Thursday, July 13, 2006

Adult Liberation: Unschooling Meets the Workforce

A conversation with Michael Fogler

By Peter Kowalke

As a lifelong unschooler, I've grown up with the luxury of studying what interests me. Supposedly I should be able to make a living by following my interests, too. But what if my passion is writing well-researched stories about everyday people, something that isn't very lucrative? To answer my question, I visited Michael Fogler in his Lexington, Kentucky, home. Michael is a homeschooling father and author of the book, Un-jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook, which asserts that it isn't necessary to give up an interest in order to make a living without a job. His secret, it seems, is just using common sense.

Unschooling is to learn without going to school. Is un-jobbing to earn without having a job? Could you explain what it means to "un-job"?
In a sense, Yes, if we define job as an activity we do for money which we really wouldn't be doing if it weren't for the money. That is what I see as so wasteful in our society: millions of people spending the bulk of their able-bodied lives in activities that they wouldn't be doing if they didn't need the money attached to it. Can we not do only activities which are in alignment with our values and sense of purpose, with some of these activities also bringing in income? I say yes.

So, I see a life of un-jobbing as a life in which all of the activities that a person does are activities that the person really wants to do, whether they are income-producing or not. This person is doing what he/she truly wants to do, period. "Work" and "play" become blurred, virtually one and the same. They blend together into, simply, Life. John Holt once proclaimed that learning is not the product of teaching (something I have come to agree with). Similarly, living is not the product of "making a living" (i.e. the job) in our culture. So, my thing is to encourage (conscious) living in every moment and to change "making a living" (which should be more accurately called "making a dying") into "making a life."

The recent advertising campaign for the job site,, points out that no one grows up wanting a bad job; we all want to earn money by doing what we love. But even career guides admit that we can't always do what we love without some sacrifice. Besides having a marketable interest, such as computers, how does one "make a life" by doing what he or she enjoys?

First, we might not grow up wanting a bad job, but we do grow up with the "realistic" expectation that you have described. So it doesn't matter what we want , we're "realistic." I believe that it's helpful to step out of the box of "realism" and into a more intangible world view. This takes faith and trust (ultimately, those things may be all that are truly real).

One of my major recommendations is to do a thorough self-inventory. This means answering , completely honestly , such questions as: Why am I here on Earth? What do I value? What do I find to be essential in my life? What are my talents and gifts? What activities do I find to be truly joyful (ones that I literally en-joy)? Getting clear about the answers to those questions is very important. This is a constant process that is not done just once, but continually , or at least periodically. It's important to note that there are no "right" or "wrong" answers to these questions , just personal truth. A good way to do this is to do it with a group of people who are also interested in moving in the direction of un-jobbing , to have a meeting and then, one by one, go around the circle and answer those questions out loud to the others. The people, besides the speaker, merely listen and do not judge; they just give their ears and hearts as receptors.

I have done this in workshops and found that amazing things happen when people get together in groups and speak their heart-felt answers out loud to others who respectfully listen to them. People are often surprised by what they say when said in a more public way than just silently thinking to themselves. The latter can often keep a personal truth buried. If a person speaks his/her truth in public, then there is a stronger likelihood that this person will begin to act upon it.

Once questions like that are answered, the next step is to answer the question: What is my ideal life , without regard to money? Again, answering this question out loud in front of a group of respectful, listening others will have more empowerment. Along with doing a program of what I call "conscious personal economics," working on the above questions can move a person in the direction of his/her ideal life. (One may never get there. Life is a journey, not a destination.)

There are ways of earning money that I have done since un-jobbing that I never would have predicted before I started. The major one is, of course, my book Un-jobbing! I didn't un-job with the idea of writing a book about un-jobbing. One day the book Un-jobbing will fade away and I will continue to be an un-jobber who is making ends meet. Don't ask me how , I have no idea! The point here is that we can't know how everything is going to work out. Do some good "homework"; keep taking some baby steps which feel good and make sense, and see what happens and where things lead.

You can read this interview in its entirety at Home Education Magazine. Read more about Michael Fogler's book Unjobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook at Why Work?
© Peter Kowalke