Thursday, September 9, 2010

Points for Toronto Unschooling Conference Talk

I'm leaving for the Toronto Unschooling Conference tomorrow, along with my mother and sister, and will be back on Monday.  As I've mentioned before, I'm going to be presenting a speech there, Entitled Unschooling is Forever.  After the fact, I'll be posting the various sections of the speech on this blog over the next couple of weeks.  Until I get back from Toronto, I wanted to give you a bit of a teaser: let you know the posts you'll be seing in the near future.  The sections/points of the speech are as follows:

  • How I Became An Unschooler (modified from old post of that name)
  • "How Do You Learn?"
  • How Did My Parents Support Me?
  • Changing Parental Roles and Relationships in the Teen Years
  • The Teenage Years
  • Letting Go of Fear
  • Isolation and Socialization
  • Dealing With Doubters (slightly expanded version of old post Unschooling Questions)
  • The College and University Years (will probably become an article in Life Learning magazine, so will take longer to appear on this blog than the other subjects)
  • Where Do I Go From Here?
  • The Power of Life Learning
I hope everyone has a good weekend, and if you're going to be at the conference, I look forward to seeing you there!  Also, feel free to send me some good luck vibes, because doing this speech is nerve-wracking!!


  1. That sounds awesome, Idzie! I'm excited to meet you this weekend. :-)

  2. Break a leg! Well, not your own, in any case.

  3. Hi Idzie, I wasn't sure how to contact you, so I am just going to leave a message. I just found your blog yesterday and I read quite a bit of it while my 2 kids were asleep (they are 1 and 3).

    First of all, I would like to say that I love your blog and your honesty about everything, in particular unschooling.

    I am reminded a lot of my own childhood and adolescence (I am 30 now) with respect to questioning the world, self-reflection, and critical thinking, however, the main differance being that I was public schooled.

  4. My experiences of school were mainly negative. I simply hated going, I hated the (mostly) negative peer interaction (it literally can be a dog eat dog world, especially in the public and middle school years). You are either picked on, or expected to pick on (if you are part of the popular crowd) - both avenues which I rejected so I often felt isolated and alone. I was also incredibly bored. When I did do well in subjects, it was mainly due to the fact that I had an excellent teacher. For example, one year I had a great French teacher so I excelled in French, but the following year got mediocare grades because I had a poor teacher. Math didn't interest me at all until high school (at which point I started caring for it because I did want to go to University).

    I did not start doing well in school until I started to actually be engaged and enjoying the subject matter (for example, my grades for math from grade 9 to grade 11 went up from 60% to 95%).

  5. But what really bothers me now, in retrospect, was that I was fully engrained in the worldview of the public schooled child. I always just accepted that we are meant to go to school, then college or university, then get a job, etc.

    There didn't seem to be any other reality to me.

    I always hoped there was one but I just simply was not able to find one, my worldview was so narrow at the time.

    I knew I disliked the corporate world, so I immersed myself in the academic world, until that itself got tedious.

    As I am reading more now about unschooling I understand why.

  6. At least at the undergraduate level, I was able to pick and choose courses, there were a few mandatory ones, but luckily for the most part, I did also enjoy the mandatory courses.

    But once I got into graduate school, I felt I was really in control of my own learning, and I disliked having to take x, y, z course and read x, y, z book when I felt fully capable of being able to make these choices for myself. Furthermore, I was paying a lot of tuition money simply for having library access to journals world-wide.

    I had very little professor support, very little guidance, so I realized, why on earth am I paying for something that I can do on my own?

    But my deschooling journey did not really start until I became pregnant with my son when I was 27.

  7. Because I had traumatic hospital experiences as a child, I questioned the wisdom of giving birth in a place that made me so afraid. I hired a midwife and I read everything I could about birth, including a lot of academic sources since I still at the time had access to the University library.

    I started questioning my midwife a lot -which made her uncomfortable. She disliked that I was questioning protocol that was created by SOGC. A lot of the "rules" surrounding birth, the birthing woman and the baby were astoundingly not evidence based, but rather for the benefit of the practitioner/the hospital, and for policy's sake.

    We ended up having an unassisted birth (we did not call the midwife), and my partner caught our baby. It was our true real experience outside of the box and as such it was the most liberating experience of our life.

    However, I find I am still always torn between viewing the world as society tells us it "should" or "ought" to be or simply "as it is" vs my own interpretation, and ever growing lens of how the world is to me.

  8. As an example, I would have never (nor do I now) labelled myself as a stay at home mother prior to having children. I always assumed stay at home mothers simply, and tragically did not have any careers to cling to, so they stayed at home by default rather by choice.

    Never in a million years would I have guessed just how strong birthing hormones would be, and how birthing and raising my children would change me as a person and change my world view and perspective on things. Never would I have imagined that having children would open the door to a more freeing reality, outside of the box of what we ought to be doing and what we should be.

    I am forever grateful to my children for being my best teachers so far in life since birthing and raising them has raised my level of awareness of the world, self-awareness and self-growth.

    But one thing I am still struggling with, especially since I am now looking into unschooling them, is what now? What do I do with my life? Of course I immensely enjoy being a mother, but I also know that there are many hats you can wear in your lifetime, and being a mother is but one hat.

  9. I always thought I'd become an academic, but now I thoroughly reject that life and I am looking at ways of using my skills and knowledge to become an entrepreneur. My entire family gave me hell and told me I am wasting my life away when I dropped out of graduate school, but it was the second most liberating decision of my life (the most liberating experiences of my life being the births of my children).

    And I do agree with a lot of critiques of university/college, that it can be all about getting the paper at the end of the day, and the experience can be less than full-filling (I do think it is what you make of it, it can be a good experience if you take it for what it is - basically if you use the experience it as a way to expand your mind and allow it to open you up to things you may have not come across otherwise, rather than as a teaching tool).

    Really, it is like anything else in school. If you visit Jamaica, you can just stay at a resort, get crazy drunk and come out with that limited experience, or you can rent a car, drive around, learn about the local customs, meet locals, and have it enrich and expand your worldview.

    Higher education, to me is not much different from that. It is not great at teaching (unless you want to be formally taught highly technical material in subjects such as engineering or computer science), it is better at guiding you to other people and other thinkers that you may not have come across on your own necessarily.

  10. But what really intrigues me about unschooling, is how to navigate and position yourself in the mainstream world, which we all have to have some part in unless we can live in a self-sustainable community (which sounds great in theory, but difficult to achieve, considering how many intentional communities break up every year, and new ones start up in their place).

    Because you are surrounded by people who were for the most part schooled, and have a certain, limiting worldview, they cannot imagine how you can know anything about yourself, about your body, about the world, about specific technicalities, without a formal education.

    Often the degree or diploma is nothing more than a foot in the door, and then it is up to your own talents as to how far you get once you get through that door in your chosen career path.

    Of course that is if you take the conventional route and choose to enter into the employer-employee dichotomy.

    If you become an entrepreneur or find other ways to pave your way to self-sufficiency, then the piece of paper/degree means didly squat.

  11. But my question for you, as an unschooler, would be - how do you navigate all these challenges for yourself?

    How do you plan to get around people's judgements and forced limitations on you because you don't have that piece of paper (It is ironic that I am asking since I have never found a use for my piece of paper/degree but a question that I would love to have your perspective on none the less)?

    I see the piece of paper/degree as a tool with which can be used to open certain doors to you in this society (now I don't necessarily want those doors opened but in case I ever did in the future...). Even though I myself find no value in the piece of paper, I realize others do, and while I do not plan to use it in the near future, I do feel I will definitely use if need be, which is why I feel that it is more of a tool than anything else.

    I think that is my biggest fear for my children in unschooling them: that I am making that decision for them, and that they will have to put in more effort later on, if they decide they do want to pursue a path that requires that symbolic key that unlocks certain doors that society fiercely keeps closed for the majority.

  12. I suppose I am afraid that they will be angry, or upset, that they will then have to jump through more hoops to get to where they might want to get, because although through the unschooling journey they would have no doubt learned a lot of what is important to them, I worry they may face disappointment if at some later point in their life they realize that this door is closed to them unless they now do x, y, and z, something they could have done years earlier.

    I realize this is an irrational fear, especially considering the number of career changes people have throughout their lives and especially given the tools/gifts of self-confidence and self-efficiency that unschooling would have given them.

    But it is a fear I have none the less - mainly because my parents chose for me to go down the standard path, and I am choosing for my children do go off the beaten path.

    I of course would have preferred to go off the beaten path from the get go. I would have loved to have been unschooled.

  13. But my children are their own people, and there is always a fear that because my partner and I are the ones making this decision for them, that it could end up being the wrong decision.

    I also know that they can always go to "school" later if they want, mature students are common.

    But - I suppose that I find it daunting to have such decision making power over my children, especially considering that I am rather resentful and bitter at my own parents' decisions for me (well perhaps bitter and resentful is too strong as I am far more at peace, or becoming more so everyday...but there definitely was that element growing up).

    I would love your perspective on this.

    Thanks so much for reading my long post. And thank you for your blog.



  14. Bonne chance Idzie! I'm sure you did wonderful!