The Teenage Liberation Handbook

Grace Llewellyn, the writer of this book, is a firm believer in unschooling. Unschooling is an educational philosophy designed to nurture the natural curiosity that is found in every child. Traditional schooling was designed for the Industrial Age, it fails to nurture curiosity or give children the attention they need, and is a broken system that needs to be retired.

In the early days of America, our compulsory education system was created. Unfortunately, instead of creating our own system, one built around the ideals of freedom and democracy, we took the German model of education and put it in American schools. Germany, along with America, needed more people to work in the factories. They found that the German system was perfect for nurturing obedient workers. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a German philosopher, made sure that this goal would be achieved. Grades, for example, were designed to teach children that their work had little reward, and was always subject to the criticism of an authority figure. You see this same design philosophy permeating through every facet of public education.

If you are a parent, than you are probably wondering what must be done. As with most things, you need to start at home, to be the change you want to see. If you are still in school, well, you probably already knew that. In many states, in order to leave school, you need to fill out a number of forms, than you are done.

Homeschooling is not much different from unschooling. Traditionally, homeschooling is when a child is taught by her parents, instead of a teacher. Of course, that is just one way to homeschool, and unschooling is really just another form of homeschooling. Education laws tend to vary state by state, but for a lot of homeschoolers, they just need to pass several standardized tests each year, tests that comprise basic knowledge. Other stipulations tend to involve the child being educated in subjects such as math, science, english, history, and the arts. However, when following her interests, the child will learn about each of those subjects. If they need to learn about a subject, then they should find a way to integrate that subject with one of their interests.

Traditional homeschooling usually involves the parent teaching the child. Unschooling is when the child teaches herself. As a parent, you aren’t supposed to be the teacher, you’re supposed to be the parent. Supportive of your child, providing support when needed, and making sure that their educational journey is going well.

Once you leave school, Llewellyn recommends that you take a week off, a week where you don’t do anything academic or school-related. This serves as both a vacation, and a way to get to know yourself and think about what you are interested in and what some of your passions are. Productivity, and the act of being productive every moment of every day, is something that is taught in schools. Of course, you really don’t need to be productive twenty-four/seven, so this vacation serves as a good reminder.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook lists a few rituals, rituals that can help you begin this journey. First, reclaim your past by getting out your favorite childhood toys, books, hobbies, etc. Anything that serves as an anchor to your past. Does it still interest you? How might you integrate education with whatever is laid out in front of you? Second, make a scrapbook with things like magazine pictures, photographs, quotes, book pages, anything that can be cut out and pasted. The point of this exercise is to play with an interest and see where it takes you.

Unschooling serves as a key, a key that opens many doors. Choose what doors entice you, and unlock them. You have just begun a very fulfilling journey.