Monday, April 13, 2015

Who inspired you?

At a couple of conferences, I've asked participants to share. The question was:
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.

Please think about this. If someone said or did something that changed the course of your life in this direction, and if you want to acknowledge that (with or without their name), please leave a comment or write to me and I'll add a new section of acknowledgements on the page linked below.
photo by Dylan Lewis


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. I credit Marcia Miller for inspiring me and guiding me to move from homeschooling to unschooling. Her peaceful demeanor and gentle encouragement helped me see that things could be different. That I didn't have to feel frantic and panicked and ill-equipped if things weren't going according to some schoolish plan. Several times over the years, she talked me off the tearful ledge when my son was not reading at 6 or 8 or 10. She never scolded me or lectured. She asked questions, she reassured, she gave examples. Somehow, in the gentlest way possible, she made me see that I could be different, that life for our family could be different, without once making me feel like I'd been doing things wrong. She never triggered defenses. That is a true gift. And looking at her own family and her relationship with her grown son, I could see how that gift worked in her own life.

  5. Cátia Maciel sent this:

    In our homeschooling group, there is this young couple, Tânia and João, with twins. The parents could (maybe?) be my kids and the tweens my sweet grandchildren. They are so kind, creative, happy, their interactions with all the children are precious, like they always have the right word to say, in such a gentle way, with so much presence.

    I admire them both. I see my daughter navigate towards Tânia when she needs help. They are safe. I want to be that safe person, the one who is helpful, with no judgement, when needed. I remember being around them, with so much patience, and shifting to a more gentle self, like by magic.

    ----------end of quote-------


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