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Share Reality & Wisdom to Ease Shock, Make Progress, and Find Purpose

I really encourage unschooling parents, and everyone else, to share with kids the reality of the world and the wisdom they’ve gained from their own experiences. Some truths are going to inevitably be shocking but I think this can ease the shock, make progress, and help people find their purpose.

Of course, I know people do share a lot with the younger generation: certainly with homeschooling and unschooling families. And I think there’s been huge progress in many areas.

But as I said before in this Lies My Teacher Told Me thread, I was really upset after reading not just about being lied to by my textbooks, schools in general, and the mass media. I was almost more upset that my family and other trusted people knew some of this stuff and hadn’t told me.

A lot of what they didn’t share did have to do with school. Both my parents chose to leave college because, as my mother told her father: “It’s interfering with my education.”

My dad dropped out of Harvard University the same year that Bill Gates did. And they both became entrepreneurs… just with different degrees of success!

My uncle Robert also didn’t go to a four year college. In fact, he got a master’s degree later in life through independent study without ever getting his bachelor’s degree!

And yet they all sent their kids to school. This was upsetting to me.

But my parents divorced and my mom was raising four kids by herself. So I can understand how homeschooling may have seemed daunting if not impossible.

Still I got the distinct impression that I was supposed to go to school. It was necessary. And how well I did there mattered.

I guess I wish my mom had just said, “Alright, I’m sending you to school. But just so you know: this stuff is complete bullshit.”

But maybe that’s not practical to say that to a little kid going to school. I just wish I felt like we were on the same side back then. My mom was on my side and supported me in so many loving ways. I just felt betrayed in some ways when I found out the truth about school.

Now I certainly do feel like we’re on the same side in every way: as I quoted recently, my mom says now she’d encourage anyone to take their kids out of school in a heartbeat if they don’t like it there.

It just seems if everyone really remembered their own experiences in school (including college), what they really learned, unschooling and homeschooling would be a lot more popular! A lot less people would send their kids to school.

Still, it’s not just the school stuff I’m talking about. I’m also talking about the lies of U.S. history, the mass media, colonialism, racism, and so on. My parent’s and much of their generation were hippies. They were passionate and aware of these things.

Both my parents passed on a lot of counter-culture stuff to me. I guess I wish they had passed on more of what they knew. Maybe I’m being unfair.

I just think that many parents do try to shelter their children from the truth. Or more often they don’t share harsh truths and let the child “figure it out for themselves.”

I’m not talking about forcing your child to think what you think but the fact is we don’t live in an unbiased world. If you don’t make an effort to share what you’ve learned I feel like the default, most likely outcome is a child will believe what they say in the mass media.

We draw conclusions from the information we’re exposed to.

So what I’m really encouraging is exposing your children to diverse information, culture, and viewpoints. Then children can decide for themselves.

But again if left to just go to school, of just figure it out on their own, even if they’re unschooling, you’re likely setting your child up for a false view of the world.

This is going to lead to shock and anger when and if they discover the truth.

More importantly if young people don’t know what’s going on in the world they’ll have trouble figuring out what needs to be done and what they want to do.

I’ve talked about purpose before and I think it is something very deep inside of an individual. At the same time I think how purpose actually manifests is largely based on the reality of the world we live in: What does the world need? How can I contribute?

Maybe your purpose is to write in a way that supports freedom: the reality of the world you live in affects how you will write about freedom and what issues of freedom you will address.

If you’re living in the 1930s maybe you’ll write newspaper articles about Jewish people in Germany. If you’re living now maybe you write blog posts about Palestinians.

It’s really the same purpose manifest in a different way based on the reality of the world you live in.

So I just really encourage everyone to expose young people, in an appropriate way, to the truths and realities of the world. I think that will give hope for real progress in the world.

Copenhagen Climate Treaty: Threat to Sovereignty or Hope for Future?

I was disturbed to find on the Yahoo unschooling/homeschooling list for Home Education Magazine people who viewed the Copenhagen treaty to reduce climate change/global warming as a threat to U.S. sovereignty, instead of hope for the survival of our species.

I’ve been blogging about the challenge of expressing views I’m very passionate about while still being respectful. Well, here was my chance!

Here’s what I wrote:

Thought I’d offer something else for those who view the treaty in Copenhagen differently. It’s a treaty regarding countries committing to stopping climate change and global warming as much as possible.

Here’s an article about the convention and treaty from GrownUpGreen.org:

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference: December 2009

From the article:

“The goals of the climate change convention are to stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous man-made climate changes. Moreover, this stabilization must occur in such a way as to give ecosystems the opportunity to adapt naturally. This means that food safety must not be compromised, and that the potential to create sustainable social and economic development must not be endangered.”

And here’s an article specifically about how China and India complaining that wealthy industrialized nations are resisting the standards:

“Rich Countries Out to ‘Sabotage’ Climate Treaty: China”

Here’s a petition people can sign to support a strong climate treaty (235,000 have signed: close to their 240,000 goal):

Join the Call for a Strong Climate Treaty! – Avaaz petition

And I also contributed some money to support the cause here “Let’s Stop Climate Catastrophe” (both from the great organization called Avaaz):

2009: Let’s Stop the Climate Catastrophe – contribute

I view the convention and treaty as hope for our way of life, the lives of our children, and the survival of our species. I don’t view it as a threat to U.S. sovereignty. As a 25 year old I am deeply saddened that more older adults, adults my age, and other young people are not more aware, caring, or committed to lessening our damage to this planet.

A supposed threat to the sovereignty of the U.S. doesn’t matter all that much when compared to worldwide famine, millions of refugees, and chaos on the planet. That’s the type of scenario caused by climate change even the Pentagon is starting to prepare for.

I started unschooling in reaction to realizing just how much I was lied to in school about the reality of the world we live in; and just prevented from doing my own research.

It seems sad and dangerous not to look at reality carefully and honestly. The issue of global warming seems like the ultimate example of this.

If you support drastically cutting greenhouse gases just not committing to an international treaty, instead relying on the U.S. to police itself, again I don’t think that’s living in reality. The U.S. government by itself, with all of its corporate influence, has simply moved too slowly in regards to this issue. An international commitment sounds much more promising.

All the best,
Eli

Lies My Teacher Told Me and the Shock and Anger of Truth

On Monday I wrote about how finding the truth about Columbus in the book Lies My Teacher Told Me helped inspire me to leave school for unschooling. I’ve also been thinking about the shock and the anger I felt from the implications of what I learned in the book.

I was shocked and angry not only with the horrific truths but with everything around the facts.

Not only did Columbus do all these things but we even give him a national holiday. Not only that but our history textbooks in school, where we’re supposed to learn the facts behind the story, also portray him as a hero: they lie outright and through omission.

I was upset that so many people had been lied to and that we had a totally backwards view of this terrible but hugely inflential person.

At the same time, I was almost more upset that many people did know the truth and hadn’t told me! People hadn’t told me the truth about Columbus, about textbooks, about school in general, and even the world in general.

I thought: “If you knew this, then why didn’t you tell me? Why aren’t we shouting the truth from the mountaintops for all to hear?”

One particularly ironic experience was when I talked about Lies My Teacher Told Me with the school librarian from the public high school I was attending (and soon left). She said: “That’s great you’re reading that. I actually just gave a copy to my nephew for Christmas.”

You’re a librarian at the public high school and you gave your nephew the book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong? It didn’t make sense to me why she would be working in an institution she knew lied to the very people it was supposed to be educating.

I was very pleased to see so many people questioned Columbus on Columbus Day: I saw it on Twitter, Facebook, news articles and blogs. Many people are definitely talking about Columbus honestly, at least now.

But Columbus was just one man. It’s the way we have emulated his colonialism, exploitation, and self-justification that’s the real problem. And I’m still shocked and angered today by how people support the U.S. doing these very things.

I was just talking to a guy who is in many ways very politically aware and concerned. But he said he supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan because it was about trying to spread democracy.

He said no two democracies have ever gone to war with each other so it’s really important to spread democracy.

I said if the U.S. wants to spread democracy they should really stop removing democratically elected leaders they don’t like. For example, the U.S. removed a democratically elected leader from Iran, Mossadegh, in 1953: right between Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I tried to say what was said very succinctly in this article from New Jersey Solidarity – Activists for the Liberation of Palestine regarding U.S. involvement in Haiti in 2004:

The U.S. government continues its colonial war on national independence and self-determination, seeking to remove from leadership any person, movement or government who prioritizes the needs and rights of the people over the interests of U.S.-based corporations.

I was a guest at my friend’s home when we were talking about this and I worried I was being rude in the passionate way I was expressing my ideas. But at the same time I am just shocked that an intelligent, caring person might think it’s okay to bomb a place, kill innocent people, and invade a sovereign nation. All in the name of “democracy”.

I was very argumentative about issues like this in my teens. Over time, I realized that trying to force your views and information on to others is not only disrespectful but just plain ineffective.

I also realized that there were plenty of my own emotional issues I needed to address. For one thing anger is often sadness turned inside out so it’s important to acknowledge that.

So I’ve avoided talking about these subjects and I’ve worked on my own personal feelings a lot.

But at the same time innocent people are still being killed, intelligent people still think it’s okay, and I’m still angry.

Maybe anger is also sadness made manifest into a fire that can drive you to take action.

Maybe the trick is to tap into that fire without being controlled by it or hurting others.

But I’ve really been feeling the need to err on the side of maybe offending some people for the sake of speaking the truth about injustices and the hypocrisy and lies that allow them to go on.

(This post developed into a thread about what I learned from my experience reading the book Lies My Teacher Told Me. You can read the rest of the posts from the category by clicking here.)

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Speaking at InHome Homeschooling Conference: Illinois, March, 2010

I’m excited I’ve been asked to speak at the InHome Homeschooling Conference March 18-20, 2010 outside of Chicago, Illinois! I’ll speak about travel, worldschooling, transitioning into adulthood and young people earning their own money.

These are the workshops I’ll be leading:

These workshops are part of the adult program: especially for adults but teens are welcome:

  1. Traveling cheaply – I’ll share practical tips to show how world travel, a dream that many people think is out of reach, can be cheaper than living at home in the U.S.!
  2. Worldschooling – This is a term I coined about exploring, going outside your comfort zone, and finding meaningful work. I’ll talk about this philosophy and how parents can help their young adults find opportunities to do this locally and through travel.

These workshops are especially for teens but adults can come too:

  1. Transitioning to Adulthood – When can we call ourselves adults? We’ll discuss what this means and how we can find this in our modern world.. I’ll talk about my transition into adulthood, especially the role world travel and worldschooling have played.
  2. Earning Your Own Money – Independence! This workshop will include practical tips on how to make money as a teen. I’ll refer to the work I did  as a teen to finance my travels. I’ll also address how to do deal with any anxieties that might impede people from taking this ultimately liberating, empowering, and joyful step.

I’ll have a table where I can sell or promote things. It may be getting a bit late for the Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Summer 2010 but I’ll have a flyer for my travel tours in general at least. Most of the people on my trips I have met at conferences anyway.

Ideally, I’d also like to make Worldschool Stories, with my travel newsletters and essays on unschooling, into a real book even if it’s self-published. We’ll see if I can do that this winter.

I hope some of you readers can make it! If you feel like it, let me know if you have any ideas of things it’d be good for me to talk about in those particular workshops or at the conference in general.

Anyway, I’m really excited about it and really look forward to connecting up with lots of new homeschoolers and unschoolers.

Here’s the conference’s site (right now it’s transitioning from 2009 t0 2010 but you can see last year’s program to get some idea and you can check back later as they add more for 2010): www.homeeducatorsconference.org

Columbus, Lies My Teacher Told Me, and Leaving School for Unschooling

Columbus helped inspire me leave school and start unschooling. Really, at age 15 I read Lies My Teacher Told Me: What American History Textbooks Got Wrong and it had a profound effect on me: especially the part about the atrocities Columbus committed.

Of my own volition, on my own time, I read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen while attending my freshman year of public high school. I read other books and articles, was active online, and went to a Noam Chomsky speech about the truth behind the U.S. war in Kosovo in 1999.

Loewen outlines how the 12 high school history textbooks he reviewed all portray Columbus as a hero and many include outright lies and unverifiable facts. Loewen describes the terrible things Columbus actually did.

“Columbus was not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he probably sent more – about five thousand – than any other individual.”

But it was Loewen directly quoting Columbus himself that really seared into my mind:

“A particularly repellent aspect of the slave trade was sexual…. Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, ‘A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman or a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.'”

He writes so casually about maybe the worst thing you could ever do.

Also Columbus is just given too much credit: not only is it ridiculous to claim someone discovered a place where people already lived; there were also other people who came before him.

Loewen talks about Indonesians, Japanese, Chinese, Afro-Phoenicians, Celts, West Africans, Scandinavians, etc. possibly arriving before Columbus with different degrees of likelihood (i.e. Scadanvians: High, Afr0-Phoenicians: Moderate, and  Celts: Low).

How fascinating is that? Not only is an injustice to the people who may have arrived before Columbus to not mention them, it robs history or its fascinating mystery and complexity.

So my basic logic was eventually: “Not only am I reading lies in my history textbooks at school (and in mainstream media all over the place). But mainly, school is just wasting my time when I could be finding out the (terrible, wonderful, and exciting) truth about the world.”

To say I was ripe for the idea of unschooling would be an understatement!

When I heard one brief mention of the unschooling philosophy it made perfect sense to me. I finished that year of high school but made the choice to leave school almost instantly.

This has actually gotten me thinking about a lot of things. I’ll probably write more posts following this topic….

Thanks for reading,

Eli

(This post developed into a thread about what I learned from my experience reading the book Lies My Teacher Told Me. You can read the rest of the posts from the category by clicking here.)

Guide to eating in Japan: Dos, Don’ts, Customs, and Words

Irashaimase!” That’s the “Welcome!” you hear bellowed when you enter a restaurant in Japan. Here are a bunch of other words and customs plus some dos and don’ts to know when eating in Japan.

Entering a Restaurant in Japan

First of all, the welcome you hear often sounds more like: “Iiiiiirasshaimaseeee!”

Or some people, especially guys, will say just, “Irashai!” in a very emphatic almost grunting way! Girls sometimes say, with a smile and tilt of the head, a very sweet, “Irashaimase!”

But “irashai” is only used to mean “welcome” when you enter a shop. And there’s a word they only use in Osaka or sometimes Kyoto: “Okini!” Just another way to say, “Welcome to our shop!”

Anyway, Japanese can be a very expressive language. Yes, it can be very monotone and matter-of-fact, maybe especially with the business crowd. But I found it exciting the range of expression I usually heard and learned to partake in!

After the initial welcome right when you enter, at some restaurants a waiter will approach you and say, “Nan mei sama, desuka?” This means, “How many people, sir/madam?” (“Sama” is a very respectful way to refer to a man or woman.)

Some people may say, “Nan nin sama desuka?” The phrase “Nan mei sama desuka?” is actually mainly just used at hotels and restaurants to sound really polite.

You respond by saying: “hitori” (one person alone), “futari” (two people), sannin (three people), yonin, rokunin, shichinin, hachinin,  kyunin, or junin (ten people). Or you can just hold up your fingers to indicate the number! Then the waitress will seat you.

If it’s a fast food place like Yoshinoya, or a traditional Japanese bar with food, “izakaya“, people behind the counter will just point to an empty chair and say, “Dozo!”

“Dozo” is one of the Japanese words for “please”, as in, “Please, go ahead… take a seat, have one of these, ask a question, etc.”

"Oshibori", warm hand towel, and disposable chopsticks: only wash your hands and don't rub those chopsticks together!

"Oshibori", warm hand towel, and disposable chopsticks: only wash your hands and don't rub those chopsticks together!

Dos and Don’ts at Japanese Resaurants

Things that are impolite in Japan:

  • Often you’ll be given a warm, moist hand towel called an “oshibori” at the start of the meal. Use this wash your hands only. It may be tempting to wash your face and neck too but it’s considered rude. The only people who do it in Japan are oyaji, old guys!
  • Sometimes restaurants will give you disposable chopsticks. Some people will take these chop sticks and rub their chopsticks together to get rid of the splinters. But in Japan this is considered rude. If there are splinters just gently pick them off with your fingers.
  • The Japanese and many other nationalities find it rude to blow your nose. You can wipe your nose but don’t blow it and make noise.

Things that are okay to do in Japan but might be impolite in the West:

  • Japanese foods feature a lot of soups, broths, and ramen noodles: you can slurp all of these! It’s okay to loudly slurp your noodles as you eat them with your chopsticks. It actually helps to cool them down and it’s perfectly normal in Japan.
  • You can also lift your bowl of soup or broth to your face and drink directly from the bowl. If the bowl seems too big you can put your face down to it and drink from it that way.
  • In Japan, sometimes people order their own personal dishes and sometimes people share serving dishes, especially at izakaya bars. When you share a serving dish it’s okay to eat directly from the serving dish with your chopsticks. This would be considered unsanitary in the North America or Europe but in Japan it’s usually fine.
  • Another thing that used to be considered okay in Japan is burping. But things have changed and this is much less accepted now.
The Japanese often present their food in a really lovely way in both restaurants and homes. This is a beautiful bento box lunch I had. Oh and if you have something like this: you can go ahead slurp from that soup on the right!

The Japanese often present their food in a really lovely way in both restaurants and homes. This is a beautiful bento box lunch I had. Oh and if you have something like this: you can go ahead slurp from that soup on the right!

Giving thanks for the Food

I’ll probably write another post just with words, vocabulary, terms, and phrases to know and use when eating in Japan. But for now I’ll mention just two words: “itadakimasu” and “gochisosama deshita“.

“Itadakimasu” is said at the beginning of every meal and “gochisosama deshita” is said at the end.

Both of them are about giving thanks for the meal and are really directed at the one who made the food.

Itadakimasu is kind of like “bon appetite”. But it’s something you say yourself, to your food and the ones who made it: to show thanks. Bon appetite you usually say to someone else hoping they have a good meal.

So often that’s how you say thanks and good-bye at Japanese restaurant: “Gochisosama deshita!” It literally means, “That was a real feast!”

The cook and waiters will certainly respond by saying, “Arigatou gozaimasu!” or “Arigatou gozaimashita!” And may say, “Mata okoshi kudasai!” “Please come again!”

Background

I lived in Osaka, Japan for eight months in 2004 teaching English. I’m drawing on those experiences and also help from my step-mom, Tomoko Shibuya, who is from Japan. A big thanks for her help with this post! But if there are any mistakes they are my own!

Tomoko will also be helping me on my Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Autumn 2009. The tour consists of six teen and young adult homeschoolers/unschoolers and we’ll be leaving in just three weeks!

I’ll be leading another tour to Japan next year especially for homeschooling and unschooling teens and young adults: Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan in Summer 2010.

I hope this info is helpful and inspiring to those who have thought about traveling to Japan or are just interested in foreign cultures!

Honestly, when I think of the tour I keep thinking about the food! I got tired of it after living there for eight months: but now I miss it and am excited about eating at Japanese restaurants again! I miss the food and the sounds actually!

Homeschooling/Unschooling teen learns from working his first job to earn money for travel

I’ve always hoped homeschooling/unschooling teens and young adults learning to earn their own money could be part of Worldschool Travel Tours. Recently, the mother of one of the teens on my upcoming November Japan 2009 tour wrote me telling me how working his first job has helped her son grow, learn, and gain confidence.

Sherry had mentioned her son David was excited to be earning his his own money for the trip. I asked her if she could tell me more about his experience and if I could share it on my blog to help inspire others.

I was really touched and humbled by what she wrote:

I truly believe this entire experience is meant to be for David and would love to share with you how it has all fallen in place.

Until this year we have been a home school family where dad worked and mom took care of the day to day mentoring of her two wonderful students.

This last spring my husband like many others lost his job after 25 years with the same company.  It has been a blessing in the sense that it has allowed my husband to become much more involved in our daily adventures.

Then your e-mail came to me from a friend letting me know that your group was looking for a place to stay while in LA and that maybe we could help you out.  My friend had no idea David was very interested in the Japanese culture she just thought we had enough space to accommodate you.

After contacting you and realizing you had a spot left for one student we were stuck with the choice of do we really try to make this opportunity happen even though both parents were currently not working or do we just let it pass by.

As you know we forged ahead and David became your last student.  At that point we reviewed your suggestions on how he could make his own money and took away some ideas of what would work best for our area.  We decided perhaps an after school mothers helper, dog walking and a garage sale might have been good options for trying to bring in some money.

As we were gearing up to market his skills I was speaking with the same friend that had forwarded me your original request.  I thanked her for passing along your message and let her know that David would be going on the trip to Japan and that he was now going to be looking for odd jobs to make money to help pay for his trip.  At which point she turned to her husband who runs his own business and said aren’t you looking for an extra person for some assembly work.

It has just taken off from there.

It truly is David’s first job and he’s been working on a week to week basis.  He has learned the business and economics behind assembly type work and why you need to be quick and why when the boss says he may need to bring in extra help that its not always a good thing.  It has been a great growing experience.

The owner even offered David use of their design software (the company designs lighting for restaurants, hotels and casinos) so he can play around and self teach himself.

The whole process has taught him to set goals, reevaluate his goals and even expand his goals when he realized he underestimated his potential.

Overall, I think it has taught us that no matter what your circumstance at the time if you really want to make something happen and you put it out to the universe and open yourself up you will get good things back.

Thank you for giving not only David but our entire family the chance to learn and grow from this wonderful opportunity.

Like I said: I’m really touched and humbled by what she wrote.

Just the fact that this work has made David realize that he underestimated his potential is such a wonderful thing to hear.

I know at least one other teenager on my tours who has had a similar transformative and empowering experience from earning her own money for the tour.

“Work” and “money” are sometimes considered “bad words”. But clearly work can be wonderful and very meaningful. This can be true even of working on an assembly line, like David, or pulling weeds and trimming plants, like me. I hope others will be inspired to earn their own money not just for my tours or travel, but for any dream of theirs or just to gain more independence.

Please feel free to post more stories like this as comments or e-mail me at: eli@eligerzon.com. Thanks!

Unschooling College: Many Ways

I left high school at the age of 15 to homeschool, at 18 I started to travel the world, write, and run my own businesses. I’ve never been to college full time. And now I value “unschooling college” and “worldschooling” just as much as unschooling high school.

Unschooling college can mean many different things and there are many ways to do it.

First of all you can actually get college credit and a degree from an accredited university in more creative ways than physically attending a full time college. This is sometimes called “distance learning”. It’s usually much more efficient: requires far less time and money.

Distance learning can include taking classes over the internet through watching videos or corresponding with a teacher over e-mail.

It’s also possible to take tests that can give you a certain amount of college credit depending on how well you do on the test. You can take tests on literature, American history, Spanish etc. You could have learned the info from job experience, every day life experience, travel, from hanging out with your grandmother, or doing your own intensive study just for the test.

One of these schools has a motto along the lines of: “Learning happens in the mind not in the classroom.” In other words: as long as you have knowledge, and can prove it, it doesn’t matter where you learned it.

It’s possible to get a college degree in less than a year or two at a fraction of the cost. This gives more freedom and requires more self-motivation: like unschooling.

The expert on this is John Bear and his daughter Mariah Bear. This is their most recent book: Bear’s Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning. John Bear is also an expert on phoney degree mills: he’s the one who is called to testify in these types of court cases. So apparently if he recommends a school program it’s probably legit.

I started on this path to a more efficient and freer college degree at one point and it looked like it could work out fine. But in the end I decided I didn’t need it. I’ll talk about that more below.

What excites me actually is getting a really good education through living and working as an adult in the world. I’m talking about working and traveling to get experience and expertise rather than a piece of paper.

The bottom line for employers is that the people they employ do a good job and are not difficult to work with. Degrees really just get you in the door. After that it’s about how well you work.

Some jobs you simply can’t get without a degree. So that you will have to go a degree somehow.

But many employers you might have to start out in a low paying position or even volunteer but that is a way to get your foot in the door. And when you’re getting real experience you might become more valuable than someone who has a degree or certificate in the field but no experience.

What I really encourage people to do though is work for yourself! I encourage people to run their own businesses following their own passions. Like unschooling working for your self is usually a lot more efficient: pays better without all those middlemen. And of course it also allows for more freedom.

That’s what I’ve done with my landscaping business. And now my Worldschool Travel Tours business.

Sometimes starting your own company takes very little start-up time or money. That was the case with my landscaping business: I sent out the word on e-mail lists that I was looking for work and things poured in.

Maybe it helped I had worked on a farm, for a florist, and briefly at a garden center. But the vast majority I learned on the job often from my customers’ own instruction.

Others businesses like my travel tours take years in the making. The amazing thing is I was “building my business” without even knowing it by doing what I loved. I traveled the world and wrote about it because I was drawn to it. I had no idea that I was getting experience and building connections with people who might eventually become customers in a business I didn’t know I was going to start!

I was doing it because I loved it and couldn’t help do otherwise.

So in the end I do just really encourage people to pursue what they love. It really can lead to a livelihood you might not even be able to imagine right now.

You might still need to make a living doing something less meaningful that at least pays the bills: like my landscaping company was for me. But it’s still possible to find something you really love over time.

But the truth is college symbolizes many things and has many intended purposes: not just a way to get a degree, get a job, and make money.

College also serves as a socially recognized acknowledgement of a certain level of accomplishment. It’s a way to prove you’re a smart and valued adult.

College is in some ways the closest things we have in the modern world to a common initiation into adulthood.

I think this is what attracted me to college when I was 22 years old. I had had powerful and very meaningful growth experiences while traveling. The idea of a college graduation really excited me:

I wasn’t interested in the rest of college: just the graduation!

So I started down the path of getting a degree through distance learning. Then seemingly by chance a woman who runs a big unschooling conference found me through my travel newsletter. She asked me to speak at her Rethinking Education Conference in Dallas, Texas with hundreds of unschoolers in 2007.

Since that invitation to speak I haven’t had the slightest desire to go to college or even get a college degree. Speaking at that conference was the acknowledgement that I needed.

Now I’m proud of the fact that I can make money, I’m intelligent, and I’m valued by my community and society without needing a piece of paper.

I’m not saying everyone needs to speak at an unschooling conference! But I think there are other, often more meaningful ways to get everything you might like to get at college: an education, a way to make money, and real acknowledgment.

And if you’re looking to college especially for adventure: I recommend world travel as a much more exciting and cheaper alternative!

Stranger in a Strange Land Newsletter: September 2009

This is the latest edition of the newsletter I’ve been e-mailing to people since my travel started in 2002:

Dear Readers,

This is just a short newsletter mainly announcing my next tour especially for homeschooling/unschooling teens and young adults: Worldschool Travel Tour: Japan Summer 2010!

You can read all about it on my blog post and see photos of the kind of things we’ll see on the tour: http://eligerzon.com/blog/2009/09/worldschool-travel-tour-japan-summer-2010/

And in five short weeks six young adult unschoolers and I will fly out to LA and then on to Japan! And indeed it was five homeschoolers last time I wrote but one more signed up fairly last minute so the tour is now full.

The tour includes four girls and two guys from all over the U.S. who are really excited about seeing Japan for their first time. I couldn’t have asked for anything better for this tour.

And people are already contacting me about the summer 2010 Japan trip: some wanted to go on a tour this year but couldn’t and some totally new people are contacting me too.

I’ve also gotten a couple questions about families wanting to travel together on a Worldschool Travel Tour. I think this sounds wonderful. And it could be a group of a few child and parent pairs or possibly even one whole family of four or five.

Let me know if you’re interested in this. I’ll think about different options myself. Going to Japan this spring 2010 to see the lovely cherry blossoms is even a possibility….

But for the tours especially for young adults I really want to give them enough time to work and save up money for it. That’s why I’m announcing the summer 2010 trip now: I hope even families who don’t have a lot of money will realize they can afford to travel.

And I’ve found earning my own money to be a very empowering learning experience. I’m available for ideas if people want to contact me about it and I wrote a bunch of practical tips on my blog awhile ago: http://eligerzon.com/blog/2009/05/earning-your-own-money-for-travel/

As far as my adventures here I was at the Northeast Unschooling Conference in Wakefield, Massachusetts in August. There were a few hundred unschooling kids, parents, and some grandparents having fun, getting support, and exploring ideas.

I did a talk called “Untraditional Adult Paths” with a grown unschooler blogger I really like named Idzie (her blog: http://yes-i-can-write.blogspot.com/). Hanging out with some cool people and having some great conversations was definitely the best part.

At my talk parents shared some very interesting stories of their own entrepreneurship. I talked about my experiences: not going to college, traveling, running my own landscaping business, and now leading travel tours. There were quite a few young adult unschoolers there commenting and listening to the possibilities that are out there beyond college and working for someone else in an office.

ALSO, I sold my first book! It’s a compilation of all my Stranger in a Strange Land Newsletters 2002-2008 and writings on my ideas and experiences with homeschooling/unschooling.

It’s actually just a photo copied packet with a black and white photo on the front but it felt really good to share it with people and they seem to like it! Here’s my post about it: http://eligerzon.com/blog/2009/08/worldschool-stories-selling-my-book-at-the-northeast-unschooling-conference/

One person actually contacted me on Twitter about getting a copy by mail a few days ago. If anyone else wants a copy send me your postal address and just $12 by PayPal (eli@eligerzon.com) and I can send it to you.

I’m so happy to have all the hotels and guesthouses all set up for the trip. We’ll stay one night in a hotel right next LAX airport then fly out in the morning. There we’ll stay in hostel in Tokyo called Sakura Hotel: it’s in the center of the city but right next to a big park.

Then most of the trip we’ll stay in our own apartment in Kyoto. Again it’s in the center of the city but in an old neighborhood, Gojo, with a lot of trees (that will be crimson in color when we’re there!) and near a river.

When I lived in Osaka in 2004 one of the difficult things was being in contact with so few trees and parks so you can see I’m excited about having that on this trip!

It’s going to be amazing sharing tako yaki (friend octopus dumplings), real sushi, the view from Tokyo Tower, crazy arcades, beautiful temples in Kyoto, and all sorts of things with these six people. And I know they are going to learn so much on the trip.

I’ll try to make posts on my blog while we travel so you can check that out or subscribe to the RSS feed: http://eligerzon.com/blog/feed/

I also started a fan page on Facebook for Worldschool Travel Tours where I’ll post photos and info about current and upcoming tours: Worldschool Travel Tours Facebook fan page.

I do seem to be using this newsletter more for announcements and even, (yes, it’s true) to try to sell you things dear reader! The truth is I’ve been using most of my creativity and writing energy on my blog. I’m loving it actually. I’m reaching lots of new readers and writing about new things. And some very interesting discussions have started in the comments section in response to some of my posts.

I’m not sure exactly about the future of this newsletter.  I plan to write something really reflecting on what this newsletter has meant to me and how I’ll use it in the future. But I totally understand if you’d prefer to unsubscribe anytime.

Regardless, thank you for reading this newsletter and thank you to those of you have been reading it for years: over seven years I’ve been writing this thing!

And I hope you’re all enjoying the new season!

Take care,

Yours,

Eli Gerzon

My advice to a mom considering unschooling

I got an e-mail from a mom considering unschooling but feeling uncertain with doubts. I wrote her back with encouragement, reasons to unschool, and advice on how to get started unschooling.

I asked if I could share our e-mails on my blog and she said: “I would love for you to share our dialogue with other readers. Anything to help a potential homeschooler with a hard decision.”

When I left school at 15 to start homeschooling following the unschooling philosophy it was hardly a choice: I knew right away it was for me! But for some I understand it is a very difficult decision. I hope my response is helpful to those considering unschooling and those having doubts along the way!

Here is the e-mail Shannon wrote me, followed by my response:

Hi Eli,

I really enjoyed reading your blog and have marked it as a favorite. I am an artist and mom who is interested in unschooling my children who are 4 and 6. My son is in public school and has been tagged to be “behind” in the classroom. His teacher says he needs more direction and may have some attention difficulties. She believes that pulling him out to homeschool would make him socially struggle through life. I don’t believe her and wanted to see what you have to say about your experience and whether standing in line and getting a notebook out when the teacher says is an important and vital part of becoming a productive citizen. I see he may need more encouragement but positively believe he is amazingly smart in so many different ways that don’t have to do with regurgitating information. I know in my heart what to do but, am trying to support my decision through reaching out to people like you! Thank you for your time and most of all for your cool blog!

Cheers, Shannon

And here is my reply:

Hi Shannon,

Thanks for your e-mail and I just want to say: you are totally doing the right thing for your child considering unschooling! I remember when I started at 15 and an unschooling mom said something like: “I just wanted to say you’ve made a good choice doing this.” It was really helpful and encouraging to hear that.

Like you said it sounds like you know in your heart what to do but it is difficult to take that first step. It can feel and be very new. Reaching out to people is a great idea.

Where are you located? I’d definitely recommend reaching out to local unschooling or homeschooling groups in your area. They will provide support and also you’ll just be able to see tons of homeschoolers older than your son who have developed perfectly fine without school!

My only tip for that is to make sure to really reach out to the group. In school the teachers come after us and make us participate. In homeschooling you have to get involved yourself. Attend homeschool events and approach people. Even better organize your own events, outings, even regular classes based on your child’s interests or an expertise you have.

And there are plenty of ways for your kids to socialize with kids who don’t homeschool. Probably most of my socializing while unschooling high school was with my cross country and track team at my local high school Some schools allow homeschoolers to do sports with them some don’t.

Anyway, there are clubs sports, art classes, theatre is awesome, etc.

The other thing is unschooling conferences. Many people say the best part of them is being able to meet cool teen and grown unschoolers. But you’ll also meet a bunch of other parents who have gone through the same struggle with this decision as you have.

As far as the teacher saying he’ll struggle socially: most teachers are simply uninformed about homeschooling. So they have plenty of misconceptions.

But yeah, your children are precious. They deserve better than sitting in a rows, doing worksheets that really have no positive purpose, and being told what to do by an adult who CAN’T really care about them. There’s just too many other kids in a classroom. Teachers are often quite clear about the first priority in the classroom being control or “classroom management”.

I heard one person say that a principal advised a teacher by saying, “Classroom management is 90%. It’s your job to make that other 10% count.” When you have your kids at home you pretty much don’t have to worry about that 90%. Homeschooling is more efficient at the very least.

But yeah, more importantly you’re giving your kids a chance to shine. I have no doubt your son is really smart in many ways like you said. I think everyone is. People are amazing.

It’ll be an adventure if you choose to unschool and I think your whole family will love it.

I mentioned your e-mail to my mom. She expressed regret at not taking us out of school. (I chose to leave myself in high school and so did one of my siblings and my mom did let us.)  She said, “Now I just think: if you’re child doesn’t like school get him the hell outta there.”

I love my mom. LOL Anyway, I hope this was helpful. Hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too much!

Actually, part way through I realized this might be helpful stuff for other people to read: would you mind if I posted it on my blog? I could just not include the e-mail you wrote but it’d be cool too: I think many others could relate to it. And I wouldn’t have to include your full name or name at all.

Let me know what you think! I’m really flattered you wrote me and I’m so glad to hear your enjoy reading my blog! Means a lot to know people like you are getting something out of it and hopefully being encouraged to give your child freedom.

All the best,
Eli

One thing I’ll add that I didn’t say in the e-mail: do whatever works.

In regards to the post I made about radical unschooling and the lively discussion going on in the comments section: there are many ways to unschool. I encourage you to trust your children and give them as much freedom as possible while still sharing your guidance as respectfully as possible. There are many ways to give your child freedom, expose them to the wonders of the world, and share your guidance, gifts, and wisdom (we all have some!).

Some would say there are different “types of unschooling”. I say the main thing is taking your child out of school. As long as you give them SOME freedom they are most likely going to be much better off than they would be in school.

And it’s possible they will be miraculously better off unschooling than if they went to school.

Still, everyone has to do what they have to do. It’s possible unschooling would be too big of a change for some people right now while they’re busy working on other important things, maybe even healing work.

Or I’m sure there are a host of reasons to not unschool. I just can’t think of many. 🙂

Anyway, good luck to all who are considering unschooling/homeschooling and may you make the best choice for your family.