Guerrilla learning = doing the minimum needed to succeed in the traditional system while simultaneously pursuing your own self-directed learning projects.

(Guerrilla Learning is also the title of a wonderful book by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver, aimed at the parents of kids whose kids don’t thrive in school. This page reflects my own definition of the term.)

If you’re not engaged by high school but you don’t have the option of unschooling or joining a local self-directed learning center, guerrilla learnings offers a middle ground.

Here’s the gist of the idea:

  1. Think of your schoolwork as a game. The goal is to become hyper-efficient and spend as little time as possible completing it while still achieving the level of “success” that’s expected of you.
  2. When your schoolwork is done, spend as much time as possible learning things that actually matter to you.

Some people call this “closet unschooling”, because the kind of teens who do this are implementing unschooling principles without realizing it.

The nice part about guerrilla learning is that you don’t have to go through the headache of abandoning the traditional system. Your parents, teachers, and classmates see you going to school and doing well, so they approve of you.

The downside of guerrilla learning is that you’re living two lives, and it can be stressful to constantly push yourself to do schoolwork in as little time as possible.

(Much of this also applies to traditional homeschoolers—i.e. those who do school at home.)

A great old book (published in 1993) for guerrilla learners is What Smart Students Know by Adam Robinson, co-founder of The Princeton Review. Here’s a list from his book that gives you a feeling for his approach:

12 Principles of Smart Students

  1. Nobody can teach you as well as you can teach yourself
  2. Merely listening to your teachers and completing their assignments is never enough
  3. Not everything you are assigned to read or asked to do is equally important
  4. Grades are just subjective opinions
  5. Making mistakes (and occasionally appearing foolish) is the price you pay for learning and improving
  6. The point of a question is to get you to think—not simply to answer it
  7. You’re in school to learn to think for yourself, not to repeat what your textbooks and teachers tell you
  8. Subjects do not always seem interesting and relevant, but being actively engaged in learning them is better than being passively bored and not learning them
  9. Few things are as potentially difficult, frustrating, or frightening as genuine learning, yet nothing is so rewarding and empowering
  10. How well you do in school reflects your attitude and method, not your ability
  11. If you’re doing it for the grades or for the approval of others, you’re missing the satisfactions of the process and putting your self-esteem at the mercy of things outside your control
  12. School is a game, but it’s a very important game

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