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Wow! What an Experience - the 2011 Unschooling Conference

By Beverley Paine

The Unschooling Conference held at the Whitsunday Adventure Resort, Oct 28 - Nov 2 was a full-on buzz of excited and happy activity! Approximately 260 parents and children attended the five day program, enjoying the amazing accomodating and comfortable facilities of this outstanding Big4 caravan park, a perfect venue for a family-friendly event of this size and nature.

The conference program focussed mainly on radical unschooling and 'shifting' to a 'life with no limits' drawn from the 'law of attraction' philosophy, as well as workshops on attachment parenting, healthy and respectful relationships and how to maintain them. Despite there being many wonderful distractions, attendance at talks was generally good, with excellent attendance at those given by Dayna Martin (radical unschooling advocate) and Quinn Eaker, a homeschooled / unschooled graduate and passionate radical unschooler. The emotional energy generated by these workshops was intense with the result of amazing bonds being forged amond many of the participants. The sense of belonging and social cohesion at the conference was very strong as the case with every other home education camp I've attended - I can heartily recommend them!

The amenities were excellent, especially the playground, pool and jumping pillow which kept the children busy during the sessions. A children's activity tent was also a popular spot and the organisers ran a busy and creative children's program staffed by talented volunteers throughout the camp program. The evening program included camp activities as well as movie nights provided by the venue.

The only disappointment for me was the lack of understanding and recognition of the historic nature and status of unschooling in Australia: there was a perception from the American speakers that unschooling is a relatively new phenonmenon here whereas in reality home education began with a visit in the 1980s from school reformist and author John Holt, who coined the term 'unschooling', where he was invited to speak at a conference organised by the then Alternative Education Resource Group (Home Education Network). I think this stems from the fact that unschoolers in Australia are stridently grass-roots and have resisted organising formally. Perhaps we need to be a little more pro-active vocal in sharing our unique unschooling stories and successes across the globe! Judging by the proliferation in unschooling blogs - http://homeschoolaustralia.com/directory/categories/australianblogs.html - this past year I think we are well on our way.

Janine Banks got the camp program underway with a talk about the Camp With Wings - http://campwithwings.org for teenagers, modelled on the successful Not Back to School Camps run by Teenage Liberation Handbook author Grace Llewellyn in the USA. Janine's adult children help her to run the camps while they are not travelling or living overseas.

Robin and I spoke about our school-at-home to unschooling journey spanning two decades, home education from a grandparents' perspective, and I gave several talks including learning styles and preference, registering as unschoolers and describing natural learning within a permaculture framework.

Rem, an unschooling dad, spoke about unschooling from a dad's perspective - this was a very popular and insightful sessions - and was followed by a dad's panel discussion.

Dayna Martin spoke about self-nurturing, love and compassion and peaceful parterships, as well as how unschoolers learn to read, write, do maths and unschooling the spirited child (learning differences, etc) from a life with no limits perspective. Dayna and Quinn spoke passionately about life without limits in regard to television, computers, food and sleep among other subjects.

Dr Andrew Seaton spoke about deep intelligence and how schooling conditions us to think in particular ways and how to unlock our potential.

Alice Kleinsman spoke about heart-centred parenting; Kaya Jongen explored consensual and playful parenting; and Brit Stephenson spoke about alternative and emotional health.

Quinn Eaker spoke about life as a radical unschooled child from an adult's perspective. The conference valued the participation of the younger generation: twelve year old Devon Martin talked about his experiences as a radical unschooler and several teenagers hosted a panel about being home educated.

Zefia Saul gave a very interesting and inspiring talk about travelling overseas and unschooling - for me, this one one of the highlights of the conference.

The 'unjobbing' (making a living doing what you love) panel fielded many interesting questions and it was clear that this is a topic that warrants further exploration at future events.

The conference concluded with a great sharing on different ways we can all be advocates for the unschooling lifestyle.

Dayna Martin and her family, Maree Riedel, Brit Stephensen, and Quinn Eaker are organising next year's event: The Shift Experience from Sept 14-18, 2012 at a venue to be determined near Sydney. The 2012 Shift event is for unschooling families looking to extend to a radical unschooling philosophy of freedom, peace, partnership and self-exploration in every area of their lives. Shift is a unique, multi-sensory family experience including entertainment, music, movement, delicious foods, powerful talks and life-changing experiences. Please join their Facebook group if you are interested in more information: https://www.facebook.com/groups/241546045904827/

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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