From The Big Book of Unschooling, 2009 :


(page 259, first edition/yellow cover; page 300, second edition/brown cover)

Holly has had a few jobs. One was working at a skateboard and clothing store in a mall a few miles away. One was working at a flower shop just a few hundred yards away; she walked. But the shop had another shop on the air base, and sometimes she worked there, so she had a base pass and a key to both shops. When Holly's jobs require driving, we let her use a car. Some of her school-attending friends are told they can't get a job unless they buy a car first. It seems to be a way for the parents to say no and then blame the kids for it.

Some mainstream families press their teenaged children to get jobs, and shame them if they fail, while putting conditions on when and where they can work. The result is that getting a job was just one more "do what the parents make you do" situation, and the jobs aren't fun; they're an extension of school and of parental control.

When teens or young adults have chosen to have a job without desperation for money, and when they are accustomed to learning all the time and living joyfully, they are a different sort of employee.

The question of people new to unschooling is usually "But what kinds of jobs can they get without having graduated from high school?" Here are the jobs my kids have had:

In every case outside the babysitting and dogsitting, they were working with people who not only had high school diplomas, but college degrees. And I don't mean to say they were working with bosses who were college educated; some of their co-workers were "educated," and working the same jobs as my kids who learned on their own in fun ways. Some of their bosses had no college; some had.

This is touched upon in the section on sleeping, but another common question is whether someone who grew up without a schedule and a bed time and could ever hold "a real job." The assumption, I think, is that "real jobs" require getting up very early and at the same time every day. Marty did that for over a year when he worked at the grocery store near us. He worked Monday through Friday at 6:30 a.m. He had no problem with that schedule.

Looking up through the list of jobs, I will give as many shift-starting-times as I can remember, and you might wonder if someone who had grown up with a bed time and a regular schedule could ever hold a job.

AM 6:30
PM 1:00


Marty at the Persian restaurant where he worked for a year or so


From the section on sleeping:

Future jobs

I wish I had collected all the statements ever spoken or written to me about the irreparable damage I was certainly doing to my children by not scheduling their sleep, and by not requiring them to wake up at a certain time every morning. I was assured that a horrible fate awaited them all:

They would never get a job.

Or they might be hired, but would certainly lose the job from their lack of discipline and their total inability to get up early in the morning.

Kirby's first paid job involved running the Pokemon tournaments at a gaming store every Saturday morning from 8:00 to noon. He needed to be there early, to set up. I used to help him wake up, at first, but usually his alarm had gone off by the time I got in there. He was fourteen years old.

As more days were added to his schedule over the years, the most common hours were four to midnight or 1:00 in the morning on Friday and Saturday when the store closed and the Magic players went home. It was a good thing he hadn't been trained to get sleepy at 8:00 or 9:00 every night.

He worked at that store for four years. Not many nineteen-year-olds can say they've had the same job for four years. I guess the dire warnings were wrong.

Marty's first job was noon to four, helping make boots and pouches for re-enactors and medievalists. He was cutting out and hand sewing leather, mostly. Those hours were no problem for anyone, and the predictions could have been true, for Marty.

His next job, at which he stayed for sixteen months, was working Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 at a grocery store. He was late one time, about two minutes. I never had to wake him up. It was a two-minute walk out the back gate, but he got up an hour before he was due to start work.

How could he possibly have "learned to do that," having gone to bed whenever he wanted to for sixteen years!? He didn't "learn to" do anything except to make responsible choices for good reasons, and that covered all such situations.

Holly worked one night until 4:30 in the morning, restocking a clothing store in a mall during the Christmas rush. Sometimes she was scheduled for 8:00 in the morning. She never knew how late it would be. Good thing she was flexible about hours.

Kirby's "adult job" is with a company that operates twenty-four hours a day, and he's able to do any shifts, due to the way he was raised and his variable work hours before.

Those whose parents trained them to nap at 2:00 and sleep at 9:00 and get up at 6:00 will be disadvantaged in many jobs.



The writing above is from 2009. I'm putting it on my page as part of a clean-up and expansion of the old page on jobs, in late 2021.

Since this was written, the starting-times of jobs for my kids has gone around the clock, with Kirby starting sometimes at 11:00 at night (at Blizzard, like a hospital graveyard shift), and beginning at 5:00 a.m. (one of his computer support jobs when he moved back to Albuquerque). When Marty worked stocking shelves at Target, at Christmas season, he was there at 4:00 a.m. a time or two. Probably more.

A current update on their jobs (snapshot moment, December 2021; it might not always be) is at the "JOBS" link below.

JOBS a long list of jobs stories about jobs