This is a guest post. I met Twyla a couple months ago, when she came to NYC. And then, last month, we both happened to be in London at the same time, so we hung out there, too. I would hang out with this girl anywhere in the world. And I might have to, if I want to see her, because she is always somewhere new. When I think of everything right about unschooling, I think about Twyla.
I asked her for a bio and here is what she wrote: I am a 19-year-old nomad. I left my home town three months ago, where I used to teach partner dance with my dad, study what interested me and live life. After Istanbul I plan to go to Beirut to continue learning Arabic. As I travel I like to focus on language, dance and food. My blog is http://twyladill.blogspot.com/.
I asked her to tell us a little bit about her life, as a traveler and an unschooler. This is her guest post:
My first night in Istanbul was a little overwhelming. I had committed to renting a room there for the next two months. But of course I explored the rest of the house.
The living room – converted into an art studio for my land lady – smelled of old cigarettes. The warped white walls were laden with paintings in all stages of completion. The floor was splattered with paint, and tubes of acrylic rested peacefully on a stained wooden shelf.
In my room a creaky bunk bed (missing its top bunk) pushed up against the garish green wall. Luckily I like garish colors.
When I did my laundry, I flooded the bathroom because I didn’t put the drain tube in the toilet.
One of my housemates is an actor, the other a journalist. Nice guys, although neither of them speak English.
As I sat at the cluttered table in the living room listening to guttural Turkish banter between the people I just met and would now be living with, I wondered if it was illogical for me to be drawn to this place. Will I survive two months of this? I started to think of all the alternate options. Maybe I will just stay for one month, then travel around Turkey. Maybe I will find another place to live. My mind skipped through possibilities like a flat stone thrown from the beach.
I seem to be constantly surprising myself with the choices I make. When I left home months ago I was looking forward to traveling with no plans, seeing what experiences I ran into. But, when I got to Turkey I started to feel constricted by the unplanned nature of my life. I spent more time waiting for some sort of inspiration to come to me, rather than going out and doing something – anything. And then I realized I want plans. I want something to do every day that makes me fulfilled and happy. I don’t want to wander aimlessly through this gigantic cultural hub of a city. And I want to learn the language.
If I have learned anything in the unschooling environment, it is that I have the ability to do what I love, what makes me happy. And I have the right to shift what I’m doing whenever it starts to feel constraining. There is no need for me to keep up appearances or continue on a path that doesn’t suit me in order to prove anything. Because I don’t have anything to prove.
My schooling journey, which led to unschooling, hasn’t been straightforward; I started in Waldorf school, homeschooled for one year, was in public school for five years, did online school for two weeks and concluded with two months of alternative school before I decided it was time to follow my own interests. When I decided school wasn’t where I wanted to be, I was 16 and thankfully my dad was supportive of my choice. My mom was skeptical at first, but I did my research and convinced her. Now she has seen me in the world as an unschooler and she supports me one-hundred percent. After leaving school I didn’t plan what I would do instead, but I knew I wanted to spend my time doing art; at that point in time designing and sewing clothing and purses. As far as I can remember, sewing (and going to the gym) were my main activities that year.
The following year I spent six months traveling in Europe with my sister and my dad, teaching dance. The idea to travel solidified just days before my dad was scheduled to leave for Italy on a three-week biking trip during the summer of 2009. My dad, my sister and I decided it was time to travel together; I was 17 and itching to be on my own, but this would be one of our last chances to travel as a family. That morning we were sitting on the ferry boat talking about how we could make travel work for us. We decided that finding a storage place for free or relatively low cost was the key. When we got home a woman from our dance classes had left a voicemail on our machine, and it turned out she had an almost empty barn, relatively weather proof, sitting on her property, which we could use in exchange for dance classes. We took the first load from our house to the barn that afternoon.
At the end of the summer the three of us hopped on a plane to Norway, spending a total of six months in Europe over the next nine months. Traveling in close proximity to my family was wonderful and tough at the same time; luckily we get along really well. We made lasting connections with many people, stayed in over 50 homes (we only stayed in a hotel one night out of the six months) and have a few great stories to tell. This trip sparked something in me; I knew I wanted to seek adventure and new cultures on my own.
And recently, I have embarked on the solo journey I dreamed about. Even though my goals have changed since I first had the idea to travel, halfway through my year of studying Arabic at Edmonds Community College. My initial thought was to spend a week or two in Turkey before going to the Middle East, a good way to transition cultures. But, the week has expanded and contracted multiple times over the course of the past months. I start an intensive Turkish course on December 5th at the Dilmer language school. Every day I learn a few more Turkish words with the help of my room mates; when I asked for a pastry in a little shop the other day the man behind the counter answered me in Turkish, I guess my accent’s improving too! Unfortunately, I had no idea what he said when he answered me, but that also will change in a matter of time.
I have found a state of contentment. My apartment is conveniently located in the middle of Istanbul. My roommates, landlords and all of their friends are artists and creatives; I have known them for a week and feel completely comfortable with them. I especially love my landlady’s laugh; she’s 31 and laughs in short, gruff bursts. I’ve started doing art again – I painted for nine hours yesterday. I joined a gym today, with yoga and other classes. The warped walls in the living room are starting to feel homey and I enjoy watching the progress on the construction site next door; luckily they don’t work at night. I found three natural food stores near me and bought brown rice and rose hip tea. I am starting to make a life here. Even though I will leave in two months, I am going to live these moments to the fullest.
At the end of January (when my Turkish visa is up) I am going to Lebanon, to study Arabic in Beirut for three months. I will create another life there; An apartment, friends, and an intensive Arabic language course. But by then, who knows what other adventures I’ll have thought up.
Through unschooling I’ve learned that, in a sense, I create my surroundings. But “unschooling” to me is only the absence of school. I am not (nor was I before) looking for something to replace the daily tribulations I encountered in school. I am simply living life. Anything I want to learn is at my fingertips because I know how to go out in the world and seek knowledge. I know how to ask questions. I know that if I want to be independent I need to support myself; and if I support myself in a way that’s fulfilling I will be infinitely happier. I know how to have meaningful relationships and I know how to communicate effectively. I know that sometimes I have to experience hard things, and that’s part of learning. I also know that I will continue learning because to stop learning is to stop living. And all of this, I learned in the last few years while I was not ‘forced’ to be in a classroom.
Life is a learning experience. The most important thing is to keep learning; in whatever way fits best.