Unschooling and University: Learning from Our Own Experiences

Years ago, I completed a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in botany. I did okay. I was awarded an honours degree. Eventually, I got a job in a science department of a university. But I also got nightmares. Recurring ones. They stem from the experience of having little control over my education.

I went off to university because it was the next expected stage of my life. I studied science because I was told this was a good choice. I didn’t argue. I didn’t say, “Hey, I’d rather study English. I want to write.” I was too busy completing assignments and doing exams to have any time for thinking about what I really wanted to do. Like all school students, I was rushed through year after year of school. I did my school-leaving exams. I went off to university. Most people would say I ended up with a good (free) education. I was fortunate. But could there have been a better way?

I talk about my university experience and the resulting nightmares in this week’s podcast, episode 120, Unschooling and University: Learning from Our Own Experiences.

I share the story The Opportunity to Discover, the Freedom to Choose, and then I discuss the question: Is it important for teenagers to continue exploring their interests? Or is it better to leave unschooling behind? Things are getting serious. Perhaps we should structure our older children’s education so that they are prepared for university.

In this episode, I also share the story My Dean’s Medallist of a Husband which is about my husband Andy. About 26 years after completing his Bachelor of Science degree, he returned to university to do his Masters of Teaching (primary). Andy’s experience illustrates that it’s never too late to study at university level and follow your dreams. Also, anything can be learnt when we have a need to know it. And the best motivation for learning isn’t rewards but instead, an interest in the subject.

All of my older children (Charlotte upwards) have studied at tertiary level. (They all passed at least three Open University units.) Three have/ or almost have Bachelors of Arts degrees, and one son has a Masters degree. So unschooled children can not only get into university, but they can also enjoy their studies and be successful.

I’ve written a number of posts about my children’s experiences. I’ve also made a few interview videos. Here are three of them:


Something I didn’t mention in my podcast: If a child knows what she wants to do, making a plan in order to achieve that goal seems to be a sensible thing to do. My daughter Imogen made a plan for getting into university. And it was successful.

Image: Charlotte, our current university student, with Quinn.

Unschooling and university is a big topic. I didn’t cover all aspects of it in this podcast, but maybe I offered a few ideas we can discuss.

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  1. Reply

    Will listen to the podcast later, but really enjoyed the interviews with Callum. He is a well spoken man. You really have a musical family!
    He has travelled through his interests just like with unschooling. I think this is a big lesson unschooling brings, to give you time and courage to follow your dreams!
    xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Reply

      Hi Jaq!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the interviews with Callum. I watched them again the other night because I’d forgotten what we talked about. Like you, I noticed how Callum has travelled through his interests. I’ve been thinking a lot about your comment. Perhaps most of us hope our kids will find the one big thing they’re interested in and then make a successful career out of it. But what if our kids keep moving from thing to thing, learning and developing and earning money to support themselves but never settling on anything in particular? Maybe it isn’t bad to keep on learning new things, to keep unschooling, to keep growing and trying new things. It could be quite exciting, never knowing where we might end up. At the moment, Callum is driving huge trucks in a coal mine. A bit different from nursing and being a manager at Aldi! He knows he won’t be doing this job forever, but for now he loves the challenge of driving and he is earning good money which supports his interest in cars.

      I hope you enjoy this week’s podcast when you get a chance to listen to it. So good to chat!

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