Learning Is Not Just For School Kids

Adults can benefit considerably from unschooling


Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction.

It was a vastly prevalent method during the Renaissance period and it helped many people thrive. However, during the Industrial Revolution, such a method of education didn’t work anymore, which led to the present-day education system.

Fast forward 200 years, and we’re primarily using the same system all across the globe. Yet, as many of us know, we currently live in the Information Ageand a return to the methods of the Renaissance could greatly benefit us.

While some do thrive in the current system, many don’t, and many have yet to figure out that they don’t.


What is the problem?

During the Industrial Revolution, and still today, we are taught how to do “grunt” work, yet we now find machines doing feats much more impressive than we ourselves can accomplish. During the current Information Age, we are back to championing creative thinking.

Sadly, the current education system does not foster such type of thinking.

While some people currently think that MOOC (Massively Open Online Courses) are the holy grail of education, I’d argue that it’s not much different. It uses the same old-school concepts of a classroom, taught by a single teacher following a pre-determined curriculum.

Is unschooling any different?

Let’s revisit the definition above, highlighting this particular sentence:

[…] learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction.

In MOOC, there’s definitely no curiosity involved, no work experience, no books, no mentors, and no social interactions. Yet, these are important aspects of a quality education.


Why does it matter?

Over 16 months ago now, I decided to learn 3 new skills every month, practicing each skill daily for 30 minutes. Little did I know this would change my life forever. Once you break the mindset that learning a new skill is hard, what you can accomplish is far beyond what you ever thought you could.

With unschooling, you get to learn the skills that matter most to you.

In “Learn New Skills in 15 Hours: The Essential Guide”, I explain most of what you need to know to learn just about any skill in a much shorter amount of time you’d imagine possible. I also mention seven reasons for learning new skills:

  1. Because they are useful

  2. Because they are fun

  3. You will become more interesting

  4. You will start learning faster

  5. You will be more motivated

  6. You will have more energy

  7. You will thrive

Reasons 3–7 stem from the ultimate reason: you will become more confident. Deliberately learning new skills of your choice is a great way to boost your confidence. And you know what? Without a certain level of confidence, you won’t thrive the way you deserve to thrive.


Can adults do it, even with their busy lives?

How do you make that happen more easily as an adult?

Finding time

We’re busy. We have our full-time job to go to, our business to run, or school to attend. We have at least 8 hours a day dedicated to our main activity, not taking into account the time it takes to commute to it. Plus, some have kids to their care of.

In “How to Build a Strong Morning Routine: The Essential Guide”, I show some principles on how to make your morning work for you. I personally find it easier to learn new skills in the morning because you are not tired from your day. But there’s no golden rule. If it works better for you in the evening, by all means, do it in the evening!


Adding minimal structure

Now that you’ve taken care of time:

  • How do you add “some” structure to your learning?

  • How do you make sure you follow through?

  • How do you find the right resource material?

  • How do you get access to experts in different skills?

  • How do you surround yourself with other motivated learners?

That’s where “unschooling” comes in.

That’s ultimately how geniuses like Leonardo Da Vinci have learned throughout their life. But in this day and age, how do you make that happen?

Seth Godin’s altMBA and Akimbo Workshops are a form of that. So is the new SkillUp Academy.


What is unschooling for adults?

Unschooling for adults doesn’t guide you by the hand. Rather, it shows you options that you must take yourself.

It provides mentorship through expert trainers but also through other trainees. It’s a community; a group of people on a very simple mission: learn new skills. It gives access to top curated and peer-reviewed resources, accessible anywhere, anytime.

No course curriculum, no teacher, no recess, no BS.

In “Will Education as We Know it Be Pointless 30 Years From Now? — Part Two”, the following Education point pains were examined:

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Solutions like the SkillUp Academy, even in its infancy, addresses a lot of these issues. I’ve seen people learn Bouldering, Meditation, Country Geography, Superlearning, Podcasting, Calligraphy, Touch Typing, Portrait Photography and a lot more, all that in 15 hours or less.

I’ve personally learned to Salsa dance to good levels in 18 hours of practice. Trust me, there was nothing more out of my comfort zone, I’m a Software Engineer metalhead after all!

The community has identified 413 skills (and counting) they want to learn. Good luck teaching all those in a regular school! And that goes to prove that with a set curriculum, you’re not teaching half of what people really care about.


4 benefits of unschooling for adults

Let’s explore how it addresses the pain points above.


1. Community

At its core, SkillUp Academy is a community of like-minded life-long learners. Similarly, altMBA thrives on its community of people reaching out for the same learning goals.

By having strong communities of like-minded people, it’s much easier to stay accountable and do the things you set out to do. When you see the same people logging in every day, people will notice if you don’t show up.


2. Library

How do you find the right resources for what you’re trying to learn in the age of information overload? And how do you know it will work for you?

You have so many options to choose from currently for your Education: Schools, MOOC, Youtube, Books, Podcasts, Blogs, Question/Answer websites, Search engines, etc.

None of these options solve the issues brought forth by the questions above. Unschooling, through curated and peer-reviewed resources, can. And because it knows what learners of a similar profile to you find useful, it can suggest the right skills and resources to focus on. But it remains only that — a suggestion. You are the master of your own learning journey.


3. Experts

Students who ask questions to their professors after class are statistically more likely to succeed in their exams. More importantly, they understand better. People with tutors or mentors perform better. It turns out, one-on-one education is a powerful method. Think about this:

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

Therefore, spend more time with experts and you’ll become an expert yourself!


4. Trainee-centered

No one is forcing the trainee to do anything they don’t want to do or feel like it will not work for them. As such, the trainee chooses their own reason for learning a new skill — be it money, knowledge, new job, etc.

The trainee chooses which resources to use and which experts to listen to. They measure their own success not based on “arbitrary” tests, but on actual competence. Different skills have different definitions of what it means to be proficient in, therefore one method cannot work for every trainee and every skill.

Success in Salsa dancing for me means being able to go to a club and dance with a partner without boring her or stepping on her feet all the time. To you, it might mean learning a specific number of steps, or something else entirely.


Does unschooling replace college?

As previously mentioned, some people thrive in traditional schooling environments.

My wife is such an example. But the main reason it works for her is that she has the mental stamina to do the homework through her own research and experimentation. She varies her studying patterns and engages with other students and professors.

I’m bored as f* in school.

There’s not enough freedom for me to do it my way — to explore my creative thinking and do my own experimentation. Plus, I can’t stand doing things I know will be of no value to me in the future, it’s just a waste of valuable time.10 years after being out of university, I’m still not using what I learned in Chemistry. And if I had to use it for some reason, I’d have to relearn it today anyway.

So does it replace it? I really don’t think so.

Will it gain popularity? I certainly hope so.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 50% of the people preferred the more hands-on creative approach. And that statistic would be much higher if it wasn’t for this:

“We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong there.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson


Is unschooling better than traditional Education?

That’s a tough one.

While it does help solve some of the pain points of traditional Education, it will present its own set of challenges. Truth is, it’s too early to tell if it’s the right direction given the advent of artificial intelligence and biotechnologies.

That being said, it does foster creative thinking, leading to increased adaptability — one of the top three most important skills to learn to thrive this century. And as Charles Darwin said:

“It is not the strongest of species that survive; nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin

Traditional Education forms what they consider “intelligence”. Well, the bad news is that the most intelligent don’t necessarily thrive.

Is the most successful person you know around you the most intelligent person you knew in high school? Probably not, right? But as with anything, it has exceptions.

What’s important to note is that the method you decide to use to educate yourself is just a tool, like a hammer. Hit the right nail at the right angle with it and you’ll do great. Consider your learning goals and choose the right tool for it. You wouldn’t use a boot to hit a nail, and even though you’d still make it eventually, it wouldn’t be optimal.

Use the right tool for the right job!


Conclusion

Is unschooling the true holy grail of Education? Likely not. There’s no black and white. It’s a tool one must choose to use to their advantage.

While it does address a lot of the current Education pain points, it will likely present a new set of challenges in the future. It does, however, foster creative thinking, leading to more adaptability — one of the most important skills to learn to thrive.

Thus, what’s indispensable is for you to try it and decide for yourself if unschooling is a suitable tool to use to achieve your learning goals. Do you prefer structure over freedom? Or a mix of both maybe?

Whatever tool you choose to use, never forget what is most important: learning.

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If you want to be prepared for a better tomorrow, then SkillUp! Check out SkillUp Academy!