Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stuff Worth Sharing with Unschoolers: a Gathering, a Group, and a Mailing List

This post came about when I was realizing just how many things, events and online groups and other things, that I wanted to let my readers know about. And, well, once you have more than one or two, it seems pretty silly to give each one it's very own post! So here are some things I really think you should check out.

Summer Montreal Unschoolers Gathering (SMUG) 2012 This event, organized primarily by my wonderful mother Debbie, is now in it's third year, and I'm sure will be every bit as fun as it was the last two years! For unschoolers (and friends of unschoolers), unlike many overnight (SMUG is a six day event) unschooling events, this is not a conference, but instead a gathering of like minded people with the express purpose of hanging out and having fun (not that unschooling conferences aren't also a ton of fun)! It also tends to have a very large percentage of young adults in attendance, so if you're a grown unschooler this might be an especially good event to look into (the first year there were also lots of young families, last year less, and this year I'm hoping there will be a nice mix of ages). So yeah, it's cool. You should come. Join the Yahoo! group, and list yourself as "going" on the Facebook event! It's been a little slow in the organizing stage because of a lot of things going on for my mother, but as long as we get enough people wanting to stay in the lodge (we know we have enough people combined camping and lodge to make a good gathering, it's just that we need a certain number in the lodge to get it all to ourselves), it's going ahead and it's gonna be great!

SMUG 2011, photo credit Patrick Morris.

Stuff Worth Sharing Network My sister Emilie just launched a Facebook group yesterday, aimed especially at the unschooling community! As the description says: "This group is about giving, trading, recycling, and generally providing for and receiving from your community! You can offer and ask for items, a place to stay on your travels, help with learning a skill, etc. I hope that this can be a tool to help unschoolers get things, be it help with a project or that rare book they've been searching for, that they can't find locally." Check it out here.

Freedom-Based Education Events Montreal I started this mailing list (for "sharing freedom-based, radical, and alternative education events happening in and around Montreal"), and then haven't really done anything with it. Yet I really want to change that, because I really think it's important! From the description:  "for several years I've been as involved as I can be with the freedom-based education community in Montreal.  During that time I've often been frustrated at how far-flung and disconnected the various people and groups interested and involved in freedom-based education are, and how hard it often is for people wanting to get involved to know where to start.  So I've started this list in an attempt to remedy those issues, to help people get involved and stay involved in the various events and projects going on, to connect with each other, and to help build momentum in this growing movement." Join the mailing list here!

Anything else you think other readers of this blog might want to know about? Events, groups, etc.? Share them in the comments!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grown Unschooler Chloe Anne Spinnanger: "The best thing about unschooling is freedom!"

Remember that grown unschooler questionnaire I posted quite a while back, the one that lead to the publishing of a lovely bunch of interviews with grown unschoolers? Well now I am thrilled to be resurrecting that series, with this interview with Chloe! I hope you enjoy reading it, and if you're a grown unschooler, I hope you'll consider filling out the questionnaire and becoming part of this series as well. And now, I'll hand things over to Chloe:

I am Chloe, I have been educating myself since I was 9 years old. Instead of schoolwork or "homework" I spent my time doing other things. 

Instead of Phys. Ed. I was riding my bike with my brothers or friends every day, and hiking in the woods with my dad and  my dog. Instead of English class,  I read Jack London and Anne Rice and Shakespeare (among countless others), and when I was twelve I wrote a two hundred page Adventure novel with characters based on friends. I then got myself a copy of the current writers and illustrators market and learned about how to get a book edited and published. Instead of science, I watched the Crocodile Hunter religiously, I read the origin of species, and numerous zoology books from the library, and then I went outside and hunted down frogs, salamanders,turtles, snakes, I taught myself how to identify them, and where they lived. I  had the time for many  "Extra-curricular activities" such as volunteering at the library, horseback riding, martial arts classes, training my dog, tye dying tee shirts, going to music festivals, museums, or just to the park to play, hike, or swim. 

Now I am an adult but I still feel like a kid, and an unschooler, because my learning didn't stop when I walked out of school. I am always learning, I am always seeking out what I want to know, what I want to do, and how I can make a difference in the world. Unschooling has made me who I am, and I am an unschooler for life.

When did you become an unschooler?
 4th grade officially, I realized it at about 12. 

How long have you unschooled/did you unschool?
 10 years.

How old are you now?

Do you have any siblings?  If so, did they/do they unschool as well?
Yes I have two younger brothers who have never been to school in their lives.

If your parents chose unschooling, do you know how/why they made that decision?
At the time I think I was too busy enjoying life to pay attention to my parents motives, but I can say that I know their decision was influenced a lot by other local families who unschooled.

If you chose to leave school, can you talk a bit about what led to that decision, and how the actual process of leaving went (how did your parents, friends, teachers, etc. react?  What were the challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?).
My parents made the ultimate decision, but I was fine with that! I was lucky enough to be leaving school in the same year as two of my best friends, who's parents were also deciding to home school. So I was pretty fearless about leaving, I couldn't wait.

I remember being so happy that I was going on summer vacation and never coming back, I told all my teachers, I don't remember their reactions but I wish I did.

What do you think the best thing about unschooling is?
The best thing about unschooling is freedom! The freedom of your mind: The freedom to read what you want, do what you love, be friends with anyone you want, follow your dreams, and to question anything. The freedom of your own time, to pursue what you want. The freedom of being able to live life in the real world instead of just preparing for it. 

What do you think the worst (or most difficult) thing about unschooling is?
Probably other people's ignorance and closed mindedness. Schools train us so well to believe that we cannot learn or be successful without them, and it's difficult to tell people who think this way that you don't do schoolwork at all.

Did you decide to go/are you going to college or university?  If so, could you talk a bit about that experience?
I went to college for two years and just recently took a semester off. I really just wanted to try it out of curiosity. I was very excited, and loved most of my classes. 

Did you decide not to go to college or university?  If so, could you talk a bit about that experience, and what (if anything) you decided to do differently instead of college?
I decided to stop at the moment to step back and decide what I want to do with my life. I don't look at college as the only option for creating a happy and successful life. If I decide to become an English teacher or a zoologist, then I'll be going back to College. If I decide to become a novelist, a world traveler, or a farmer I will have no use for it.  

Are you currently earning money in any way?
I am currently working for my boyfriend's family's business in which we do catering making pizza on a firetruck. It is a lot of fun!

What jobs/ways of earning money do you, and have you, had?
My first job was as a volunteer at a local horse farm when I was 12, it was hard work and long hours but I loved it more than anything, I learned about working as well as learning about caring for, riding and training horses. If I had been in school I would not have had nearly as much time to spend doing this. 

I worked in a small pet store when I was sixteen, I worked there for two years and made some lifelong friends in the process. I was able to work a lot more hours than the other high school age kids working there. 

When the first pet store I worked at closed, I worked at Petsmart, doing dog training and grooming, but I ended up leaving because I hated being told what color socks to wear and having a script to spout to each and every customer. 

I have also done waitressing for the past two years, along with numerous other restaurant jobs, which is a little hectic but good money and sometimes a lot of fun!

Have you found work that's fulfilling and enjoyable?
Yes. Because of my working experience I know how important it is to me to have a job that I really enjoy, something which I can dedicate myself to. 

Have you found that unschooling has had an impact on how hard or easy it is to get jobs or earn money?
 I never once had a potential employer look down upon the fact that I did not go to high school, And when I was younger I had a huge advantage being able to work weekday hours, when the high school kids had to give up their weekends. 

Do you feel that unschooling has had an impact on what methods of earning money or jobs you're drawn to?
Unschooling has taught me to be self motivated and to do what makes me happy. I never had someone telling me that work isn't supposed to be fun, and so I only sought out and kept jobs which I enjoyed.

What impact do you feel unschooling has had on your life?
 I can't imagine what I would be like if I had gone to school! I know I would be less mature, due to cliques etc. Thanks to unschooling I didn't have to try to impress anyone, and I become friends with whoever I like.
 I know that I would not read as much as I do. My appetite for reading would be suffocated by being forced to read things that are not of my choosing and having no time to read the things that truly interest me thanks to 6 hours a day or more spent in school as well as homework.  

I would not be so independent in seeking out the things that I am interested in.

I would not question authority as much, or at all. 

If you could go back in time, is there anything about your learning/educational journey that you'd change?
 I would have kept doing Ballet, which I gave up on when I was 13 because I saw that most girls had been doing it since they were very young and I had not. But I love Ballet and wish so much that I had kept to it.

If you have children, are they unschooled?  Alternately, if you were to have children, would you choose to unschool them?
I cannot wait to unschool my own children someday! It is one thing that is very, very important to me.

What advice would you give to teens looking to leave high school?
Read the Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn!! It is inspiring and funny, and full of resources! It will give you the information to know what you are doing, as well as the confidence to do it.

What advice would you give to someone looking to skip, or to drop out of, college or university?
Follow your dreams! What do you love most in the world? What could you spend your life doing that would make you happy every single day? Do that! And if College is needed, then go, if not don't go!

What advice would you give to unschooling parents (or parents looking into unschooling)?
Also read the Teenage Liberation Handbook, it is written for teens but it is a wonderful book for parents as well. Also try Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto. Go to some conferences, meet some local unschoolers (because there are more of them than you think!). Think about your own values, what kind of people do you want your children to grow up to be? Independent, self driven thinkers and learners?  The first thing to do is educate yourself about it. 

Is there anything else you'd like to talk about or add?
I am forever thankful to my mother, for always believing in myself and my brothers, for educating us in ways school never could, and for showing us what life is about. I only hope I can be as good as you someday.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Idzie is Speaking at the Rethinking Everything Conference 2012

The Rethinking Everything Conference is one I've had my eye on for several years, and came very close to attending as a regular ol' attendee a couple of years ago when Daniel Quinn (author of Ishmael and Beyond Civilization among other books) was speaking, but ultimately it was just outside my budget. So I was truly thrilled (and honored) to be invited to attend this year as a speaker! I'm greatly looking forward to being part of this conference, now in it's 16th year, that has the aim of "Exploring our lives in brave new ways, supporting radically empowered birthing, gentle parenting, sustainability, unschooling and self-design, entrepreneuring, super enlightened wellness and sexuality, and lots more." Click below to see the bios of all the speakers and the talks they're doing:

You'll probably notice some familiar names there, like Peter Kowalke of The Unschooling Experiment and unschooling author Dayna Martin, among many other really interesting looking people!

The talks/discussions I'll be doing/moderating myself are as follows:

What Do Unschoolers Do?

It's easy to read lots of philosophy and theory, the history and evolution of unschooling. But when you get right down to it, sometimes it's hard to know what exactly unschooling looks like in actual peoples lives, hard to know what, exactly, unschoolers do? Join this panel discussion to find out about what unschooling looks like in different people's families and lives.

The Art of Nonconformity

Sometimes not going to school is the only thing we're doing that's against the ideals of the dominant culture, but often, unschooling is just the start. When the food you eat, your political views (or lack thereof), your relationships, and the way you're choosing to live your life all seem to set you apart from the majority of people, it can be both a difficult and rewarding experience navigating through the world. Come to share your experiences and support each other, as we discuss finding community, following our own paths, dealing with negativity from others, and other important things to think about when you're living an unconventional life!

Misconceptions of Unschooling

Unschooling especially as it's begun to be a bit better known thanks to recent media attention, is plagued by quite a few myths and misunderstandings about just what it is and how it "works." In this workshop, we'll dispel a bunch of common misconceptions, and discuss sharing what unschooling really is with others.

Unschooling is Forever
Now you're a little bit older, and suddenly the questions are changing. Instead of "don't you have school today?" it's now "so what college are you going to?" We know that unschooling means we're always learning, thus it can naturally continue long past what are conventional compulsory school years for many, though definitely with some new challenges. For those of us who have decided (for the time being, anyway) not to go to college or university, and instead to continue unschooling, it's a unique time and experience in our lives, both very similar yet different from unschooling in the younger years. How does unschooling evolve as we grow older? How do the expectations and reactions from the culture around us change and impact our experiences? Come to this discussion to share your experiences and support with each other.

I hope some of you will be joining me at Rethinking Everything this year, as I'm sure it'll be a fun, challenging, and just all around enjoyable gathering of like-minded people!