I was recently interviewed for this post: For Unschooled Teens, Learning Communities Are Critical where I talk about the need and vision behind creating a temporary learning community for teens.
I am the parent of an unschooled teen. Only the last two years has community become a critical need in my son's world. Although we are traveling, we connect with wonderful families and friends online creating a supportive community of unschooling and homeschooling parents, many of which have teens, it is not the same as connecting in person. However, I've discovered the common element among teens are their desire for community to combat the feeling of isolation. Some parents have shared with me that their teens attending traditional high schools also feel the sense of isolation and connection but it's emotional, revealing this is a common theme. However, home educated teens have a greater sense of being alone since the physical isolation is also present.
But my son loves unschooling. And he loves traveling too.
Last year we were considering finding a democratic school so my son could be among his peers and I wrote this article calledFinding community. Dealing with teen isolation- Unschooling & Travel Finding community. Dealing with..article
Then my blunt question to Miro, “do you want to return to the United States and go back living a conventional life?”
His answer, a clear emphatic, “No.”
Miro does not want to go back to the US to live. He’s clear about that. Equally, Miro does not want to go to conventional school. He’s clear about that too, as he says over and over that he loves unschooling. And he assures me, he likes the freedom of traveling.
Next, I suggested to Miro that we reach out to our community, online. I am a member of many homeschooling and unschooling groups on both facebook and yahoo groups. I am also the member of many other groups that support families who travel. I figured if they all had children there would likely be some that were at home too, maybe even some around Miro’s age. Perhaps some of them might even be interested in some of the same things as Miro is. Maybe some might be willing to connect online as well. At least it’s something.
And so I put the message out there. Again, I had to remind Miro (and myself) that there is no shame to share our desires as part of the human race. There is no shame in wanting connection. There is no shame in saying we desire “community” either. There is no shame to seek support in order to learn and be supported. There is no shame in asking for help.
So we asked.
The community response was amazing. Miro added about 8 new friends on facebook. Although he’s a little shy, he hopes to connect and create a circle of friends across the world. I hope he finds some connections this way. For now.
Being a single mom is not easy. Choosing our lifestyle is not an easy path. And if we hadn’t chosen this lifestyle, I would almost guarantee we would have a different set of problems, no better, no worse than the ones we have now. The beauty about our lifestyle is the ability to choose what we want to experience every day. We have the freedom to choose something else if it is not working.
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
So we are looking at lots of different possibilities now, open to where the world will lead us. We both love traveling and are feeling the itch to explore some more, new and exotic places. But we also are committed to stay here in Peru for another 6 or 7 months. Together, we are producing a project we both believe in so deeply, called, Project World School Peru. It is no coincidence really this project is about the very thing we are both struggling with right now: community. The project focuses on having learning experiences together and building relationships as an integral part of the process.
So for the next half year or so, we focus on building our vision and fulfilling our dream. Hopefully our passion can keep us fueled during the next few months and we both can find our way to combat loneliness while we explore options for the future.
So it's almost 5 months since I wrote that article. And the depression has lifted from my son and we've become more and more focused on the idea of creating temporary learning communities that involve the immersion of new cultures, immersive learning and now, doing so within a community. My son said, "there's got to be more teens who want to discover the world too and have the kind of experience we are. I don't want to go back and live an ordinary life, I want them all to come with us!"
The deeper we dove into community learning we realized, just like the theory behind democratic learning, mentors and the feedback loop is conducive of meaningful learning. Anytime you have a group of 3 or people involved in an immersive activity there is the potential for deeper and more supportive learning. One idea or observation leads of the next and through conversation and feedback the experience is transformed into learning. We've experienced this countless times throughout our travels and throughout the world.
The article I was recently interviewed, For Unschooled Teens, Learning Communities Are Critical for that appeared on the Unschooler Experiment (unschooler.com) the author Hafidha Acuay examines learning in a community as mentioned by grown unschooler and filmmaker, Astra Taylor, where spoke about this desire during a talk on the Unschooled Life in October 2009. Taylor said, “What I really wanted … is that intellectual community…. I would have loved to commune with other young people and to study marine biology or number theory or playwriting a couple afternoons a week, but for some reason, such a possibility was unthinkable – a wild fantasy. Instead the only option available was to submit to [the school system]. We should wonder why there’s no middle ground.”
From the article:
For Miro and Lainie, Project WorldSchool offers the possibility of such a middle ground, albeit a temporary one. While immersion programs are nothing new, Lainie and Miro are planning a retreat that will be shaped and directed by the attendees. While Lainie works with an education consultant (also an unschooler) to identify the elements of a well thought-out learning community, Miro works to line up housing, guest speakers and other details of programming. The mother and son have been preparing since 2012 for this session and Lainie hopes that every participant will arrive ready to “make use of the inherent lessons of the space.”
If you want to learn more about our project, Project World School, please visit our site at: http://projectworldschool.com
I would love to hear your thoughts about the value of learning within community and how you may have dealt with teen isolation within the framework of unschooling.
Please leave comments below.