Unschooling Update: I’m Talking Parenting with Steve Harvey

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Akilah S. Richards

Akilah S. RichardsThursday, September 21st, 2017 at 12:34pm

Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come keeps echoing through my mindscape. Change has been heavy in our family's rotation since June. Altered travel plans, an expanded unschooling practice, our matriarch's slow halt, then transition to the ancestral realm, hurricane-induced travel halts and sprints, new writing clients that come with plenty research, a book proposal in full swing, and of course, our own personal shifts. Among the waves, the four of us—Kris, Marley, Sage-Niambi, and me—continue to work toward confident autonomy. Our natural learning journey helps with that, because as we navigate shifts, we have tools (human in thought-based) to support us in remembering, prioritizing, and understanding our needs and our responsibilities wherever we are, whatever we're doing.
Of course, we are imperfect, so this shit gets messy and mired at times. In this conversation between Marley, Sage, and me, we real-talk the hell out of our daily flow. The girls called for a change-up in how we manage chores in the house, and as it turns out, the Agile Learning model (a self-directed, human-centered approach to adult-child relationships), offers us some support. Listen to it on patreon.com/akilah or join our learning community at bit.ly/raisingfreepeople. (((Links also in my bio))) The truth is, I yell at my daughters, Marley STAY gettin' attitude, Sage's shut-you-down skills are epic, Kris's patience wears thin, ...parenting, ego, puberty, chores, feelings...all of it helps bend and build ourselves, and figure out how to best engage in our communities.

Akilah S. Richards

Akilah S. RichardsThursday, September 21st, 2017 at 12:32pm

Chores, Emotions, & Agile Learning Tools

Akilah S. Richards

Akilah S. RichardsMonday, September 18th, 2017 at 10:53pm

I love this capture and caption from episode 48 guest @mymommyflies - ✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨
"Adjusting to life in the Riad. Journaling is a great way to engage in new and unfamiliar surroundings. We're practicing patience and setting good intentions." #unschool #worldschool #homeschool #blackfamilytravel #morocco #marakech #journal #travel #traveljournal #travelnoire #blackkidstraveltoo #trekarooing #passports #nomadjr #familytravel #riad #raisingfreepeople #POCinSDE #FareoftheFreeChild

Akilah S. Richards

Akilah S. RichardsFriday, September 15th, 2017 at 12:14pm

...because books featuring brown skin and dope art. And because baby toes 😍
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Via @tamarapizzoli -
B is for #books, brown #baby toes & #Basquiat. 💛 My youngest son Zen checking out my ninth book for #kids, K is for Kahlo. It's so important that kids see themselves in the books we #readaloud to them, starting early. #literacy #kidlit #sahm #art #popart #blackgirlmagic . You can get your own copy of K is for Kahlo at theenglishschoolhouse.com. And if you ❤️ the art as much as I do, chk out my #creative work baes @hecreative.

Akilah S. Richards

Akilah S. RichardsWednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 5:39pm

'I am learning how to love you with both closeness and distance,
Educating myself on how to translate your resistance.'
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Bits of what I shared with my patrons today about how complicated love can be, especially when we ain't used to equity in the mix. This #raisingfreepeople work calls for a full embrace of the entire complicated thing. Layers, lessons, lightness, pressure, push, hold, hear, love, listen, sit down, be humble... :) You can read and hear the poem by joining my fam and me over at Patreon.com/akilah. The link is in my bio. Learn more about what I do, why I do it, and how you can help keep di fyah blazin', zeen!

Akilah S. Richards

Akilah S. RichardsWednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 6:45am

You are free to define (and change your mind, and re-define) yourself. Remember how important that is to you, and remember to afford that SAME right to children
#beyoumore #knowledgeofself #KOS #raisingfreepeople

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With a bit of humor, but unmistakable certainty, Steve Harvey told unschooling mama, Bethanie Garcia, that no matter what, her 5-year-old daughter was gonna need to learn how to read, soon! He said it from a place of concern, because in this society, we put firm timelines on learning. 

Unschooling Panel Steve Harvey Show

Mr. Harvey’s concern also presents an opportunity to show how media has misinformed us about how learning happens outside of classrooms, regurgitated curricula, and Common Core everything.

In 2012, more than two-thirds of the world’s 860 million illiterate people were women. Today, to educate them from girlhood is to create the potential for positive, long-term changes in households, among families, in job settings, and in overall society.

But is the school system always the best approach to educating a child, girl or boy?  Not always, and increasingly, not often. I agreed to appear on national television to represent an often marginalized and rapidly growing voice of adults who want to live and raise children outside of the schedules and structures of the public or private school systems.

It feels only natural to want the best for our children.  All children.  We want them to be safe, feel loved, and to grow with a sense of accountability to the greatest version of themselves. That’s why education is so important to most parents. We want to do what we can to fill our children’s waking hours with mental stimulation and other instances of love, so that they grow up to be happy, responsible, flourishing adults.

daytime tv unschooling harvey

And we think good discipline and proper education through school are probably the best, and certainly the most proven, methods for guiding our children toward their greatness. Right?

The Steve Harvey Show audience sure seemed to feel that way. The polled the crowd about considering alternative education methods like unschooling, and most of them said No Way! I imagine they say so because school is associated with education and self-betterment. But for many children and adults, school was not a place to learn, engage, or flourish. Instead, it was a place where it became necessary to hunker down, protect one’s self, try to disappear, or pretend to feel safe, or relevant.

But does education happen in school for some children? Yes, and certainly all children should have the chance to be educated.  More than 13 million children throughout the Middle East and North Africa, two of many examples, will not be so fortunate. Their schools are closed because of political unrest and continual public violence. And for other children, home environments are not safe, and school is where they can get love, support, and learning tools.

Also and equally relevant though, is the little boy in Atlanta, Georgia who is labeled, intellectually low-balled, and consistently targeted. But he is not a slow learner, or an unmotivated student, or a threat to anyone in the school. And even when those issues are minimal, for many children, the people in the classrooms don’t care about the same things as they do, and the textbooks intentionally hide important truths about history; Black and Brown histories in particular. 

For him, it’s not about getting the chance to go to school, but having the choice to love learning, and to understand how he learns, so he can confidently embody healthy personal leadership.

For him, traditional school may not be where he gets to explore those options.  And the more he learns about the system, the more suspicious of and disconnected from it he becomes.  The way they keep telling him what to memorize, what to study, and what to discount altogether leaves him tragically in need of space to explore and express the world through the lens of his unique gifts and skills.

Without that practice, it is unnecessarily complex for him to grow into a person who understands themselves. One who doesn’t just gather information, but knows how to discern, decide, and manage life’s experiences from a mindful, confident mental space.

That mindful, confident space, I call it confident autonomy, is what my husband and I want for our daughters. We are unschoolers, parents who believe that children should play a central role in the design of their days, including what they learn. It is part of our liberation strategy.

Our learning catalysts often come from completely unplanned moments like meeting a group of artists headed to the top of Boulder, Colorado’s breathtaking Settlement Park rock formations. As an unschooling, location-independent family, we do not have a home in a particular city. Instead, we spend months, sometimes weeks at a time in various cities. While there, we engage in the environment through shopping for food, taking classes, attending events, and researching cool places to live and learn.

Here’s our 11-year-old leading a group of women who gladly volunteered to dance with her after watching her perform a small piece of the dance from a Vocaloid song en route to the top of the mountain. Turns out the women are part of a collective of artists who facilitate “creative interaction between the human body, its motion and imaginations, and its environment.”

Our daughter was thrilled, and she didn’t need a curriculum to embrace that experiences. Or to learn more about the park we visited, or the history of the area we were living in. People, conversations, interests sparked, books and blogs to help with research. There is so much access to information and engagement today that we feel it benefits our children to be able to immerse themselves in topics of their interest, so they can lean in and explore themselves through those spaces.

For our daughters, 10 and 11 at the time of this writing, the unschooling philosophy is helping them develop as confident, creative, curious people who know how to get information, process information, and move toward goals they set for themselves. Imperfect and profoundly life-changing, motherhood has certainly raised me. And helped me and my husband raise happy, curious people. Every child has that same capacity, and some of them can be supported through alternative learning environments like homeschooling, or like my family, unschooling.

I’ll be on a parenting panel along with seven other parents discussing approaches to parenting. Through hearty dialogue and audience participation, we explored public shaming, spanking, unschooling, and a few other touchy parenting topics. In the meantime, check out the sidebar links here on this page for more on unschooling.

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UPDATE: Watch the show clip below

  • I’m so excited for you and looking forward to seeing you on the big screen! This is Radical Self Expression at it’s finest.

  • I am really looking forward to seeing you on the show. When I started blogging, my greatest desire was to raise my daughter to be healthy-calculated risk takers. My desire and our journey has led us to home school. I call my style eclectic, but I try to provide as many hands on and real life opportunities as I can. Now my ultimate goal is go beyond traditional academics and show them the world. For months I have been pondering how I can fund their world-wide education, but I am up for the challenge. You and your family are an inspiration!

    • Thank you, Elle! I am so happy for you and your daughter! Eclectic is definitely our favorite style too. Inspiration and opportunity show up all the time. When we’re present, and when our children are engaged, we can maximize those opportunities and facilitate their love of learning. Please keep me posted!

  • Takeyah Young | TakeyahYoung.c

    Yes, sisSTAR! Love this! Looking forward to seeing you and hearing the gems.

  • M.A.I.A Bey Inc

    Owww…yesss!! So inspired and doggone happy for you and sharing this critical message. I can’t wait to see you rock their socks off. Libra chile, Steve is going to be yo bes fren…after this…he will be writing a book about how he is encouraging his children to unschool his grandchirren…#yaheard. Love you so much for this light.

    • Thank you, Sauda! LOL–I think Steve thought I was a weirdo with good intentions but bad ideas. Not his words, but … 🙂 Love you lots and thanks for the support, as always!

      • Smell Good Spa™

        Yeah, I was wondering about SH. I imagine not only him. Saw a picture on your FB profile and the sis in New School did not seem “amused”.

        • Smell Good Spa™

          Old School not New School

  • looking forward to it..I am getting ready to Unschool my daughter in a few weeks. It’s scary and nerve wrecking, especially when people make you feel like you’re ruining their education by pulling them out of a “good school” without a curriculum. I hope it answers a lot of questions and becomes clearer to those who feel it’s a radical decision.

    • I hear you, Tonita! How old is your daughter? I got those same “ruining education and chances at success” warnings. School doesn’t guarantee success anymore than lack of schooling guarantees failure. Environment and support are what matter. The unschooling segment is very short, and I know it will only scratch the surface, but I’m going to see if folks want me to hop on Periscope to talk about the unschooling journey sometimes.

      • My daughter is eight. I would be happy to join a Scope if it’s in the evening or before lunchtime. If you do, please notify me @tonitalove. Thanks!

        • Okay, cool. I will definitely notify you if I move ahead with it. And 8 is such a great age! 🙂

          • I was really impressed with how you handled the other parents during the discussions, keeping your cool and staying with the facts. As Steve said, you were bright and a great face for the movement! I do agree that “unschooling” is not the best word to describe the self directed learning. I am all new to this. I’m planning to bring my daughter home in a few weeks and I’m both excited and terrified. But from what I am reading, I’m not unique and there is support. I appreciate those of you who have gone before and are great models !

  • Smell Good Spa™

    You sharing this experience is beyond amazing. I am late to this party. Did not receive the newsletter, nor, did I see this post anywhere (thank you IG). I shake my head at comments about reading that come from people in positions like SH. Only because parents in an apprehensive state of mind can hear his words as their truth. My daughter started reading at the age of 4. We did not push reading. We observed her picking up the newspaper and other periodicals; she mimicked what she saw her sister doing; and, she understood how to form sounds from her family having conversations with her. Did we think she was special? We thought she was special even if she did not start reading at 4. As wise parents, we understood that was our cue to encourage what she was showing an interests in. Till this day she gravitates to The Classics instead of modern fiction, and informational periodicals galore (it’s her thing). During our 16+ years of this journey, I’ve talked to many parents who polled “No Way”. But the one thing I noticed as they relaxed and allowed complete transparency: they don’t wholeheartedly believe that traditional school is for their child – it’s the fear of them not being able to be successful with their child’s education. Many prefer to leave it up to the broken system. My decision to not send my children to school was never about the decaying school system. Well, you know my journey…. However, as a parent, knowing that I am responsible and will be held accountable for every aspect of their life…..Why not consider this journey? Love you and I can’t wait to see you on the big screen!

    • Thank you, Itiel! As I say all the time, you and King T. have long been muses for Kris and me in this journey. I hear you about folks sticking with what they know, for fear of failing their children. It’s a tough space to navigate for sure, which is why I work hard at not judging and bashing parents for their choices in education, specifically. Ultimately, I just want to raise happy, confidently autonomous people. I can’t see how to do that without an actual partnership with each of my daughters. Anything else is rooted in fear, and I can’t imagine raising my girls with fear as my focus. Thank you for your perspectives. I’m glad your daughters are part of this space, because they (simply by being who they are in the world) are brilliant examples of what happens when children are respected and valued for who they are.

  • Kimeli Wade

    Wow! I was amazed (not surprised) at how closed minded the Old School panelists were. Children are natural learners, and ‘school’ is not a natural learning environment. I’d bet a dime to a dollar that the Old School panelists on either end are in church whenever the doors are open. That kind of closed minded thinking is a symptom of religious indoctrination.

  • Danica N. Worthy

    Akilah it was a joy to watch you teach about unschooling and exploration. You were truly confidant, clear, and informative. I am always amazed at how people react act things they don’t understand before even listening or researching. You really shined on the panel and I look to seeing more of you on the screen. Love and Hugs 💛

  • I continue to be proud of you, my baby girl as you continue to be the newest face behind this new movement for children today. I see the wonders it has done for my granddaughters so no one can convince me otherwise. Continue to educate the masses on this great message. Love you tons. Mom~

  • Denice

    LOVE this!! You did an amazing job explaining un schooling. So sad that the others were so incredibly quick to make negative judgements. We need more people like you educationing our society about true learning.

    • Thank you, Denice! I’m so happy the message resonated with you. Much appreciated!

  • Mommy Can Learn

    You (and the other new school parents) did an amazing job! It’s unfortunate that the old school parents were so disrespectful and close minded. They certainly could have learned a few things. I agree with Danica & Kimeli’s comments as well. I hope that he (and other tv shows) asks you back on a more intimate basis to discuss unschooling and new school parenting concepts. There really needs to be a shift in thinking regarding educating our children and I think you are a great role model (especially for the black community). I am a SAHM to a toddler and he loves to learn. He hands me his flash cards and says “more phonics?” He also learned to count to 10 in Spanish just from listening to a song I play in the mornings. I hate that the old school panel (whether it was intended or not) assumed that all/most children are not interested in learning. Maybe it’s their environment (school & home)? All in all, thank you. Thank you for displaying such grace while teaching what real education is about.

    • I so appreciate your comment, Mommy Can Learn! Keep on engaging your son in things that he seems to enjoy. There is no race to completing learning, and we’ve been (wrongly) taught to measure our children’s progress by how much information they can show us they’ve learned, instead of how engaged they are; that is a tragedy! I too hope that I’ll continue to be asked to share what I’m learning about learning, but not to worry, I won’t wait for invitations to express myself. Keep on checking in with me here on the blog where we can continue exploring ways to facilitate learning for our children, despite what the rest of the world tells us about what they need.

      • Olivia Franklin

        Olivia Franklin Mommy Can Learn • 4 minutes ago

        I was so impressed with and a little unimpressed by Steve Harvey’s show on the two sides of some very important Issues. But what really struck a chord with me was the broken English, and outright rudeness of the “Traditional Parents”. If they represent what traditional school and spanking does. Everybody needs too run towards UNSCHOOLING and HOMESCHOOLING. I currently homeschool my 13 year son and 8 year old daughter. I also have (son) An English Major in an Ivy League school. When I took his Education in my hands homeschooling was still very unpopular, AND my FAMILY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHY I would remove my son from school if he was doing well. But I discovered the flaws in the School System, through the school, not my son’s ability to learn, because he was excelling in Public School. But when he was in 2nd grade, he was given a project on Dr. King. So my husband and I became fully engrossed in the project. We traveled to Atlanta, (4hours away) to the King Center, and to Ebenezer Church. His project was fantastic. FAST FORWARD TO FIFTH Grade, and by the same school he was given another project on Dr. King. That’s when I knew it was time to part ways with the school system, that was teaching my son that Black history was conducive to Slavery and Dr. King. I had to teach him, the right history and his history, and that many people came before him that wasn’t restricted with chains and Even though Dr. King was and will always be of Greatness, he was not the only Prominent Figure in Black History. My Son’s love of Literature BLOSSOMED, when we removed him from Public School. He started asking for books on Individuals not just black people all people that we had never heard of. Sitting back watching the show, shown a BRIGHT LIGHT ON why spanking and traditional schooling should be a thing of the past because on one side I saw calmness, and the ability to agree to disagree, and on the other side, I saw irrationality, ignorance, and hostility.

        • Edit• Reply•

        • I’m so glad you chose to share your experience with your son, Olivia! Thank you so much for that. Many people who are curious about unschooling are still not clear on how it can benefit their child. When you said that your son’s love of literate blossomed after being taken out of the school environment, I coiuld’ve screamed from excitement and resonance. I’ve heard that same thing from MANY other parents, and it makes me so happy for those children. They get to feel a sense of ownership and connectedness to information, which I think makes them more resourceful people. It sounds like your children are getting the space and respect that is necessary to make learning something they understand instead of simply something they are being coerced to participate in. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Olivia Franklin

      I was so impressed with and a little unimpressed by Steve Harvey’s show on the two sides of some very important Issues. But what really struck a chord with me was the broken English, and outright rudeness of the “Traditional Parents”. If they represent what traditional school and spanking does. Everybody needs too run towards UNSCHOOLING and HOMESCHOOLING. I currently homeschool my 13 year son and 8 year old daughter. I also have (son) An English Major in an Ivy League school. When I took his Education in my hands homeschooling was still very unpopular, AND my FAMILY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHY I would remove my son from school if he was doing well. But I discovered the flaws in the School System, through the school, not my son’s ability to learn, because he was excelling in Public School. But when he was in 2nd grade, he was given a project on Dr. King. So my husband and I became fully engrossed in the project. We traveled to Atlanta, (4hours away) to the King Center, and to Ebenezer Church. His project was fantastic. FAST FORWARD TO FIFTH Grade, and by the same school he was given another project on Dr. King. That’s when I knew it was time to part ways with the school system, that was teaching my son that Black history was conducive to Slavery and Dr. King. I had to teach him, the right history and his history, and that many people came before him that wasn’t restricted with chains and Even though Dr. King was and will always be of Greatness, he was not the only Prominent Figure in Black History. My Son’s love of Literature BLOSSOMED, when we removed him from Public School. He started asking for books on Individuals not just black people all people that we had never heard of. Sitting back watching the show, shown a BRIGHT LIGHT ON why spanking and traditional schooling should be a thing of the past because on one side I saw calmness, and the ability to agree to disagree, and on the other side, I saw irrationality, ignorance, and hostility.

  • BethanieGarcia

    Since this show, I have had SO MANY questions as well. So many people are looking for something new, but don’t know how to approach it, where to start looking. We need to be this voice for them. Keep spreading the word! I hope we meet again soon!

    • Agreed, Bethanie! We’re already that voice, and I know many more parents and children’s advocates will feel confident expressing their insights as a result of our willingness to do the same. Much more to come. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Hey Akilah! I’m so proud of you and you are my shero of education. You were so excellent on the show!

    I decided to take my boys out of school at the end of February and move toward unschooling for a number of reasons. Of course the elders are appalled, and it’s really only now at 40 that I’ve reached a point where I can say to my father (in his ear, not to his face yet!) that while I respect his opinion, that I’m not changing my mind. When I think about the breakdown my 7yo had at the mere thought of going to school the next day that triggered my decision, it breaks my heart. To put this in context, I was bullied and sexually assaulted many times by schoolmates from 6th grade through high school. There was NEVER a time when I didn’t want to go to school. I’m a traditional learner, and I’m intrinsically. I LOVED school, even the classes I didn’t do well in. The alphabet after my name is proof that I love the classroom. And yet – I know it’s not for my kids, at very least not right now.

    This segment and your post are so moving to me in this moment as a single mother of 7 and 15 year olds with very different needs who has just launched a tech startup. The house is a mess, meals vary widely in nutritional value – but we’re together, and we’re happy. In just a few weeks MiniM has discovered a love and talent for drawing and illustration fueled by Youtube videos. He started watching Thomas the Tank Engine episodes (the end of my actual input here) as a toddler, then moved on to electing to watch Thomas in a variety of languages – on purpose – and went from there. Random superhero video game battles and PlayDoh surprise egg openings became Lego Hulk drawing lessons. Again, he made all of these decisions on his own, based on his own curiosity.

    My eldest loves fanfiction, manga, and anime just like me. He’s still finding what it is he wants to pursue seriously, and I know that I have my work cut out for me helping him regain confidence in his own decision-making. I’m determined to support him in figuring out what he’s passionate about again, and giving him the time and space he needs to understand how the the choices he makes for himself impact his daily life. Akilah, thank you for being my postermom for being able to be radically myself.

    • Lisa, it’s always great to hear from you, but today it’s particularly special! Thank you so much for sharing your insights! It saddens me to know that you had those experiences from grade 6 through high school. Shit! That’s a lot to have on one’s plate, on top of just puberty and figure out one’s self during that time. It seems/sounds like your boys get whatever “benefits” came from surviving those experiences. Their mother knows both the caveats and the good side of schooling. She also knows that it’s important to nurture a whole child, not just the academic component of their lives. It’s wonderful that you were strong and curious enough to help your boys shift from collecting dots to connecting them (to borrow from Seth Godin); I am happy for them. And for you! You will find exactly the resources and intuitive nudges you need to help your eldest regain confidence in his ability to lead himself. You are already facilitating that by moving him into an environment we has space, time, and resources to explore his interests deeply. The Fandom is so full of cultural, literary, historical, science-based, and art-based aspects to dive into–he’s gonna soar! Thank you again for sharing, Lisa! I am moved by your decision with your boys–I understand it, and I’m always here if you want to bounce ideas off someone, or just share what you’re feeling wherever you are in the journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out, zeen?!

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