Unschooling Yourself

Ever since I was about 15, I’ve made schedules constantly.  Monthly, weekly, daily.  To some degree it’s essential when you’re a self-directed learner to structure your days in order to do what you need to do.  Not everybody needs to, and certainly not everyone needs the kind of hour-by-hour structure I often set for myself; but I know that for the most part I need it to keep track of my day and how I get things done.

For as long I’ve been making these schedules, though, I have always run into one tiny frustration: there are days/times when I just don’t want to stick to the schedule.  I’ll start writing a story instead of reading about frog innards as I am supposed to do.  Or start playing the guitar instead of doing yoga.  Whatever it is, half the time I really feel like doing something else.

As I have grown older and felt more responsible, and also more aware of and sensitive to the consequences of NOT getting something done, forgoing my set schedule has felt more and more sinful.  Normal People label this practice of “doing one thing when you should be doing something else” as procrastination.  So, naturally, I’ve gotten all down on myself for being such a procrastinator.

That is, until I had some sort of epiphany a few months ago: as much as what I have scheduled to do are what I want to accomplish (as opposed to a teacher or the like), I haven’t been fully allowing myself to fully live in freedom.  The philosophy behind “unschooling” (the K-12 version of Life Without College – more info here: http://whyunschool.info/) is to let the child learn what they want to when they want to, because people learn better when they are actually interested in what they are learning and feel like pursuing that interest.  And here I have been attempting to force myself to do things, finding my enthusiasm for learning wane day by day.  The result is a Jessica who gets nothing done and feels like pig slop come bedtime.

The first step I took to remedy this spirit-crushing issue was to determine what the waverables and non-waverables were in my days/weeks/months.  Because as much of a good thing it is to let myself be free, it is an even better thing to continue being responsible.

The first non-waverables are things you are committed to do for/with other people – things like work; or if you are taking a class at the community center or a nearby college, it’s probably a good idea to do those things at the original time you allotted for them, as they simply won’t be happening at a different time.

However, who says you need to read Dante at 7:45 am, and then start work on your recording session at 9:00, break for lunch at 12, record for two more hours, go do laps at the pool at 3, make food from 4-6, eat food, and then blog about it before settling in to watch a movie at 8?

“But that was how I planned my day!!!”

But what do you want to do?

I see it as “listening to your heart”, which you can definitely accomplish without being sappy.  You know how you listen to your body to tell you what kind of food to eat?  Maybe you don’t, but it really is so good for you to get in tune with your body – I know when I need milk, dairy, citrus, eggs, meat, leafy greens, a banana, a protein drink, etc.  Even chocolate!  (And since I started listening to my body, I definitely don’t eat as much chocolate/junk food as I used to… now isn’t that something?)

So, “listen to your heart.”  Before you tell him goodbye, and every time else in between.

Perhaps this is the commentary inside your head during that day instead:

“Today,” your heart tells you, “I want to go swimming first thing.  Then I want to come back and make a big bunch of food because I’ll be HUNGRY!!  I’ll take pictures of it when I’m done, and then go ahead and record a bit.  But I don’t have the kind of attention span for doing all of it, so I’ll go read a book, maybe even go to the coffee shop and chill a bit with my peeps.  Maybe while I’m there I’ll go ahead and blog about my tremendous breakfast.  Then while I’m at the coffee shop with those peeps, I think I shall invite those peeps over to watch that movie with me.  We don’t make dinner exactly, but we do get frozen jalapeño poppers from the grocery store and those are practically just as good.  Then some of them end up staying and we have a jam session into the night, in which we don’t record what I had intended exactly, but what we did record was so awesome and inspiring for my future work that it did more good than harm.  At last we all crash in various places around the house and I don’t get quite as good of a start to the next morning, but that’s okay.”

As you can see, chances are you will still get things done if you give yourself leeway and don’t adhere 100% to your set schedule.  This doesn’t mean don’t make a schedule – I still do, or else I have no guidelines at all and end up wasting away doing not much useful.

Although, come to think of it, what is “useful”??


2 responses to “Unschooling Yourself

  1. saw your blog tagged on facebook…..sitting here this morning with cup’o coffee and low motivation to do what i “have” to do….it is as if you have crawled into my brain and saw what was shoved under my brain-couch…DUH!…you make such a fantastic point….i too am self-taught and juggle many diverse projects and talents…but do sometimes feel the shame of not “doing” anything….so i will take your genius thoughts and change how i frame my interests each day….blessings to this freedom!

  2. Pingback: Unschooling college | Javaplate

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