2020 Webinar: SDE at Home

2020 Webinar: SDE at Home

[00:00:05] – Bria 


My name is Bria Bloom. I live in Portland, Oregon.


I run a Flying Squad here, when we’re not quarantined, which is basically a group that doesn’t have a space, so we use the city as our space and we only meet about once a week. So it’s more the homeschoolers on unschoolers to get a chance to build community with a group. It’s a little bit difficult to use the city like five days a week. It can get exhausting because when you’re in that kind of group, you can’t separate out when you want to do different things. Everything has to be kind of agreed upon and done together, and you have no real home base to go back to. So it’s an interesting adventure. It’s not something you want to do every day, typically. But that might change depending on what this next year looks like. And then I’ve also worked at a free school here, which is a little bit like an ALC, but they use democratic practices. I don’t anymore, but I worked there for about a year. And I have a nine year old who attended and still attends that school.


And my background, like way back when, is in early childhood, so I’ve also worked with the youngest ones. So full range and a lot of different ways. And I love all aspects of this, but I really like talking to parents and supporting parents. And I think a lot of times when you’re sending your kid to a center, they help parents, but a lot of times people need even more help, translating those practices and how it works at home. So that’s me.


Because of what’s going on right now, I think it’s really important to start with an acknowledgement of what’s going on. I know that there is this notion in the world and kind of image that a lot of people have, that self directed education, unschooling, is very white and only can be accessible by white people, or that is mostly white people doing it. And while it is very true that there are very real financial and socioeconomic barriers to SDE and I know the ALC network and other people are trying really hard to break those down, they’re also very real.


[00:02:33] – Bria


It’s also true that there’s thousands and thousands, especially of Black and BIPOC and POC homeschoolers, and there’s a huge community of people of color doing this. I just want to acknowledge that, yes, there is an issue and a tension here, but to paint SDE or unschooling or ALCs as predominantly white, that’s really harmful. And one thing that really helped me think about this was Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor Henderson’s article that she shared, “Ours  First”.


So I’m just going to read an excerpt from it. See if I can share my screen here. And then there’s a place where you can read more about this. But she talks about kind of the history of SDE and how it’s actually innate in indigenous culture and not something that was created by white people in an academic kind of way. So, yeah, I’m just going to read this.


[00:03:49] – Bria


“Of course, centering Whiteness and wealth is common practice in the settler-colonial, imperialist context that is the United States, which requires enslavement and genocide in order to maintain itself. However, in the name of resisting this practice, it is important for those of us interested in Self-Directed Education to take issue with the assumption that it falls under the purview of White wealth, as that assumption more accurately reflects the normalized and dominant identities of a Western-dominated global system, rather than the groups that historically practiced Self-Directed Education, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.


Indeed, a consideration of historic education Indigenous practices in the lands presently called the United States – and the practices of various groups who have been legally or circumstantially excluded from schooling – should remind us that the very groups not often seen as ‘typical’ unschoolers actually have extensive histories of Self-Directed Educative practice.


We have long known that we are fitting into a way of being that is not our own. Rather than wondering whether there is an alternative, however, we know that there is a better way. Maybe some of us always knew, but struggled to admit it to ourselves because of family schooling traditions or our own relationships with schooling. Maybe we’ve recently begun listening to the voice speaking inside us. Maybe the better way makes logical or logistical sense. Whatever reason brought you here, know that: this was ours first.”


[00:05:46] – Bria

There’s a link on the slides, which we can send out, but I also see – thanks, Abby. I knew you would do that. Abby put the link to that in the chat.


I wanted to open the space with that and also I know this is all about how to interact with our kids. So the next slides are going to be about how to talk about race with our kids in a non-oppressive way that relates to self-directed education.


Because I think it’s easy to think that we should force all these things on our kids and make them do certain work. But how do we uphold the values of non-oppression and self-directed education while upholding the values of social justice and racial equity work? That’s a hot topic in all these communities, and everyone’s going to disagree. This is just one way of doing it that I’ve found really works in balancing those values in a family system.


I’m going to share again. So one of the questions I feel like I hear all the time and maybe not in SDE spaces or ALC spaces, but just in general, is “Is my kid too young to talk about this?” or “Are my kids too young to talk about this?” And the short answer is “No. They’re never too young to talk about this”. And it seems like this group is pretty aware, but I’ll just reiterate that POC and BIPOC, black folks don’t have a choice.


[00:07:16] – Bria


They have to talk about this with their kids. For white families to have a choice to talk about race and equity issues is privilege in itself. So as white people, we need to be talking about this with our kids. I’ve worked with kids from when they start talking, are learning to talk, to, you know, 18 and plus. And I don’t think they’re ever too young to have these conversations.


The conversations vary depending on what age they are. But I think the short answer to this question is absolutely not. Your kid is never too young to bring this up.


Should I be forcing my kids to engage with racial justice and antiracist material? Not really, but yes. Akilah S. Richards, of course this is her famous quote, says that we can’t keep using tools of oppression and expect to raise free people. What that means to me is that using the same tools like we use in school and often in parenting to force kids to do what we think is right will not help them grow up to be free people and not help them be free people right now.


[00:08:32] – Bria


So while it’s really super important that we engage with this work, it’s also really super important how we share it with our kids. And from my personal standpoint and my experience, it’s counterproductive to force this stuff on your kids.


So if you’re not forcing it, how do you bring it up in a non-oppressive way?


I was talking to a group of parents about this the other day. And really, this is the same with any topic in your life. If you care deeply about something, you’re engaging in it all the time. You’re sharing it with the people around you. You’re modeling how you want to be in the world. So, if I care about police brutality, I’m talking about that. I’m reading articles, I’m watching police when I see them in my neighborhood talking to black people. And my kids see that. And that’s a chance for them to ask questions, and for you to engage around it. So if you live your values and you’re constantly involved in this, then your kid is going to be interested and asking questions and want to be involved.


[00:09:51] – Bria


If you aren’t living your values and instead you’re trying to tell them “You should do this work. You should read this book. You should learn more about racism.”,  not only are they not going to want to do it, most of the time it’s hypocritical for you to say, like, “Here’s all this material” and then not do any of that work yourself. So it kind of goes hand in hand where you’re like walking your talk. And because all of this stuff is in their environment, they’re interested in it and it’s going to come up.


[00:10:24] – Bria


So I think the answer to should I force it is: You should do it for yourself. If you hold that value, you should force yourself to do it and make it part of your family and part of your life. And that’s going to naturally come up with kids. And this is true with any topic. This is also how I will say, generally how SDE works in the home.


One example of how this came up for us recently is we live in Portland, which is super, super white, but we live in maybe the most diverse neighborhood in Portland. And we were taking a walk because that’s part of our quarantine routine. And I saw a cop – I was with my son and my husband – and I saw a cop stop and walk up to a black woman who was on the porch and demand to talk to someone else in the house.


And I just stopped and wasn’t going to leave. And my son was like, “Why are we stopping?” And I was like, “Well, I’m going to watch this cop. I don’t want to leave until he leaves. I don’t trust him. And I’ll explain more to you when it’s over.” And we waited and it took a long time and the cop eventually left and there was no violence in that moment.


[00:11:37] – Bria 


And then I got to explain to him what cop watching is, why it’s concerning when cops are specifically talking to black people and how that might bring about violence, how white people watching can actually tone down that violence and, like, make those people more safe. And of course, we’ve talked about these things before. So he knows a lot of this stuff. But it’s also hard, I think,  for him as a nine year-old to really process the gravity of it.


So each new situation and conversation that comes up, he gets a little bit deeper into how serious this is and what it means for black people and people of color to not feel safe in their own homes and in this world. So every time this happens, it opens up conversation. And instead of me bringing up police brutality in some offhand way by trying to make him do some curriculum on it, it’s happening in real life. And it’s part of  how our family operates. It gives them a chance to see those values in action and ask questions about it.


I had a woman in a parenting discussion group the other day talk about how her kids don’t want to play with their black neighbors and trying to figure out if there’s like a language barrier, because they’re from France and don’t speak English very well and trying to figure out, is this actually about something related to race or is it about their interests or what’s going on? And she’s really struggling. And I guess when she spoke with her kids about it before, she used the term color blind and now is realizing how harmful that term was.


[00:13:25] – Bria 

She was really worried about it. I mean, yeah, of course, I would be really mad at myself and concerned. That is not a healthy way to talk about it. But we also talked with her about how adults make mistakes, too. And going back and saying “I made this huge mistake. Here’s all the things wrong with ‘colorblind’. Here’s what I’ve learned. And I was able to figure this out and learn more and educate myself.”


And that’s just another form of modeling that, like, adults make mistakes, sometimes really big ones, too, and we’re figuring out a lot of this anti-racist work, we’re figuring out as we go along. That it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you revisit them with your kids. And it’s not like anything you say is going to be the final thing you say.


Here are some resources, you may know all of these already or you may not. But I’ll make sure to share the slides:


[00:14:33] – Bria 


Raising Free people network, with Akilah Richards. That’s a big one. She has a book coming out, her and Maleka Diggs made a workbook about schoolishness and pervasive whiteness in SDE. That’s a really good resource.


Eclectic Learning Network, is Maleka Digg’s network. And she has a deschooling meetup that might open up. Right now it’s full, but it could open up in the next month.


Crystal Byrd Farmer, who is a facilitator at an ALC, has a book coming out also. And I’m really excited for that one. I really need to read that one.


Our contingence is Kelly Lime-Taylor Henderson’s blog.


“She said, We Shed” is a new podcast about a black unschooling mother trying to heal from trauma from her own childhood.


[00:15:34] – Bria 


If anyone has other resources from black women or men in SDE, please share them in the chat.


[00:15:44] – Bria 


Self directed education at home. Everyone uses a different term – there’s like unconditional parenting, peaceful parenting. Sometimes attachment parenting, though that means something really specific.


My favorite term is partnership parenting, because I think it really describes what this actually is. The idea that what you have with your young people, with your kids is a partnership just like what you have with your friends or your spouse or anyone else in your life that you want to challenge and grow with.


So this really helps me frame it when I’m thinking about how I want to interact with my son. I want a partnership with him. I want him to be able to call me out, just like I want to be able to call him out. I want to be able to challenge him and know his goals for himself and support him in figuring out his goals for himself. I think this is really counter to the more conventional thought process about parenting, which is “my job is to know what’s best and then make sure they do it”.


Partnership parenting is pretty opposite of that. Like, my job is to find out what they want and what they believe is best for them and then help them attain that.


[00:17:11] – Bria 


I’ve been in a lot of meetings with a lot of parents lately, so I don’t know how you all are feeling and this might be different than how you were feeling two months ago. But, the feeling that we have to attain some level of normalcy or still expect the same things, seemed pretty pervasive at the beginning. And I just always invite parents and anyone to let go of that. Right now is different than any other time we’ve seen or experienced. Even before we had the protests, on top of a pandemic.  Right now is different than anything we’ve experienced.


My message is always be really kind and forgiving of yourself and be really kind to your young people. If right now they don’t want to start new projects, they don’t want to engage in some family activity you’re used to doing, if they want to be online all day with their friends. I mean, I always think being online with your friends is great and OK, but I think sometimes, like right now, it’s even more and there’s even more time spent on that.


[00:18:19] – Bria 


I think we really need to look at this moment and be like “What do people need in this moment and what does my kid need in this moment?” and see what they’re doing as the answer to that. Instead, I’ve seen a lot of people jump to judging if you’re bingeing Netflix all day or judging if they’re playing Minecraft all day. And I think right now especially, that’s really harmful because we’re all responding to this really strange time and trying to figure out the best way to live in it.


[00:18:49] – Bria 


What your kids are doing right now is what they need to do to live in this really stressful time. So my go-to is, accept what they’re doing, try and understand how it’s helping them and supporting them and what they’re getting out of it, and then move from there.


I also always think of how, I grew up being unschooled, so I always think of my own childhood and how much things shifted in any given year. Based on what I was interested in, what was going on world, what friends I had.


So what’s present right now and this moment for them isn’t necessarily what’s going to be present forever. So, Jason, you mentioned videogames and spending a lot of time online. And yes, maybe he needs to be working towards a career or figuring out how to not spend all the time online. But also it could just be what works for him in this moment right now, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be his life commitment forever. I think as parents, we get pretty trapped in thinking they need to be working towards sustaining themselves, because we want them to be really successful and happy in life and part of that is finding a job and knowing what they want in life. But in unschooling and SDE, I think, and in life, in our adult lives, too, we go through phases of what we’re interested in, what we’re really obsessed with, and that looks different depending on what stresses are in the world right now. If you have access to your friends and things like that.


[00:20:29] – Bria  


So I like to remind myself, especially in this really heavy moment, that what kids are doing and focusing on right now is what they need right now. Just like what I’m doing and focusing on in this moment is what I need right now. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what it’s going to look like forever or we have to start planning their futures right now. So be OK with what’s present and know that that can always shift and may always shift.


But since we’re talking about SDE at home, I’ll just go through this again. I think what you can do to support your kids right now or anytime you’re doing SDE at home is pretty similar.


Abby, maybe correct me if you think I’m wrong, but it’s pretty similar to what facilitator’s do at ALCs and other SDE centers, which is: talk to your kids, engage about what’s going on, ask them about what they’re interested in right now, what they’re doing. Play their videogames with them if you want to, or watch their Netflix with them.  I never thought about Netflix bingeing because it’s not happening around here. Any families I know. But I had one parent talk about how their kid is just watching Netflix all day long and she doesn’t know what to do.

And you can still engage with that, like figure out what shows they’re watching and find out why it’s interesting to them and talk to them about the characters. There’s something in that. Everything kids do, just like everything we do as adults, there’s something in it that’s compelling. So finding out what’s compelling will help you understand what they’re interested in. And then you can talk with them about it, or accept it and move on with what works for you.


[00:22:26] – Bria 


Share your feelings with them. As we talked about, about what’s important to you, getting outside, moving and doing things as a family. Don’t forget to share those pieces about what’s important to you right now.


Share your concerns. We also talked about this. The concerns about screens, about eating, about getting enough sleep. Share them, but don’t use that to coerce them. Just help them work through it and build good habits.


And then remember, I’ll just say this again, remember that the more you coerce, the more you make them do something, the less they will trust you. The more you partner with them on figuring out what their needs are and how to support them, the more they will trust you.


Just be together. Ask them what they’re doing. Help them find resources to go deeper. Talk to them about what’s going on. Talk to them about current issues.


[00:23:26] – Bria 


I think that kids are seeing what’s going on in the world right now, at different levels. Obviously, it depends on their age. But I always like to bring it up and offer a conversation because maybe they’re seeing something I didn’t even know they were seeing or didn’t even know they were talking to their friends about it.


So offering conversations about current events and chances to process is really important. But if they don’t want to talk about it, I also just let it go because it can be really heavy.


My son is running across the hallway with Cheerios in his hand trying to be quiet, but it’s a little distracting.


So, practice. These are just things to keep in mind. It’s like I have to remind myself, I strangely grew up with a really controlling father who somehow was able to be an unschooling parent and share his ideas without controlling us. And I got some of his controlling tendencies. So I have to remind myself to interrupt those and be really intentional about it.


[00:24:41] – Bria


Some things I do to interrupt my controlling tendencies with my kids or other kids is to ask myself before I tell them to do something, or before I interrupt something they’re doing, “Why is this important to me?” Why is it important to me that they clean X thing? Or why is it important to me that they don’t eat bad or whatever it is for you, whatever your thing is that really gets to you?


Why is this important to me? Why am I pushing this so hard? And is this actually my decision to make? So am I pushing that they eat all of their dinner so hard because my parents pushed that on me, or because I’m really worried about food waste or because I spent so much time making dinner that I feel when they don’t eat it, it’s disrespecting me.


Digging into those whys will actually tell you a lot about yourself and your own childhood trauma sometimes, and interrupt you putting that trauma on your kids. And then asking, “Is this my decision to make?” Is what my son eats, really my decision to make. Is what he engages in my decision to make. And if it’s not, how can I talk to him in a respectful way to share my concerns without making it about my decision?


[00:26:09] – Bria


Pay attention and start to track all the times you tell your young person or your kids what to do or require that they do something.


When I was working with two and a half year olds, we once did this thing where on our hand we ticked every time we said ‘no’ or gave an order. The first time we did it was outrageous how many ticks we had for every time we, like, told them what to do or told them ‘no’. You don’t have to, like, put ticks on your arm like I did, but just tracking every time you’re doing that can help you realize how much control you’re reaching for. Maybe for some of you you’re not really exerting any control at all right now, maybe it only comes up in situations. But just mentally noting every time you’re doing that can help show you what’s really going on in your relationship and kind of interrupt that.


Pay attention to your language. There’s a lot of little cues in how we talk and how we talk about our needs and how we talk to people younger than us that are really telling. One thing that I hear a lot, even in myself, is “I need you to do X”. I don’t actually need that,  I just want that. To sort of make that a need is a little bit manipulative, because it’s actually about what you want and not a baseline need for yourself.


You might really need to spend time with them. And that might be really important to you. But it’s not fair to put your need on making them do something, and something that doesn’t actually really affect you. So, like, needing them to eat the broccoli isn’t super fair because that is something about their body and how it affects them. It doesn’t really affect you.


[00:28:06] – Bria 


But needing them to help clean up the living room can be justified in the sense that this is a community space. And here’s why this affects me. So just be really careful about the way you use ‘need’ and the way you use “I need you to do this”,  because it can definitely convey that what you think they should be doing is more important than what they want for themselves.  Not sure how much sense that made, but I’ll check in in a minute just to see where you all are at.


And then we talked about this too:  learn more about whatever activity they’re into, so you can better understand it. So if your first go-to is like, “Why would they play Roblox all day? That’s just useless. They’re not learning anything.” Switching that to “I wonder why they’re so curious about Roblox. I wonder what about it is interesting to them. I wonder what Roblox actually is.” And then trying to figure it out. Play it with them if they want. If they’re open to that. Ask them questions about it.


You’ll figure out why they’re compelled by it as opposed to just seeing it as like a mindless activity. I think we tend to see things we don’t understand as mindless activities. I’m totally guilty of that. I do not understand why people watch YouTube videos. I just don’t, it does not work for me, I don’t get it. But there’s lots of great things in YouTube videos. So if I just switch that and say, like, “I’m curious why this is so interesting to you. Let me learn more” then it helps me see that learning is happening all the time as opposed to just judging certain things as learning and other things as not learning.


[00:30:01] – Bria 


Yeah, I mean, the question is, if we’re not forcing them to do something, then what? And the answer, in my experience and from what I’ve seen work for a lot of parents is we are accountability partners and support in the way we would be with adults.


So, discussing how those things affect them, what they need help with. I’ll always ask my son, I’ll remind him, like, being on the screen and sitting down all day isn’t actually that healthy for these reasons. And I know you’re going to want to – like we had this conversation right when the school shut down and the pandemic  started –  I know you’re gonna want to do this. I know I’m gonna do this. And I know it’s how you see your friends. And I’m thinking of ways we can plan as a family to do fun things that get us out of that.  I’m thinking we’re gonna have to be really intentional about it. What do you think?


[00:31:00] – Bria 


And his answer is almost always, “I forget. I get lost in it and I forget. But yes, I do want to take breaks from the screen.” So I’ll ask, like, is it OK for me to remind you? And for him, the answer is always ‘yes’. For some kids, sometimes the answer is ‘no’. And since you’re asking and you want to be respectful, you actually have to respect the answer ‘no’. That doesn’t mean you can’t come back later, but if you don’t respect their ‘no’ in that moment, you’re breaking trust. It’s gonna be a lot harder later to rebuild that trust. If it’s something really important, I’ll push a little harder. If I get a ‘no’, I’ll push a little harder and be like, “Oh, why is it ‘no’? Can you explain that to me? Is there something else I can do instead? Is there something else we can plan for you together instead? Like a timer, whatever works for you. I don’t know.”


[00:31:52] – Bria 


But working with them to say:  This is my concern about the thing that’s coming up with you and I realize this is my concern, so it might just be an issue I need to work through. What do you think? Do you have a concern about this, too? And do you need my help with it?


And that’s just, I mean, I think that’s how I should talk to my husband too. Doesn’t mean it’s always how I talk to my husband, but like, I need help getting off the screen. I need help being reminded of the things that support me. So just applying those same concepts that you would do with an adult that we don’t think we should have power over, I’m applying those to your kids because I don’t think we should have power over kids either. That’s just a really, really good way to remind myself what kind of relationship I want to have and how to approach my kids.  Anything else coming up? OK.


[00:33:12] – Bria 

Partnership parenting does not equal permissive parenting.

Something I see a lot, and sometimes I do myself, is fall into this space of not wanting to coerce or control my kids means I forget to share what I need as well. So an example of this is like, let’s say the living room is a shared space and your kids play in it a lot. And they leave all of their toys and all of their stuff in the living room and that inhibits your ability to use the living room. But you don’t want to ask them to clean it up because you don’t want to force them to do anything. So either you clean up or you just deal with it. That’s one example.

There’s a thousand examples around cleaning and chores with this, or even not wanting to ask them to spend time with you because you don’t want to force them to spend time with you. But one of your needs as a human is to like, have time with your kids, but you don’t want to impose that on them. So you don’t even ask. I think those are mistakes of being too permissive and forgetting yourself in this. So I just like to remind parents and myself to not forget myself. My needs are important, too. And sharing those is what’s really going to create a partnership.


Ignoring those isn’t going to help them at all. Like, you ignore those and you don’t share those needs with your kids, then they’re not learning how to be in an equal relationship. They’re learning how to center their own needs and not reciprocate and do anything for you. And that’s not their fault. That’s just what you’re modelling and showing them.


[00:35:01] – Bria 


And I also find the more you move away from telling your kids what to do, the more they’re willing to help you out when you ask. We don’t do like, official chores, but if it’s time to clean and I’m like, “Hey, will you help us clean?” The answer is always ‘yes’. And that’s just been true. Or like a favor that I need really bad, but I can’t do myself usually because I’m on a webinar, working, but I need it right now, my son will always interrupt what he’s doing and do it for me because he knows it’s really important. Otherwise, I wouldn’t ask.


So there’s this spectrum of  control and permissiveness. And I think the goal is to land not in the middle, but in the space where you’re there for their needs and they’re gonna be there for your needs. But in order to do that, you have to be willing to share what your own needs are.


And I’m wondering now if anyone has examples of how that’s come up for them. I could tell a dozen stories, but I want to illustrate and clarify this a little bit more, so I’m wondering if you’ve ever felt that tension between, like, asking your kid to do something and not wanting to interrupt their autonomy and where that tension is for you?


[00:36:28] – Bria 


I was thinking, not every passion we have has to be a career in the future. Like, it’s really great to see the 12 hours of gaming and then see how that applies to a lot of people’s career. Those success stories are amazing. And sometimes 12 hours of gaming are always just gonna be a passion and that’s not going to be your career. I don’t know how many passions or even like obsessions I have that have nothing to do with my career that I have and take up a lot of my time. But they make my life better.

So it’s really nice to see those success stories. And it’s also a little bit school-y to think of everything that we do with all of our time as having to lead to a career.


So how can those things live and balance and live together? Abby, do you want to expand on that at all?


[00:37:24] – Abby 


I can. I think my thoughts on this issue come from, in large part I guess, I credit to adrienne marie brown and her writing about allowing pleasure. And it’s like,  capitalism says you have to produce to have value. And that’s B.S.. Especially when the quarantine started, I was thinking, for a lot of kids, about something she wrote about her relationship to eating sugar. And how the same practices she has to make herself feel good and that are her self care, recharging, refreshing rewards stuff, she knows are also the things she’ll fall into when she’s trying to numb. And so she’s got a practice of having that awareness and letting both be OK. But just checking in with herself when she notices that she’s turning to those things and asking, like, “Am I looking for pleasure right now or am I numbing? And if I’m numbing, why? And like, is this how I want to continue to deal with this?” Just adding a mindfulness component to it.


[00:38:56] – Abby 


And the people more recently who have been talking about this are the Nap Ministry, and they’re rad. Their whole schema or philosophy, I guess, is that especially for black people in the US, taking a nap is revolutionary and radical, like, reclaim that rest. Rest for yourself and your ancestors, take it back. Yeah, I think about that a lot.  And it’s so antithetical to school.


[00:39:50] – Participant question slide 

Do you have family meetings?


[00:39:50] – Bria 


We don’t. Our family specifically does not. It kind of comes up at dinner. We’ll talk about it at dinner or we’ll bring it up as it comes up. I know a lot of families do. Especially if you have teenagers, it’s helpful to have meetings because teenagers are really busy doing their own thing or out of the house a lot of the time.


Or if you have more than three people, like we have three people, so it’s easier to communicate. But yeah, I know a lot of families that have meetings. I know a lot of families that actually use the ALC boards to, bring up and  – help me out, Abby, why am I forgetting – things you’re noticing that are not working out in the house. So you can just put that sticky note on the board for whenever your family meeting that’s like “I’m noticing that the dishes are never done on Fridays. Whose job is that?” And then you can go through and talk about and make agreements for it and try it out. And I know that works for a lot of people, but with three people right now, we don’t. Meetings are not needed to be planned. But I do think they can be super helpful.


Awarenesses! That’s the ALC word for it. Maybe it is too early.


[00:41:23] – Abby


Yeah, and it’s funny because as the director of an ALC, when I’ve done family meetings, which are the best thing on road trips with teens, they’re my favorite, I don’t use the board. We just have a conversation when there is a shift in the journey, when we’re like “Do we want to stay in this place? Do we want to leave?”,  you know, that kind of stuff. We’re like, “Oh, we like we should talk about this over lunch”. And then we go to a diner and it’s just like an open ‘where are we at, what do we want, how do we get from here to there’?


[00:42:10] – Bria


Yeah, I think tools are really flexible based on the situation. I don’t use anything like an ALC board because it just like traps me in one mindset. Sometimes I’ll bring it up. But, as a general rule, I like to flow more. Like the way Abby is talking about, like, what’s going to work with this group of people, in this moment, for this problem. But some people love that tool, especially kids, because they’re like, I know exactly how to do this and how my voice is going to be heard. And that really helps me.


[00:42:46] Participant question slide 

How do Flying Squads work?


[00:42:47] – Bria


  1. I’ll say that – Flying Squads are all different, like ALCs, although I think we kind of have a baseline of how it works. I do mostly monthly fees. I know Brooklyn does daily fees, and I know at Abrome that’s woven into their ALC. So people from that ALC are already paying tuition. It does not, for us and I think for Brooklyn, too, it doesn’t include costs. In Brooklyn they walk a lot. And if they want to go somewhere far away, they take extra money for it. We ask kids to bring TriMet passes or money for the buses system here. We never, ever drive them. It’s not like a carting-people-around-in-vehicles thing. In my mind, it’s like figuring your city out. And wherever you can go on foot or in public transit easily is where you’re going, for the most part. And then they bring food. So we ask them to bring their lunches or they can bring money and then figure out where they want to go. I know Brooklyn has a daily deli trip that they are pretty obsessed with, so the kids plan for that.


And then I never plan anything. I will bring up like, “Oh, hey, I saw this thing or this march is happening on the day we have it. Do you want to participate?” I’ll bring things up just like the kids will. But for me, it’s not a field trip planning thing. The adults are not planning an experience for the kids. You meet in the morning, the kids say where they want to go. You work it out together, however that looks. And you go. And then sometimes if there’s like an event in advance, they’ll plan it like the week before or something, because they have to.


But it all comes from the kids. It’s not like an experience made by the adults.


It’s definitely a new level of deschooling for me. Always looking for new levels deschooling, but having no idea what your agenda is with a bunch of kids in the city is like, I love it. And it’s totally next level letting go of control. But every group is different. Which is the magic of it.


[00:45:19] – Participant question slide

How do you start Flying Squads and Meet-ups?


[00:45:19] – Bria 


It’s hard to start from nowhere. Everyone else kind of had a learning center to start from or to pull from except for Portland. And it’s a little harder to start from nowhere. We have a pretty big unschooling population. So I tell them about it a lot. And then just through, like I know a lot of people involved in SDE here and they have a lot of parent connections, which is through like the grapevine.


We have not ventured into, like, putting flyers in coffee shops. My co-facilitator keeps saying that. But I also have a pretty hard “This is what this is. And if you’re not into it, you shouldn’t send your kid here”  stance. We’ve had multiple parents e-mail and be like  “Can I come?” And I’m like, “No, actually. You can’t”. Yeah, I feel like our blog posts are pretty clear about what goes on.


So it’s almost like anti advertising. But then you get the families that have really bought in and you get a lot less issues with buy in along the way. So I’m wary of putting stuff, personally, in libraries, because it’s like, what kind of family is going to find that? But you can be pretty clear in your materials, no matter who finds you, they can self select. And it depends on what you want. Like we have kids climbing trees and going up to school groups in museums and saying “leave school!” and arguing with their teachers.


[00:46:47] – Bria 


And putting up self-proclaimed propaganda about how school is a bully system. We have some pretty out there kids. And I don’t lie to parents about that. So, yeah, it is what you want and I would rather get parents who are bought in then get a lot of money or something. Yeah. But it definitely makes it harder to get a bigger group.

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