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Free-Range This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I grew up free-range, or what’s commonly called unschooled. I never attended school, nor did I follow a curriculum at home; instead I taught myself what I wanted to learn, when I wanted to. As my education followed my curiosity, I didn’t waste time studying topics I was not interested in and would never use. I always had a say in my life and was expected to participate in decisions, especially around my ­education.

The flip side of this was responsibility. I was responsible for my education and took it seriously. When tests were approaching, I was expected to prepare. It was my job to actively pursue my interests, to seek out knowledge and resources. But I was never forced to learn, with the consequence that I loved it (as I still do). Sometimes my craving for knowledge did lead to textbooks, if I felt they were the best source of the information, but often I learned from watching, talking, and ­engaging.

Never categorizing my education, I saw it as an intertwined, organic whole. One thing led to another ­without ­restriction. As I matured so did my ­interests, which of course dictated my study. My fascination with animals and behavior grew into psychology and neuroscience, and my family’s activism sparked my interest in government and politics. My freedom let me pursue a career as a fashion model, traveling the world for work. Most of all, my upbringing gave me valuable tools with which to approach the world: curiosity, research skills, work ethic, open-mindedness, individuality.

So what will I do with these tools? I want to spend my life working on issues I care about and having an impact on the world. Currently I see myself accomplishing that as a researcher and policy analyst working in international poverty alleviation and conflict resolution. I’m captivated by development, peaceful alternatives to war, employee-owned businesses, and equal distribution of resources. Taxation and public service are among my ­favorite subjects. I see myself investigating these to find options that are effective, and advising politicians on how to put research into action. My work is making ideals into reality.

Additionally, I plan to work in cognitive research, studying the mind and brain. I’m eager to tackle questions about what thoughts really are, how we understand stories, and why we experience curiosity. Now, I soak up reports on intelligence, morality, and human interactions; eventually I want to write them. I will approach the philosophical theme of why we do what we do (and what exactly it is we’re doing anyway) from a neuroscientific ­angle. I will help clarify who humans are.

Meanwhile the present me is at a crossroads between the free-range kid and the neuroscientist and policy analyst. I work as a fashion model, volunteer with a variety of organizations, and read Scientific American Mind from cover to cover. But my main activity is training and competing with my dog – we’re aiming for national competition. Success is important to me, almost as important as pursuing my dreams.

I’m motivated, open-minded, conscientious, and ambitious. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going next in life, but when I get there I’ll work hard, think freely, and juice it for all it’s worth.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 14 comments. Post your own!

Jose4Jesus said...
Sept. 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm:
Nah, they didn't make it seem any worse than they did homeschooling, just something new and interesting. It was pretty objective. I'm a homeschooler btw.
 
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AnimalHugger said...
Aug. 10, 2010 at 8:22 am:

I am homeschooled (not unschooled), but I have always been fascinated by the whole unschooling idea. It is interesting to see that it really can work! I was pleasantly surprised to see all the postive comments, as well. Honestly, it is amazing to see how far homeschooling and unschooling have come...It used to be a social stigma, not "cool."

Congrats on the article! It was very well written, and I wish you the best in your future!

 
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all4none said...
May 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm:
This was a great essay, but what really caught my attention was the subject itself, the whole free-range education vein.  I'm currently in a high school, in the top classes, but whenever I have free time, I'm reading, running, searching the internet for interesting topics- controversial issues in today's society, psychology, religion, animals and ecology.  I feel like this stuff is things I love to know and think about and might actually use.  I would love to have g... (more »)
 
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Jose4Jesus said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 6:31 am:
That was very interesting; I just heard about unschooling this week on good morning america. Nice work :)
 
Hanniepoooo replied...
Sept. 3, 2010 at 11:46 am :
They represented it like unschooling is bad.
 
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lekstarr said...
Mar. 31, 2010 at 10:57 am:

This is a really great piece. I consider myself unschooled too, though I went to public elementary school and my first year of high school. What was your experience with social life as some one who had never been to school?

This article really highlights the best parts of controlling your own 'education.' If you write other things in this vein, please post them!

 
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~EmilyC~ This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 9:10 am:
This is so well written. I have never heard about this "free range" but it sounds like it would have been perfect for me. I wish I didn't have to waste time studying things that I will NEVER use in life. Also, no standarized testing? That would be so amazing. I wish we could all grow up like this.
 
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Emmett said...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 9:00 am:
Celine, this is a clearly written, and inspirational piece of writing. I myself was unschooled, though most of the time I simply told people I was homeschooled, until I was 14. The experience that I had had was a bit more different. I did and still do appreciate the process of learning, and being able to find out new things. However I had also recognized the other edge of unschooling in a lack of socialization with people my own age. Still, life is a wayward journey, and again, I commend you on ... (more »)
 
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eri_t said...
Nov. 7, 2009 at 6:25 pm:
this is one of the most intelligent-sounding essays I've read.
Its eloquent, factual, engaging, and not muddled in worthless symbolism.
 
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LiveScreamPhotography said...
Oct. 28, 2009 at 8:48 am:
Me and my brother are unschooled, as well! We feel the same way about it, it's great! We're really great full that our parents let us spread our wings and just do absolutely what we have the desire and need to do! They support us in everything that we do, and the feeling is great. I wouldn't trade unschooling for going to school any time.
 
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writer24/7/365 said...
Oct. 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm:
I love this. You are so lucky!
 
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AquariusSun&Moon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 6, 2009 at 9:38 am:
My sister and I are, as you call it, unschooled and we love it immensely!! I love being able discover and learn about what interests me and not 'what is being taught at school'.
I wish you all the best in the pursuit of your dreams! :)
 
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jaye said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 3:53 am:
You had a really interesting childhood. Ever since I first heard about unschooling, I wished I could have taken that path, but my parents are too traditional, and I didn't find out about it until halfway through high school, anyway--kind of too late. Oh, well. This is a great essay!
 
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erin k said...
Nov. 21, 2008 at 6:48 pm:
this is so interesting... i never knew that "free range" existed, though this would have been a great path for myself. i have always loved exploring my own interests rather than wasting time studying subjects that i hate and am horrible at.
 
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