Why I Love Being An Adult Unschooler

By Chantel Quick

There is no difference between living and learning…it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate. ~ John Holt

If you already know the term “unschooling” it is likely you (just like me) associate that term with children, adolescents, and teens. School-aged people. We typically don’t think of adults as unschoolers, but sort of recently I was looking at my life and how I live it and had a realization…

I am an unschooler, too!

Yes, at 30 years old I absolutely fall into the category of someone who lives their life by an unschooling philosophy. It wasn’t something I set out to do, it just makes sense for me. When I chose to start living my life for me about seven years ago, I had to start from the ground up. Since I was 23 I have been, for the first time in my entire life, pursuing exactly and only what interests me. You see, I grew up in the public school system. That was literally all I knew until I was in my early 20s and on my fifth year of college trying to make something work that I wasn’t enjoying, because that’s just what you do...right? 

When I made the courageous (and yes it felt very scary and courageous at the time, which seems silly to me now) decision to drop out of college at 23 and just pursue something that was of interest to me with no plan in place, my whole life changed. As a matter of fact, I have been living my life that way ever since, and I haven’t looked back.

I mean, if you knew me growing up then you know I was never one to conform, so this all kind of makes perfect sense. My refusal to just do it because-I-said-so and comply without question got me into some trouble growing up. It’s actually not very surprising that as an adult I chose a path where I am not obligated to conform in any area of my life, not to mention live an entire lifestyle that is essentially a protest to many systems that most people just take for given.

So…You might have some questions:::

“Really? That’s all you do is pursue what you find interesting/fun?”

“What about money?”

“Do you have a job?”

I will get to all that, but first I should probably break down what exactly unschooling is for those who are thinking right now, “what the heck is unschooling?!”

  • Unschooling is the understanding that life and learning are not separate. Unschoolers don’t see learning as something that only happens at school or a designated place, but something that happens as a part of life and by living life.
  • Unschoolers see that true learning can only happen if the learner has a desire to learn it, not by force. Forced learning isn’t learning, but simply memorizing and regurgitating information that will likely be forgotten later.
  • Unschooling is child-led (or led by the person who wants to learn, but in this case I am using children because we typically think of children when we think of unschooling). As parents, we allow our children to learn what they want and when they want. We don’t force certain subjects or assume they want to learn about or need the information on particular topics. We don’t place an arbitrary age onto when they should be doing things like reading, writing, etc. We trust that these are things people want to learn how to do, and everyone will want to and need to at different times. As a parent, my job is to provide the resources for learning. Take my child to the library to get dinosaur books if he wants to learn about dinosaurs. Sign him up for dance classes is he wants to dance. Take him to the planetarium if he wants to learn about outer space. My job is to support his learning, not force it.
  • It’s the belief that the most important thing one should be learning is that which they desire to learn. Unlike public education, unschooling education is not one size fits all. It’s custom to the individual.
  • Living a life outside the school system means that you get to…well, live life. It’s a rejection of the ideals that make up the public education model. You are free to do what you want with your time and don’t have to follow the schedule and calendar that someone else made up for you. The public school system has made us fall for the idea that from 5-22 years old (and even longer for some people if they get a job with set hours) our time is not always ours.

This blog post from Happiness is Here is another resource on what exactly unschooling in. Please read for a thorough and thought-provoking breakdown!

With all that being said, here are a few reasons why I choose to live my adult life in alignment with the unschooling philosophy…and why I mostly love it.

  1. I dont feel pressure to choose one career path (like, ever).

I think most adults believe that by the time we hit a certain age, we had better figure out what we wanna do with our life. To the point that we even look down on folks who don’t “settle down” or like to job hop. In my opinion, this can be a very misleading idea, one that says we are to do one thing for the rest of our lives (or until retirement). Don’t get me wrong, some people find one thing that makes them come alive and they truly want to spend their life doing that (which is great). For many people, though, our interests evolve and change over time, especially if you allow yourself the freedom to explore your interests and keep learning as an adult.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that we are supposed to settle down with one career or job and just do that forever. I see life as something to be explored, and my main goal is to do what I enjoy and what is fulfilling to me, and remain open to the fact that what I am interested in can (and likely will) shift and change over time. As I grow and evolve, so will the work I do, naturally.

I am interested and passionate about so many things, I would hate to not be able to explore all of them. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals. It just means that I structure my life so that I don’t feel trapped or obligated to one (or two) things. Which brings me to my next point.

See next page for more…

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Jeff Ehrlich

    I was researching adult unschooling. Grateful for the opportunity to read about your experience. Unfortunately, public school was a big part of my developmental years. But fortunately, I did not let it stifle my zest for learning. After doing the minimum required to skate through the public programming each day, I would spend my evenings and weekends unschooling. Not knowing that it was unschooling, I pursued learning on my own with a passion. Skating by with the minimal input required to keep the system off my back, I did acquire the aspired BS degree. But I have found that by learning to learn on my own. I have been able to acquire valuable skills and knowledge that are not readily available in traditional school programming. For instance, over the past 15 years, my main source of income is from being a self-taught piano tuner. Because several tuners in my area had either died or retired, there was a huge demand not being met. I emailed a couple of piano tuners in other markets. They recommended a couple of how-to books and some good sources for tools and parts. This is one of many examples in my life, where being self-taught and teaching myself how to learn to learn. Rather than the what-to-learn programming we call education. Where I have been able to train myself to have special skill sets that are in high demand, limited supply, pay well, and allow me to pick who I want to work with, what I want to charge them, and when I want to do the work.

    Although most of my life, I did not know what unschooling was or that it even existed. I was able to learn how to learn how to unschool myself. The freedom this approach to life offers is unbelievable. I am not a morning person and have not set an appointment before 11:00 a.m. since August 2004.

    Side comment: Remember the instructions we are told to follow, are just another person’s opinion on how to do something. Don’t be afraid to figure it out on your own. Because the ability to figure it out is a valuable skill to acquire.

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