Update 6/26: I’ve launched the network!
(Short on time? Scroll down to “The Proposition”)
Does unschooling end at age 18?
No, but it can certainly feel that way.
Why? Because for younger unschoolers, there’s an ample support network. Whether online, at conferences, in books, or in your local area, you can find opportunities and resources for a child or teenage unschooler.
But for grown unschoolers—age 18 to twenty-something—the support network drops off. These young adults:
- seldom go to conferences (and few conferences offer workshops and activities targeted at them)
- don’t have park days or Not Back to School Camp-type gatherings
- find few books that address their specific challenges
- seldom tap the worldwide unschooling network for its resources and opportunities
Of course, attending college can fill many support-network roles, and many unschoolers go to 4-year college. But in case you haven’t noticed, many college graduates are struggling today. Finding a decent job or internship after graduation is no longer a given, even with the support of a college social network, guidance counselor, and career center.
Many unschoolers also choose to postpone, skip, or leave college. These young adults enjoy little support outside of their immediate communities and networks. For them, having access to much wider support network could make a huge world of difference.
There have been quality attempts to address this problem. Cameron Lovejoy’s Autodidact Symposium conference (2010), Evan Wright’s soon-to-be-resurrected Quo Vadis gathering (2003-2006), and this year’s HSC Conference each all targeted grown unschoolers. I started Zero Tuition College, wrote Better Than College, and organized a few leadership programs with 18 to twenty-somethings in mind.
But what we have is not enough. There’s a sharp distinction between the opportunities afforded young and grown unschoolers—often too sharp.
That’s the problem.
Maximizing Experience, Minimizing Cost
Consider what Jon Gold, an unschooling dad in Corvallis, Oregon, wrote me:
There are plenty of us [unschooling parents] out here who are entrepreneurs with businesses or who have well-paying jobs in many various industries. Some of us are in a position to offer internships (mostly unpaid) to unschoolers looking to pick up some real life experience. Others are in a position to offer jobs.
Jon (who deserves credit for inspiring this post) shows us the logical way to begin a support network: Tap the worldwide network of unschooling families for work and internship opportunities.
That’s a big part of what grown unschoolers look for, right? Interesting opportunities in new businesses, new atmospheres, and new parts of the world? Building an experience base while (ideally) earning a little money?
24-year-old grown unschooler Cameron Lovejoy does this. A few times each year, he reaches out to a handful of unschooling families who run their own organic farms and arranges a short-term work gig. He saves money and then takes off to travel for a few months, like he’s doing right now.
- Farm work: a classic opportunity for young adults.
So, a support network for grown unschoolers should include work and internship opportunities. But why stop there?
A more robust support network could include opportunities for adventures (“Seeking a travel partner!”), housing (“Seeking someone to fill my spare room!”), creative project collaboration (“Seeking a web programmer!”), and more.
It seems that grown unschoolers, more than anything else, seek opportunities to maximize their experiences while minimizing their costs. Many such experiences will involve formal work. But the worldwide unschooling community has many other valuable opportunities to offer, too.
Here’s my proposition. I’d like your opinion on it.
What if I created a simple, free, online “Opportunity Network” for grown unschoolers?
I envision four pieces to this equation:
- a Google spreadsheet of available opportunities (e.g. internships, entry-level jobs, work-trades, creative projects, available housing)
- a Google spreadsheet of opportunity-seekers (including name, age, location, previous experience/skills, and links to resume/portfolio/ZTC profile)
- a regularly repeating e-mail newsletter, authored by yours truly, that highlights the coolest new opportunities for grown unschoolers
- a Facebook discussion group
Through a simple online form, anyone could submit a new entry (whether it’s a new opportunity or opportunity-seeker) to the spreadsheets. The spreadsheets would be publicly viewable on the internet. The Facebook group would be open to all.
I’m a fan of test-running any idea with the absolute minimum time & money investment required. So, in the beginning, this network would be a simple series of documents hosted on my personal website. If it got bigger, then perhaps it would deserve its own website, better design, and maybe integration into the Zero Tuition College social network. But not until it proves itself.
What do you think?
Would you participate in this network?
Would you post an opportunity, work-oriented or otherwise?
Do you know grown unschoolers who would read the newsletter?