"Will they get jobs?"

First job for oldest son:

Robin P., on familyRUNning, 2011:

My oldest son Kade, 16, started his first paid job yesterday. He works at a locally owned and operated market. Last fall he and his brother volunteered at the market so the owner was familiar with his work. This past Saturday Kade got a phone call from the owner to come in for an interview.

During the interview they discussed minimum wage and the owner commented that it was a lot of money for mininum wage compared to several years ago. Kade replied that it wasn't really a lot of money because things cost more than a few years ago. The man looked at Kade and said that this was why he preferred to work with home schoolers because they knew how to think and were better prepared for life than kids who attended school. What I found interesting about this comment was my in-laws reaction to it. They were visiting us last week. They were surprised that a business owner would say that. They have always been supportive of us though and have never once told us that our kids need to go to school. Unlike my side of the family who has made such comments.

Responses to question about lack of a high school diploma limiting opportunities, and of a GED being inferior (on the Always Learning list, March 13, 2008):

My 15 year old stepson does not have a GED. His mom had the same concerns as your husband about him getting one. She looked into options she thought sounded better and decided he should get a CHSPE (http://www.chspe.net/). He hasn't done that yet.

In the meantime he got a job working for the guy who created The Lion King making more than any entry position I've ever heard of. He's working right now, from the back bedroom with no ged, chspe or diploma.



I don't find this to be true at all. Jobs are related to knowledge base and work ethic. Anyone with a high school diploma may have a piece of paper, but that doesn't guarantee a good knowledge base or a good work ethic. A kid that is homeschooled can work at a place of interest and acquire knowledge and be a good worker. Good workers don't stay in low positions, they move up.


One of my sons started working at a sandwich shop when he was 14. He saved a few thousand dollars and when he was 23 opened a small but very unusual bike shop (he's been passionate about bikes since he was 5 and always entrepreneurial). Now, 10 years later, his shop takes up much of the block it's on and last year grossed 2.5 million dollars. He supports his family very well. It is not true that one needs to have a GED or a college degree to make money. Another son of mine does not have a high school diploma but decided to go to university because what he wants to do requires a degree. He didn't start college until he was 23 because until then he had no real reason to. It seems to me that people who are deeply connected to themselves and know what they need will at the right time do what they have to do and get what they need to get in order to create the life of their dreams.


Jacki wrote:
As far as making money is concerned...it really isn't different for your guy than any other child...let him follow his passions and interests and see where it leads. There will be opportunities.
Sandra responded:
We didn't know Kirby would have a video game company job when he was grown. He's been playing all kinds of games since he was little, though. Nintendo since he was five. Board games and card games longer. We didn't stop him, and that's where he went, and where he is at the moment. Keith is doing his taxes for him. Keith is impressed. Lots of overtime, the moving stipend, a raise...

Kirby makes way more money than I did the first year I was teaching, even if my annual pay were to be adjusted for inflation. I had a college degree and loans to repay. I think Kirby's making close to what Keith started with when he first worked as an engineer when I was pregnant with Kirby. Keith was 29 and had a BS degree.

A question from the AlwaysLearning list, October 2003, and some responses:

I have gotten several comments on my blog from a girl who is SURE that Gary won't be able to get a good job if he doesn't go to school. Does anyone have any info or links about unschoolers who went to college or got a really good job? I know it works, but I'd like to give her some examples.

Maybe ask her about the number of high school grads (college grads too) who are flipping burgers for a living or working at Walmart.


I know one man who earns huge amounts of money with his art. He works in a combination of native traditions and contemporary. He's also well on his way to a career as an opera singer. His older sister is even farther along the path as an opera singer, as well as teaching voice.

Another man is working in computer science, having completed his BS and Masters in math and computer science.

Another man is playing violin in early music ensembles, having also been a soloist with a number of symphony orchestras.

Another man is currently in art school, and I know of several more at various stages of their university careers.

One has his own programming and website business. His brother is involved in home renovations.

One young woman is working towards owning her own dance studio, while currently teaching for other studios.

Another has just finished her first year of university studying architecture, getting straight A's.

All three young men in one family are at university now.
Another young man is making a career for himself playing harp. His brother is doing the same playing percussion.

These are all people I know or whose parents I know. I'm sure there are a bunch more, but I can't think of any right now.


My older (23) daughter is a lyricist and writes music/lyrics for our theater group as well as directing plays. She's been working for a promotion company and is about to leave for a six-month solo trip, keeping in contact with the company so that she can work here and there around the country to make some more money during her travels. When she returns, the job—and entrance into management—will be there if she wants it.

My younger (almost 21) daughter is in college at a prestigious art school. They accepted her portfolio (and even gave her a partial scholarship based on it) without any SAT scores. They said they were very impressed with her talent AND with the amount of activities/learning experiences she had had.

I don't read this list all the time anymore, but whenever I drop in I find something interesting!

Susan (in Minnesota)

Sandra (in New Mexico): Most of the unschoolers I know are not wholly grown, still teens.

Several have done some college. Some started at 14 or 15.

My son Kirby has held the same job for three years and two months. I know adults who've never held a job that long at a stretch. Kirby was offered the job because when he was thirteen he volunteered at the store sometimes. They would have hired him sooner, but they needed to wait for him to turn fourteen.

Our friend Brett just turned eighteen. He's a volunteer fire fighter being put through an EMT training session. They had to wait until he turned eighteen. He also works full time as a tech for a mobile phone company. Before that he worked for a landscaping company and made enough to buy a truck.

Sadie has done two years of college. She's eighteen and is taking this year off. She's living in Santa Fe, studying karate intently, and working construction.

Guin is joining the National Guard soon. She worked at McDonald's in Moriarty until she could afford to move into Albuquerque and get an apartment. She's working at Walmart AND at Red Lobster. Not a great job? She's just turned seventeen. She'll get some college tuition assistance from the national guard deal. It's pretty impressive for a seventeen year old.

Chris has worked at REI since he was seventeen or so. He's 22 now, so has had the same good job for five years. No college, but he's a serious bicyclist and can better afford his sport/hobby from working at a sports store.

That's our local group currently.

October 2003

Janet, on Unschooling Discussion, May 2006:

Unschooling Works

I was trying to decide what the subject should be: I was thinking “Not Forcing Children Works” or “Letting Children Grow Naturally Works” or “Trusting Our Children to Know When They’re Ready Works” but it all boils down to unschooling, and it works.

My oldest daughter had a hard start in life starting with delivery. Preschool didn’t improve anything. She used to hide in cubby and wouldn’t come out. She didn’t play with the other kids. Stayed to herself. Her teacher recommended I keep a close eye on her and get her more involved with kids her age. Kindergarten wasn’t any better. She didn’t join in with the other children, her teacher suggested there were issues I need get on right away or school experience wouldn’t be successful. She was immature and her social skills weren’t where they should be at five – plus she couldn’t tie her shoes. When her dad and I took her to meet the first grade teacher she hid under my skirt and clung to my leg. The teacher looked none too pleased, and insinuated I wasn’t firm enough with her and that she couldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior in the classroom. She showed me her ‘timeout corral’ where children were sent who couldn’t behave. On our way out I said something to my husband about how embarrassed I felt. He told me that I needed to be thinking about how our daughter felt and less about myself. (He’s good at pointing out the obvious.) That’s when we decided to homeschool.

We didn’t push anything. We didn’t make her go to social events when she didn’t want to, and she was free to tell us she wanted to leave when she was uncomfortable. We spoke for her when she was to shy to tell the waitress what she wanted. We didn’t make her get up and recite poems in front of our homeschool group even though some other mothers frowned and suggested we were harming her development by not making her. We took her home when other parents or children made her feel uncomfortable about being shy. It’s amazing what other parents will say to your child if you let them. It’s amazing what other parents will say to you, the parent, about your child. I was told on more than one occasion from another mother “I would never allow that. I’m the mother. Don’t you think you need to make her join in?” We told her she was okay, she had her own time schedule. It was a very slow time schedule according to what’s ‘acceptable.' She took her time. And little by little she blossomed.

This past year it just happened. She has helped lead a youth group, given talks to younger kids, taught little kids Shorin Ryu and works with the adults. She does things that I would never have felt confident enough to do when I was her age. A few weeks ago she filled out several applications on the internet. Last Thursday she got a call from Office Max to come in for an interview. She was in there for an hour and was interviewed by two different managers. She said she asked them questions too and had quite a good conversation with them. Then they asked her to get in for a drug test. (Which wasn’t as easy as it sounds since she didn’t have a state ID, and to get a state ID you need a photo ID which she doesn’t have because she’s not in school. Finally got that worked out.) Yesterday they called her about 1:00 PM and offered her the job and asked her come in that same day to fill out papers. They offered her $7.25 an hour which $2.10 over minimum wage in our state. Last night we went shopping and bought her some clothes (tan pants, navy blue polo shirt and black shoes). This morning she went off to her first job feeling confident and good about herself and excited. She’ll be 17 this August.

The snarky part of me would like to tell a few people how she ‘turned out’ (their words). She was fine all along. But that’s petty, and I’ll play it in my mind a little to get it out of my system.

Anyway, for those of you who are new and worrying about when your children are teens and if unschooling really can work, if they’ll fit in, and all those other worries that tend to creep in, I want to say it does work. You need to trust your child, and you need to trust yourself. Be patient, let them follow their time schedule and enjoy them along the way. It does work. (Just can’t say it loud enough today.)


"Reality is reality"

Someone came through a message board once, very critical of what she thought were our unexamined and untried ideas. She said this about jobs:
Employers are not going to be as gentle to our kids as we've been to them. Reality is reality. Idealism is another thing.
Robyn Coburn wrote:
You write as though you imagine that our unschooled children are isolated in cotton wrapped cocoons, to be suddenly thrust upon a cruel world of employers at "graduation". The fact is that unschooled kids are genuinely engaged with people in the real world, including choosing to involve themselves with those who might be termed authority figures. They participate in all kinds of age appropriate employment and volunteer opportunities. They have plenty of chances to find that people are different, some strict, through real life interactions with them. I would hope that my daughter will have the self esteem to walk away from any job where the employers are harsh.

However I think you are referring to the idea that we "let our kids do what they want, but employers will have other expectations." You seem to have a vision in your mind of an unschooler getting a job at some business or office and then intending to spend their time playing computer Solitaire instead of typing their assigned invoices. Unschooled children are just not that stupid. The stories people tell of their older teens show that they do not expect to be coddled by their employers, and they don't throw a tantrum when their employer asks them to do something. One thing that unschooled kids/teens seem to be very good at is finding the employment that engages and pleases them, including if all they really did want to do was play computer games, a job that "made" them do that all day long.

I have to mention the idealism comment. As a foreigner I have read some of the Declaration of Independence, and perused parts of the Constitution. I have also read Dr. King's "I have a Dream" speech. Everything that is fine and good about this nation is based on idealism, and the struggle to live up to it. Everything that is paltry or disappointing about this nation, is when those ideals and the spirit behind the ideals have been ignored or twisted.

Reality is to be found in the [unschooling] archives and message boards...People telling real stories of living by principles instead of rules, and how it really works for their real families— things that they "do," not conjecture about what might or might not happen if they didn't.

Robyn Coburn

Sandra's note: The reality is that unschoolers are doing so well at jobs by what I've seen that it's an embarrassment to those hired to work beside them. There are some related stories at the "How are Teens as People?" page.

Nancy B:

My son (18) has never been to school, and although we used to school at home, his high school years were for the most part, unschooled. He hasn't even gotten his GED yet. We live in a very small town, so there's not a whole lot of jobs out there. He got a job a few months ago at Walmart, pushing carts and stocking, that sort of thing.

He's only been there three months, and they pulled him in the back and not only promoted him, but gave him a pretty decent raise (1.55 per hour.) Their reasoning is that he's got a good record (no sick time, no lateness) and because he works hard, but I think they just really LIKE him.

He said a bunch of the other "kids" say they don't like the managers, this guy's a jerk, that guy's "queer" (ugh), they're unfair, etc...and he's like, "I don't get it. I get along fine with everyone there. I don't have a problem with any of the managers." And he is NOT a kiss-ass.

He said he jokes with the managers and they have "running jokes" about their hair styles (one manager is almost bald, and my son has a "modified" mohawk, and he joked that my son was going for HIS look (the managers) but the clippers broke halfway through...) I honestly think NOT being in school, being around so many different types of people, especially adults, has helped him tremendously in dealing with and getting along with everyone.

Most people wouldn't say Walmart is a dream job or a career to shoot for, but for now he's making more than most of his friends, and until he decides what to do (college, trade school, etc) he's happy as a clam. He is surviving quite well, and he's just started!

Nancy B.

Sandra Dodd:

I was thinking just this morning that my kids take their jobs TOO SERIOUSLY.

They have no idea how to slack or even to get time off. They take "no" for an answer.

Had they gone to school they would KNOW that something like "I had car trouble" or "I have a dentist's appointment" is PLENTY of reason not to show up. But no, they have both rescheduled dentists or doctors because their work schedule changed. Marty went to work sick, even though someone much less sick than he was had just gone home and then called and said she wasn't coming back after work. They will go WAY out of their way to get there on time in the face of problems.

Yesterday I was at the store when it was time for Marty to come home, and offered him a ride, and one of the checkers gave me that speech I love so much, about how Marty is the best worker they have, and they could use four or five Marties.


"Just to let you all know there is an Ensign (junior officer for those who aren't familiar the terminology) on my husband's ship who was totally unschooled until she set the goal of becoming a naval officer. ..." The rest of that story is here: More on teens