Zen Habits has a great post today called Cut the Cubicle Umbilical Cord: The Seven Traits of the Free Man. As someone who chafed at employeehood for years and is very happy working for himself, I relate to every trait. Recently, I keep corrolating unschooling to entrepreneurship. It’s mostly intuitive, but part of it is my hope that unschooling my children will allow them to follow their hearts and choose to be an employee if it is something that fulfills them, rather than being resigned to it like most. The Zen Habits post gave me some concrete stuff to work with, and now I firmly believe entrepreneurs can learn a lot from unschoolers. The traits of the free man encompass a lot of what unschooling parents hope for their children.
- Reclaim your mind. Well, the whole point behind unschooling is for children to listen to themselves and have say over their own minds. It’s not about being able to eventually rebel – it’s about not needing to rebel because you are your own person.
- Put yourself on autoresponse. If it’s about taking action instead of orders, the unschooled child will be ahead of the pack. Rather than sitting in a classroom, learning passively and being told what to do, unschooled kids are able to think for themselves, make decisions and act. Instead of 12 years of asking to go to the bathroom (which no adult has to do, unless their employer is a total douche), they take care of their needs and don’t waste time controlling impulses that they may not be ready to control. My son is 6, and I’ve noticed him acting independently more every week. We trust him, he learns to trust himself and he takes action when needed.
- Think holistically. An unschooled life is holistic, by being involved and engaged in life itself. Schoolchildren are sequestered in an artificial environment, with learning doled out in narrow, timed segments that are often not connected in any way at all. The ability to ask questions when curiosityis piqued, and being able to respond when the iron is hot is priceless. Life is learning.
- Question authority. A child learning to think for themselves & be self-confident will not automatically listen to ‘authority.’ Will they even listen to authority if their lives are free from authority? Every time I ask my son to do something new or different, he asks ‘why,’ and receives the reasoning behind the request. There are also many occasions when I ask him to do something and he decides not to. A confident, independent mind will question authority.
- Focus on interdependency. By following their passions, unschooled children will meet more people who are likely to provide guidance and inspiration. I saw how my son responded to the person who ran the archaeology camp he attended last fall. I would definitely suggest getting in touch with the person when he’s older (and if archaeology is still an interest). Until then, I can teach by example, as I’ve contacted both leaders and members of groups revolving around my interests & passions.
- Defrost your passion. This should never happen to an unschooled child who is given the trust to think for themselves and follow their passions. It’s a horribly sad fact of life that so many people – myself included – need(ed) to reignite their passions.
- Be ridiculous. We can just call this one Be yourself. Unschooled children should be following their hearts and that includes their dreams. My son talks of making movies and I never kill his enthusiasm with discussions of how practical it is or how unlikely it is. Dreams are not to be constrained by practicality. We do talk about all the different skills needed to create a movie, and how you don’t have to do them all. Or how he can try to capture his ideas with drawings, or by writing (or dictating) stories since movies are really just stories. There’s no need to be ridiculous when dreaming is normal.
So can cubicle dwellers learn from unschoolers, or what?