We spent the last days of May in Vancouver, Washington at the Life Is Good Unschooling conference. It was fabulous—and hard to describe.
Picture the Hilton filled with hundreds of families. Picture the lobby and hallways and conference rooms buzzing with the energy of hundreds of kids and teens running, dancing, playing, spinning hula-hoops, toting nerf guns, selling amazing handmade jewellery and cards and crafts, holding hands, making new friends, playing games—kind of like summer camp, maybe, only in a hotel and without the rules and the structured activities.
At home, I often feel as though I need to explain to people why our son doesn’t go to school, why we don’t follow a curriculum, why we don’t work on spelling or give him written assignments to do. For the families at the conference, all that was the norm. It was a given. (As an aside, I thought it would be cool for my son to meet people who don’t begin every conversation with a child by asking what grade he is in… but he was too busy playing Minecraft to notice.)
One of the things I loved about the experience was that I felt pushed in a different direction than usual. Pushed to have fewer rules, not more. Pushed to be more child-centred, more flexible, more accepting of exploration and play–and the mess and chaos that accompanies both of those things. Pushed to say “yes” more often.
Also, what’s not to love about a conference focussed on enjoying life? I’ve been to various (social work) conferences and while many have been somewhat interesting, having fun is rarely an explicit goal.
Let’s face– most conferences would be vastly improved by adding a Zombie Apocalypse Nerf War.