Who Inspired You?

At the ALL Unschooling Symposium in Minnesota, a question was asked May 3, 2013, of the participants:
Who inspired you? Who helped you move toward better parenting and unschooling?
They might not even be unschoolers. They might have said one thing, one time.

Some named names I didn't save, but the images and stories were these (told aloud in more detail):

  • a husband who was nice even when the mom was impatient and sharp, and who helped them find a more peaceful solution to situations at home
  • an author who wrote about respecting children
  • a nurse right after the baby was born who said "Talk to him; he's a whole person."
  • other parents at a local gathering of unschoolers
  • a mom (grandmother of the unschooled child) who had encouraged her children to be independent
  • a mom who encouraged the discovery of the world and who showed interest in her children
  • seeing a neighbor very gently put a moccasin on a young child
  • an education professor who advised, when asked about how a new teacher should be in a classroom: "Be kind, be kind, be kind."
  • LLL (La Leche League)
  • a husband who said, when a mom was sitting crying, while waiting for her child to 'cry it out': "Why?"
  • a dad (grandparent of unschooled kids) who went on trips and brought stuff back that was cooler than t-shirts (chocolate-covered ants and interesting stuff)
  • conferences, seeing older kids
  • John Holt book (rather than $10,000 per kid for private school)
  • a cool mom and a Dr. Sears book
  • a wife
  • a gentle first-grade teacher who didn't seem to adhere to a curriculum, but was there with the kids and was kind (a male teacler)
  • camp counselling experience (reading about children for that purpose)
  • a grandmother
  • a neighbor who made cookies, and picked flowers with kids
  • Friday nights on the computer while a husband took care of kids so the mom had a night to read and research each week
  • neighbors with unschooled teens (and an SCA hobby)
  • an unschooling mom calmly letting a child dump a box of blocks
  • a mom moving from having grown up in poverty with abuse, trauma and an addicted mother, to single motherhood and hard work and frustration and wondering "What if there's a way we can both get our needs met?"
  • getting a babysitting job for someone who advertised for a sitter familiar with attachment parenting (researching that, and babysitting for that family)
  • Reading online, friends, conferences


      My favorite quotes from that session:

      "I'm more interested in learning what they think of the world than in telling them about the world."

      —Linnea King

      "When our children take the space they need in order to experience things, it doesn't make our lives as parents more difficult, it's something that makes our lives enriched and abundant."
      —Sonya Austin

      "It was so crazy, I was really drawn to it."
      —Melissa Yatzeck (about when she first read about unschooling)

I asked the same questions on Just Add Light and Stir, in April 2015, and got these responses:.

The blogger dad from"Free Your Kids" introduced me to the lifestyle refered to as radical unschooling. I don't even know how I stumbled upon his Facebook page, but my family and I will forever be glad I did! His words were simple, warm and hit me like a truth smack in the head. A huge "duh" moment. I have not even raised my voice in anger in almost 4 years and I love the way our family lives with joy in everything.

Life is bliss, even when it's not. :D

The ever grateful,
Janet Buzit

My dear friend Louise Mills reminded me that making a stand for what was right for my child in a situation may not have been seen as the right thing socially. I realised that a lot of what I was doing was from a need to be seen to be doing the right thing instead of feeling my own way and feeling my child's needs and putting them above all else. Stepping out of conforming to a set of rules I thought needed to be obeyed has resulted in me experiencing motherhood at it's purest level and for that I am truly grateful
Helen

I binge listened to Amy Childs' Unschool Life podcasts. They wore me down along with some other things going on at that time and slowly it dawned on me that rules, almost of of them, find their foundations on shifting sand and are driven by fear.
Julie Markovitz

Pam Tellew and Robyn Talman, by creating SFBuN, which has been a wonderful group to grow into Unschooling with. Their example and leadership was also key, as well as the fact that we had a place to go and be with our "tribe" where we were understood.

You, Sandra Dodd. Through your lectures at conferences, your books, your website, and Just Add Light and Stir. Your words help me stay on track with how "simple" it really can be, and how fundamental just listening to and respecting your children are to the process.

Dawn Holtan for being my friend in the trenches, and my sounding board. The many hours of conversation we have had about "how" we live with our children in a learning lifestyle have been invaluable to me. Thank you for always being there with an open ear, heart and mind!

Hugs,
-Savanna

Hey Sandra Dodd,

I think I was inspired by you and all the unschoolers, because you guys believe in something positive and beautiful - life and learning.

Sincerely,
John Michael Sluder

When my son was 4 and my daughter was 10 months old, a family of 3 moved in across the road. Liam, Shannon and Janaya Taylor. I watched them through the window and was curious about their light hearted, close connection with each other. Janaya was 14 at the time. I got to know them better and so enjoyed how they seemed so awake to every moment, so open and playful. Janaya was unschooled. So instead of taking my 4 year old to Kindergarten that September....we didn't go!

He is now 17 and my daughter is 13 and they've never been to school...pure bred!! And now we enjoy that light hearted, close connection and aspire to be awake in our moments, open and playful. We live on a small island and 2 other families have followed this path, inspired by Janaya and her parents. Our hearts are FULL of gratitude!

Tanis Roberts

This might seem cheezy, but I will share it anyway :) I was watching the movie Wild the other night - the one with Reese Witherspoon. There is a mother character in it who gets cancer and has very little time to live. She is talking to her daughter about when she will no longer be around. She says she won't make her promise anything and then says, "Just try to do the kindest thing." This reverberated in my head for days and made me think of unschooling every time I remembered it. It was my favorite line in the movie. And I am having trouble with just that lately (stressed and overworked at the moment), so I am glad to remember this movie line...
ke aloha no,
Hina

I credit my friend Jennifer with empowering me to try homeschooling. We were both middle school teachers at the time. She was taking a few years off to be at home with her young son, then 4, but was up at school one day for a meeting. At the time, my son was 2. She had been teaching for 25 years. Me, for three. In my classroom after her meeting, she said in passing that she might homeschool. Really? I asked. Yea, she said. I think it would be fun and, I don't know, I'm not sure all this--she swept her hand in the air indicating the whole the classroom, maybe the whole school, the whole model?--is the best thing for them.

It's funny, Jennifer's life took her in a different direction. She took a job at a very prestigious private school, where her son also attends, and she feels like they both get a lot out of the high performance expectations. But the moment years ago that she considered something else and shared that thought with me opened up a possibility that I had hitherto not even considered. Here was this master teacher--my friend--who was considering homeschooling not to close off her child or teach fundamental Christianity or something like that, but because she suspected his life might be BETTER that way.

Her opening that door for herself gave me a kind of permission to do the same. I will always be grateful for that.

Teresa Honey Youngblood

I told Pam Tellew at park day that since we started unschooling Austin was telling me a lot of things that happened to him in school that I was unaware happened. She responded with, "That's because now there's trust." That comment really shook me and made me aware that I was building something really important between Austin and I and that was trust. It also helped me realize being Austin's mom didn't mean trust was a given. I did need to earn it and work to keep it.
Heather Booth

Credit for my educational paradigm shift goes to Charlotte Iserbyt, John Taylor Gatto, and Samuel Blumenfeld. Their work is what got me to think about education in a whole different way. However, it was Sandra Dodd and Company who really got the ball rolling with regards to unschooling. Once I discovered her work, I read everything of hers I could find, and then I re-read it, slowly and over time, while trying a little...and then a little more, and then more...and then waited for the magic to work. And work it did!

When I decided to find an alternative to traditional schooling, I had very little personal support, especially in the beginning: I didn't know anyone who was unschooling and only a very few homeschoolers at all, and most of them were schooling at home through an independent study program. When I withdrew my son from school altogether, my family thought I was crazy, but, fortunately, held their tongues most of the time. While my son seemed to sleep his way through ages 13 and 14 (more accurately, he slept all day and played video games all night), my husband worried that I was ruining him. However, I had faith and kept the course, and as time went on, exciting things started to happen, and there were successes that could not be denied: my son, when awake, was a delight to be around; he looked for ways to exercise independence; he got his learner's permit and then his driver's license, and then his first job, one in an area of his passion, gemology; he took a second, related, job (though he quickly decided that working full time and a half wasn't for him!). Today, he's working 28 hours a week, and he's more than halfway through the certification program to be a gemologist (by far the youngest in his class and getting all As)...and he's not even 18 yet!

But even if my son hadn't experienced the more "tangible successes" (the jobs, the early college classes, etc.), I would still laud radical unschooling as espoused by Sandra Dodd. The relationship between my son and I has always been good, but since adopting radical unschooling principles, it has absolutely blossomed, and is even better than it was before.

My family is living proof that radical unschooling can benefit anyone. We are religious (LDS) and generally "conservative"; my husband and I both are products of public schooling, and my husband is a tenured professor at a community college. Sadly (and a bit inexplicably), no one in my immediate peer group unschools, and yet, it has worked/is working so beautifully for us. In my heart of hearts, I believe radical unschooling provides the kind of life that our Creator intended us to live. It is the Golden Rule put into practice. It is how I live the change I want to see.

Thank you, Sandra Dodd!
"Recynd" (an anonymous poster)

My initial contact with the soothing voice of a local LLL group leader over the phone opened up my whole world to the various aspects of motherhood. The feeling of relief from that initial call remains vividly clear in my heart and mind as do the many words of wisdom that were shared over the years at the meetings and family get togethers. Eleanor, the local leader at the time, was the first mother I met who had her children at the centre of her life , enjoying being with them, living and learning without a school framework.

A few years later I came across the term Radical Unschooling over the internet which became a further eye opener and mind expander offering a new perspective on all aspects of living. Reading the various writings involved walking off at times due to some particular topics that touched a nerve or pushed a button, stepping back and watching what is happening, learning to see things in a different light and always feeling a pull towards returning to seek further understanding.

I am very grateful for Sandra, Joyce, Pam L, Pam S and all other experienced Radical Unschooling mothers who share their understanding, experiences and wisdom with such clarity.

Parvine Shahid
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