London Unschooling Conference 2009

Someone forwarded a post from Dayna in which she claimed that she had been invited to be the keynote speaker at the first London Unschooling Conference and she was going to introduce Unschooling to Europe. Schuyler wrote to me and said there had been a call for people who might want to speak (in the UK, the offer was made). Schuyler had applied to speak and had been accepted, and said I should apply. She offered to let me stay with her, and that was a cool plan all on its own.

I wrote to the organizers and heard back from Matt Speno. I said I would speak for a t-shirt. I knew they were paying Dayna's way—her whole family's way. I paid my way, had a great time staying with Schuyler, and met some other unschooling families I was in correspondence with too, in England and Wales. Matt seemed eager to have me.

There was a website and a yahoogroups list. Information was scant, though.

Someone on the yahoolist objected to there being too many Americans, who wouldn't know about the current political business there (The Badman Report). As this conference was near HesFes, though, that would all be disccussed soon.

But Dayna wrote:

"Currently, although it is billed as the London Unschooling conference, most of the names associated seem to be from the US" I believe it is only Sandra Dodd and myself who are coming from the US, all of the other presenters are living in the UK from what I understand.
"From what I understand" was lame; she was pretending not to have been in on the initiation of the conference. . Of the very few other speakers, one was an American living in the UK, and one (a workshop presenter) was Canadian living there. The organizers were living in New Hampshire six months of each year and in the UK the other six.

The morning of the conferece, the Waynforths and I were there very early to help set up. When I saw the extent of the lack of experience and planning (there wasn't even water for the speakers), Matt said that Dayna had told them all they needed to do was provide a venue, and Dayna could fill it up and they would all make money.

They had paid for people to record the talks, and had advertised advance sales of the recordings. I don't know if anyone paid for them, but I never heard of recordings afterwards. Dayna's talks weren't worth selling (mumbly, read quickly, unclear), and if mine and Schuyler's had come out clearly, they weren't made available.

Though Dayna had said her kids were excited to meet people, and that people could see her whole family, that didn't really happen. It was false advertising, or part of the cheery peace-and-love fantastic/awesome/wonderful fluff that goes into descriptions and summaries of events, whether they're set to go, or whether they succeeded.

[Insert account from the Canadian mom, from clearinghouse days notes]
[Insert link to schedule, and maybe scan of final schedule which is in my conferences files.]
[Find photos of the day, if there are any.]
[Add follow-up description of the conference as being larger and more international than it was, and the responses to that from 2009; find Rippy's comment from August 2013.]


E-mail received August 12, 2009 from someone I didn't know, who was on my discussion and Dayna's both, asking for my take on how Dayna's presence was at the conference in London:
Is there a place where you wrote about the London conference? I read a bit from Dayna's blog & on the list (which I finally unsubbed from yesterday...I'm done w/ that cult. I can believe in some of it but I don't need to be segregating from other unschoolers) but haven't seen anything from you on how it was. I think Dayna is charging for MP3's & videos of her speaking engagements... . . . . She posted a lot about "the Martin's rocking the UK" on her blog... www.thesparklingmartins.blogspot.com She LOVES to brag & post the super moments of her ideal family. She has such a bunch of groupies following her. I'm done with that. It makes me sick to my stomach, actually.
My response, August 13, 2009:
-=i bet it was awkward with D.-=- I had never met her before and I've hardly met her now. She showed up late and left as soon as it ended, so all her "our family looks forward to meeting you" was worthless; her kids were hardly there at all. The grandparents had them out all day. Sandra

From: "almadoing" <[email protected]>
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] Back from the conference
Date: July 26, 2009 8:39:45 AM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

Well I am back from the conference and am full of mixed feelings.

I loved hearing the speakers. Sandra Dodd was inspiring, Schyler was funny , Sofia was articulate and Dayna's opening talk was fresh. All had very interesting things to say.

BUT - the venue was not right and the organisation was a shambles

- I know of two people who had tried to find out information (one about disabled access and the other trying to book) who never heard back and so couldn't attend
- on the day there was no introduction to the day, programme etc - the first speaker had to introduce herself and people weren't quite sure it had started.
- fewer than half the places seem to have been taken
- there were endless changes to the programme and rooms and we didn't know what was going on
- Wendy Lewis was not there - but no explanation or apology
- the children's area was in a corner of the main room and had to be moved because it was (predictably) too noisy
- the sound and acoustics were very bad and it was a constant stuggle to hear anything
- there were no tea and biscuits - there was not even water available at the venue
- so much for businesses in the market place - there was one bookstall
- to squeeze in main room talks, small room activities and a childrens room cannot be done in a two room venue
- some things seemed to be happening in the street, but we never did find the Badman discussion
- everyone I spoke to would have liked the opportunity for smaller, facilitated sessions to actually meet each other
- Dayna Martin's last session was totally incoherent and off topic. It was billed as From Control to Connection but she talked about a yahoo list about partnerships and couldn't answer people's questions
- Matt closed with a weary speech of that being "done and dusted", while Dayna Matin still tried to maintain that it was "monumental" bringing unschooling to Europe. While I admire positive thinking I felt that Matt was totally dishonest in not apologising for the mess and while he might be trying to put a positive spin on it I felt sold down the river.

It was expensive and time consuming attending this conference. I had to leave the children with their grandmother, drive up to London the night before, and drive back late the next day. Others were driving all over the country for childcare arrangements. Not many unschoolers can afford London hotels, conference tickets and trainfares.

I never did like the billing of this conference as bringing unschooling to the UK. It is very inappropriate given we have been doing it for a long time, albeit under a variety of other names. But I decided to give the conference a chance. While I feel honoured to have heard and met the speakers I feel treated very shabbily. This was not presented as an informal get together (and don't forget to bring a water bottle), but as an organised and paid for conference.

[name]
From: Sandra Dodd
Subject: Re: [londonunschoolingconference] Back from the conference
Date: July 26, 2009 10:23:15 AM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

-=-I never did like the billing of this conference as bringing unschooling to the UK. It is very inappropriate given we have been doing it for a long time, albeit under a variety of other names.-=-

While I thought Dayna used that phrase when she was interviewed, I didn't think the whole conference was intended that way. (Dayna has also oddly claimed that she introduced unschooling to the U.S., on the Dr. Phil show.) The U.S. has known about unschooling for a long, long time. So has the U.K., whether by the term "autonomous education" or "unschooling." There have been people in online unschooling discussions from all over the English-speaking world for fourteen years that I know of (and Italy, Germany, France, Japan; there's a teen from Finland who comes to my online discussions), and who subscribed to Growing Without Schooling long before that. My daughter Holly spoke at HesFes in 2005, but she didn't "introduce unschooling to the UK." I've sold over two dozen copies of my book to Europeans over the past five years, but I didn't introduce them to unschooling. I was one source of information among many, and have never claimed otherwise.

I really liked the information Sophia Woodley shared about the history of home education. I'm really looking forward to reading her research when it's published.

I hope no one felt that I was claiming to be introducing unschooling to anyone. It was around before I had children, and Kirby will be 23 on July 29. It was quite well established before Dayna had children at all.

-=-Dayna's opening talk was fresh. -=-

I wish people would speak instead of read. Anyone can read aloud. It's not the same as speaking.

Schuyler was very nervous and went back and forth between reading and telling the stories more informally, and she was easier to understand when she was telling than reading. Once Dayna told a story in her own words and she was easier to understand then, too. One story does not a keynote speaker make. Reading isn't speaking. Reading might be "presenting," but conferences need speakers.

I'm still working on my follow-up page and it will also have a link to the text of Schuyler's presentation. There's more of Schuyler here:

/schuylerwaynforth

and my follow-up page is
/musicroom

I'll work more on it tonight or tomorrow. I'm really tired, but we're safely back at Schuyler's house in Carleton Rode.

Sandra


from Schuyler Waynforth
From: "[email protected]"
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] Re: Back from the conference
Date: July 26, 2009 11:31:37 AM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

[Name of almadoing in first post above], I really enjoyed getting to meet and to chat with you. I agree with you, it was hard to come to London. I did manage to find a cheap little hotel/hostel with the biggest breakfast ever in Kensington that would take 5 people in a room for 150 pounds a night. Fortunately Sandra (and Keith) paid for that or it would have been more of a struggle for us to come to the conference and stay the night before and the night after.

I really enjoyed the chance to meet so many people. I do agree that it was disorganised and the lack of food and water made it difficult. Again, I was fortunate in having David willing to act as my go to man for much of that stuff. I really enjoyed the cup of coffee he and Simon and Linnaea brought for me yesterday morning.

I promised a couple of links, I'll put them here and also send them out to the people who gave me their e-mail. [email protected] is the yahoo list that was mentioned during Dayna's closing talk. It's a list for helping unschooling parents extend the principles of unschooling to their partnerships. [2013 note: that list was overtaken by law of attraction, and kind of fell apart. Schuyler's current discussion is called UnschoolingPartnerships.]

I mentioned a book by John Stilgoe to Kathryn who lives in Oxford in a house with a small garden and 2 dogs. I don't know if she's on the list, but the book is Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everday Places. I'll send her an e-mail when I go through all my little multi-coloured 4X5 index cards. But in case anyone else is interested it's about exploring the urban world with awe. I haven't read it but I read an interesting review of it ages ago and it sits in my amazon.co.uk basket to potentially never be acted upon.

Matt, and anyone else who's interested, the unschooling gamers list is at [email protected] for anyone interested in having people to ask for opinions or to meet up with on games like Halo 3 or Animal Crossing or Pokemon whichever or Super Mario Smash Bros or Roblox. It's a good list started by Jake and Anne Ohman, although I think there are a few more moderators on it now.

I am glad that I got the chance to sit with and to talk to so many people with an unschooling/autonomous approach to education in the UK. There are a few who we know locally and further afield, but it was wonderful to see people be so interested and engaged with this philosophy.

Schuyler
Response of Rosie, one of the married couple who were the organizers, to Almadoing's post:
From: "ixchelrose"
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] Re: Back from the conference
Date: July 26, 2009 6:33:10 PM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

WE have had lots of great feedback from people who attended. While there were certainly unforeseen factors that required rearrangement on the day we did our best to address the issues as they arose. The main point of this conference was to hear the speakers and the ideas they have to offer in a forum where questions could be asked directly. I think we achieved this successfully. Time and money did not allow for any more smaller groups of people to gather but people did take the opportunity to talk amongst themselves and a few numbers and addresses were swapped so the conversations can continue and peoples unschooling networks can widen.
We set this thing up to create support and networks and inspiration for what can be a hard path when going against the mainstream. Yes it was a steep learning curve for us as organizers but if we managed to inspire one family to carry on then we feel it was a success. WE came to unschooling from a very unhappy experience with school. We never found the support we were looking for to home school when in the UK and only found it by attending conferences in the US – they offered the support and encouragement we needed and this was the impetus behind putting one on in the UK.
So yes there are things we can do better next time but we also feel, judging by lots of really positive feedback, that for most it was a success and we are so grateful to everyone who came along.
The one above wasn't signed, but it was Rosie S.
From: "Jacqueline"
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] Re: Back from the conference
Date: July 28, 2009 12:12:57 AM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

I have just arrived home Tuesday after the conference. I am Ja the owner of UnschoolingUk. First I want to thank Rosie and Matt for all the hard work they put into the conference. It may have not run smoothly and it may have had some problems but for me it was all about meeting some great people. I loved Dayna's talk and Sandra's and was very blown away by Skyler's (sorry wrong spelling). It was great too to meet all those people who have chosen or are looking into Unschooling. The things that really made it special for me where talking to everyone there. Because I have mobility problems I have to move about a lot so was in and out of the main area. I loved the chat with Jane a grandmother who was there to support her daughters choice on what she called a new way of parenting. she said that it was her daughters way even if it had not been hers but what ever her daughter decide was fine by her and she was ready willing and able to be supportive. I had a great chat with a group of mums in the small room who were very vocal and loving. I spoke with individuals and some wonderful loving conversations took place. I came away with 2 coins and a bandanna from Sandra, Dayna's book (which I have nearly finished reading and lovely memories. My boys have come away with a new friendship becasue Simon and they share a passion for Pokemon. Martin came a way with Skyler's (sorry again) words ringing in his ears, impressed by the whole joy that she shared about TV and video games.

Thank you again to all who were involved in the organisation of the day and for those who took part and for those who were there to listen and participate. For me it was great to feel free to share my passion for a way of life that is wonderful but some times very lonely. OOOOOOHH also how lovely to see little ones being free to just be and to see mums breastfeeding again. It is strange but it is not something I have witnessed for a long while. I came over all tingly just to see the babies and mums interacting together. Watching Dads having fun with the Little's ones.

I loved it even though the journey took twice as long because of rail and underground mess ups. I would love to see this become an annual event. Maybe next year it could happen out of London say in the middle of the country.

Thank you again for all your hard work Rosie and Matt.


From: Sandra Dodd Subject: Re: [londonunschoolingconference] Re: Back from the conference
Date: July 28, 2009 12:23:14 AM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

-=-OOOOOOHH also how lovely to see little ones being free to just be and to see mums breastfeeding again. It is strange but it is not something I have witnessed for a long while. I came over all tingly just to see the babies and mums interacting together. Watching Dads having fun with the Little's ones.-=-

That was wonderful, seeing the babies and the attentive, patient dads.

Sandra
From: "unschoolingamerica"
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] Re: Back from the conference
Date: July 28, 2009 4:38:28 PM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

-=-I wish people would speak instead of read. Anyone can read aloud. It's not the same as speaking.-=-

Hi Sandra,

I worked for many weeks on my Keynote presentation and was very happy with it. I am new at speaking in comparison to you. I know after 15 years of speaking like you, I probably won't need them anymore. Where I am fairly new at being a Keynote speaker, I am most comfortable switching back and forth between reading and sharing stories. I still get a little nervous in front of people sometimes. Once I was up there speaking though, I felt very empowered and it was so nice to be able to share the presentation that I had worked so hard on. It was a great experience that I will always remember.

When I heard that you contacted Matt and Rosie and offered to speak at the conference, I couldn't wait to meet you. The stories you shared about your children and Unschooling at the conference were very inspiring. Thank you for offering to come and be part of it all. It was a very special day for many people.

~Peace & Love, Dayna
www.Dayna-Martin.com
Quick follow-up from Dayna:
-=-I know after 15 years of speaking like you, I probably won't need them anymore. -=-

This should have said, "I know after 15 years of speaking like you, I probably won't need NOTES anymore."

~Dayna


From: Sandra Dodd
Subject: Re: [londonunschoolingconference] Re: Back from the conference
Date: July 28, 2009 11:55:10 PM MDT
To: [email protected]
Reply-To: [email protected]

-=- This should have said, "I know after 15 years of speaking like you, I probably won't need NOTES anymore." -=-

I do use notes. I have an outline.
I don't want to keep silent in a situation that will seem to be agreement, so for the record I have always used notes but I've never read a whole presentation. I'll read quotes, sure. It's not honest to misquote people, or to use their words without citing them, so if I'm quoting someone else or using their specific examples, I'll name them, and that will be in the outline too.

Sandra


Before the conference information was thin. I wrote to the yahoogroup on July 6 because I hadn't heard a word for a while. Dayna responded quickly, and Matt S., one of the organizers, the next day:
From: Sandra Dodd
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] Any news or progress?
Date: July 6, 2009 11:24:39 AM MDT
To: [email protected]

Is there a schedule yet so I can know what time I speak and how long I'll have?

I hope things are all unfolding apace. It's unusual to be so near the time of the conference and not be hearing from the organizers.

Maybe it's the most efficient and most streamline conference ever and all I need to do is show up in the right place and check the schedule and speak. I can handle that.

Is there another place in which current news of the conference is being shared? If so, could someone who's on that site or list and this one too please forward the important parts?

Thanks!

Sandra
/unschooling


From: " Dayna Martin"
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] Re: Any news or progress?
Date: July 6, 2009 1:46:30 PM MDT
To:

"It's unusual to be so near the time of the conference and not be hearing from the organizers."

I know that they just moved from the US back to England over the last couple of weeks. I am sure once they get settled they will update everyone and post the conference schedule.

I look forward to this amazing conference! See you there!

~Dayna
www.Dayna-Martin.com

Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] CONFERENCE NEWS
Date: July 7, 2009 1:02:41 PM MDT
To: [email protected]

Ones

Apologies for lack of news etc. We have arrived back in London and getting caught up with friends and family - our children are having the most awsome time being reunited with thier mates!

I am working on details, programme, etc and I will get something out in the next couple of days.

Transition is a tricky thing best enjoyed with family and loved ones -

Thanking you in advance for your patience!!!!

Matt
July 16, I guess, I got the first schedule (which changed later—another speaker sent me that first e-mailed schedule, and I have the paper printout from the day, but at this time, I had the e-mailed one)
From: Sandra Dodd
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] I'm ready to go
Date: July 16, 2009 8:49:37 AM MDT
To: [email protected]

I don't guess the schedule is absolutely finalized, but on the draft, I'm speaking at 11:00 and then in a circle discussion at 4:45. If that changes, I hope it will be announced in advance, but I'll be there all day in any case.

I'm leaving Albuquerque this afternoon and will be at Schuyler's until the conference.

See you soon!

Sandra
From: " Dayna Martin"
Subject: [londonunschoolingconference] See you soon!
Date: July 16, 2009 9:08:12 AM MDT
To:

"I'm leaving Albuquerque this afternoon and will be at Schuyler's until the conference."

We are leaving in the morning to head to Boston.. Our flight leaves tomorrow night. We will be staying at a place near my Mom's house in Lincolnshire.

See everyone on the 25th! We are all looking forward to it!

~Peace & Love, Dayna
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