List Grid

Blogs Field Guide

Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life

I happened upon filmmaker Astra Taylor and her documentary Examined Life at the Women with Vision festival last spring and found myself a huge fan of the film, and I became intrigued by her bio, particularly the fact that she was unschooled until age 13. From what I know about unschooling, it’s very similar to […]

I happened upon filmmaker Astra Taylor and her documentary Examined Life at the Women with Vision festival last spring and found myself a huge fan of the film, and I became intrigued by her bio, particularly the fact that she was unschooled until age 13. From what I know about unschooling, it’s very similar to the artist’s life. You wake up each day guided by the question ‘what do I want to learn today?’ You’re not told by a boss or teacher what to do, when to do it, and how to get it done, rather your own curiosities lead the way.

This anarchist approach to education has been fundamental to Taylor’s D.I.Y. attitude towards learning, creativity, and pedagogy. As one interviewer wrote, ‘Her non-traditional upbringing, or as she calls it, her “super weirdo hippy background,” stood her in good stead, providing a strong sense of confidence and an affirmation in her own abilities and artistic vision.’ Thinking about Astra’s unconventional past, I began to wonder how education and the way we’re taught to learn can hinder or support our creative development.

Luckily, Astra will be back to the Walker next Thursday night (talk and gallery admission are free) to speak about how her personal experiences of growing up home-schooled without a curriculum or schedule have shaped her personal philosophy and development as an artist. If you need a primer, check out this great interview she did with CitizenShift or you can get a better idea of Astra’s influences by her recommended reads:

* * * *

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde

* * * *

Other Suggestions:

“Against School” by John Taylor Gatto in Harpers Magazine, September 2003

HowChildrenLearn.jpg image by gstepp525

How Children Learn by John Holt

How Children Fail by John Holt

Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School & Get a Real Life & Education by Grace Llewellyn

  • Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life http://bit.ly/1okzJJ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • stephenhero says:

    Astra Taylor at The Walker next Thursday. Who’s in? RT @walkerartcenter: Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life http://bit.ly/1okzJJ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • michele_m01 says:

    Education and Community Programs » Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life: I happened upon filmmaker Astra Taylor .. http://bit.ly/iEPRr

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • 2kipper says:

    Education and Community Programs » Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life: I happened upon filmmaker Astra Taylor .. http://bit.ly/iEPRr

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Education and Community Programs » Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life http://bit.ly/30xj8Z

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • ljwaks says:

    Thought provoking. Astra Taylor and the Unschooled Life. http://bit.ly/2qH3BX

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • mailshopweb says:

    Education and Community Programs » Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life http://bit.ly/1U3xAy

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • ljwaks says:

    @aenclade Thanks for the RT. Did you see this thought provoking piece. Astra Taylor and the Unschooled Life. http://bit.ly/2qH3BX

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • aenclade says:

    Astra Taylor and talks about her Unschooled Life(also known as her “super weirdo hippy upbringing) http://bit.ly/2qH3BX via @ljwaks

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Megan Leafblad says:

    Thanks for the reading list Ashley and for bringing Astra back to the Walker. I am ready to get unschooled.

  • Jonathan says:

    Dear Aster,
    I attended the talk last night and didn’t have time to make my request. I enjoyed the talk and thank you very much. I agree with a commentator that many communities would benefit from you joining the lecture circuit.

    What I would like to hear more of is your happiness, your siblings happiness in life, and your self-taught coping skills for dealing with the world you have trained yourself into. I feel that, more important than the level of education one might choose to train them selves to if given the choice is, “compared to the rest of the country how do you reconcile yourself to the life you eventually lead?”.

    You mentioned your parents’ bankruptcy and your sister leaving home at a young age. How does your un-schooling prepare you for dealing with situations that might tear families apart.

    I don’t need your answer but think introspection and self healing is the more compelling aspect of self educating.

    Thank you,
    Jonathan