Here’s a look at the adorable cabin where I spent my weekend and wrote this post! I was at the Texas Unschoolers’ Conference in the beautiful Hill Country – surrounded by families who wanted to invest their time and money in creating connections with the community, learning more about home education, and having a good time together as a family! I was so excited to encourage you all to find a good conference to go to.
Quite a few conferences exist out there, but they’re not all created equally. Some are all about their vendor hall – they have tons of curricula to feed any interest (or fear) you might have. Some aren’t really kid-friendly and their sessions primarily focus on the moms. Some moms have even left a couple of these conferences feeling inadequate and incapable of doing what the speakers suggested. To me, that’s the total opposite of why a person should go! They should come away inspired and loaded with all kinds of ideas and enthusiasm.
That’s why I want to go out on a limb here and encourage you to go to an unschooling conference or an unschooling-friendly conference – even if you don’t consider yourself an unschooler.
Come One, Come All!
You’ll find all kinds of people at an unschooling conference. Sure, plenty of unschoolers, but also relaxed homeschoolers and even those who are just considering homeschooling. Everyone feels welcome! Lots of unschoolers struggle to find other more open-minded homeschoolers in their local community. Conferences help them see that there are a lot of families out there creating paths that look nothing like school – yet are filled with learning opportunities and adventures.
Stretching Comfort Zones
Some people adore conferences and they seem to go to as many as possible! Others – maybe the introverts among us? – drag their feet a bit. But I’m here to tell you – push yourself past the initial discomfort. Before you know it, that mom or dad sitting next to you in that workshop will be sharing resources, tips or even helping you connect with someone or something locally.
One of the hallmarks of the unschooly conferences are that their speakers talk a lot about parenting and opening our minds to different ways of learning. If you find yourself stuck in the deschooling phase – you’re still thinking about learning the way school attempts to deliver it – these conferences will be filled with people who can help you break free from that. Often, they’ll have speakers who have grown unschoolers – and if you’re lucky, some of those grown unschoolers will be there too!
Unschooling conferences tend to be full of people who are much more tolerant of seeing life from many different perspectives – instead of One.Right.Way. This way, we can gain clarity on our own ideas and make adjustments as needed. I learned so much – even now! – at this conference in Texas. And this happens to me every time! They’re all so inspiring and enlightening.
Most of the unschooling-friendly conferences I’ve been to, create activities for the whole family to do together: Talent shows, family cookouts, fashion shows, to name a few that come to mind.
Unschooling conferences tend to have a lot of fun sessions for kids and teens. Some that I’ve seen include crafts, cooking, nerf gun wars, face-painting, games (yes, online games too). There are dances, pizza-parties, CPR classes, letterboxing, scavenger hunts, cosplaying – and so much more.
For those of us online a lot, it’s so fun to put faces with names. Conferences give us the opportunity to actually meet the writers of those blogposts or Facebook comments we’ve read throughout the year. Dads aren’t left out.There’s usually a time-slot in there for them to share what’s troubling them or what’s working out – in a session solely for men.
The connections that you’ll see the kids making will really warm your heart. When they meet each other through all their shared interests – or maybe just out at the swimming pool – don’t be surprised to find them Skyping with conference friends long after they’ve gotten home.
Walk Down Memory Lane with me…
For those who don’t consider themselves unschoolers, per se, I want to tell you about a friend I had when we lived in Alaska. We were all part of a group that was really diverse – from radical unschoolers to traditional school-at-home homeschoolers. She was what’s considered “a Relaxed Homeschooler.” By the time we met her, we were embracing a lot more unschooling concepts.
She told me that she loved having friends who were unschoolers because they always seemed to have a cheerful curiosity about the world around them – including what was happening with their friends. She found unschooling moms to be resourceful, creative, and willing to make schedule changes if something interesting presented itself.
She had invited us to come celebrate the Greeks with her family that day. They had just finished a pretty intensive study on the subject, but wanted to create something festive for the end. We were happy to join them eating Greek food, listening to Greek music, wearing togas, and imitating some Olympic style games.
So look and see how you might be able to add some more excitement into your lives. Look around for a conference!