Tell us a bit about your story and where you are in your process of starting a self-directed learning community.
First of all, a little about my background. I have both a Bachelors and a Masters Degree in Social Work, and have worked with people throughout the lifespan. I have worked with youth in therapeutic settings, residential settings, hospitals, and (when I was younger) as a summer camp counselor and director on overseas military bases and for the YMCA. Most recently I worked in the hospital setting, responding to youth and their families who were in such crisis that they had attempted or were contemplating suicide. I have witnessed many different approaches to supporting youth in many different milieus, some more successful than others, for countless different reasons. My heart has been lifted by the joy and resilience I have witnessed, but not as much as it has borne the weight of not being able to address the systemic deficiencies that younger people in our culture are dealing with. I was trying to provide individual Band-Aids to constantly treat blisters from ill-fitting shoes, instead of providing different shoes altogether.
My intentions are to create a center for youth and their families in which they can try on many different “shoes” and find what fits best for them. My “shoe store” (to completely exhaust this metaphor) will be based on foundations of social justice, Non-Violent Communication, and will integrate trauma-informed approaches into every spawn point, gratitude circle, and unstructured parts of the daily experience. This will include mandatory staff training and mentorship. It may seem excessive, but it can fit in seamlessly, just like Non-Violent Communication can become natural with practice. I want to reach families who have never really considered homeschooling, alternative education, or even the idea that compulsory school is not the only way to become educated. This means reaching young people who may have experienced trauma in educational settings. These foundations are what my background in social work brings to this endeavor. That, and experience running and sitting on boards of non-profit organizations.
Why do you want to be an ALC Member?
I found ALC completely by accident after deciding to unschool my daughter at the age of 14. We had tried many forms of schooling and homeschooling, and Self-Directed Education offered a beacon of hope in what seemed to be a desolate educational landscape (especially in our geographical area). I joined ASDE, and AERO, and my whole family attended the 2019 AERO Conference in Portland. During the time between joining the organizations and attending the conference, I had the opportunity to Skype with Ken Danford, read a whole lot of books, listen to hours of podcasts, and research my heart out. My mind is constantly reeling with new information from Peter Gray, Alfie Kohn, Kenneth Danford, John Holt, Kerry McDonald, Akilah S. Richards, Blake Boles, and others.
After having a surprising amount of meaningful conversations with professionals and other parents, it became clear that what is needed in my community is an alternative to school for youth that are struggling under the weight of the compulsory, conventional school system. I felt like I was wearing a sign that said “ask me about SDE.” The conversations would spring up with everyone from moms in my younger child’s music class, to neighbors, to people I had just met in the grocery store line. Everyone was interested in the approach and what it could offer, especially to younger people who seemed to have a “square peg-round hole” experience with school. People from the only child psychiatrist in our city, to a public high school nurse, to already homeschooling parents that I knew, to my teenager’s friends have been asking questions and wondering when they could refer people to sign up, or how they could get involved.
So, before I really felt ready, and with the help of Bria Bloom, I set up a Facebook page and a website for an ASDE supported SDE group. I decided to call it Mid-Columbia Self-Directed Education Collaborative, which is a mouthful to say the least. The reason I decided to go with this is that is has our geographic location in the name, and denotes that it is not a Cooperative, or a Collective, or even simply an amorphous “group.” “Collaborative” implies that all members will be involved in making the community what they want it to be (as long as it is in line with ASDE guidelines of course). I let a few people know about the online presence, and it is getting some traffic, and I am able to practice answering questions about sde, SDE, and ALC. As much as I could, at least. This has been giving me the opportunity to find out where I need to research more to have answers to questions I get from people who are not familiar with the terms or concepts.
Which brings me to today. It has become clear that people in this area are hungry for this approach and I need to recruit board members, and to officially launch and start fundraising for an Agile Learning Community.
Which aspect(s) of ALC membership are most appealing to you and what kind of support do you desire/need?
I know what my target audience is, but I think it will be easier to make a clear call to action with ALC branding, website template, and the training support I can get from the Slack team and support calls. I would love to have a founding group together within the year, and I really think it is possible.
Anything else we should know?
I am enrolled in the AERO School Starters Course that is starting in September.