Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Unschoolers are Coming

My emailbox has been unusually full this past week, not so much because I’m suddenly popular, but because I’m on an email list of unschoolers who are planning to attend the Live & Learn Unschoolers Conference that gets underway this Wednesday in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Several hundred of us are about to converge on the Blue Ridge Assembly in the mountains above Asheville, moms and dads and babies and teens and grandparents and life partners and all manner of folk in between. Many are seasoned unschoolers. Others will be new to the whole idea. Some will leave baffled. Others will leave as new members of a joyful tribe.

My daughter has always been an unschooler. I was conventionally schooled. As she learns, I unlearn, relearn. The longer we do it, the greater its implications in our lives, and the greater our influence on those around us. We have changed minds, just by being who we are and doing what we do. And our lives have changed, just by being among other unschoolers.

In the early days, I carried a lot of schooly thoughts in my head. I embraced the essence of natural learning – that we learn what we learn in our own time, in our own way – but I didn’t know at first what would replace the workbooks and curriculum and schooly stuff. I still thought in the language of school: subjects, semesters, “What Every x-Grader Should Know.”

So for a while I measured our lives against the artificial construct of institutionalized schooling, and tried to find ways to wedge our activities into their appropriate “subject” categories. Even though we were quite free of school in many ways, in the beginning I thought in terms of the world as our classroom. Dragonstar -- and other unschoolers -- taught me that, as Grace Llewellyn writes, the world is not a classroom, the world is the world.

What replaces the workbooks and curriculum? Absolutely nothing. And absolutely everything. The world is the world.

At the conference there will be lectures and roundtable discussions. There will be (somewhat) organized activities known as funshops. There will be a picnic. There will be a masquerade ball. There will be kids with painted hair and faces and grandmoms with tattoos. There will be trails to walk and a creek to wade in.There will be five sweet days of letting someone else do the cooking.

The unschoolers are coming to Black Mountain. Dragonstar and I head out on Tuesday.

credit: "Embryo" original pen & ink by ps pirro


  1. bottle some L&L excitement for me again this year please!
    Safe travel & God speed ~
    K (oh, and check out my unschooling post from last week..we're diving in.. or not, whatever the case may be :-)

  2. Oh, you are going to have such an amazing, fantastic time. I so wish I were going! Seems like everybody is going to be there. :)

  3. All power to you all! But occasionally school can itself unschool the child:

  4. Hi PS--
    Have a grand time--lead the way.
    I love the phrase 'the world is the world'. It reminds me of the post recently on the Virtual Tea House about the wolf wisdom: we live because we live.

    Have a blast!!

  5. Some of us our unschooling ourselves for a lifetime. thank you for the next generation. " if you have a garden and a library, you have all you need"- cicero

  6. Thank you for saying "The world is not a classroom..." I feel that is SO inappropriate and completely unrepresentative of our unschooling lives...why even compare it to a classroom??...and why would anyone *choose* to make the world smaller by saying it's a classroom??


    These are the burning questions...and the reasons why the world is our portal to our unschooling lives!!


  7. Thank you all for your comments. We have just returned from the conference and I'm in re-entry mode, sorting through words and impressions, getting my thoughts in order. There is always more to say about unschooling. I hope to say some of it in the days ahead. Meantime I'm coming to check out all your blogs!


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