#40 Bria Bloom | Unschooling and the Alliance for Self-Directed Education
🗓️ Recorded October 13th, 2023. 📍Coma Ruga, Spain
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About this Episode
Meet Bria Bloom, Executive Director of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) and a passionate advocate for alternative education methods. Raised in the philosophy of self-directed education, Bria didn't attend conventional schooling until age 16. She later designed her own baccalaureate and earned an M.S. in early childhood education. Today, she wears multiple hats: running PDX Flying Squads, an adventure group for young people; co-hosting the podcast Rethinking Self-Directed Education; and offering parent coaching in partnership parenting.
In this episode, Bria challenges traditional notions of schooling and emphasizes the importance of language semantics in understanding alternative education methods like unschooling and age mixing. She also discusses the transitions of unschooled children to higher education and questions the standards of the traditional school system. The episode concludes with an introduction to 'flying squads,' self-directed communities that learn in urban settings.
Whether you're a parent, educator, or student, this conversation offers fresh perspectives on parenting and education. Tune in to broaden your horizons on self-directed education!
▬ EPISODE LINKS ▬
- Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) - https://www.self-directed.org/
- Bria Blooms website: https://briabloom.com/
- Flying Squads: https://www.flyingsquads.org/
- Brias Flying Squad group: https://briabloom.com/pdx-flying-squad/
- Bria Bloom on SubStack: https://partnershipparenting.substack.com/
Here is the podcast interview Bria mentioned in our talk: https://playvolutionhq.com/ool_0041-defining-self-directed-education-2/
Watch the full interview on YouTube
0:00:00 - Jesper Conrad
Welcome to Self-Directed. We are your hosts, cecilia and Jesper Conrad, and now it's time to welcome this week's guest. All right, so today we're together with Brea Bloom, whom we contacted because she is working with the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, and I was like I want to know more about that organization. But first I got an email around an hour before the call today from Brea, where she was like I might be a little tired because you have been up all night with your baby, so let's start there. How was your night?
0:00:42 - Bria Bloom
I think she's teething because she kept waking up crying. And it's funny because I have like a week where sleep goes really really well and I'm like, oh, maybe we're over this hump. And then it's a week of this and yeah, I've done a lot of podcasts and work tired over the last year. I'm sure a lot of parents can relate to that one. You just keep going.
0:01:08 - Jesper Conrad
It's just part of life. So how many children?
0:01:14 - Bria Bloom
Two. This is the first one I've birthed, so the other one is my stepson, but he's been living with us since he was six, probably in his 12 now.
0:01:25 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, I have kind of the same experience Cecilia had for first without me, and we met when our daughter was five and adopted her later and it's just a wonderful experience, but also kind of you just get thrown into kind of being a parent already, and that was for me. That was why I needed to change my life around from being a young party animal to suddenly have responsibilities where normally that might be like a nine month leeway.
0:01:58 - Cecilie Conrad
Can I say your time yeah?
0:02:00 - Jesper Conrad
I did. I took nine months and I took, I absolutely took nine months.
0:02:07 - Cecilie Conrad
Oh yeah. You could check in and out for the first two whatever you wanted.
0:02:13 - Jesper Conrad
And it was wonderful.
0:02:14 - Cecilie Conrad
You could step that thing, you were not too hungry.
0:02:18 - Bria Bloom
I did not get to check in and out. We were pretty adamant that he wouldn't go to school when he moved here. Um, for many reasons, but it was like immediately I quit one of my jobs and stayed home with him and, yeah, immediate mother situation and did not get to check in and out. So that was a harder adjustment. I agree, having the nine months and, for some people, the planning before that, is an easier thing to process. But not always what you get, no how.
0:02:48 - Jesper Conrad
And then still it is.
0:02:50 - Cecilie Conrad
it is a revolution when the baby and it's so. Yeah, at least they can compare and you can read all the books and you can knit all the little cute things, but at the end of the day, when the baby arrives, it's just going to completely run over your life and change everything, yeah, and they're all different too.
So Exactly but I think the first one, this moving of the center of your life and your attention and your focus from yourself, which makes perfect sense. Before you have, you do you. Then suddenly you do someone else. Something else is in, in, in, in the core of what happens someone else is Even the sleep. Now we actually started this conversation about sleep, the fact that you can only sleep Once someone else is sleeping. Right, yeah, you don't have a choice, it's a basic thing. You need to sleep, but actually you're not allowed, you can't, there's no way you're allowed to fall asleep while your baby is awake. So that premise that even your physical needs cannot be met, they are dependent on this other person, it's a revolution, and that revolution happens the first time.
0:04:07 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, it's over.
0:04:08 - Cecilie Conrad
0:04:11 - Jesper Conrad
After one For the people who don't know you and the work you do why have you ended up working with the Alliance for self directed education?
0:04:24 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, so I essentially was an unschooler growing up. We didn't have or use that word. We talked more about homeschooling. We talked about the kind of things that were accessible my dad read like John Holt and the Teenage Liberation Handbook. Those were kind of the two things accessible widely at that time. And then the homeschooling movement was very Religious and conservative, which there's still those pockets for sure but that was like my realm of understanding of what homeschooling was.
But that's not what it was for us. It was for the people who were in the school system and I was like I don't know what to do with those values in that way of seeing the world in me, and I really wanted to work with young people who are learning. I started out in preschool because it felt like the place where the school system hadn't quite touched it. It really has, at least in the US it has. I tried my best to work in like places that valued, but still there's still that thing in us that thinks the kid is ours to control and mold and that's very evident in preschool a lot of the time, especially because they're even younger. So it's like even more of an excuse to override their needs with yours.
So I worked in preschool for a while and then I just I kept tuning into the alternative education realm. I didn't quite know on schooling very well yet and I met Peter at like a conference in where I live now, which is Portland, and they were kind of pitching the Alliance for Soft Direct Education. It was just in its beginning stages. It hadn't been really announced yet. It was the first.
0:06:11 - Jesper Conrad
We're talking about Peter Gray.
0:06:13 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, yeah, thank you.
0:06:16 - Jesper Conrad
No, no, no, no, no. Thanks for the clarification.
0:06:19 - Bria Bloom
There's a lot of Peters, especially floating around, so I'm just going to talk about schooling and self direct. There's a Peter that sort of stands out.
Yeah and yeah, and I went up to him with Peter with like an idea to pitch to the Alliance and he was like great, email me. And it's funny. I yeah, I think I told this story recently but I kept it under wraps for a while. I was like so scared to email Peter that I didn't follow up for six months because I was so nervous about it, which doesn't feel real now because that's not. I've changed and I'm not really intimidated by people in that way anymore because we're all people you know. Yeah. So I emailed him six months later and they were like we're still interested in this and that's how I got involved and just over time, got more and more involved.
Yeah, I do think that something my dad kind of instilled in me throughout my unschooling process was like if you want something, ask people for it. Like pitch the idea, ask for it, no matter who it is the situation, and like the worst thing that can happen is someone is going to tell you no and rejection is hard. But I think you get used to it, like if they tell you no, it's really that the idea doesn't fit or maybe that's not the right place for you. It's not really a personal thing that you're wrong. It's just not the right fit and I think I just practiced that a lot. So when it came to just talking to Peter about an idea even though it took me a while to follow up, I think a lot of my unschooling really played a role in being able to do that and just just try.
0:08:05 - Jesper Conrad
Of course, and for people who don't know the work that their lines for self direction directed education do, can you put some words on it so people are up to speed with it?
0:08:16 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, so essentially, as the, which is like the acronym, the people who started it saw these disparate groups doing self directed education, unschooling different ways. They saw, you know, unschooling people outside of centers or schools. They saw sub-breed schools or agile learning centers or co-ops Doing this. They saw, like individuals advocating for it, even teachers and schools advocating for it.
Even though it can't, in my mind, really live in a conventional school the way it does outside of it, there's still teachers there who believe in these things and are trying to think through different ways to bring them and, as you want to be an umbrella, to like bring everyone together, because it felt like everyone was kind of even, like there was some talk amongst different centers and unschoolers about not getting along with each other or judging each other, and as you just wanted to bring all these people together and say, hey, we all believe in like the self directed education thing. We're just doing it differently from each other, but can we unite? So this is a movement, support each other. And then, yeah, the essentially like supporting each other and uniting under one umbrella will help spread the movement, because it's a lot harder when you're like isolated or when you're fighting each other or badmouthing each other, which some people were doing, still do.
0:09:46 - Cecilie Conrad
And also the fighting of each other and the. It can be very harmful for those who are beginning. I find that for many years that we've been unschooling, we started as well, laid back homeschoolers and did the transition to unschooling within, I don't know, a year or whatever, like lots of people do. But I remember when I started unschooling and listening to some of the experienced unschoolers, there were so many ways I could do it wrong. I got really annoyed and then I said, okay, fuck it, I'm not unschooling.
I'm not having these discussions. It's not interesting. I'm living my life with my kids in a way that makes sense for us. If you say I fuck it all up by saying it's YZ or having this opinion or emotion or whatever, I'm not having an A. It was online, obviously. Well, I don't know if that's obvious, but when you're from Denmark, you have two and a half friends who also unschool, if you're lucky, because that's the entire unschooling population of the country was 10 plus years ago. Everything was online, but these discussed.
I was interested in the movement, the idea, the philosophy, but then I got told off in a very rude and not very well, yeah, in a not embracing way that if you do that you'll ruin it or if you do that you're not a real unschooler. It was almost like I felt at that point this is like a sect. It's like I have to and I don't like rules. Rules put me off. So this rule. It was like we live this free thing, we believe in freedom and everybody doing what feels right, all of this. But there are these rules and if you don't stick to them, you're fucking it all up. So I took myself out of the equation, said okay, I'm not an unschooler for quite some time, for something like five years, until I met an amazing unschooler who basically just told me you can say whatever you are, but you're a medical expert, own it.
0:12:09 - Bria Bloom
Yeah One, there's still those groups doing that.
0:12:12 - Cecilie Conrad
Especially what I like about the alliances. Can we talk about what we have in common? Can we talk about freedom? Can we talk about self-directed life for children and maybe also those who are above 18 years old? That it has to do with what we have in common and how we agree and how we can help and support each other, and that's what the movement needs and that's what I didn't find in the beginning. That was why I was sorry.
0:12:41 - Jesper Conrad
And one thing I just love about the name for the Alliance which is also why we called our podcast self-directed is that I have I personally have had a little trouble with the word unschooling, where you define yourself against something where it is not. We are not not schooling, we are just living another life. But you said I'm just curious, brie, have you ever been to school, or how was your time? Because now it's your grown up and we love to see the grown up.
How you become the case type Now you become the case type Are you normal? Are you normal?
0:13:23 - Bria Bloom
0:13:24 - Jesper Conrad
I'm not normal.
0:13:25 - Bria Bloom
Well, how are we defining normal? I want to say really quick about the word self-directed. There's obviously talk about language and semantics and all movements, and I did do a podcast with someone else specifically speaking about how, as the name came up with that term and why and some issues with it. So if you want to put that in your resources, if you're up for it, that's a good thing to expand on that conversation.
0:13:54 - Cecilie Conrad
It's a very interesting point and I also I agree with my husband that it's really annoying, that unschooling is the word I feel I have to use it because it's the word that this is the word people use for the thing that I do, but there is no schooling and I don't get up in the morning and not school.
0:14:15 - Bria Bloom
You just get up and live your life right. It's just life living. I'm just out of the equation.
0:14:19 - Cecilie Conrad
And now it's out yeah, so it doesn't make sense that that's the word, but it is the word. And about semantics, we also need to communicate in a way where we can understand each other. And, as 95% of unschoolers call themselves unschoolers and only a very small fraction call themselves self-directed or then we keep using that word, even though it's a little bit off.
0:14:45 - Bria Bloom
0:14:46 - Cecilie Conrad
0:14:47 - Bria Bloom
Sorry, go on. No, it's okay. Am I normal? No, but I think the question people really want to know is am I happy and successful in life in the way that matters to me? At least for me it's in the way that matters to me. I think for a lot of schooled people we don't focus on the self quite as much as we should. But yeah, to me what matters is what I want and how I'm feeling in my life and how I affect the others around me and how I can play out my relationships and support other people in relationships, and in terms of that, I feel like unschooling did me a great service, or being a self-directed young person whatever word we want to use oh, that's hard Did me a great service?
Yeah, because there's just I didn't have the sense of. First of all, I didn't feel like it was me against the adults. I didn't feel like adults ruled over my world. The adults around me I felt like I was equals to and I could learn from them and they respected me and they learned from me.
And I think that's just such an imperative piece of this that we miss is age mixing among youth, but also age mixing across the realm of age, like elders and babies. I know that we talk about age mixing and self-directed education to mean like five to 18, because that's the school age, but really for me, it's like the whole community and how we respect one another, regardless of where we're at with that. Obviously, babies have different skills than 80-year-old elders. We are very different people in terms of how long we've lived, but there's still skills that each age can bring to each other that I think we're missing. Otherwise, and yeah, I guess you asked have I ever gone to school? I'm trying to go back and piece through what the question was, but I have not really gone to public conventional education, as we stated in the US. I took one class there, but I don't count that it was a choice to take one class and then I went to colleges here and university.
0:17:13 - Jesper Conrad
And how was that transition?
0:17:16 - Bria Bloom
0:17:17 - Jesper Conrad
Was it wild or it?
0:17:20 - Bria Bloom
was fine. I went to what we call community college at 16, because I could get in free as a high school age person. That's just how our state did it. And I was with all these 18-year-olds who had probably graduated from high school and gone to community college in these, beginning writing classes or whatever, and I was kind of astonished at how they weren't way ahead of me. I just thought everyone would be way, way ahead of me because I've only written a few hours of my life at that point.
And they weren't. And on top of that they were so disenchanted with learning in a classroom that they were bored and uninterested in the class. And then the classes I took were kind of boring, but it was a little bit new to me, so I was a little bit more invested and I had chosen it, yeah, so it just didn't feel like this big jump, it didn't feel like anyone was way ahead of me and it was actually confusing to me because I thought that they would know all these things. I didn't and they really did not.
0:18:25 - Cecilie Conrad
The key word is that you chose it.
0:18:28 - Bria Bloom
0:18:29 - Cecilie Conrad
Right Whenever it's voluntary. I mean unschooling and self-directed philosophy is not about being against education, not in the middle of education. For me, at least, the center of it is that I am against violating the free will of other people, including my children, and if it's voluntary, it's different. So right now, our two middle children, who are now teenagers, they have begun studying for the equivalent of a high school degree, but I'm not thinking because they don't want to be in a formal situation and we're also traveling, and it's completely voluntary. They study because they want to and that's not a radical transition because, just like they played board games five years ago because they wanted to, now they study math and languages because they want to and, as it's voluntary, there's no violation of their person involved and I think, therefore, the transition is not that radical.
0:19:53 - Bria Bloom
0:19:53 - Cecilie Conrad
It's so different with the teenagers than with small children. You tell them what to do when they have to appeal day and they don't know why and no one's telling them why and maybe no one knows why.
0:20:04 - Bria Bloom
And no one knows why. That's the key. Yeah Well, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do think there's levels of voluntary, even when we're talking about this, because you can voluntarily go to college. But would you voluntarily go to college if you didn't think that college would get you a degree to get you a job in the system we're in? So like there's a little bit of the system requiring things of you for you to live certain parts of your life. I guess, like I now, I wouldn't go to college together degree to be a lawyer.
0:20:45 - Jesper Conrad
0:20:45 - Bria Bloom
I wanted to be a lawyer and didn't have to go to college to do that. But because college is there, it's the thing we've decided you have to do to get there Then you need to go. I think if there were other paths like you can get to being a lawyer through college, you can get to being a lawyer through apprenticeship, you can get through there through self study Like if we had all these different choices, I think there's even more autonomy in that, because the society is giving you different paths to get to the same goal. But right now I think society does narrow our path a little bit and there is some like pressure to do that in order to get to the thing you want to do.
0:21:26 - Jesper Conrad
I am on the area you're talking. I am very lucky that one of the few places there are some places in different careers that you can be in where there still is this apprenticeship's kind of vibe over it. I was interested in media and ended up as an editor of a youth magazine. There you can still be lucky that you actually can get in because you are creative or can write. But now I also see most of the people who want to go in that direction go through college first and then university and then something special. And I remember I thought I needed the same.
I had planned to go to university and was applied and got in but never started because I got a job inside journalism before I started.
And my story is that during that first year I could postpone university one year and I was like, okay, let me try this out. And during that year I had to hire an assistant and I got applications from people who had taken the degree I wanted and when I saw that I was like that's weird, I'm here now. Why should I use four years of five years on university to get there? But I think that the area have been closed down a little, but you can still see it as entrepreneurs, you can still go there, and so there are roads to a career without and I hope and believe that it's opening up, because I think also I see a lot of in the tech world where it's like, yeah, it doesn't really matter what degree you have, it doesn't matter what skills you have. So I think I hope it will be more normal that people are tested before they try to apply for a job to see they actually have learned anything. You can go 10 years on a university without learning stuff.
0:23:37 - Cecilie Conrad
I usually say that. So I was at university for 10 years and have learned stuff. I enjoyed it. I read a lot of books. I had a curriculum of 5,000 pages twice a year. I didn't go through all that. It's physically impossible, but I enjoyed it a lot and I'm a big advocate for education. I think education, even formal education, when you're an adult and when it's voluntary, is great. But my main thing I always say about it is just you should do it because you want to study. Yeah, exactly.
The only reason to study is to study. If you wake up in the morning with a hungry brain, then feed it Right. That's what makes your heart beat. If that's what you find really interesting and fulfilling and you feel proud and you feel curious and you just want to go down another rabbit hole and figure this out and that out and your fingers itch to touch the next book, that's when you study Afterwards. I didn't work many days in my life. I studied for 10 years. I have worked a lot, but I haven't had what you would call normal jobs and I haven't had many paychecks. But I haven't been doing my nails and looking at the horizon either. It's just.
0:25:14 - Jesper Conrad
We have seen some horizon.
0:25:19 - Cecilie Conrad
Well, yeah, I've done a lot of things that I consider work. It's just no one's really paying me for it, and maybe the money part is not that important either, because I have this big guy who can bring in the money. So I think it's great to study, but I think we have to revise our motivation. Why do we do this? And basically we have to do that with most things. We have to question why is this a habit? Why do I believe this is a good thing? Is this coming from me or from someone else? And if it's coming from someone else, are they right? They could be right.
Sometimes we are wrong, and this is also the reason our kids are now just formalizing the studying they did already. They are in a moment in life where they might as well get the piece of paper, and in Europe you can't get into university without that piece of paper. So, as they are studying anyway, they might as well take the exams and then, in case, at some point in their lives they want to have a formal education, it will be easy. They need to do three years of pre-university studying, and that's a conscious choice they're making, and I still call it unschooling.
They still consider that they're not schooled and they can totally not do it. If they, I might be annoyed if I paid for the exam and they don't go there. But that's you know the story.
0:26:51 - Bria Bloom
Those are the levels unschooling everyone has to work through on their own right If you pay for it and they want to opt out afterwards, like there's so many of these little micro conversations among.
0:27:01 - Cecilie Conrad
Really important, it's just yeah.
0:27:04 - Jesper Conrad
So, brie, I have a personal question, but first I will share some of our own story. I was a small classical man. Cecilia came out first and introduced me to that. Our daughter that I adopted should go to like HIPI private school, and I thought that was weird. You know, I thought it was, it was.
0:27:30 - Bria Bloom
Pat himself the job, cecilia yeah.
0:27:32 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, yeah, it was a great.
0:27:34 - Cecilie Conrad
Don't start unschooling at the time, so this was the best one.
0:27:37 - Jesper Conrad
No no, but just to tell you where I came from, I was like that is private school, that's snobbish, why do you want that? And then it took me some time to understand that. Oh, it's actually because they have some way of looking at the education that Cecilia believed in. I was still. That's a little weird. And when my son didn't want it to go to school, it was his choice. We wanted him into the same self-directed school. I also thought that was a little weird and did the normal dad thing of can we just do one year, maybe one month, and see how it goes. And now I'm sitting and advocating for it so many years after.
So that's where I came from and my question to you is you met your partner and you got a step son. How have you? Was he in the environment or what have you? Could you? What did you do about the whole self-directed thing? Was he on board, wasn't he? And I think for someone, my question and my idea is for someone being brought up on this way, I would be like that would be a showstopper if he was against it, maybe. So can we talk about that? Yeah?
0:28:49 - Bria Bloom
so it's interesting. You asked that because I think I knew on some level my kids would never go to school, but it wasn't something I was like bringing up consciously with everyone I met, which could have been super problematic if I got into some very serious relationship which happened On the first date.
0:29:15 - Jesper Conrad
shoot the kids through to school.
0:29:17 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, shoot the kids, okay, forget about it.
0:29:19 - Jesper Conrad
0:29:20 - Bria Bloom
I think I did ask on our first date if he won more kids, because if he didn't, I was done. But it was a big part of my life right around the time when we met and started dating, so I guess it was just good timing. But so my husband did not. He dropped out of school and didn't have a degree like a high school diploma or any sort of degree. He was extremely poor and had absent parents and didn't really have any options. But I think it was pretty clear to him already that school was ridiculous and wasn't helping him.
Because of that experience and then also because he has like a different lens on the world in general and I think of this all the time like if we're outside of the norm in terms of how we view jobs and capitalism and I don't know there's so many and like parenting, and if you already have this one way where you're questioning how we treat other people basically and how we live in the world, then it can extend to school, and I meet people all the time where it's like they're questioning everything except schools. So this isn't always true. No, isn't it?
0:30:37 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, it drives me, it's really, it's like very frustrating People, villages and alternative living and what's it called communities, and people are beaten and barefoot and whatever. And then we put themselves into the car, they buckle up and they drive the kids to school and leave them there.
0:31:01 - Jesper Conrad
So freedom is only for adults.
0:31:03 - Cecilie Conrad
I don't know it's just weird.
0:31:05 - Bria Bloom
Yeah it is super weird, but I think there's like openings at least for people thinking in that way. And I was just getting involved with Asdie when I met him. So like my first meeting with Asdie was when I was visiting him. We lived hours away from each other, so I was like sharing all of this and really excited and he was really open to it. So it was pretty natural, I think, his understanding of where I was at and he already had this idea that school didn't work and that school kind of feeds into, like you know, this capitalistic lifestyle where we're just working to make money and we're miserable and so at least here in the US and yeah, and in Europe.
And in Europe, yep. So it was pretty natural with him. And then when Raiden, our son, decided he wanted to move in with us, he was having issues in school, like emotional and social anxiety issues basically, and he was really young. He'd only been in school for maybe a year at that point, but I was like the way to solve these issues is to take him out of school. And I'm here and I did this growing up and I'll do my best and we'll adapt as needed and we really needed to adapt. It was really hard but yeah, that's what I said and everyone was on board with that, even like his mom was also on board with it. I think it helped that I had this backing of five years of working in preschool systems with young kids and then studying education and like that backing of legitimacy.
Yeah, it helped with his mom and then his dad just like trusted the process and we'd just been talking through these things forever. So, yeah, it was just. I think some people you meet and it's just in them, like questioning the school system is already in them. You just kind of need to bring it out. And then there's people you meet where, yeah, they're never gonna listen. Even if they do all the things you were talking about, cecilia, they're still gonna hold on to school.
0:33:14 - Jesper Conrad
0:33:17 - Cecilie Conrad
It's very interesting. It's such a big axiom, it's such a big base understanding of life is. I also find it interesting when even people who are in school sometimes they should teach kids this in school. No, yeah, they should not. They should let go and the parents should tell the kids what they feel they need to tell the kids.
It's funny how it's in the language, it's in a common understanding of what life is and it's very, very hard to take it out, but it is also a very big part of life. It seeps into everything when you sleep, what you wear, how you feel in your body when you shower, how you feel in the shower, what you read, what you watch on the TV if you do watch TV, what you do if you're in school because you know well how would you talk to people if you didn't it's what books you read, it's just where you live. Where you live, when do you go on a vacation? When do you go on a date? When do you go to the museum, if ever? Can you visit your grandparents? It's all elements of life are very much influenced by school and school also spreads out, I find it. I don't know if you have that in the States, but on top of homework in Europe at least in Scandinavia we have play groups. This is social fascism, in my opinion, that the school dictates who the kid has to play with after school.
0:35:08 - Jesper Conrad
And just to explain the logic from the school then it's because they can see that the socialization of the group could be better if these two people here were more connected. So they suggest you play together.
0:35:24 - Bria Bloom
They make play groups. Imagine doing this to adults, like you have to be friends with that person who you are uncomfortable with.
0:35:31 - Cecilie Conrad
Every Tuesday you have dinner with these five couples Every.
0:35:34 - Bria Bloom
Tuesday, and we know what's best for you, despite that feeling very toxic.
0:35:39 - Cecilie Conrad
I'm probably even fighting for your birthday as well. Yeah, oh my gosh, but this is outside of school time. You have this we also have. I don't know if that's the thing in the States, but in Scandinavia you have this portal online where parents have to log in every day to check information from the school. I mean, aren't we like? It's enough now.
Right the emails and the WhatsApp and the text messages and the phone is ringing and there's so much going on that we're sort of obliged to look after as parents. But now we also have to check into this school portal and be interested in whatever the next mother says about having an opinion on whether they can bring apples to school or not. It could drive me completely insane.
0:36:40 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, yeah. It makes you constantly think about school, like your whole life is around school, not just your kids' whole life just being around school.
0:36:49 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, I've met courageous people. I think it's amazing. I have a friend who's a single mom and I wouldn't say she didn't have the option to homeschool because I sort of think everyone could if they were willing to sacrifice whatever needed. But it's a little harder when you're divorced than the other parent is not on board. But one thing she did was that she put the child in the school and she said you can have my child from eight to two or three or whatever the school hours are every day. She's not going to do any homework. I'm not going to enforce any rules that you have on my child at home or at school. There are rules, you know. They can't cut their hair or color their hair or wear the sneakers and whatever it's thought. There are always rules. And she just said I'm not going to obey any of those rules and I'm not going to be your police, so she can do whatever she wants. That's my opinion and I will never, ever, ever log into that website to look at.
Want to tell me something? You call me and what was the last thing? Oh, yeah, I'm not showing up for any of your meetings or anything. Just tell you my free time is my free time. They listened to her. Yeah, the kid is 16 now. She never did it. She did have to fight for it, but it can be done. That's why I'm sharing the story. At that. At least you know, you can say that the free time, the after school time, belongs to the family, to the child and to your personal life.
0:38:32 - Jesper Conrad
But I think the story you're telling in me it touches upon the non-questioning which is, even though I first fought the whole unschooling, homeschooling was strange. I have always been questioning stuff and I find it that that's what I find most wild about the whole school system is that people tell to you that this is how it is and then they don't question if it's right or if it's wrong. But I would love to go back to talk a little more about the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. So if people are like, ok, the SD sounds cool. What can the organization do for people? What do people get out of knowing it exists?
0:39:26 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, I mean, it depends on what you want and what you're looking for and it's always evolving. So there's like a bunch of projects we're thinking about working on now that aren't quite there yet, but right now we have biweekly I think we were publishing two a week articles and videos on Tipping Points Magazine and that's just like stories from people like you, people like me, just doing what we're doing, living life however it looks for them. So it's really varied and eclectic what people are sharing on there. And then we also have videos from our SDE weekend, which are once a year conference. So we charge for that conference. We make it accessible to people who can't pay, but we also take all of the videos and we release them for free over time Because, while we need to survive as an organization, our goal is really just for all information to be accessible and free, because people deserve it, no matter what they can or cannot pay.
So, yeah, we have those videos and those articles coming out twice a week right now. And then we were growing. It's actually pretty large, but we have our resource directory, because there's all these different places where you can find different resources, but there was nowhere where they were all collected together and they were only schools that were self-directed, because people have like alternative education schools. That includes Waldorf and Montessori and other ones where you can have some autonomy, but not really in my opinion.
And then the definition of the alliance. That doesn't count as self-directed education. So we're trying to really vet and see which schools are allowing the kids and supporting the kids in doing what's right for them, and only listing those places. And it's global, so it's all over, and that list is constantly growing, so I'm not going to say we have everything, but there's a lot on there. And then it's also books, podcasts, coaching, consulting, research, studies all of that is on there and, yeah, constantly being added too, and it's all searchable and there's also a map for you to look at things in your area. And then we have monthly groups that are now shifting to be, it's called like, self-directed efforts. So if you're trying to start a school where you are, if you're trying to advocate, if you're trying to start a consulting group, if you just meet with parents informally, whatever it looks like for you, whatever you're doing in your area, you can come to that group and talk through it and get advice and ideas. And there is a lot of people there who are like how do I start a school? There's a lot of systems and hoops you have to jump through and people can give advice there. But there's also people just starting informal co-ops and they want support on that. That's a monthly group and it's free to join.
What else? We're publishing books right now. We published our first self-directed education fiction earlier this year, and then we also have a stack of Peter Gray's books that we've published and we're looking into a few more. It really like we've heard from authors that if you go with standard publishing houses, they really water down the stories and what you're trying to do. So we wanted to create something that wasn't going to do that and could be a place for people who can't find a publisher elsewhere, don't necessarily want to self-publish, but want sort of yeah, some sort of name and collaboration on it, because we have, you know, editors that work with folks too.
And then we have the SDE weekend. That's once a year. It's a global conference. We try and accommodate every time zone we can. It's hard, it's like 6 am for me and then like midnight for, maybe, people in New Zealand, but we do our best, yeah, and that's usually in the spring. And then we just have a variety of like people doing different types of offerings and ask me anything, panels and, as I said, we release all the videos we can over time to those of people that didn't get a chance to attend, and now I'm thinking through everything that's coming up, but we'll announce those things come.
So if you subscribe to the newsletter then you'll know what we do, that's the best thing people can do.
0:44:06 - Jesper Conrad
The next conference is in the spring right.
0:44:09 - Bria Bloom
Yep 2024 in the spring. There's also I mean, I just get emails every day because I manage our main info email account from people who are like how do I find someone in my area, how do I start unschooling, how do I start a school? Or I'm a researcher and I need to connect with people like young people who are doing this for my research project. Like, I just get tons of different types of emails all day long and I think that's a huge part of what we do. That's really behind the scenes. Anyone can come to us with really any question around this and we'll try and support them. And we're offering fiscal sponsorship now, which is just a United States thing, I think. So if you're not a nonprofit because it's hard to get nonprofit status we will take in grants for people and donations and then funnel it to them. That just came out this week actually.
0:45:04 - Cecilie Conrad
Congratulations. Yeah, it was a good initiative. It's wonderful.
0:45:10 - Jesper Conrad
And I'm thinking that how many years have you been connected and have you seen a difference and can you say the reaction to it from the broader public? Has there been a change during the years you've been connected with Asti?
0:45:32 - Bria Bloom
A little bit. There's a little bit more like mainstream news on self-directed education and unschooling, especially during the pandemic, because everyone was like we're homeschooling now, but they weren't. Yeah, yeah, crisis schooling, more like but yeah, and then I know a lot of families just saw how their kids were treated by teachers during the pandemic because suddenly the classroom was on the screen in their house and they're like, oh, this is how teachers treat my kids. I understand now. So people are kind of flocking to different ideas more because of that. So it's like the last three years I think things have shifted a lot in terms of public opinion. It's just, I don't know, it goes up and down in waves, I feel like sometimes I feel like I can connect our movement to other movements that are going on and sometimes, as you said, it's that school is the door that's closed. It's like, yeah, I'll think differently on everything except school, but it's pretty frustrating.
0:46:34 - Jesper Conrad
I've been sitting on another question, which is you who have grown up primarily without school and being involved in this work, and now you have a wonderful little baby. Is this? How do you draw from the experience you have? What faults have you made towards how you interact with your child, based on some of the things you have been through?
0:47:04 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, I mean, I think it's in everything. I think how we interact with our kids and how we interact with the world is very closely related. Yeah, and the people I know now and how they parent and how they raise children are so different and they're like my support system if I'm ever questioning because it looks different, you know, for the mainstream looks so different and I don't know what to do with babies because I've never done this before. I'm just kind of trusting how my parents treated me and how I want to treat humans and going with that. But I still want to, you know, check in with other people who have had babies before and what it looked like with them. So just the people I've met through self-directed education are my support system in this.
And it's hard because you know, you mentioned like, school dictates everything. It dictates where we live and what we read and what we see, and I just never experienced any of that. Like, when I look at people in neighborhoods, I forget that you live in a neighborhood and you think about what school is your neighborhood school here and I just like forget that exists and then when I'm reminded, it's so weird. Why would I choose where I live based on the school my kids are going to go to. It doesn't make sense to me. Why would I choose when I'm going on vacation based on the school year, like it's just not something that was part of my world.
So raising my kids a certain way was not something that was part of my world because it wasn't how my parents raised me and it wasn't how my friends parents raised them. So it feels like it's very deep in me, like knowing how to treat a young person. It's just been part of me because of how I was treated. But then there's still you still slip up because there's all the societal messages coming in all the time and they infiltrate no matter how you were raised. So I still have all of that to like wrestle with. But it's a lot harder for me to describe how and why I do what I do, because I just feel like it was part of how I was raised.
0:49:06 - Jesper Conrad
0:49:08 - Bria Bloom
0:49:09 - Jesper Conrad
0:49:10 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, Most people. It would be hard to say how they would have been if things had been different.
0:49:18 - Bria Bloom
0:49:19 - Cecilie Conrad
It's a very imaginative, theoretical thing.
0:49:24 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, you know, you know how, where you are, and I couldn't say either how my life would have been had I been unschooled, I mean no, no, but I like the part of where my maybe not the full, true question letters, which is the what you mentioned about choosing where you live based on a school. We did that with our house in Copenhagen. No, we didn't know what it, no, but it was in proximity of the school.
0:49:56 - Cecilie Conrad
But actually we chose the house for it.
0:49:59 - Jesper Conrad
We chose the house for a completely different, but just to be honest, I mean next to the only self-directed school in Copenhagen.
0:50:08 - Bria Bloom
Right, and that's different.
0:50:11 - Cecilie Conrad
But we chose it because it was the house. So this was my mother's house, and then there was a vacant house and this was my grandmother's house and my grandmother offered to pay a big chunk of it if we bought this house.
0:50:24 - Jesper Conrad
So that's the reason we bought the house. Absolutely. But my point was, what I wanted to go towards was at some point around when we started looking into the home unschooling, homeschooling thing, I sat down and looked at the years. We would have kind of been angered in that area, based on the school, because we had our now grown up daughter in that school and it was something like 20 years. We would have lived our life you can count.
0:51:00 - Cecilie Conrad
I mean, she started school. I can't, I must have been in 12.
0:51:06 - Jesper Conrad
0:51:07 - Cecilie Conrad
And our youngest child is still only 12 years. Not even 12 years old, he's 11. So he would be in school another five years, something like that. So that's like until almost 2030. I mean, we're sitting here in Spain, very far away.
0:51:24 - Jesper Conrad
Very far away, full time traveling for five years.
0:51:28 - Cecilie Conrad
No, but I mean, we would still live there and the prospect would be to live there another least five years.
0:51:34 - Jesper Conrad
Absolutely, and that is just why that you, by choosing a school, choose to be not to be angered to this place for so long, and I mean it's yeah. It just baffles me now when I look at it, but I was ready to do it at that point because that was normal. That was what everybody did.
0:51:59 - Bria Bloom
And I do think that if there's no like, if you're in a place where you feel super isolated from other self-directed people and you want a center, then moving to go to a self-directed center like the only one around makes a lot of sense. So I get why people make that choice. It's more like this is your neighborhood school and it's on every single for sale sign in our area like what the neighborhood school is, and I never even considered that as a factor for where I would go.
0:52:30 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, so before we have been talking around for an hour now and I'm thinking about rounding up the talk here, but I would like you to also mention some of the other work you do beside Estie and how you help people who want to contact you.
0:52:53 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, I mean the work I do right now. There's lots of different things. I like work with parents and families if they want to work through some of these things you're talking about just starting unschooling or questioning unschooling and how to have support in what it looks like to kind of de-school and untangle what we've been told and rethink how we treat our children basically and what our relationship with them looks like. So it's like parenting and kind of self-directed education, coaching, but that I use that term super lightly because it's different for everyone. I don't have steps. I don't have like a curriculum or a system. It's like what's going on for you in your situation right now and how can we talk through that and just support parents and getting to a place where they just feel better about how they're interacting with their family and their young people. I also run a flying squad for youth here and I co-run, co-support the flying squad when you say flying squad unlike airplane, so what are we talking about?
0:54:08 - Jesper Conrad
I'll get there.
0:54:10 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, it's the most ridiculous name, but that's why we love it. So, especially since we were talking about being anchored to a space and a schoolhouse. Flying squads are basically just like self-directed communities that come together without a building, without staying in one place, so they're in different cities. So it's like I have one in Portland, there's one in like Clu, romania. They're all over, but they're in different cities and we come together for the day and we just use the city as our place to live and learn and be. And the kids we don't have any. It's not like a field trip. We're not like, okay, today we go to this place and tomorrow we go to this place. It's like the kids decide right there that morning where we're going and the adults don't decide for them and they kind of you know, they have to agree, they have to argue it out, whatever it is, come to a consensus. So there's a lot of those skills being built too. But it's their place, it's their time and they get to decide. We take public transit.
Not all squads are like that but yeah we're limited by public transit and we're not paying a bunch of money to do everything every day.
So the idea is to like get kids out in the community and take back the space and say that young people deserve to be in the community too during school hours. And you know, pushing on people's comfort level with having young people out during school hours. And it's just like such an easy thing to start because you don't have the overhead of, like a building and a nonprofit and all these things we have to get if we want to start some sort of school or center. So they pop up everywhere because they're so easy to start.
0:55:53 - Jesper Conrad
It's a wonderful idea and that's something people can get involved in if they want to start a flying squad as well.
0:56:00 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, we have. Flyingsquadsorg is our website and it's like run by the collectives. So Brooklyn was the first flying squad and I was the second and we me and Alex kind of got together to start sharing what we were doing, but now it's just run by everyone who does it. So you'll see, on there you can contact different squads to ask questions and see how they get involved.
0:56:22 - Jesper Conrad
What I loved about what you said about taking back the city space is when we travel full time and been doing that for five years, and then you really get out and about in normal lifetime, when people are in school and at work, and it's crazy how the cities are sometimes almost deserted and they feel a little like you're walking around. So what are these overpopulation thing people are talking about?
0:56:52 - Bria Bloom
There's no one here, Everyone's in their office buildings, schools and their homes.
0:56:58 - Cecilie Conrad
There's very much no one who is younger than 17.
0:57:03 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, there's babies and senior citizens out, that's it, and it feels just really really weird yeah.
0:57:12 - Cecilie Conrad
No, but another very important element I find is that one of the best pieces of advice, I think, that can be given to a beginner, someone who wants to adopt this lifestyle and there is a lot of de-schooling to happen. For someone who has been to school and maybe didn't think about it three months ago that this was even an option the best thing you can do is to make a friend know someone who's done it. Maybe it doesn't have to be someone who's done it for 15 plus years or who was homeschooled themselves, or just someone on the journey, maybe a year or two in front of you, maybe even just a few months in front of you. Talk to someone and in person is always more fun than online. So if there is any way you can find a homeschooler, unschooler, world schooler, self-directed family anywhere close enough to go see them, I mean that's one of the most empowering things that can happen.
In the beginning of this process, we didn't have flying squads in Copenhagen, but we did have. Was it monthly? I think we had monthly, like every first Friday of the month or whatever. I can't even remember the weekday. It's been a while, but we just opened our doors to anyone homeschooling or anyone even interested in homeschooling. The only rule was that they had to have actual children that they wanted to homeschool. So no dreamers and no journalists, and then everyone could show up and hang out in our gardens, basically.
0:58:59 - Jesper Conrad
Many people in.
0:58:59 - Cecilie Conrad
now we had so many people come in and out and it was actually at some point too much, because once a month if it's 50 people it's a lot, so we shared with another family. So it was every second month that helped a little bit. But just to say that if someone sits there and thinks what can I do for the community, it could be open your doors or it could be taken initiative that makes it available for beginners or even just curious parents who think they could never do it, but they might be interested anyway to meet real people and also see real children, real case studies, real human beings running around that didn't turn square green or anything else weird that looks like real people.
0:59:49 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, and I will say, as D has a member map, if you are a member and you opt in, there's a map that will show up where different members are so that they can contact each other and have that connection you're talking about. And I get people emailing me saying is there anyone in my area and I can search and ask for permission to connect people?
too, so yeah, because that really is. If you're completely alone and isolated, how do you find at least one other person in your area to support you? That's important, and I think that's part of what I'm trying to do what it can be a complete game changer, definitely. Have someone to talk to? Yeah, yeah.
1:00:32 - Jesper Conrad
All right, it is time I would like you to mention where people can contact you and Asti. So I will also put it in the show notes, but for the people only listening. So if you can give us some URL so people out there can get in touch and send you even more emails.
1:00:52 - Bria Bloom
Yeah, me personally is Bria Bloom, my name Dot com, and that has flying squads. It has a de-schooling group that meets online once a week. It has my coaching, it has a bunch of stuff. And then asti is self-directedorg, and, if just full disclosure, if you contact the info email there, it will also go to me. But I'm feeling different from different places and I have a group of people to ask and support in those emails too. And then flyingsquads is flyingsquadsorg. Yeah, I think that's everything. I have different email addresses everywhere too.
So, you will get to me by email and like five different things. Don't be surprised if it ends up at my inbox All emails go to you yeah. Flying Squads info emails do not, luckily yeah, I gave up one of these.
1:01:57 - Jesper Conrad
It was a wonderful pleasure and for the people out there listening. Go check out Bria's work and the asti and the flying squads and get involved and if you are on the journey, as Cecilia said, go find someone real people talk to, because or be someone. Or be someone who shares Absolutely. Thanks a lot for your time.
1:02:19 - Cecilie Conrad
Hope you get some sleep. Thank you so much. Yeah, sunday.
1:02:22 - Bria Bloom
1:02:23 - Jesper Conrad
1:02:27 - Cecilie Conrad
Have a lovely day.
1:02:28 - Jesper Conrad
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you liked it, then please share it with all your friends and family. We would also love it if you gave our podcast a review. Thanks, and if you want to support our podcast and work, then you can find us on patreoncom slash the Conrad family. We will continue to travel full time and if you want to tag along, then please follow us on Facebook and Instagram at the Conrad family, and you can also read more than 100 blog posts on our website, theconradfamily. Until next time, make a wonderful day, thank you.
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