Finding Personal Connections

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“We are the only unschoolers in the greater _____ area.”  I hear this all the time from unschooling parents feeling isolated and seeking like-minded community.  My first question to them is whether they have actually looked… and where.  There are many ways to locate unschoolers and connected/respectful parents but, being that this is not traditional educational/parenting methodology, we need to think outside the box.  We probably won’t find these traits in our neighbors, the other parents on the soccer sidelines, or in our workplace cohort.  There is definitely a need to come out of our shells to an extent and seek the support and connection we desire.  The life of an unschooler can be extremely isolating for introverted parents and even more so for their children who may not share this personality trait and are left wanting more social interaction than is made available or comfortable for their parents.

Many of us find a reliable friend in the internet and support in the faceless names and personas portrayed on-screen in chat rooms and on groups.  Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a fabulous tool.  I have connected with loads of interesting people and garnered much in the way of support and food for thought through groups, essays, blogs, and websites.  However, nothing can replace the camaraderie of regular face-to-face interaction with families living and learning similarly.

I never said it was easy.  How bad do you want it?  I can tell you from personal experience that local connections are worth every moment of the trials and tribulations of the search.

Where do I start?

Internet search– Open your favorite search engine and type in your area with ‘unschooling’ or ‘unschool’ and see what comes up.  You may need to enter your county, metro area, nearby city, or state.  The first step toward making connections may be as easy as this.

Yahoogroups– This is a great resource for groups of all varieties of interest and support.  There are a great many unschooling groups- both international and local- to be found here.  You can once again search for your area or begin joining international groups for a start in internet-based support. Setting up an account or starting your own group are both free.

Meet-Up–  Finding unschool groups here will be a bit more rare (there is a fee for starting a group) but worth a shot since I happen to know there is a Dallas/Ft. Worth Whole-Life Unschoolers Meet-Up that began almost a year ago. 🙂  Setting up an account is free and your search results will reflect your locale.

International groups and lists– There are many groups (see especially unschooling Yahoogroups or local homeschooling info groups) and lists (like Radical Unschoolers Network) on which you may be talking to people who live right near you!  Generally, it’s very acceptable to post an inquiry about unschoolers/radical unschoolers from your area.  You may want to include a request for them to contact you offline so as not to bog down the group.

Start your own group- If you build it, they will come.  I am on my third time at this and it has been successful each and every time.  In southern NH, myself and 4 comrades- meeting through perfect serendipity (and a post on a national unschooling yahoogroup :))- began a larger area unschooling group called LEAP which continues to grow exponentially.  Upon moving to Texas, I began a small, local yahoogroup of similarly aged children and like-minded parents of the same name.  This group has since dissolved but those of us who bonded through that experience have gone on to other things and remained close.  Last year, myself and 4 other DFW unschooling mothers got together to form the DFW Whole-Life Unschooling Meet-Up to fill a need for growth, discussion, and networking in the area.  It continues to be a tremendous success and we look forward to each and every get together for play and focused discussion.

A Few Notes

You may not feel it.  As with anything, it is entirely possible and even likely that you will meet many people with whom you do not connect deeply before you find one with whom you do.  Just because they’re radical unschoolers or (insert common descriptor here), doesn’t mean that you will have other things in common.  Many times it has felt worth it to continue to find common ground with people if only because it has been important for me that my children have friends who are used to their parents being kind to them.  There is a difference in those children and the friendships and play have always been stronger and more joyous as a result.

Be willing to travel.  Getting together with other unschoolers/respectful parents often requires us to drive greater distances.  It has always been worth it.

Be open.  My first meeting of unschooling friends was (as I said) completely serendipitous.  The story can be heard in HB #2- Finding the Real World.  We connected because we were all very open about our beliefs and goals when we met and were talking.  The more open you are about unschooling and respecting your children, the more apt you are to find others who do the same.

You’re Not Alone

Recently, I noticed a thread on one of the national boards of someone asking for good areas to which to relocate as they were searching for unschool community.  I was pleasantly surprised to see members from all areas of the country piping up to throw their area in the running.  There were dozens of areas represented- both rural and urban- by people who deemed their locale to be supportive and socially connected for unschoolers.

So when people come to me and say that they are the ‘only’ unschoolers in their local area, I have to believe that there is a pretty good chance they’re wrong.  I’m not being an optimist.  I speak from experience.  Southern New Hampshire now has a group of 255 members as I write this post.  Yup- southern New Hampshire.  I quickly and easily formed a group of 13 families (there were more who wanted to join and I was of the mind to keep the group small at the time) within a 1-hour radius all with children around the same age as mine when we moved to Texas.  Our Meet-Up group (granted, it is the entire DFW metroplex) now boasts 128 members- some of whom travel an hour or two happily to make these connections. 

Granted, it is certainly possible that, even after exhausting all of these possible avenues for finding like minds, you will come up dry.  I have come across many lately who are considering relocating for this purpose.  While this may seem drastic, to know deep, personal connections with others who strive to live a positive, connected life may be worth it for you. 

As we make the transition to a life on the road, we’ll be seeking whole-life unschooling families and groups with whom to connect as we explore North America.  We’re looking forward to meeting you!

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HB #14- Second Chances

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Dealing with family members who disapprove of our parenting/educational choices can be difficult. Sarah talks about how to take back the power and move forward with joy.

Show notes:

Family situations

Parenting differences

Educational pressures

Sarah’s story of confrontation, mediation, relocation, and peace

Assume a powerful, peaceful, and positive stance

Your children will be the shining example

Music Selection: Second Chance- Shinedown

humansbeingblackClick here to stream the show or download FREE on itunes to your mp3 player!