An unschooler/worldschooler goes to Spanish school

Earlier this week on a whim I decided to post my “status” on Facebook as: “Eli Gerzon is taking a Spanish class: maybe he’s been overreacting about this whole school thing the last 10 years. That got a surprising number of comments! Most were from people not in the unschooling scene (I wonder if my unschooling friends were worried) but my good friend Peter Kowalke (creator of the documentary Grown Without Schooling) seemed to get I was pretty much joking when he simply wrote: “Wait for it…”

Well, here it is….

Honestly, this wasn’t school as we usually think of it, so I wasn’t planning on comparing it to school in general but I actually gained some real insights. I also learned a ton of Spanish. My world of Spanish has grown so much and I have so much more confidence and appreciation for the language. I’m really happy about it actually!

But about that whole unschooler “overreacting to school” thing….

I found out about unschooling almost exactly 10 years ago. Honestly, every couple years I have thought about school again, wondered if I was “overreacting”: “Maybe I was just being too sensitive. I love learning and so many wonderful, intelligent people view school as a good thing.”

Then I’ll give school another try and I’ll remember: I’ve definitely been too arguementative and just a jerk about the subject of school (I wrote about that in an article about why I left school) but that does’t change the fact that school is not really about learning.

(It’s like that old addage: “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after me.”)

I don’t know exactly what school is about.

I know there’s fear, control, judgement, and superficiality involved: school controls you with the fear of being judged by superficial indications of your worth. It seems like the primary motivation is fear of being judged poorly and a desire to be judged well on such accomplishments as worksheets, tests, and ultimately grades and degrees.

Still, I wanted to improve my Spanish after only learning from my travels around Mexico and Guatemala and I thought I’d give this school a try.

Like I said I learned a ton. But there was a significant difference between Academia Antigüeña de Español and most other schools,

Academia Antigüeña de Español: the Spanish school I went to this past week in Antigua, Guatemala.

Academia Antigüeña de Español: the Spanish school I went to this past week in Antigua, Guatemala.

which the charming owner, Julio, made clear in his original sales pitch: “The school adapts to the student, the student doesn’t adapt to the school.” He said that after I said I only wanted lessons 2 hours/day for 4 days rather than the usual 4 hours/day for 5 days.

The first two hour lesson with my teacher, Elsi Romanti Guzman Blanco, was new, exciting, and fun. In fact, I decided to do lessons 4 hours/day after all.

By the end of that first 4 hours of drills and worksheets I disliked the Spanish language for the first time in my life. She would drill me on something she showed me a few seconds before and I would have no idea. My mind was mush and I had no motivation.

I didn’t do any of the homework she had given me and it was clear I wasn’t motivated during the next lesson. She asked me what was wrong. So I explained to her, in Spanish, about my feelings and basically about unschooling.

I’ll write about how all that went in the next post. But I’ll be writing to you from another country because I’m leaving Antigua at 4am tomorrow morning for Honduras!

Thanks for reading,


2 Responses to “An unschooler/worldschooler goes to Spanish school”

  1. Nkonyezi says:

    Yeah, that can be a challenge, I had a bit of problem like that this summer at camp but it worked out and I starte to love it.

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