Posted by: Pam Sorooshian | March 20, 2010

#11 My Ideal Job

My ideal job is pretty obvious, I think. What I love is talking to homeschoolers about learning. I love seeing the light go on as they shed their own school-created hang-ups about what and how children “need to” learn. I really especially enjoy the creative process of figuring out how they might handle certain situations that they are having problems thinking through on their own.

I don’t do this as a “job.” I have mixed feelings about people charging money for this kind of thing. I don’t begrudge people the money earned for their time spent, that’s okay with me, but charging money seems to change people, and not in a good way. They start to behave and speak more in terms of marketing themselves and they eventually seem more about self-promotion than about being helpful. I wouldn’t want to become like that. Maybe I wouldn’t, but there is that risk.

What do you think? Should people charge money for giving unschooling/parenting advice?



  1. I don’t have an answer, but I think it would depend on whether they can manage to charge money without descending into that marketing mindset.

    One more problem with becoming an ‘expert’ is that that may lead a person to think they have all the answers.

    • Good point, Sue. And, if they’ve charged someone for certain advice, how easy would it be to ever admit that you’d changed your mind?

      • Pam, This was a great place for me to look this morning. I’m starting to promote Playing With Math, and wanted to find things you’d written online. (So I could point you out as one of my inspirations.)

        Now I really want to figure out how not to ‘descend into that marketing mindset’ that I described two years ago. I’m having lots of fun sending out tidbits about the book on my ‘playingwithmath’ facebook page. Is it ok as long as it’s fun? When does it get annoying? Hmm…

  2. “charging money seems to change people, and not in a good way. They start to behave and speak more in terms of marketing themselves and they eventually seem more about self-promotion than about being helpful.”
    I think you’re absolutely right about that. I don’t mind that people charge for advice, but I don’t like it when they start marketing themselves, it feels less honest. (And their newsletters start reading like junk mail more than like helpful, inspirational advice.)

  3. I agree that money changes things. I remember that, when my kids were young, I would “baby sit” for swap or just as a favor, but I wouldn’t do it for money–because then somehow I would have less power to say “no” and less power to do exactly as I saw fit…Before I even had kids, I couldn’t stand to be a teacher in the public schools because I couldn’t take money from the system and then try my hardest to subvert the goals of the system (which is what I felt I must do in order to not participate in harming kids)…At the time, I found it easy to *volunteer* in classrooms, however.

    I think some people will, must, and probably “should” charge money for giving unschooling and parenting advice, but I don’t blame you a bit for not wanting to be in that role yourself.

    There is sort of a middle ground, isn’t there? I can see you writing a blog, speaking at conferences, and answering e-mails free of charge, but if you had something that you were mildly plugging (a book?), that something could eventually make some money…

    Or what if you spoke at conferences but charged not for your time but a bit for gas and expenses…and then you and your honey could travel from conference to conference in a sort of rather cheap vacation.

    What do you think?

    • I don’t have a problem at all with people being compensated for real expenses incurred for speaking at conferences. I don’t think it should necessarily cost someone money to offer whatever it is they have to offer.

      And I don’t have a problem with people selling books or other materials, assuming the materials are original and they are careful to give credit to others whose ideas they use.

  4. I think some people should charge for unschooling advice-and that you are one of those people. A lot more are charging and they shouldn’t be…

    I have no problem with people charging for advice that others find useful. Some would even consider the advice more real or useful because they had to pay for it. Odd, I know.

    You have given 1,000’s of hours over the years so in a way you have already done all the self promotion, now you just need business cards!

    One of your real gifts is connecting directly with people. You are very knowledgeable and with real concrete, usable advice. And you are very experienced and have walked the walk

  5. I have a theory I’d love to bring into the discussion.

    1) Consumerism
    In this consumer-based society people are so used to paying money, exchanging tangible items for everything, including intangibles – it’s normal to expect payment for things such as *unschooling advice*. It might not feel as uncomfortable to exchange money for people’s time and knowledge as it may have 20-30 years ago.

    For a person with a consumer mindset (which I think we have been – and still are — *nurturing* in our consumer culture), exchanging money may even help alleviate any concerns a person may have of being a burden to someone, which might actually prevent them from seeking out help, in the first place.

    2) Boundary issues
    Secondly – I’ve been studying relationship *boundaries*, lately, and from my studies, it seems like modern culture lacks firm boundaries and the ability to negotiate or maintain them with other people in all kinds of relationship situations.

    Combine a consumer culture with a boundless culture, and they seem very much hand-in-hand, because the transactions of money create boundaries, necessarily, by the outward, tangible exchange of items. The tangible *dollar* for the tangible *marketing* (which spells out terms and expectations) of the less-tangible item of *knowledge* and *service*.

    There is a contract – if you do this, I do that, and boundaries can be established or negotiated, and expected prior to interacting with one another.

    I do believe this culture is crazy and dangerous. I prefer our culture move toward a much more balanced approach to interactions, which I believe unschooling and other philosophies are doing.

    Setting up shop the way you do – without a fee – is, in my opinion, much more in alignment with the goals of Unschooling, attached parenting, etc.

    Because in the end, when a parent succeeds in living a positive, *connected* life with their kids – they develop strong families and individuals with firm boundaries who 1) have no need for the assistance in creating boundaries provided by consumer transactions, and 2) are not burdened by emotional problems that prevent them from seeking or providing help.

    And THAT is a world I hope to see coming down the pipe.

    So then, in today’s world – would it be better to provide services at a fee – and perhaps draw in people who might not seek you out without the contract they need? Get them the help, get their families healthy, and later – hopefully – the world changes?

    Or is it better to BE the change you’re trying to create – but at the expense of not drawing in those who are afraid of being a burden? But drawing in those who are less consumer-minded and more willing to relate on a personal basis, as you are accustomed to, and who are not in need of the pre-established boundaries of a consumer transaction?

    That is why I think it’s totally up to the person serving the need as to which direction will work best. A person like you might be much happier working for no financial payment. And because of your choice, you will attract people to you who are more capable of looking past the consumer and boundary issues, which may bring you more enjoyment in each interaction you’re given.

    A person charging money for their help will be attending to the needs of those who are unable to get past their consumer and boundary issues, and they, too, may find more connection to those they are helping, receive more satisfaction, as they see the world in their similar ways.

    I guess it follows that, by my judgement, the person who happily advises others for free, and those who happily seek their help, are, by nature, closer to the goals we are seeking to meet when we unschool – parent with attachment. But I say that with appreciation and gratefulness that everyone has a place to go for help, whatever their orientation is in the world.

    I’m left with questions about services rendered for a fee. If the current generation of parents needs to pay for these services and does succeed in living an unschool lifestyle, have they also halted this need with the next generation? Or does it steep itself into the culture of the family? Does the time spent learning and advising in this manner slowly lift people out of the need for financial transactions, and also steep into the kids? Perhaps, yes, I tend to think so.

    So everyone has to go the route that works best for them, the server and the needy. One route may be speedier than the other, but they all are hopefully heading the same direction.

  6. “Setting up shop the way you do – without a fee” – whoa, total error in phrasing, lol.

  7. Cheryl,

    I find your ideas about consumerism very interesting, but I wonder if it is becoming out of date. We as a society have become very quickly used to the idea of NOT paying for certain intangibles we had always paid for in the past. Advice, ideas, and knowledge (among other things) are rapidly being disseminated for free, thanks to the internet.

    I used to subscribe to lots of magazines–which of course I paid for. Now I cannot possibly keep up with all the great, free content on the internet, so I subscribe to NO magazines….

    A lot of information of all sorts, even personal advice, is available for free on the internet, and I find myself skipping even promising looking sites that charge money because there is so much good info that are free…

    (Of course I acknowledge that there is also a lot of MISinformation on the internet, as well.)

  8. Love Cheryl Etzel reply. There are many people out there that would love to learn about others experiences in the unschooled world. Many have no financial means of attending conferences even though they would really like to attend. Perhaps monetary donations or other forms of volunteered help would turn out to be a good solution.

  9. Cathy, I also utilize so much free information on the web. So much so that I’m overwhelmed. I’m looking for ways to get off the web.

    I don’t think it’s outdated. I think people may opt to pay for advice to cut through the mass of information available online because it’s time consuming to do the research, and also to find immediate answers to immediate questions or situations in their lives. And modern consumers are used to having immediate – everything. I’m not saying it’s impossible, or even hard – to find answers when one sits and does the research, just that the prospect can seem overwhelming when on is in the midst of a problem.

    Also, paying someone for private advice may appeal to those who want to avoid putting their own lives out on display on public forums where free advice is offered. Thank goodness others are not so private – that’s what make the forums so rich with info.

  10. I actually searched for your blog to find out if you did offer one on one advice for unschooling families.;) I would have no problem paying someone for their time. Of course how much the cost of something is always determines if I will be able to obtain it. I can get creative though, in finding a way to pay for something. When I know without a doubt that it will benefit our family it’s always worth the cost.

  11. Wow, people CHARGE to give out unschooling advice? I can honestly say I’ve never heard of anyone doing that! But then again, I live in Australia, and unschooling is way more grassroots here, although it’s slowly taking off. I have mixed feelings about the idea too. I guess if I wanted to be able to ring someone up over the phone for one-to-one advice, I would expect I MIGHT have to pay for that (although here in Oz we have volunteers who answer phones for our national home ed body, and no one gets paid). I certainly would NEVER expect to have to pay for advice over the internet.

  12. Coming to this discussion a little late… but I was recently asked if I would consider becoming a “homeschool coach” due to the many connections I have made while starting a homeschool program in South OC; but I am in a position where I have a lot of information to give, though very little real world experience (4 years homeschooling) – so I feel almost silly charging…

    But I do believe that it comes down to those personal connections- you may be ABLE to find tons of information for free, but having a sounding board, someone to hold you accountable, share an objective opinion as it relates to your personal journey and (very important IMHO) an experienced person who helps assimilate ideology with practicality- well now that is priceless. And of course for many new homeschoolers (who have very young children) the time to find that info is scarce.

    Add to that the fact that most homeschoolers are single income families- and it becomes an issue of affordability. My solution- barter, swap, trade and share, and pay it forward.

    Just as a great coach brings out the best in an athlete (even though that athlete can learn “how” to do their chosen sport from many sources) – I think you, Pam, would be a terrific homeschool coach. I benefited from life coaching in my pre-childrearing (professional) years far more than I did from simply reading the materials they recommended (many of which I had already). So much more is gleaned from the spark of a human connection.

    In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
    ~ Albert Schweitze
    (Shamelessly stolen from an amazing homeschool mama’s Facebook status)

    Anyway that’s my 2 cents… (LOL, my opinion’s worth- I was curious after I wrote that where the idiom came from- if you are too, here ya go

  13. Hi Pam — Nance here.

    I just saw this blog while looking for some math links for some homeschoolers. Of course, I always think of you when math comes up. 🙂

    Anyway, a year late but here’s what I do about the pay or no pay question. I run a private umbrella school for unschoolers and other homeschoolers in FL. I do not charge fees but started accepting donations a few years ago when enrollment became large enough that a few dollars to cover the expenses was welcome. I get the random $20 or $30 check from the parents who can afford it and that’s enough to cover expenses. I deliberately keep expenses low, of course. And the other 95% of the hsers using my umbrella school pay nothing. There are about 1250 students enrolled now.

    And I use my time helping hsers navigate the choices here in FL and providing links and general opinions about unschooling.

    I recently set up a Facebook page and hsers can talk to me and other hsers and/or people can write/call me privately.

    I’m not sure that the umbrella schools that do charge are thrilled with me but they can always offer some service that warrants a fee — I provide only the minimum the law requires — and many do.

    Anyway, you will remember I’m sure Pam, the discussions about charging hsers for information when NHEN was being formed so many years ago. All the free help I received when I was starting out and the discussions from that time which led to NHEN being free (but willing to accept donations and with a few fundraising products for sale) stuck with me. I always think of the new hsing Mom, now probably even more broke than we were back when I started, who just wants a straight answer to something about hsing and needs a little help to get started. How can I not help that Mom?


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