School starts today. Not for my son Austin, though.

I’m finishing writing this at 6am. At a little before 8am, the school bus is going to pull up in front of our house, and because we just got around to notifying the district that we’re not doing the school thing this year, the bus driver won’t know and will honk. I’ll be working. Austin will be asleep. The dogs will go nuts, because the dogs always seem to go nuts when such things happen, generally taking the attitude of, OH NO YOU DIDN’T JUST HONK IN FRONT OF THIS MOTHERFUCKING HOUSE, BITCH.

Then the bus will go away and sometime later Austin will wake up, and we’ll hang out and maybe watch a science show on TV or something. Afterward, we’ll do our normal Wednesday thing, which is going to my gym, then to Target to window-shop the new toys, then to Chipotle for lunch. He’ll spend the afternoon drawing and reading these old, used Mario Bros books I got for him on Amazon (or possibly browsing the Mario Bros wiki — noticing a trend here?). He may play a game with me (I’m working on both The Sims and Sim City), play outside, or opt for some actual Mario Bros on the Wii.

Then, around four in the afternoon, the bus will go past again. And when it does, we’re both going to laaaaaaugh at it. We’re going to think about the people who did what they were told today, and about how every day from here on out, thanks to a defiant little decision we’ve made, we’re going to have a hell of a lot more fun doing our own thing.

I wasn’t always like this.

I used to be a good boy. I really did.

When I was growing up, I always did what I was told. I followed all of the rules; I did well in school; I was home by curfew; I hung out with the other good, rule-abiding kids. I asked for a hall pass before going to the bathroom. I raised my hand before asking a question. I never got into any trouble, never went to the wrong parties, and never ingested the wrong substances.

I graduated first in my class, with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Gave a speech at commencement. Went to college and graduated from there summa cum laude, With Distinction. I wasn’t sure what to do when that was finished, but I did know that the more academic credentials a person got, the better and more fruitful his life would eventually be. So I applied for a grad school fellowship, got it, and began work on a Ph.D.

I followed all the rules that our society gives us, because that was clearly, demonstrably, indubitably the way to achieve a great and successful life. In high school, they even verified that I was on the right path by announcing that I and my friend Gretchen were “Most Likely to Succeed.” We wore suits and covered ourselves in money for the yearbook photo of that accolade, because there was going to be a lot of green in our bright futures.

Out of everyone, I was the most likely to succeed. Me. And you know what? Damn skippy. I’d earned it. Life is hard. You have to work to get what you want, and I was willing to work. I wasn’t going to be one of those lazy people who just kind of let life happen. I was going to make life happen.

So every step of the way, I said to the world, “What should I do?” and the world answered back, “Here’s what you’ve gotta do to have a rocking life… but dude, I should warn you, it’s fucking hard as motherfucking FUCK!” But then I gave this dismissive wave and I was like, “World, bro, it’s cool. I got this. I’m a hard worker. Consider it rocked.”

So I worked. And I worked. I had been given guidelines, so I proceded through them. The exact recipe for awesomeness, I followed it. The exact steps to take for a rockstar life, I took them.

But, to my surprise, a few years later I found myself in that Ph.D. program and was starting to lose my mind, and so I said, “World, dude, that path sucks.” The world said, “Okay, try this,” and I retooled my efforts and worked hard again, following the plan and the steps again, in a different direction this time, and found myself working hard for mediocre pay and mediocre rewards, doing mediocre work that bored me but that I felt I shouldn’t complain about. But still I’d say, “World, man, this is hardly the high life. When do the fireworks start?” And the world said, “Keep working.” And so I did.

Eventually, after more work and more waiting and more doing of the mediocre work that bored me but that I felt I shouldn’t complain about, something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. Suddenly, as the economy tightened, all of my clients all began to fold or just stop using me. And what was worse, it happened at the same time as my extracurricular real estate investments began to eat me alive.

I stopped worrying about the rockstar life I was promised and decided that simply surviving would be pretty damn rockstar in the short term. I would have been happy simply treading water, but that didn’t happen. Instead, things got worse. Clients receded even more, then vanished. No new clients were forthcoming. The real estate thing got bad. Very bad. Values plummeted. Tenants didn’t pay, then destroyed the properties. The city, desperate for money, turned on its property owners and assessed more fees, more fines, more taxes. Someone would set the garbage out a few hours early and I’d get a bill for $150. The city would decide the grass was a tad too long on one of the postage-stamp-sized lots and would cut it for me, then send me a bill for $600 or more, no exaggeration. The spiral began.

I entered a few years of constant panic, always worried about what was going to happen next. It was terrible, and totally unanticipated. None of this was supposed to happen. None of this was in the plan. I couldn’t sleep. I was having panic attacks. I earned much less than I was spending, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

When I asked the world how long I could expect this to go on for, the world was like, “BWAAAAAHAHA… suck-er!

Eventually, the banks decided they were tired of me and kindly asked for their properties back, so one by one, they went. It was a significant defeat. I’d always honored all of my commitments. I’d always paid what I owed. Now I was one of those guys, one of those deadbeats, one of the people who was part of the problem instead of part of the solution. Deal-breaker. Welcher. Pariah.

I waited for financial ruin. I waited to wake up on the street, in a box, begging for change. I waited for someone to show up on my doorstep and toss a bag over my head and carry me away, never to be seen again.

But nothing happened.

The sun rose. Flowers bloomed. People even continued to talk to me as if I weren’t a complete failure, as if they didn’t know or possibly — unthinkably — didn’t care.

Life went on.

I think that’s when I realized that it’s all bullshit.

The truth about rules

Rules, guidelines, and even laws are someone’s opinion about how things should be done. Nothing more.

For example: There is no absolute, must-happen decree that says that if someone steals, he must go to prison. Not in the way there’s an absolute, must-happen decree that says you can’t divide by zero or that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction, anyway. Some people in our society believe that theft is wrong and that those who steal should go to prison, and right now those people are in the majority and have the means to enforce their opinion… but it’s still just an opinion.

Similarly, the predominant opinion right now is that marrying your cousin should not be allowed.

There’s a big consensus of opinion from those at the top that says that if you make X dollars, you must pay Y dollars in taxes.

If the crosswalk light says “Don’t Walk,” the currently stated, recorded, and sporadically enforced opinion is that you shouldn’t cross the street even if there are no cars coming. Same deal with red lights on deserted roads at 3am.

During Lent, Catholics have the opinion that members of their faith aren’t allowed to eat meat on Fridays.

We used to fuck with our Catholic roommate during Lent, trying to determine exactly how specific God’s opinion was about that one. What if you ate something that you didn’t know contained meat? What if you were driving east at 11:30pm and unknowingly crossed into a new time zone right before biting into a cheeseburger? During an airline flight, did God go by departure time, arrival time, or local time when determining the Hell- or Heavenbound nature of your meals?

“What if you’re a butcher,” I remember saying, “and you’re slicing up a side of beef on Friday when a stray bit of flesh becomes airborne and lodges itself in your throat. You begin to choke. You can’t cough it up, but you could swallow it and save your life. What then, when your life is at stake?”

Ridiculous? Sacrilegious? Okay, here’s another:

What if you steal a car… but then sell it to a chop shop and use the money to buy a heart transplant for a kid who was days from death and had no other options?

What if you kill a man who was plotting to shoot up a McDonald’s? What if you commit one murder to prevent a dozen murders?

The “obviously correct” judgment of the law starts to sound more and more like an opinion when a new variable is introduced, doesn’t it?

And okay, these “what if this?” exercises may feel like cerebral game play, but you don’t even need to look to extreme examples to see the tenuous, opinion-based nature of laws. Abortion. Gay marriage. Determining fair use in a copyright infringement case. Every time a law is applied, it is applied as a matter of opinion.

And those are the laws — the biggest and baddest rules we have. So think about the littler rules. Club rules. Social standards. Values. “The way things are normally done.”

Opinions, every one. Yet we live our lives as if they’re immutable truths.

Change the game

Conform to a rule, and good things don’t happen so much as the system plods along, undisturbed. Break one, and you’ll get a reaction. If it’s a big rule, the reaction is big: Arrest. Scorn. Excommunication from the church. If it’s a small rule, the reaction will be small: Criticism. Funny looks. Or simply anticipation of a response that turns out to be nothing at all.

Stimulus, response. That’s all rule-following and rule-breaking — or conformity and nonconformity — is.

As the punk rock thinkers in Operation Ivy once said, “Success is obedience to a structured way of life.”

“Success” means nothing more than playing a certain game well enough to receive whatever high accolades exist within that game. The problem with my early attempts at following “the usual rules” to achieve “the usual success” was that those weren’t the rewards I wanted.

I wanted a different kind of success. Freedom. Happiness. And yes, some money to make the way a bit more interesting. Different rewards, different game. Meaning I’d have to play by different rules — applying different stimuli in order to receive a different response.

The second half of that Operation Ivy quote is, “You can’t ignore the structure because we’re all within its sight.” And it works because it’s a good rhyme, but also because we live in the world of the “normal” — something which I’ll attack in a bit if you’ll hang in there with me — as a people who are not homogeneously normal. Yet the normal world has its rules, and it wants everyone to play by them. And so it tries to enforce them, and it’s up to you to see the system, to recognize that its structure is just opinion, and to act accordingly.

In other words, you can’t ignore the structure… but you can weigh it, measure it, and decide just how disobedient you can get away with being.

You choose

I’m not an anarchist. I’m glad there are laws in place that will prevent people from killing me and taking all of my stuff. I think our society needs order. It needs structure. But it’s wrong to assume that every guideline that rises out of a structured society is right for every person in it. I wouldn’t choose to break many laws, but I would and do choose to not buy into a lot of this world’s bullshit.

Case in point.

The numbers are growing, but our choice to homeschool our son is still an oddity. Unschooling, as a type of homeschooling, is even odder. All of our neighbors send their kids to school. All of Austin’s friends from Kindergarten and daycare before that are going to school. All of my relatives’ kids go to school, and so do the kids of all of my own high school friends. And when we tell any of those people that we’re homeschooling, they assume we’re doing it with textbooks and exercises and chalkboards and worksheets, not games and regular books and discussions and field trips.

Without question, we’re weird in this choice.

And that was a concern for Robin when we first started thinking about this whole homeschooling thing. She knew homeschool kids growing up, and they were always weird.

My response was: “Robin… we’re weird.”

I mean, you read this blog, right? The fact that neither Robin nor I have normal jobs is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m fucking WACKO.

But that’s really not entirely fair. “Weird” sounds bad, but it actually just means that something is outside of the normal nine dots. If the majority does one thing, the outliers who do something else are “weird.”

“Normal” is a consensus, nothing more.

If tomorrow, ninety percent of the world’s population started scooting around on its collective asses while wearing dead raccoons as hats, people who walked on two feet and were visibly raccoonless would be called “weird.”

So before I decide if it’s a problem that my kids may be weird, I have to know what we’re comparing that to. I have to ask what’s normal.

It’s pretty “normal” nowadays for 13-year olds to text each other sex photos. Not everyone’s doing it, but it’s not at all unusual. And come to think of it, 16-year-old virgins are really considered a rarity. Sure, there’s still a lot of them, but usually they take shit for it.

Kids lose their innocence and naiveté early.

Teenagers are difficult and argue with their parents.

Kids party. Kids drink. Kids screw. Kids get into trouble. And I know what you’re thinking: Can’t fight human nature. Kids will be kids, right? Can’t stop it. It’s how they are. It’s totally and completely… normal.

Ah. Ding ding.

I had a good relationship with my parents (and even teachers!) all through my teen years. I didn’t drink. I was totally naive; I once reflected that there were no drugs in our school and whoever I said it to looked at me like I had two heads because it was so ridiculous that I’d missed it.

I was so…. non-normal.

Normal. Ugh.

Normal. Awesome, revered, unassailable and celebrated normal. As if the way we’ve stumbled into living is the way things should be because it’s what everyone has always done. As if the well-traveled path is the best path. As if social proof is an unquestioned and absolute good; as if the fact that five hundred people have used this plumber over that one means that the first is the best. As if doing what the guy in front of you did — which is what the guy in front of him, did which is what the guy in front of him did — is a good strategy.

They’ve done experiments, where a few people will stand in line in front of a door that leads into a building like a post office or a grocery store. The door can be a side door or a back door — an illogical line in an illogical place. But what happens? People stand at the back of the line. And as the line gets longer, more people will stand in it. They could be standing in front of a locked door to a storeroom and they’ll wait for hours, but nobody asks why. People just conform. They figure that if there’s a line, everyone in front of them must know something they don’t.

Mindless conformity is what turns us from humans into sheep.

People have been beaten to death in front of crowds that could easily overtake the attacker. The bigger the crowd, the more likely it is that nobody will intervene. The principle is called “diffusion of responsibility,” and boils down to the pressure for conformity overwhelming the need to act. Any guilt over not acting is shared between the people not acting. You didn’t stand by and watch someone get killed, after all. It was a crowd of 1000. You only stood around to the tune of 0.1% of the incident as a whole.

If your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you jump too?

Why do we look to everyone else to see what to do? Why don’t we understand that they’re all as lost and scared as we are? Why do we look at a random consensus, shaped by opinions and powers that drift like dunes, as an absolute truth? If “normal” could change tomorrow, why are we such slaves to it? And where has “normal” gotten us, anyway?

We live in a society that can’t stop pollution or environmental destruction, that can’t raise educational standards, can’t stay healthy and non-obese, can’t balance a budget, has no sense of fiscal responsibility, is in an economic tailspin, and is rife with crime and murder and violence. Most people in this “normal” society of ours begin sitting still in a room for six to eight hours beginning in childhood. They continue that for twelve years and then begin sitting still in a different room for another forty years, at which point they hope to retire and sit still in a chair in front of the TV until they die. Most people prioritize other people’s demands and needs over their own and choose work over fun. Most people choose THINGS over HAPPINESS. Most people spend more time disliking what they’re doing than they spend enjoying themselves.

We work ourselves into a set of financial demands and spend our lives trying to maintain those demands. We’re trained to believe that if we’re having fun, we’re doing something wrong, and kids learn that it’s not cool to be kids, and that they should strive to be as adult as possible as early as possible. We live in a society where it’s strange to show too much joy, where we get love for our failures and are scorned if we’re too successful.

And all of this normality? It’s hereditary. It’s passed from generation to generation to generation, like an obscene and distorted game of Telephone.

If you’re black, you’re judged by the prejudices of generations that came before you. If you’re white, you’re scorned for the actions of your ancestors. If you’re a woman, you’re judged as less-than based on attributes that haven’t mattered since survival depended on the ability to throw a spear. We hate people from other countries because our governments are at war. We’re told X is bad — hate X. We’re told that Y is good — love and consume Y. Someone, somewhere, gives an opinion and we’re all expected to jump, to conform to that person’s view of the world.

All of us, every day, inherit problems we didn’t create. Motherfuckers get greedy with oil, and everything we buy gets a lot more expensive. Motherfuckers get uppity in another country, and we and our friends and family are expected to leave home to fight and die. Motherfuckers make management mistakes in distant offices, and the house of cards collapses, leaving everyone to scramble to make a living and feed our families. Motherfuckers botch a drilling operation in the ocean and fuck up the environment for the rest of us. Motherfuckers go crazy and shoot up a McDonald’s, or a bank, or a school. Motherfuckers do dumb shit, and we have to deal with it. Every day, we’re asked not just to take responsibility for our own actions, but for those of everyone around us. Every day, we’re asked to deal with problems we didn’t consent to create. We’re told to clean up messes we didn’t make. We’re told to toe the line in conditions we had no hand in.


I’ll make up my own damn mind, thanks.

You have nobody

You’re on your own, baby. I’m sorry.

Being a good and reasonable person in a good and reasonable and awesome life has nothing to do with following rules. It has to do with assessing rules, and guidelines, and norms, and prejudices, and ways of doing things, and established procedures, and prerequisites, and prejudices, and suppositions, and paradigms, and doing what the Oracle in The Matrix advised one do in the absence of proof or instructions: To make up your own damn mind.

If you’re at least a somewhat rational human being, my guess is that you’re going to find most of the rules we have really do make sense. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. Don’t rape. Don’t beat people up. Don’t be an insufferable asshole.

But if you’re similarly rational, you’re going to realize that some of the rules and norms don’t feel as black and white to you. A few that I decided didn’t jibe: Everyone must be insured, so pay $1200 per month for it. Tattoos are for wackos and frat boys. Never renege on a past choice that is ruining your life.

You have nobody to look to when making these choices. Not in an absolute sense, anyway. Every person you know who has done something one way gives you a piece of data, not a decision. Look to your mentors, parents, friends, and people you respect for input if you must, but then compile that data and make a conscious decision. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

You make your own decisions, and you will face the consequences of those decisions. If you defy rules, sometimes the consequences are big. Sometimes they’re small. Sometimes, there are no consequences at all. And often, often, often, the consequences are not what you think they will be. Those things you think will end your life are not going to end your life.

You create your own reality. So create it already.


I’ll proudly be weird, and show others how to do the same. I’ll proudly wave the flag of the minority. I’ll hold a book, hold a torch.

Give me your screw-ups, your freaks, your huddled masses yearning to be fucking awesome.

You don’t have to be an anarchist. Anarchy would suck. But you can look at the rules that you live by. You can look at the standards you’re keeping. You can see if you’re doing what you do because it’s always been done that way, and decide that’s an idiotic way to go through life. You can choose something better.

Tired of being an accountant and want to go to clown college? Fuck it. Be a clown.

Think your kid is suffocating in school? Fuck it. Take him out of school.

Bills killing you and keeping you from sleeping? Fuck it. Stop paying them and see what happens. Would you rather be busted down to a shitty apartment and enjoy your days, or live in an expensive house and hate your life?

Quit that stupid job. Learn that sport that enthralls you. Choose fun over work. Wear that ridiculous hat that you like. Take up ballet no matter what your contractor buddies say. Ask for the date. Commit too early. Do the idiotic. Follow your heart. Try the impossible. Do something crazy.

I live in this world, and I choose to follow most of its rules because I consciously choose not to face what would come from defying them. But I opt out of more and more, as my opting-out muscles grow.

Less stuff. Less TV. Less news and world events. Less bureaucracy. Less indoctrination. More freedom. More fun. More choice. More self-determination.

I live with the rest of you, and I love you guys, but you can’t choose for me any more than you’d want me to choose for you. I’m not ready to be Amish, but I’m going to make my own cocoon within this society as much as I can. My own personal bubble. Like normal society, with a few enhancements. Society 2.0.

There’s a quote that says, “If you can’t win the game, change the rules.”

So change some rules. Decide on your own game, the kind of game you might actually like to win.

And win it.


  1. Jen says:

    If Mario Bros and Target aren’t the example of your son’s whole day, then I’d love to hear what he does for the rest of the day. Tell us his interests that you’ve followed lately. Tell us what you’ve done lately besides watch science shows and read Mario Bros. books.

    I just can’t get behind the unschooling movement because I’ve never met an unschooler parent who can tell me about the curriculum other than we “follow his interests” (Legos) or tell me they’re working on their “math lesson” when they bring their 12 year old to my garage sale and ask him to try and make change when he uses a dollar to buy my 25 cent Bakugan book – it almost always requires pencil and paper.

    I just think that’s a bit off. There’s definitely something to be said for letting kids take time to explore and learn based on their interests, but there’s also just as much to be said about structure and routine and socialization in kids’ lives.

    Give us an idea of his curriculum other than Mario Bros and learning to be a fucking bad ass who wants to rule the world and maybe then I can get past the smug fuck you attitude.

    I thought I had a smug fuck you attitude on my blog, but you make me look like Pollyanna.

    • Johnny says:

      Well, I’m not sure how to answer this. Partially because this wasn’t supposed to be an unschooling post. It was supposed to be a “question the normal assumptions” post, but everyone focused on the schooling because I framed the issue around it.

      If you honestly want to know what my approach, part of it is on the post I DID write about my questions (a year ago) on schooling, which is here: http://johnnybtruant.com/what-do-we-teach-our-kids/ Part of it is in my answer to Rebecca above.

      If you don’t honestly want to know my approach and simply don’t agree with unschooling, then we’re not going to get along anyway because you asking me to show you how my approach will match up with a traditional curriculum is like asking a communist to demonstrate how his system allows for demand-driven commerce or asking a Jew to explain how his religion will account for Jesus being the son of God. We’re talking at cross purposes.

      And if you don’t care about either and instead simply don’t like my smug fuck-you attitude, then I guess I’m okay with that.

    • Johnny says:

      Sorry, forgot to address the socialization question. Let’s just say we’ve never been this busy. He’s on a soccer team, in scouts, in a co-op, we belong to several homeschool (not just unschool) groups, and we get together regularly with friends (his and ours), and that’s in addition to the regular social interaction that any kid, schooled or not, has.

  2. Brian Doe says:

    Tell it al brother! Tell it all!

    For truth about rules, may I recommend “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” by Michael Sandel. He will really make you think.


    Also, blaze that trail for alternatives to traditional school – our education system needs a Badass makeover. My girls are 5, 3 and 2 and I want more for them than sitting in a box every day for 17 years. I’m behind you 100%.

    Seth Godin and Dan Pink have some useful observations on this topic for those of you who pine for the predictability of the twentieth century. Sorry, but those days are over.

    • Shaw Mitchell says:

      @Brian: Would you possibly have handy links to the Godin and Pink observations.

      Incidentally, Pink discusses John Taylor Gatto (author of “The Underground History of American Education”) and unschooling in his decade old (but still relevant and informative) book, “Free Agent Nation.” I wonder if Pink unschools his kids?


      • Brian Doe says:

        Check out “A Whole New Mind – Live” by Dan Pink. You can get it for a few bucks on iTunes and it is an hour long, live presentation on the book. He talks about how the education system is “maniacally and pathologically left brained”.

        Seth Godin blows up the education system early on in “Linchpin” and has several blog posts on the topic.

        Here is just one link to an old post on MBA’s: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/04/nobs_the_end_of.html

        • Johnny says:

          Yep, @kyeli told me I need to read Linchpin, and I tried desperately to pick it up before my vacation but our Borders closed and apparently you can’t buy real books anymore without driving 45 minutes. Eager to dig in.

        • Shaw Mitchell says:


  3. Jerimi says:

    I love how much attention the unschooling thing is and while I also loved the entire article, I can’t stop myself from commenting on the unschooling.

    Why? I don’t have kids but *I* was unschooled and am now a math professor (lol, how is that for reintroducing structure in a way – but man the little while I had a job at a major bank – wow that was hell. I had no idea how to deal lol).

    As I got older my interests turned heavily towards math and us unschooling allowed me to really develop those skills. Since I wasn’t in a standard high school math class, I was able to really look at things differently than “GET THE ANSWER!!!!!!” which IMO helped me really think mathematically more than anything else. I didn’t have thoughts like “well Im supposed to know calculus before Im allowed to look at this”….I think I would have been totally turned off from math in a more typical setting.

    So I write this not to talk about me and math as much to say – there are successful unschoolers out there and I think what you are doing for your son is awesome. Even if he picks a more traditional path later on, it will be with a very different viewpoint on things than other people have. Is it “not normal” – of course and thats why its awesome.

    • Johnny says:

      That’s funny… I remember running across a story in one of the unschooling books I read about a girl who was unschooled and then decided to try school. The teacher got all frustrated because the girl never followed proper procedure or showed her work but always got the right answers. For some reason, this was a problem, but I can see how it’d happen if you think differently and learned concepts like those in math conceptually vs. formulaically. For instance, if you understand that velocity is a derivative of position and acceleration is a derivative of velocity and rate of acceleration is a derivative of acceleration, you could easily figure out what’s needed by taking the “wrong” route based on understanding of the real-life concepts.

  4. Dane says:

    Cheers to the WACKOS!

  5. Once again, Carlin had it rightest firstest.


  6. selena says:

    Wow! First time visiting your site after learning about your through Jon Morrow (not that I KNOW him, just learning from him!). I heard you had a wild-child voice.
    I LOVE it. Such a refreshing REAL perspective considering I tend to follow more mommy-type blogs.

    Obviously, I MUST branch out!

    Selena (mother-who-is-scared-to-death-of-homeschooling-but-may-end-up-doing-it)

    • Millions of Marbles says:

      Selena – homeschooling – especially unschooling – is, in practice, no scarier than endless summer vacation. School sucks. Kids don’t need it. It makes about 99% of them utterly miserable for most of their childhoods! I unschooled my kids, now 20 and 18, from the time they were 8 and 10. The 20 y.o. is in college now, and working part-time. The 18 y.o. is working on getting ready to go to college, while doing a variety of interesting and cool things with her time, like learning to sail, volunteering at a Shakespeare theater, playing the recorder, training her dog, writing fan-fiction, studying Japanese, and drawing anime pictures. When she’s not sitting with her laptop computer and engrossed in Facebook. There are SO many better ways for a kid – of any age – to spend his/her days than cooped up in a school building, being told what to do, what to think, where to sit, when they may and may not get up and walk around, eat, drink, and use the toilet, and then ordered to spend all their after-school time filling in blanks on worksheets. be a good mom. Give your kid a real life!

    • Johnny says:

      So you’re saying that my blog’s voice is different from most mommy blogs? 🙂

      In my first weeks at this, I’ve got to agree with the above comment. It feels like a continuation of summer vacation, nothing more. We’ve always “learned,” but it hasn’t felt formal and has just been about noticing things that are interesting and then exploring them together. Those kinds of things come up all the time if you pay attention, and suddenly knowledge is changing hands. A few days ago, Austin inexplicably asked how many seconds there were until his birthday and so we worked it out. Think he’ll be more likely to get his head around the concepts when they revolve around a real-life “story problem” that means a lot to him? I think so.

      Also, to check the big numbers, I got out my calculator, and he noticed the pi symbol on one of the keys and commented on it, so I asked if he wanted to know what it meant and then ran through the pi-related calculations involving 2-D circles.

      Some unschoolers are totally hands-off, but I think of myself more like his coach or facilitator. I follow his interests and answer questions. I suggest things that might be intriguing and we figure them out together.

      • Terri says:

        Wonderful. I’m usually a reader of Mama-blogs too (and a writer of one) and I love your perspective of unschooling which is what we are delving into with our little one. This and your other piece about the universe not giving a fuck has given me so much more confidence and renewed that wild experimenting, joyful spirit within me. I love how you have already seen your unschooling journey evolve – kids love learning it’s school that turns them off! I’m always telling my kids not to ‘obey’. I want them to listen to me but not obey mindlessly – that leads to dictators and abuse victims. Anyway love it all. thanks

      • Kelly says:

        “Some unschoolers are totally hands-off…”

        Nope. That’s a misconception. Unschooling parents are very close partners in learning.

        • Johnny says:


          We’re unschoolers, so believe me… I don’t believe that it’s a hands-off way of doing things on average or typically and I’m CERTAINLY not putting it down. WE are, as you describe, very close partners in learning. But haven’t you ever met the most radical of radical unschoolers, who won’t even urge their kids to brush their teeth?

          There’s a spectrum, as with everything.

          • Kelly says:

            I’m considered one of the most radical of the radicals, but we never had issues with teethbrushing.
            There’s a spectrum, to be sure; unschooling will look different in every single family. But “hands-off” parenting doesn’t fall into any spectrum of unschooling. Ever. That’s neglect.

          • UnschoolingMom says:

            What can look like “hands off” is often a choice made after lots of research and discussion. Folks are finding out there are many ways to get teeth clean without brushing, that cavities are more genetic than a result of tooth care, etc. Also, some families have decided that for some kids, forcing anything isn’t worth the damage it would do to the relationship, that the possibility of cavities and fillings is the lesser evil of coercion, manipulation, etc. When your kid owns their own choices, they have a very different relationship to whatever-it-is – toothbrushing, watching TV, reading, etc. – than they would if they had that baggage hanging on to it. Do I want my kid to brush his teeth because he knows it’ll bother me if he doesn’t, or there will be some other consequence, or do I want him to brush them because it feels good to have clean teeth, and it’s thoughtful to not offend others with our bodily odors? Until he’s able to consider consequences fully, I’ll offer gum before I’ll urge teeth-brushing, because he’s just resistant as heck to any suggestion, he’s been that way since he was very young. (He’s growing out of it now, as a teen – I believe if I had “urged”, forced, manipulated, etc. he would not grow out of that type of resistance at all.) It’s an individual decision, based on individual kids in individual families.

            There are, of course, parents who are neglectful, who don’t give their kids information, who don’t do research, who are just relieved to not have to be the adult, and they call it unschooling.

            But don’t use “not urging to brush teeth” as a factor, because you probably don’t know the whole story there.

  7. Millions of Marbles says:

    It’s so refreshing to see a former conformist join *my* side! (According to my mother, I’ve been stubbornly insisting on doing things my own way since I was about three.)
    I did send my kids to school for a few years, though. I remember the joy of hearing the school bus go by our house, after we started homeschooling, and knowing that it was irrelevant to us. 🙂

    • Johnny says:

      And another thing? I really like having him around. This means a lot more time together. I don’t WANT him away for 8 hours a day.

  8. Jan says:

    Oh this made me smile and relate and … man, did I ever need to read this right now!!
    Homeschooling 3… couldnt be happier… oh, wait… COULD use an ‘income!” LOL Working on that now – thx for the post!!

  9. You might enjoy this infographic: http://www.coursehero.com/blog/2011/09/08/infographic-the-home-advantage/

    4% of American kids (around 2.4 million) are joining you in the education revolution.

    • Johnny says:

      This is great! I especially like the comment at the bottom from the guy who “finds it bogus” while totally making the point the infographic suggests.

    • Jan says:

      Thanx – will check it out!! (Even us Canadians need encouragement!! LOL)

  10. Craig says:

    I suggest freedomainradio.com – Stefan runs the worlds largest philosophy show and was recently named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in the Alternative Media:
    “Stefan Molyneux may be perhaps the most eloquent “red pill” in the alternative media. A self-described philosopher, Molyneux has a strong knowledge of history and a core compass reading of freedom and non-violence…”.

    One of his best works is The Story of Your Enslavement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbp6umQT58A

  11. Free9 says:

    Fantastic to find a log like this one (discovered on kindle). We are unschooling our five children and its not easy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  12. Justin says:

    These are the eyes, the mouth, the mind the Dreamer dreamt to break the mold,
    But hands and feet, once met with street, may toe the line with creature souls
    And in accord, henceforth discount the waning dream of human kind
    As bedlam stirs the distant Dreamer that dreamt these eyes, this mouth, this mind…

  13. Jan says:

    Wondering what is next….

  14. Lovable Rat says:

    Yo, dude! This is as quirky as a number of stuff I looked up when I was a teenager (mysteriously life was the opposite of what it normally was: not hard, not painful, sounds excessively good, is excessively good, is extremist, the more familiar the more friendly if the less related). Yes, I see where this plot’s going: life is hard right now, the problem is a matrix recorded on a disc where everyone’s trying to kill you (see Total Recall on the silver screen), to survive in this world is to be a loner. You would think big people are not violent or wild like big cats and little cats, WRONG! People bigger than you are exactly as wild as cats bigger than other cats: they regard little ones as annoying, they hit little ones, etc, that’s right, humans are savage like wild animals, little ones are as moral to the big ones as a cat is moral to a human being, e.g. they choose to dislike certain behaviours which they don’t think is morally cool just because the law or yourself says it’s morally cool. Yeah! But I don’t think it’s morally cool for a cat to think it’s bad or fucked up what I do to it, cats are not cute, they meow too much, and they’re annoying, and I tell them to shut up, those cats won’t win, I say slit its throat and eat it, end of horrible beast.

  15. Criffer says:

    So this is an old thread, but I’ve just stumbled across it and it struck a chord, so I felt compelled to comment.

    I consider myself quite a conformist: a good student, straight As, first-class degree and Oxbridge PhD, all obtained by following the rules and all leading to a comfortable (but not Legendary) existence. However, my career has turned more towards venture capital, innovation and entrepreneurship, where the successful innovators are those who CHANGE THE RULES. Typically, these are low-level rules and conventions, about the established way of doing business. Nevertheless, it requires an attitude which says “sod it; I know a better way”. It’s taken me some time to internalise this, and I’m still learning.

    Douglas Bader once said “rules are for the obeyance of fools and the guidance of wise men”. Hopefully, I will be able to teach my two daughters this, and imbue them with sufficient wisdom to determine when they are being fools.


  1. […] Then, while I was cruising my Facebook newsfeed, one of my unschooling friends posted a link to an article that radically changed my perspective.  It was a Jerry Maguire moment for me, or perhaps a Dead Poets Society moment.  Whatever movie it relates to, it made me change the way I plan to approach our daily living.  If you would like to read the article, you can do so here:  http://johnnybtruant.com/disobey/#comments […]

  2. […] that can be hard for homeschoolers to describe is the culture questioning aspect of what we do. This kind of sums it up: Disobey. (Language […]

  3. […] The final episode of series three of Being Human The Wolf-Shaped Bullet, could not have been more ex…e Wolf-Shaped Bullet, could not have been more explosive. Herrick had killed McNair, the Werewolf who intended to kill him, at the end of the previous show and Mitchell had been arrested for the Box Tunnel murders. Herrick then killed Detective Nancy Reid, played by the beautiful Erin Richards and all of the remaining cops who had stayed at the house to gather evidence. He then dressed himself up in a Police uniform and went to the station to bust out Mitchell. Herrick was completely back to his old self. [caption id="attachment_1100" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Erin Richards as Detective Nancy Reid who identified Mitchell as the Box Tunnel Murderer"][/caption] Before Herrick arrived, Annie appeared in Mitchell's cell and said she would stay with him in jail, but he had to accept the punishment for the murders. Mitchell said that although he wanted to do that, he could not let humans find out that Vampires really existed. He had already been photographed, under intense protest and had not shown up on the film. [caption id="attachment_1095" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Annie visits Mitchell in his jail cell"][/caption] After busting Mitchell out of jail, Herrick took him to the cage fighting place and tried to get George to kill him by telling him that Mitchell had commited the Box Tunnel murders and the fact that he had killed Nina and it was Mitchell's fault. He hadn't actually killed Nina. Annie brought her back to life in the hospital after coming back fom purgatory and another meeting with Lia. But as George did not know this Herrick was making some progress with his persuasion. In the meantime Tom had discovered that McNair was dead and came looking for Herrick to extract revenge. He sprung George and Mitchell, but Mitchell persuaded Tom not to kill Herrick as he still wanted to find out how he had come back from the dead. [caption id="attachment_1096" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Mitchel and George back in the cage again"][/caption] But Mitchell took Herrick to a beach and Herrick told him he was able to come back because he was not staked. So Mitchell staked him. Mitchell then returned to the house and tried to persuade George to stake him, telling him, Nina and Annie that it was the best thing, as he would eventually kill again, maybe even another massacre. They had almost agreed on it when one of the "Old Ones", the Vampires that kind of run things, turned up. He had already set someone else up to take the wrap for the Box Tunnel murders and now he wanted to take Mithchell with him, as he had big things planned for him. Just as it looked like that was about to happen, George staked Mitchell and told him he did it because he loved him. So is that the end? I doubt it, some how I think we will see Mitchell and Herrick back again. I also get the feeeling the Lia is going to feature in the next series, maybe in a big way. But it is going to be a while before we see that, so who is going to take up the slack on Friday nights now? There was some major developments over the last couple of episodes and an ending that really looks like the end for the happy band. But as the writing is so good I fully expect them to come back with even more twists in the next season. […]

  4. […] september 2011 by Kat | 0 comments Een poosje gele­den las ik dit blog. Het was een van de vele, vele artike­len waar­bij de tra­nen over mijn wan­gen hebben gerold […]

  5. […] the Author: Johnny B. Truant specializes in heretical personal development and business strategies. You should sign up for his free series on how to start making more money blogging whether you plan […]

  6. […] you don’t know Johnny B, go here. He’s the man whose upraised centre finger reprimands any who ignore their dreams and chose to live in mediocrity. And he’ll tell you even […]

  7. […] Johnny B. Truant, at http://johnnybtruant.com/disobey/        Warning:  These are the last few paragraphs of the post, and the only ones without the F-word and […]