My oldest son, Kevin, is the reason I unschool. He is now 23 and in the Air Force. But the story started way back when he was around 12. Or perhaps it goes back even farther than that! He was always a precocious child teaching himself to read at age 3. By the time he was 12 we had tried all of the various curricula out there - ACE PACEs, Alpha Omega, ABeka, unit studies, a computer based curriculum....you name it, we tried it. He hated it all! He wanted to learn what he wanted, when he wanted. I had a new baby at the time so was busy and stressed and told him to go ahead and teach himself then!
Well, Kevin went on to teach himself computer programming, HTML, web design, C++, Perl, Java, and a slew of other programming languages. All we did was supply him with the tools to learn - books and computers. When he was in 11th grade we put him in a private Christian school (I was working there) and within 2 months he was promoted to 12th grade and graduated a year early. He became an apprentice for a company that did videos for Japanese tourists and he learned video editing, did all their computer programming for them, and also learned business management and bookkeeping. He decided to join the Air Force and so just after his 22nd birthday, moved to the states to start his basic training. By this time he had "burned" himself out on computer stuff (or so he says) and because he wanted to get off of Guam, took the first job opening that came up - Power Production. Which means he works on generators.
It's been over a year now, and Kevin is excelling in the military. He has risen to the top of his crew and manages them all, even those who are higher ranking than him. He has also begun to take advantage of the free college education afforded by the military.
In order to get his degree faster, Kevin has been doing CLEP tests. A CLEP test is where you test out of a course based on your life experience and knowledge. So far he has CLEPed English, Technical Writing, Managing and Supervising (not sure exactly what this course was called), just to name a few. His next one he plans on taking is Astronomy.
What makes this so amazing is that Kevin does not study for these exams. He looks to see what is available, thinks about what he knows and signs up and takes the test. And aces them. Why Astronomy next? He figures he knows a lot about the stars based on all the science fiction books he has read. He doesn't read science fantasy - but hard-core, fact-based, science fiction books. I figure he will ace that test too.
Why is he able to do so well on these tests? One of the main reasons is because he is well read. He has been reading since he was 3 remember? That is a lot of books over his 23 years of life. Not only does he read, but he knows how to research. When he was in 11th grade he discovered he had some gaps in his math. So after school he would come home, look online for math tutorials and taught himself about 4 years worth of math in a little over 2 months. He is fascinated with words and language so has taught himself Spanish and Japanese, and knows the etymology of most words.
Now Kevin may be an exception. I'm sure his IQ is "up there". But I feel that unschooling him was the best thing I ever did. It gave him the opportunity to learn what he wanted to learn, and as a result retain that knowledge more than if he had been forced to learn things that didn't interest him.
My other children have their own success stories. Eventually I will share them here as well.