It has been several weeks since our family returned from Albuquerque, NM, where we attended the 5th annual Live & Learn Unschooling Conference. It was much anticipated, and will be long remembered, just as the 3 previous conferences we attended were. They have become the our "re-fueling" pit stops along our unschooling journey. At the end of each conference, we are energized by having been surrounded by so many others who "get it".
There is no other place where our whole family can go and each person finds activities and companions to meet their needs - all at the same time!!! (Not the whole time mind you, but a large portion of the time.) Other times, we are more comfortable than anywhere else to just "Be". We can be our true selves without fear of misunderstanding, or judgement, or criticism. Without needing to "defend" our lifestyle choices, we can more open to learning about ourselves, others, and everthing around us. The conferences are like an explosion of learning in all those areas. With all the funshops, the conference talks, the socializing, the sharing, it's like at least a month of living all rolled into just a few days.
The most wonderful thing about the conference for me, is seeing all the REAL LIFE unschooling families interacting with each other, seeing the ideals I value being practiced in reality, with awe-inspiring results. I get to see the living proof that I am not reaching for some unattainable dream with my family. I see that living a life free of school, a life where children are given the respect they deserve, a life of conscious choices towards peace and happiness, is not only possible, but is being very successfully LIVED TODAY. And there are as many ways to live such a life as there are families. Being around all those different families helps broaden my (and my husband's) perspective on what the possibilities really are. There are more ways to make unschooling work in your family than it might appear at first, just like anything else. I think this is where the creativity of unschoolers really shines, in how each family goes about making this lifestyle choice work for them.
I recently read an essay by Gloria Steinem on the NPR website entitled, "A Balance Between Nature and Nurture". http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4805246&sc=emaf&sc=emaf I was surprised to find out that Gloria Steinem had been essentially "unschooled" herself, never attending a formal school until the age of twelve. She gives a poignant description of the effect of school on her life. But the reason I bring this article up here is the following passage:
"But the real answer is a balance between nature and nurture. What would happen if we listened to children as much as we talked to them? Or what would happen if even one generation were raised with respect and without violence?
I believe we have no idea what might be possible on this "Space Ship Earth."
When I read this, I immediately thought, I have an idea of what is possible, and the reason I do is because I was just at the Live and Learn Conference. I saw hundreds of children who are being raised with respect, who are being listened to, who are being raised without violence as a family dynamic. The results are just as wonderful as one would hope: kids of all ages peacefully playing and hanging out together; kids and adults joyfully hanging out together; kids and adults learning from and with each other, enjoying being together in all types of activities; "packs" of happy teenagers who are comfortable conversing with adults; people who KNOW their are many possible solutions to every challenge. This is just a glimpse of what is possible, so I guess I don't really know the full extent of what is possible. But as unschooling continues to flourish, count me in!