Over the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to hold a series of interviews with sixteen year old unschooler, Rileigh Forslund. Hearing about her experience with unschooling has been really fascinating – especially since she’s been at this much longer than I have! I hope you’ll enjoy hearing her story as much as I have! Here it is:
Rileigh, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Rileigh! I’m 16 years old and I live in the beautiful state of Maine. And I love unschooling!
I really enjoy canoeing, camping, Skyping, traveling, and designing. I’m constantly exploring and trying to find new things to try, experience and see in life. I love being a mommy’s helper/babysitter, meeting new people, and talking about unschooling. I spend most days hanging out with my 12 year old little sister, playing Just Dance, reading The Hunger Games, planning trips that I am going on this year with my family, writing, and wearing Forever Lazies.
Some goals I have in life are to show people what unschooling is all about, travel, live, love, and be adventurous towards anything that comes my way. I love my life, my friends, and am incredibly grateful for all the amazing experiences I have had and are still having! Oh, and I have a serious passion for anything that has to do with glitter and/or the color pink.
Can you read and write intelligently? How did you learn this without being “taught?”
Yes! I learned to read in a lot of different ways.There were always good books in our house and the library was a constant stop. My mom would tell me what the word was when I asked her, or she would tell me what different sounds meant. I would look at the pictures in books and figure out what most of the words meant. I also learned through tv. It was never forced on me. It was fun to know what words meant and what they were.
I think writing goes hand in hand with reading. It all came really naturally: my mom helped when I asked her how to write something, and she showed me how to write words. But it was never forced. It was always a lot of fun.
How do you learn math without a math curriculum and math teacher? Do you know your basic math facts? What about higher-level math?
Math should come naturally to those who want and need to use it. It’s really not something to worry about. I use math in my everyday life: with baking, with having my own bank account, with just simple everyday things. I know as much as I need to know right now for the things I’m passionate about.
My newest project is that I really would love to own my own business – it’s really exciting to me. I Googled, and made power points, and wrote down all of my ideas. I found out so much that really goes into really running and owning your own business.
I have taken math classes as well. I took an online high school algebra 1 class, and learned a lot from it. To be honest, it was very stressful trying to memorize and answer all of the questions on a quiz or test because some of it didn’t have anything to do with what I was trying to learn about running my own business.
Overall I’m glad I took the class. But the only things I remember are the things that had to do with what I wanted to know! I pretty much forgot the rest as soon as the test was over. But I did remember everything and anything that jived with my ideas of running a business.
Would I do it again? Maybe, but Google was more helpful.
How will you learn to get along in the world if you haven’t been “socialized” at school?
I learn to get along in the world because I am living in it. It’s really that simple. I am having way more opportunities for socialization than kids in school. I mean when you’re in class the teachers says “ no talking” or “ be quiet.” When I hang out with my friends or family, we are constantly talking, exploring new ideas, trying new things, and going places!
Unschooled kids are just as normal as anybody else, except we are living our lives with what brings us happiness and joy now rather than trying to figure it out later.
What if you want to go to college?
I am currently considering college, and I know I could go if I wanted to. But I would only go if I were really passionate about doing something that required earning a certain degree.
Also, I know that there are so many options, even if I decide not to go right when I am 18, I could still go when I’m 19 or 20… or 30!
I like to go with what I love and if going to college is something I have to do to get to something I love, I will do it. But I don’t think everyone needs to go to college.
Doesn’t raising children with no limits turn them into spoiled brats? Do unschoolers have any respect for authority? After all, there are rules and limits in the real world.
No, we certainly do not grow up as spoiled brats! That is one of the biggest myths and misunderstandings I hear. It makes me laugh because it’s completely the opposite! The more freedom that my parents gave me the more I trusted them and the more I was willing to respect and listen to their opinions, too. When you have the option to truly do what you want when you want, you find a natural balance for yourself and are more open to trying new things and listening to others’ opinions. I’m very respectful to the adults in my life, because they are respectful to me! I try really hard to be respectful to people around me, even strangers. I think it’s important.
Without limits on food, do unschoolers eat mostly junk food? What about screen time? Do they spend all day watching tv or playing on the computer?
I have always been able to eat what I want, when I want. When I was younger I ate more candy, and Ramen noodles than most kids with limits would. But it wasn’t all the time – I quickly realized how eating a handful of candy felt to me as opposed to what foods made me feel great. I still ate candy, but it was in balance with foods that were healthy.
My mom is always making super yummy healthy foods, and when I was younger I remember her making tons of healthy good stuff. I mostly ate that, by choice.
As for screen time: TV is another way that I like to learn and take in information and get ideas. For a while now I have been really enjoying Netflix. So I do spend a few hours a day watching it. But that has been a recent thing, and it’s not the only thing I do! My entire life I have always been go, go, go: spending all day outside, going places, seeing friends and going shopping.
I also want to point out that sometimes when I tell people this they say, “Well, this works for you, but it would so not work for my child. He/she wouldn’t do anything all day!” I think it’s important to recognize that not every kid is the same, and some children really do prefer to play by themselves or do quieter things, while others love to be outside and are very active. Either way it’s okay. Just because you are not constantly going somewhere and doing something doesn’t mean you aren’t learning, and doing things that are meaningful and that bring you joy.
How will you make it out in the real world? Will you be prepared to hold down a job and contribute to society?
I actually just read a post on facebook by one of my friends who goes to school. Here’s what she said:
“You know what’s dumb is the concept of treating adolescents like children throughout the entirety of their teenage years, and then at around age 17 pulling a complete 180 and expecting them to decide within the next couple years what they want to do with the rest of their lives.” (quoted with poster’s permission)
I’m living in the real world right now! I’m not being sheltered from the real world: I am experiencing it. Being able to interact, live, and have experiences in the “real world” shows me more than I think I could ever learn by sitting in a class all day. Being able to talk to people coming from all ages and different lifestyles has taught me more than I have ever read from a book.
As for getting a job, I am currently looking for a job around the town I live in, but I also have dreams of owning my own business. A lot of employers are very friendly towards unschoolers, and some of my older unschooled friends are either self employed or work in businesses they really like.
Volunteering is one of my favorite things to do, ever. When I was 5 I used to wake up at 6:00 every morning and watch “Feed the Children.” I fell in love with the idea of helping and providing for people who didn’t have anything. To this day, doing things like that are among my favorite things. My mom recently found a few organizations that I could turn into a career and volunteer in the states or abroad from anything to re-building, to just providing basic human needs.
In my experience, unschoolers tend to take the initiative. When someone needs help, or is struggling, unschoolers will immediately jump up and help – even if they don’t know the person! I think unschoolers really rise above when it comes to being kind, considerate and compassionate.
Being unschooled and having no rules means you don’t have to hide anything or keep secrets or lie. Unschoolers are raised with honesty, compassion and understanding, in place of discipline, consequences, and rules. I think that because of this, we unschoolers are more responsible citizens in some ways than our schooled counterparts .
I will also contribute to society by doing what fulfills me and what brings me joy, because that’s what I think society needs right now, people who love what they do. One of my favorite quotes is this: “ The best way to predict the future, is to create it.”