Things I Have Learned
Rose Sorooshian
December 30, 2011 ALL Unschooling Symposium, Albuquerque

My name is Rose Sorooshian. I am 20 year old (almost 21) and always unschooled.
I have two older sisters - both went to school for a bit and then were unschooled.
My dad is from Iran.
I have the world's coolest boyfriend. (He wanted me to say that.)
I am now a college student - I've finished my freshman and sophomore years and am transferring to a state college in September to major in Deaf Studies. I'm just finishing my certificate in Sign Language Interpreting this semester.

My mom wanted to talk about what did not learn by not going to school (what I'd missed out on), so I thought I'd talk about what I DID learn by unschooling.

photo by Tim Mensch

I want to talk about two kinds of things ---

Things that parents worry are taught in school that unschoolers might miss out on…
Things that people don't think to worry about whether or not kids are learning, but are actually more important.

A friend once asked me how I learned to tie my shoes. I said, "Wait, you learned that in school?"

So - I didn't GO to school, but I know that people worry about how unschoolers will learn things like reading, writing and arithmetic…regular school subjects.

I don't want to talk much about school subjects, because those are not a big deal. Unschooled kids learn that kind of stuff naturally in their daily lives. But, I'll just talk a little about the main ones.

I learned to read when I was 8 years old. I don't remember the process well, but I remember being read to really a lot by my mom and my sisters. I remember Hop on Pop was one of my favorite books and I'd kind of memorized it and would pretend to read it. I knew the idea of reading from left to right before I could read the words. We were in a Shakespeare group and I knew about following along on a script and I'd carry a script and kind of pretend to be using it. I first just memorized but then after a while I was reading it. I don't remember how that really happened. Then, after that, I could read anything.

Writing - handwriting. No idea how I learned that. I just did. I don't have gorgeous writing, but I have functional handwriting. I don't know how to write all the capital letters in cursive but that's never affected me one bit.

Writing -- stories - composing…. I was really frustrated for a long time and felt like I wasnt able to write. It was my spelling that stopped me. If I wrote a word down, I could tell it was wrong. I knew what letters mostly should be in a word, but it was SO slow it kept me from being able to write stories. If I wrote a word's letters, say C-A-T , in all possible orders, then I could pick out which one was right. But it took forever and only worked on small words. But I starting talking online with friends (who couldn't read a lot of what i wrote and I got a lot of "huh's?). I started using spell checkers, which got better, and when I was 12 I did NaNoWriMo.

Arithmetic - we played a LOT of games, did a lot of puzzles. D&D was how I learned a lot about probability. I liked "brain teaser" things - that now I know are really algebraic thinking. I didn't do any formal math until college. Then I took the lowest level math course, really liked learning it all - went on and kept taking more math classes up through a calculus class. My 2nd choice major in college is math.

Other school subjects like science, history, social studies (whatever that is) --- I learned mostly from movies, tv, games, conversations, reading, jokes, and music, theater. We also went to various kinds of museums and events.

Things probably not taught in school, that I learned as an unschooler:

The importance of getting enough sleep
Being aware of my own needs
How to wake up on time

People often seem to worry that unschoolers won't ever be able to get up early if they need to - what are they going to do if they get a job?

I have a couple of friends I've watched go through high school - now they're in college with me. They won't take classes they really want to take because they don't want to go to an early class. I take classes I really want (like a nutrition class this semester), even if it starts at 8 am. I was always allowed to have the experience of staying up late and getting up early to go somewhere and then feeling not so great that day. So I learned from years of experimenting how this feels and how much sleep I need depending on the activity. So I figure out how much sleep I need and I count backwards. If I need to get up at 6, then I need to be asleep by 11 or whatever. So that seems to work. I also know how to manage to go without sleep if it is worth it. Like on New Year's eve I will stay up really late and then get up early to go to the Rose Parade. Or we went to NYC and we were only there for a week so I chose to go to bed really really late and get up really really early and I decided to just make myself handle it and not get cranky.

Managing my own needs seems really important to me. I can tell if I start to get cranky and I can assess and recognize that I need to eat. I had a semester where I was taking three dance classes and ………….. and two things…one I recognized that I was getting really tired and needed more sleep and more food. And that I was doing too much and didn't get into so much after that. I eat really naturally - I know when I'm hungry or not and I know what I need to eat. I will eat just as much as I need and leave extra food. And I know if I need fruit or whatever. I also know when I'm thirsty.

I learned these things about myself - this kind of awareness - through experience and with advice and support from my parents, too.

How to do something I don't want to do because it gets me closer to a goal
Girl Scouts Gold award…..

Black Belt - studio based on concept of breaking up that goal into small goals.

College - I'm working toward goal of a BA in Deaf Studies, there are steps along the way like apply to transfer, meet the specific requirements - pass classes, and within a class things like reading certain things, doing certain assignments, etc.

Going along with things to make life run smoother/standing up and saying when something is not right
It is important to know the distinctions. There are some people who go along with everything and never stand up for anything. Follow rules, follow them blindly and don't think about it That's not good. And there is the opposite extreme - people who argue with everything and won't go along with anything if they don't see the point. They are obstructive and mess things up for themselves and people around them because they won't recognize that sometimes it makes sense just to do something. Jelly Belly tour and put on the silly hats.

When one person I know was using the word "retard," I ignored it. But when my good friend who is usually thoughtful about what he says, said it, I stopped the conversation and talked with him about it.

The benefit of doing the same thing over and over again
I have learned the value of practice and what you can learn by repetition and I know the difference between practicing something in order to get better and better at it versus rote memorization without understanding.

People seem to value some kinds of repetition, but think other kinds are not worthwhile, but I have learned that there are reasons for it that people don't seem to comprehend. For example, if you are playing the same song, over and over, on the guitar it is called practice. But if you're listening to the same song or watching the same tv show, people call you annoying or time wasting. But I know that at first there is the element of getting something new out of it each time. ….. (all about HIMYM - what you get out of it each time>….) But after lots of times, it might just be comforting to do something very familiar and I've learned to value that, too.

I learned to budget my time, energy and money

I learned how to say "I don't know," and "please help me."

More on Rose Sorooshian More on that symposium Rose's mom, Pam Sorooshian