Wild Child

For Quinn Eaker, a son of the radical "unschooling" movement, school's out forever

In Hawaii, Quinn became intrigued with a schizophrenic who was living on the streets. "He bordered on clairvoyant," Quinn says.

When Quinn called home to say he planned to live homeless with the man, Lundgren had a gut-check moment. "We had a long conversation about it," she says. "Ike came to me and said you have to talk him out of it. I said, 'Ike, you know I don't do that. We don't understand it, but this is what Quinn wants to do.'"

Quinn got an education in what it was like to be poor and crazy. He paid close attention to his new friend's ramblings, hoping to glean some wisdom, but after a week they parted ways.

Quinn Eaker, with his mother Barb Lundgren in their Colleyville backyard, where he says he spent an idyllic childhood.
Mark Graham
Quinn Eaker, with his mother Barb Lundgren in their Colleyville backyard, where he says he spent an idyllic childhood.
An unschooling family: clockwise from bottom left, Steve Eaker, Brenna, Barb Lundgren, Ike and Quinn
Holly Kuper
An unschooling family: clockwise from bottom left, Steve Eaker, Brenna, Barb Lundgren, Ike and Quinn

"It affected me powerfully in positive ways but also in negative ways," Quinn says. "He would have anger fits and unload on me." But the man also taught Quinn how to dumpster-dive.

Quinn lived homeless alone for another week. One night he was sleeping in a doorway when he was approached by a woman wearing makeup and heels. She showed him a place to sleep out of the rain where cops wouldn't bother him. Quinn refused her offer of crystal meth and a blow job. "I've never had sex, so no," Quinn told her. Though he felt some pinpricks of fear, the woman left him alone. Quinn later realized she was probably a he.

Being homeless taught him a resourcefulness no reading ever could. "I lived two weeks without spending a penny," Quinn says. Every meal was scrounged. He has confidence today that he will never go hungry. Even now, when Quinn is home, he often brings his mother bananas or melons or rotisserie chickens he's found in trash bins outside grocery stores. Lundren tosses the overripe fruit, but Quinn says she sometimes uses the chickens for salad and burritos.

Quinn doesn't see college in his future. He's after something bigger than a bachelor's degree. "I just go and let the universe open up to me," Quinn says. He's shopping for a bicycle so he can travel without relying on oil or other methods of transport. "I always have some new profound experience. That's what my life is about now, a moment-to-moment, day-to-day existence."

It's not that Quinn doesn't have dreams. But in a world full of options, they change every day.

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