Learning While Living Off-Grid


| 6/29/2017 11:16:00 AM


child helping friend on hay bale

When I was growing up, I did not go to school aside from a semester of 9th Grade at an alternative school. Because I spent so little time in formal learning, I have never lost the joy a child has about learning something new. I consider it a poor day when I haven’t learned something new. I think the difference between what I do (learn for long-term knowledge) and what standard school does (study to take a test, or to produce short-term knowledge) is important to notice.

Although I didn’t have nearly any formal schooling, I did take the SATs (Standard Achievement Test) and the CATs (California Achievement Test) at 5th, 7th, and 9th Grades to see if there was any gaps in my knowledge. At 5th and 7th grades, I was behind in some categories (mostly math). At 9th Grade, I started going to a private alternative school in order to get my high school diploma, but then took the CAT, which showed me at a 12.9 on everything except for a 12.7 on one category — 12.9 is the equivalent level knowledge of a high-school graduate and since I, at 9th grade, had the same knowledge level as high school students who took the test, I didn’t feel I needed to continue on my diploma journey.

I had taken a Spanish class, which did help when our whole family took a trip as part of the Peace & Dignity Journey (commemorating 500 years of survival of the indigenous peoples) to Mexico for 3 months. I do remember how, about once a year, I would go to the library and borrow a math textbook and for a few weeks go through it until I was sick of it. That was one of the few things I did, not because I was interested in it but because I felt, due to past test scores, that I was lacking in knowledge. I did grow to love geometry as I could use it for real-life situations.

Aur Beck as a kid reading on steps

Free-Range Children, Unschooling, and Homeschooling

I remember reading a book about an alternative, "free" school, Summerhill, a last resort for troubled youth in England that had no formalized set schooling program and the youth could take whichever classes they wanted or take no classes, as they so desired. The book followed an extreme case of a student who would get up every morning, grab some food, and go out on a boat fishing every day. He actually “graduated” with next to no formal schooling. We wouldn’t think of this as learning but he got very good at fishing and later used the focus, dedication, and perseverance that he learned fishing to get a college degree.

When I was growing up, not going to school just meant truancy, but now with the large pressure of the Christian homeschooling lobby, not going to school is becoming more common and accepted. In Tennessee back in the day, the only requirement that I know of was one of your teachers — usually your parent — had to have gone to college. I don’t think back then they even had to have graduated from college.



It wasn’t until I was in my early teens that I realized that my way of learning through doing was unique and so I started reading about free-range children, unschooling, and homeschooling through authors, such as John Holt, and the Alternative Schooling movement.





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