I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “conference” I think: huge time commitment, a lot of wasted time between sessions, and a lot of sessions that are not great. Almost 4 years ago though, I knew my family needed to be enveloped in the Unschooling life, so when I was asked to speak at the first annual Free to Be, I immediately responded “YES!”.
This quick decision turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for my family. Before the first annual Free to Be, we were living uncertainly. We had recently moved away from the only real radical unschooling family we knew and while we had some new friends who are eclectic homeschoolers that we love, we were desperately seeking community that would model how to live the unschooling life.
So many incredible things happened for us at that first Free to Be, but I will need to make that a separate post. Today, I’d like to share 5 (of many) reasons to attend the Free to Be Unschooling Conference:
1. We are surrounded by people who believe children are people. I know we all think we believe this, but few actually do. When we are living respectfully with our kids it can be overwhelming to be out in the real world and see children mistreated and treated so disrespectfully on a daily basis. Being in a place where just about all the grown-ups treat all the children like people is not only refreshing, it is inspiring.
2. Community. One of the first things I heard from the first speaker at Free to Be (I think it was actually Free to Be founder, Jen McGrail) was that some of their best and longest family friends came from usnchooling conferences. With my understanding of conferences, I could not appreciate what she was saying. I figured she meant long-time acquaintances. Four years later, I get it.
3. Belonging. The first Free to Be Conference was the first time in my life I felt accepted for exactly who I was- overweight, anxious, unsure, and a very boring dresser. By the end of the conference my shoulders were lower and I felt more confident in the world. Nobody had done anything special to make me feel this way. It was just a world I had never lived in before.
This was when I first began to really understand what Unschooling is, and how powerful it is in transforming how we live. It was the first time I saw how much better the lives of my children could be.
4. Non-Stay-at-Home-Partners. I am a stay-at-home mom. I am with my kids all day everyday. I am the one who participates in Sandra Dodd’s discussions. I am the one who texts friends when I need some guidance. It’s easier for me. My husband is not a big reader, does not use Facebook, and is not a fan of podcasts.
Free to Be is an excellent way for him to learn more about unschooling because it is experiential. He gets to chat with other dads. He gets to see that other families are living this way. He gets to listen to in-person speakers. In four days he can take home a huge amount of learning.
The first Free to Be will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first time I saw my husband become empowered as an unschooling dad. Before that, it was theory.
5. Sandra Dodd is speaking. For those who do not know Sandra or her work, she is an exceptional guide and mentor. Her clarity does not only help our relationship with our children and unschooling, it offers a massive and real personal change that makes life better. Sometimes I try to picture where my life would be without Sandra’s writing, guidance, talks, and clarity. I am so glad I am here, and not there.
There are many wonderful other speakers, too. From grown usnchoolers to parents who share their unique and powerful experiences, there is so much to be taken from Free to Be.
Note: there are many other things to do as well. Swimming, awesome “Funshops”, circle chats, and more.
Free to Be is the highlight of our year. It is not a conference for us, it is a family reunion. It is four days every year that my whole family can sink into the community that appreciates us for who we are. It is four days for us to be around people who support us and role model for us how to be better parents for our children. It is the annual boost that we need to keep the Unschooling Life out in the real world. It is the bubble we are happy to enter year after year.