suicide. If a student is in school, they should feel welcomed by everyone. No one should be discriminated against, and no one should have to go to place where they don’t feel comfortable. 

If there is anyone out there who works in a school, please tell me why you aren’t sticking up for the kids. When kids are killing themselves because of things that happen during school, it not just the bully’s fault and just the other students. It’s is everyone’s fault around them too. It is the teacher who saw the kid getting picked on and didn’t say anything. It’s the librarian who see’s the kid sitting alone in the library at lunch. It’s the janitor who saw the kid crying in the hall. You know when something is wrong, we’re human. You could help but you’re not, and I think it’s terrible. 


Re: Always try to finish what you start

This is my (Clare’s) response to this post

I think you’re absolutely right! 100%. I think graduating high school is a very “easy” way to make the statement that you can finish what you start, even if it’s not always pleasant or fun. (Especially if it’s not pleasant or fun.) And you’re also right that your high school diploma will open up many doors for your future like getting a good job or getting further education etc… to graduate high school is an opportunity that’s just laid out in front of you and as long as you just try a little bit you can make it through and finish. 

I know, however, that there are other ways to make that “finish what you start” statement. I know, for me, the fact that I can make audition appointments even though I HATE LOATHE AND DESPISE auditions and I can follow through on preparing and actually going to them is something to be proud of. Also after that when and if I make it into a show, I accept the part I’m given and I follow through with researching the character/memorizing lines/giving a (hopefully) great performance. 

What are some other examples? I know there must be many out there! Ways that you can prove to others and to yourself that you can finish what you start?

Again, I feel like— yes, you are totally right that getting your high school diploma is a good way of proving that you can get through something or finish something. But it’s not the ONLY way of proving that. And (at least in my opinion) high school is not something that you should have to “get through" just to prove that you can.

And bring on the other examples! Seriously! I’m sure there are plenty of other things that you can think of that prove that you can finish something! what are they? Clare

Zed Omega Lizzie is having a back-and-forth exchange with teacher Hitherto Unexplored between their Tumblr blogs. Hitherto says:

"… I did realize I wanted to be a teacher while interning for a very alternative education program for high school students. It gave our students a real education in the sense that they learned about topics relevant to the world around us, got to choose their own paths. Peace. Social justice. Environmental sustainability. It’s hands on and although I wasn’t a student of the program, I was student enough as an intern; it changed my life.”

I’ll add more of their exchange tomorrow. In the meanwhile, I’m featuring the Woolman Semester here. Their website says, “Students in their junior, senior, or gap year come for a “semester away” to take charge of their education and study the issues that matter most to them.” - Zephyr

In response to Denise

So I believe that hands on classes are the BEST way to learn. BUT! Do not forget that everybody learns differently. What I’m kinda hearing from you is that your trying to please everybody in that class. I once took a college course last summer on audio engineering. Instead of having us reading and learning from a standard text book, the teacher showed us what to do, had weekly quizzes, and made the class an enjoyable experience for everybody. He brought us into the recording studio and each week we learned something completely new but using the things from the previous week. My suggestion? Less lectures more hands on. In one semester I believe we had a total of 6 lectures for 1/3 of the class time. Space them out. Nobody actually likes to sit and listen to a person talk for a 4 hour class. Also I would bring up that they should only be there if they truely want to. My teacher did this and one of the kids never came back to class after that because he realized he actually didn’t want to be there. – Nicole

Dear Zed Omegas:

I understand what you’re going through because I see the same things you do.  I’m a senior studying Spanish and French education and feel much the same way about how our education system has developed. 

My professional education has been lackluster at best and an egregious failure at worst.  My university courses in teaching, with the exception of one foreign language methods course, have taught me nothing. 

My classmates couldn’t care less about your education.  They’re in teaching because it’s “easy”.  And I apologize to you for that. 

I believe that you are capable of so much, that you can foster an incredible amount of change when given the means and the challenge.  But when you have a system in which teachers join the profession because it’s “easy,” give them an inadequate education in teaching methods, and stifle creativity or new methods in the classroom, the entire situation becomes depressing.

I want to do my best for you.  I believe in modernizing our pedagogy to fit your needs, not what worked best when I was in school, or a throwback to the 70s.  I want to be an advocate for you, as you’re tossed around in society as though you have nothing to offer; I believe you’re an essential source of societal change.  I want to be your teacher, to show you that some of us DO care.  Some of us became teachers not because it was easy, but because it was some of the most challenging and rewarding work we had ever experienced, because we’re passionate about passing on our love of our field to you, because we believe that YOU will do fantastic things when given the time and care that you deserve. 

I’m Kyle, and I’m a pre-service teacher also frustrated with the system.  And I think together, we can face the “challenges” of teaching 21st century learners into triumphs.

– Kyle

Watch on


Desean had Dropped Out Once Too, We’re Not the Only Ones THIS IS HIS STORY — with Desean Dopey Prosser, Audrey Jackson and Lizabeth Davis at East Lake Library. – Xavier

Aaaawhy this video play so choppy

(Second video in this series)

I think I would have to agree with this quote:

“School isn’t really about learning; it’s about short-term memorization of meaningless information that never comes up later in life. The school model was never intended to help people acquire practical skills. It is intended to satisfy observers that knowledge is being acquired (for short periods of time).” 

Roger Schank 

My thoughts are – Why don’t schools offer a “real life 101" course? How does the knowledge we gain in school help us in the real world? Parents put their kids in school to learn and if you get good grades that means you were successful. But what do you REALLY learn??


Jeremy says:

I am going to respond to your post with the reporters best question… Why?

It seems to me that High School is sort of a “jack of all trades, master of none” type institution. Or at least it would be if there were more than four subjects being offered with any kind of variety. Math, Science, English, Social Studies.  These are the four base subjects and the product of four years seems to be nothing more than a jumble of formulas and factoids on a stack of 3x5 cards.

The fruit of our labor is rewarded with a piece of paper which does nothing more than state that our school system got us to memorize material for a period of time long enough to regurgitate it onto an exam form with something greater than a 60% accuracy.

My question to you again is: Why?

I started this program for selfish reasons. I didn’t want to go to school so I could focus on my work as a writer, but now my motivations have changed. I’ll quote from the 1976 drama “Network” to clarify. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” This isn’t just about what I have to do to get by, this is about what everyone has been or will be forced to do if something doesn’t change. It’s a bit of a 1st world problem, I know, but it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Under the current system, yes, I could just take it. I could deal with it because that’s what’s expected of me, but why should I have to? And I’ll go even further: Should I? Should anyone?

I’m not trying to demonize the school system, though it may sound like it. What I am trying to do is get people to listen to these words which are consistently overlooked and written off as childhood ignorance: High School is a waste of time. I do not mean that there is nothing valuable in it, but what I do mean is that time could be better spent in another fashion.


From Edwina to Lisa.


After reading your letter, I am both very reassured and inspired that I have made the right decision.

However, after reading some of your examples, I realized that the one thing I left school without he first time, as well as this time, was a real plan. I left to start pursuing the work force thinking that an education was not going to prepare me for what I needed to learn about really being a part of the real world. I pursued the professional world thinking that my personality and charisma and willingness to learn and be challenged on the job would be enough, alas, it was not.

Hence my next step. My plan, as of now, is to make a plan. Start deciding what I want to start LEARNING about in order to find my passion, to find what makes me tick. Thus, in short, you have really taught me that education is not dead. That being in a classroom is not the only way to learn things on, for lack of a better word, on a more “formal” basis.

So here I go. Plan is ensuing. I plan to start planning!!

Stay excellent,


Lisa’s take-charge-of-your-destiny message really seems to be resonating with the Zed Omegas….Alan

If you got to design your own school what would it be like?

Hey Guys,

I’ve been following you on Twitter and interacting a little bit there with whoever is running @EdZedOmega. 

Here’s my question/challenge for all of you: Tell me about your “dream education.” If you guys got to design your own school (or “unschool” maybe?) what would it be like? I’d be interested in hearing your individual responses. Thanks!

Valéria M. Souza
ABD PhD Candidate in Luso-Afro-Brazilian Studies & Theory
Instructor of Portuguese at UMass Boston


How I made leaving school work, maybe you can, too (from

Image via Wikipedia

As I sit here thinking about my own experience, forty-plus years ago, deciding high school was not the place for me, I wonder whether anyone anyplace other than where I was could have done what I did as successfully at that time. And I think how much easier it would be now.

Image via Wikipedia

I grew up in Manhattan and in late 1967, when I left school for the first time at age 14, Manhattan was, for me, a 12 mile long, 1.5 mile wide educational experience. A brief subway or bus ride could deliver me to any one of dozens of museums of art, natural history, craft or occupation. Or I would emerge from underground into what seemed like a different city where the people spoke Chinese, Italian, Spanish or Ukrainian and the foods in the restaurants were the best kind of spoon-fed learning.

Image via Wikipedia

Eugene McCarthy was emboldening and enlisting young people to become the driving force behind his idealistic campaign for the Presidency and against the Vietnam War. I had already worked on some political campaigns and, when the cold January winds blew, the NYC campaign headquarters at Columbus Circle became my second home; second even though I spent more time there than at my family’s apartment where I went only to sleep and shower.

Image via Wikipedia

New York City was made for the learner and I suspect it was only because I was here that I could realize, in retrospect, that going to classes at my two high schools, one considered at that time one of the two or three best in the nation, actually interfered with my learning.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that had I been living in Oklahoma, Iowa, Arizona or suburban Connecticut my experience would have been radically different.

It would also be radically different today because thanks to the Internet and all the wonderful tools that have become available because of it, a fifteen-year-old in KansasKankakee or Kalamazoo could explore even more of the world from their bedroom than I could from the heart of the world when I was fifteen. It is truly an amazing thing that today anyone, almost anywhere, can learn almost anything her or she might want to know about, almost immediately and mostly for free. They would not even have to pay the subway fare I had to fork over.

There is, of course, a qualitative and experiential difference between looking at a picture of a pierogi and popping one in one’s mouth, or walking the streets on foot instead of through Google Earth, but one learns what one can the way one has available.

I am not arguing that the average, or even the exceptional, young teen has the ability to learn anything on their own or that they would even realize what they might be able to learn. I had guides, mentors, interlocutors and others who would steer me, challenge me, and teach me. I relied on those around me, but today those people can be anywhere in the world.

School does not work for everyone, but neither does leaving it. We each have our individual paths. Still, if one is not learning in school and is willing to take the risk and make the effort, the opportunity to get a broader, deeper and more interesting education is richer now than it has even been.

And that is a magnificent thing.

This post originated as an essay for The Teenagers Guide for Opting Out, Not Dropping Out, of School


I wanted to respond to Nicki

Just because I dropped out of public school doesn’t mean I don’t still want a diploma. I know that I for sure want a high school diploma (some of my EZO friends I know also want a COLLEGE diploma).

This is feedback I’ve been getting a lot. People think that I just don’t want to continue my education at all and that’s just completely untrue. All I know is that the public school system just isn’t working for me. Throughout this whole process I’ve learned about other ways of getting my highschool diploma that suit my educational needs more than public school does. 

I know that it’s important to have a highschool diploma. It’s also important (in certain cases) to have a college diploma (even though I’m still not sure that I really care about THAT). What I’ve been trying to do is find different ways of getting this certificate where I feel like I’m actually enjoying it rather than just racing to the “finish line” without caring what I actually LEARN.

Do you understand? Do you have any ideas about how I might gain the knowledge needed to graduate without having to put up with mind-numbing public school?



What did you want to be when you grew up? Because I don’t want to grow up and become a recruiter or work in a office or a bank or the mall. I would choose the middle of the forest over all of those. Nicole and Clare are both working hard towards their dreams. I think it’s a terrible things to say, “you need a diploma to fall back on”. To me, that sounds like you’re saying, “yeah sure you won’t make it very far”. I truly believe they will both become successful if they work for what they want and believe in themselves. 

For now I am putting all my faith in communication. I know how to deal with others and school didn’t teach me that. This project taught me that. Going off on my own taught me that. Living life teaches me that every day. I’ll paraphrase what Jeremy said the other day, communicating, social skills, and interacting with others is not a skill that can be taught in school. 

- Lizzie

I know school can be boring, especially when teachers give you busy work.  But it is worth graduating! I recently graduated from college and now I am a recruiter.  I help find people jobs.  Many of the openings require a high school diploma.  What if being an actor or writing music doesn’t work out? Then you have a diploma to fall back on.  People that do not have a high school diploma, it is very difficult to help, because so many positions require it.  I know that school can have a lot of drama and people can be mean, but with any job you need to learn how to deal with others.  Unless you decide to live out in the middle of the forest, you will always have to interact with others.  Learning how to deal with others is an important skill to learn. – Nicki

Watch on

Just me responding to Mcnugget Queens’ post. - Xavier