#51 Akilah S. Richards | Raising Free People - Unschooling from a Black Perspective
🗓️ Recorded January 9th, 2023. 📍Playa Dorada, Lengüeta Arenosa, Baja California, Mexico
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About this Episode
Akilah S. Richards guides us through her transformative journey, highlighting the significance of unschooling seen from a Black perspective.
We navigate the challenges faced in the unschooling journey, especially within the context of Black families. Akilah underscores the importance of nurturing creativity, autonomy, and play in education and how these elements are critical in fostering a liberated and holistic learning environment.
In 2016, Akilah published the first episode of Fare of the Free Child, a podcast for anyone considering parenting and leadership from a liberation lens. The podcast focuses on Black people, Native|Indigenous people, and People of Color (BIPOC) families who practice unschooling and other forms of self-directed, decolonization-minded living and learning. Akilah also gave a TEDx talk on Raising Free People, sharing the now widely-celebrated philosophy, “We can’t keep using tools of oppression and expect to raise free people.” In 2020, she released her book 'Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work.'
Join us as we delve into this enlightening discussion with Akilah S. Richards, exploring the impactful and healing world of unschooling from a Black perspective.
Support Akilahs work: https://www.patreon.com/akilah
Personal leadership sanctuary: https://schoolishness.com/
Unschooling/Deschooling Coaching: https://schoolishness.com/savorade-coaching/
Watch the full interview on YouTube
00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Welcome to Self-Directed. We are your hosts, cecilia and Jesper Conrad, and now it's time to welcome this week's guest.
00:10 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Today we are together with Akila, who I've tried to hunt down for almost a year because I wanted to hear her thoughts on unschooling and life and everything, and finally we succeeded. So I'm very happy to be together with you here today. Welcome.
00:27 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Thank you so much. I appreciate it, and the timing is right, so let's do it now, when it's right.
00:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Absolutely. That's all right.
00:35 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
The timing is good One of our family mottos is we're always on time.
00:42 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yes, yeah, even when it doesn't feel like it right yeah?
00:46 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Was the plan for time or the time that happened? It's on time.
00:51 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
For my preparation for today. I actually went back and listened to your first, first episode of your podcast, where you had a lot of power and energy and you also have the true out is not that? But you started it of a reason and then I listened to the last one because fair of the free child is now living its own life. People can go on listen to the podcast and I highly recommend they do but it's a podcast that focus on unschooling, self-directed life learning, alternative learning, what's seen from a black and colored perspective, which is very interesting because we I am as white as can be from from the Scandinavian countries, from Denmark, and we have had Erica on the podcast and I it's really difficult to imagine how it is to raise your children in the school system where that school system is the same. That is telling you about your own history, but from a very white point of view. So I is that some of the reason you started the podcast way back when.
02:06 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Well, that was definitely one of the things that for us, that's so normal, right, and it extends obviously beyond the school.
Like even before you get to school, before your children become what they call school aged, you're contending with a lot of those things already. So it is so normal, even when they're two and three and you're going to a pediatrician who their medical background and history is still very like Eurocentric, and they don't understand certain things, whether it's culturally or biologically. So school isn't kind of where you encounter that, it's just one of the places along the trajectory, even before that too. Before I answer that, I want to touch on another element that feels connected to this. So you said the black and colored perspective, and so here where I am, that languaging of colored actually recently there were conversations about it because for for us, context wise, we wouldn't use that language and because I've spent a lot of time in South Africa and this isn't a correction, this just feels like a good opportunity to have this part of absolutely good, because there was a South African singer I'm forgetting her name, but she was doing an interview and she called herself colored.
And I remember when my family and I went to South Africa we have some good friends there and somebody said, yeah, the colored family we're like.
We thought there was going to be a fight.
Right, because in the black American context even though I'm Jamaican, live here in America, that is like you know they called us colored around the same time that they were using the n word and then that evolved into something else.
So we would never say colored. That's like saying nigger, in a sense of. So I want that context because I know people from all over the world listen to podcasts so that we understand, yeah, in some places that's actually how non white and non black people would identify themselves, and then in others it's something else. So, yeah, and I love Erica we got to meet because she's part of the of HSC in California and, yes, that that context of people seeing your history and culture as less than and something that they they're like, adamant about their ideas of it, even when you're trying to tell a different story that was part of it for a lot of families, but for me it was less so that it was a lot more personal. My children were frustrated, especially Marley as the oldest, who's now going to be 20 in a couple of months. Oh my God.
04:44 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I know the feeling yeah. I had one turning 18 this week.
04:49 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, and then the sage is going to be 18 next month. So it was really Marley, as our first kid who went into school, being so frustrated with having not having the time to think her thoughts and process her feelings. That's really the thing that got us started of like oh, oh, you care about that, you know, and she was just so adamant. So that's kind of the portal that led us down the path of like oh, they have thoughts about stuff and they want time to be with the oh, but in school somebody's right. I wasn't okay with that either. Oh, you know, just kind of like built on that initial.
05:27 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
05:28 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
05:32 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I kind of want to go back to the language thing, because it's a thing that is really hard for me to find out, I don't know how to even address. No, we're Scandinavian, we have mostly Scandinavian people in Scandinavia. So, yeah, I mean, and the very few people whose ancestors might be from anywhere in Africa who are in Scandinavia, we have a few adoptees, we have some marriages, we have some Americans. Mostly it's considered cool, you know, you're cooler. So where we come from this color code I'm using the word color Now, I know I'm not supposed to, but it has a completely different status Whereas if you're from the Middle East and you have that spectrum, that's a problem. That's where the whole racism and negativity and weird stories and all those things happen. So for us, from our perspective, it's very hard to understand the Americans. I feel I don't know how to even navigate and my children also come to me and they say you know what?
I forgot that person's name and I don't even know if I can say you know that person who has a complexion closer to coffee than mine and you don't know how to, even if it's just like saying the guy in the red hoodie. They just want to point out to me who are we talking about, but they don't know, and I also don't know what words am I allowed to use. Do not offend anyone. Obviously don't show the ideas that are behind what you're talking about, but how can we talk about our different skin colors?
07:38 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
I think a big part of it is the willingness to not know, because that's a part of what I call pervasive whiteness, this idea that you should be comfortable and you should know exactly what to say, and it shouldn't be offensive, and because that's what's normal for you. And in reality, I would venture to say, even in the non-white people that you do know in Scandinavia and across. Their stories are vast and varied and what you might think is okay, they might have a different take on, but they're not in a position to necessarily assert it. The idea of, of course, we couldn't have a conversation about and I'm talking specifically about blackness and non-whiteness looks like a vast spectrum of different things, and I'm not an American, but I live in America, so there's another layer there.
But I do know that one of the things across the board and I've lived in a lot of different countries and have people in my life from a lot of different spaces and one of the things I know generally with pervasive whiteness is the idea of like, well, it's uncomfortable, how can I get it to be more comfortable? The reality is, this is the process. It isn't that we shouldn't talk about it, it's that we should be willing to understand that sometimes we will offend and that we can communicate through that and say I didn't know, I didn't have that experience, and and to not to try to make like an excuse for it, but just allow it, just like unschooling to shape you, to be able to say, oh, I actually hadn't met a person who looked at it this way Doesn't mean it's wrong or different. I mean it doesn't mean it's wrong or bad, it's just different than what I know.
Even across the spectrum of blackness, different black people are going to have very different takes on language. So the thing in whiteness is just to be able to recognize that this is what it looks like. It looks like getting muddy, it looks like saying the thing and being like oh, thank you for that education, I didn't know that, and then you might meet another black person that says I actually have no problem with that at all. That's all wonderful, because now you're getting exposed to the spectrum, the diversity of people that aren't you from, where you're from, and your work is like. All of our work is to become more skilled at being with the discomfort and not trying to avoid it or fix it in the moment by demanding more from the person who made you uncomfortable.
10:04 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And basically, if we try to prevent that, we will also prevent the learning opportunities.
10:10 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Not only will you prevent it, you will actually be complicit in the problem, right it's just more of the same.
10:17 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So we just have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
10:20 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, because other people have this exactly. I'll say more skilled with it, right, because that's a problem that, for example, as a black woman across the board that's some of the discomfort that other people might have with me is before I even open my mouth. Or I don't understand what your hair is doing, like when I have locks or different things. Even the white people who think it's cool there are some white people who are like that's great there are others who are like you could never work for my company if you do your hair like that or if you have all these different things. So there's a way that we just are learning to be more comfortable with the discomfort and actually to trust it, to trust the discomfort as a channel for the expansiveness Right, yeah, and trust that we are going moving forward, that we're going not always forward, actually, it's all directions.
That is the schoolish thing we want to. We're going wide, we're going deep, we're going forward. We might need to go backward before we get to a point of clarity. That's the part to trust Like, yeah, not just the parts that feel good and clear, but even the ambiguity, even the uncertainty, even the part that feels like dang. We left this conversation and I don't even know how she feels. Was that offensive? Was that not good? Let it, let it.
11:43 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Let it grow with it.
11:44 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, yeah, feel it.
11:48 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
And a big part for me about this whole unschooling, life-living self-directed with our kids. Self-directed is seeing how it has affected me as a person. If I look back at who I was when we first got children, there were so many things I hadn't thought about, didn't think new, and now we live a totally different life. So if you look back now, your oldest is 20, where how has it affected you? The whole de-schooling trip? Oh, my goodness. And according to the trip, because it is way out there sometimes it really is.
12:32 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
That's a great word for it. It is trippy shit yeah.
12:36 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
12:37 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
I would say that one of the biggest things for me is that I am so much slower than who I was when I was little Marley and little Sage's mama. I am so much slower. That version of me was like I worshiped efficiency and structure, and this makes sense and this plus this equals this, and if you do this, then this, you know, like I was very much that sort of way and, as you said, like watching my children, being able to witness them unplugging from the matrix in certain ways and also later on certain battles that they just don't have because they're raised how they raise, I just realized that for me, this fast pace, efficient, a student mentality was costing me so much in terms of my personal leadership and also in my closest relationships, because I was such a judge of why people didn't have this or why they had, you know, I was just so judgmental and really clear about you know, what needs to be done to have this be that, yeah, yeah, and I would say this version of me is so much more tender, so much slower. I pride myself on saying that I am a slow processor. It's actually. It's actually how I honor the multiple versions of myself, including the one that tends to need to burn out before she realizes that she needs to slow some shit down. That's a huge part of it.
So, even now, as I've closed the podcast, you know, fair of the Free Child is now officially an elder, as you mentioned, just like living its own life. One of the things that I get to do, because I'm not producing a podcast every week, is to just go slower period, to be slower, to have the space to tend to my thoughts, to make connections that I couldn't make before, to notice connections that were already there, to be able to have a conversation with someone and then revisit it multiple times when I'm at different spaces so that I can pull the wisdom from that differently. That's one of the biggest ways that I'm different. I'm just. I'm just trying to get from.
15:00 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you sometimes relapse?
15:09 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
In which way? No, but I'm just thinking.
15:12 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So I can. I mean, I recognize myself in your story. Lots of things have changed and this whole focus, the structure, the efficiency that we need to get from A to B. We put ourselves on this train. We just hold on. We keep going to do, to do, to do, to do, and it's like yes, and letting go of that and starting to just be in the flow of life. Not, I don't have a habit tracker or a structured week or time boxing or stuff like that. Yeah, but then sometimes I can even go back to that version of myself and harvest some sort of elements that do work for me. I think maybe the relapse question is a stupid question because that's not what I was thinking. I was more thinking. Now, from my point of view, we're 10 plus years into the unschooling. Now I can go back and say maybe a little bit of time boxing would be nice.
16:13 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, exactly that's what I was going to say. I don't think it was a stupid question, because then it led you to get to what you really wanted to pull out.
16:21 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
But relapses just as if you're completely losing everything you learned the past 10 years from coming what you were.
16:27 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, that's not what you're saying. Yeah.
16:32 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
What I'm saying is is there an element of coming back and honoring your life now or helping you. Can you use that version of yourself today?
16:41 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, it's not that version. It's definitely pulling, as you said, just drawing in the pieces that are actually a good fit for who I am now and how.
I move now. For me and I also think, the relapse question, the reason for me that it doesn't feel stupid is because that's a conversation that I have with a lot of people where something happens and it triggers that experience and then they call on that warrior self. I have a warrior woman painting that Chris did for me on my altar Actually, it's not on my altar, it's to the side of it because sometimes the warrior woman does need to come out and then I put her on the altar. But mostly the difference is that she doesn't lead the line. I call her in when she is needed, because there are times, because the thing is none of the things time boxing, none of those things are inherently the problem.
It's the use of it and it's the way that we don't discern and we don't trust ourselves outside of it. Oh my God, if I don't have a schedule, I'm not going to get anything done. Maybe it depends on the things that I need to get done. That's the difference and what I do and have done and where you find me now, because I don't see myself as an unschooling organizer like I did that first episode and I was like fire. Everybody can get it. There's still that version of me lives, but mostly this version of me looks at her like, oh come, come, come here, come here, come here.
18:11 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Come get a heart.
18:12 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
There's what's happening, yeah, and also then go back to your fire, because that fire is needed too. So what I have are a lot of tools and toys and different things around me, like I have a raising free people practice deck, like a deck of cards that used to be just pieces of paper that I made up I have. You know, I like different sort of like trinkets and tangible things that are part of my real world. That bring me back to what I am moving towards and what I have moved away from. Right now I'm in Thanatology school. I'm studying death and dying because I feel like where I am now is and the people that call me in and the people that I call in. So much of that work is about grief. It's about the grief on the other side of recognizing who you were and what that costs you, what that costs your kids, what that might cost your parents, how you viewed your parents differently but right, like all of these things. So to your question.
I definitely draw on the different versions of needs that I have. I love waking up and being like I'm going to do this, this and this today, and I'm probably going to do this in this time of day and this time of day, not because I have to, but because I know how I flow. I know that I like a nap at around this time. I know that I don't want to talk for an hour, I want to talk for 30 to 45 minutes. So instead of me being like, all right, I'll do the interview, then I just say that and then I try not to do more than one thingy thing at a time in a day, for example. So, like my calendar doesn't have four dots on it, it has one, and if I accomplished two other things, then I'm going to make a list and cross it off, because I love that feeling, not because I feel like I need it.
I love the feeling. It's a how Right. It doesn't have me captive. I tap into it, I call it in and I also trust myself whether it's there or not, whereas before I needed it to like, validate my shit. You know, it's just different now. So I would say, yeah, those pieces are there, but they're in their place, and then some parts are completely dead, like I've had literal funerals that I invited family to for myself, had a big one in 2019, or a version of myself that I needed to let die. So, like, ritual is such a huge part of my unschooling practice and my de-schooling practice for the type of things that you just asked, you know, for being able to be with who I was, what I learned, what my brain tends to go towards when I'm panicked about like money or something one of my kids did, and it's like, oh shit, should I do that? And it's like, okay, I know where that's coming from. What piece of that is valid right now? Okay, okay, all right, you know, it's just a different experience, a different relationship to it.
21:02 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, it leads me to think about my own personal insecurity about in life. I have some and I'm working with it and I've worked a lot with it during my life. But when I look at my own unschooled, self-directed kids, I can see them have time in time and they're teams to actually work through all the shit you have and you go through because it's a big as development you're going through. So much stuff is happening and I do not regret the life I've lived. But I can look sometimes back and say, man, how different would it have been? And what can I learn from looking at how my children are living through their emotions and development and where do I still need fixing? Because I need some fixing.
21:57 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I'm just not going to quit.
22:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
No, but I can just look at my kids and see, oh, they have time to work through this. They actually had the attention of parents to work through this. If I had had that, my life would have been different on some sorts. I would have had less insecurity and my insecurity turned around to be like the extrovert guy who's partying and having a lot of fun. But it was based on. When I look at them now I'm like I should have worked through that back then. So I'm almost jealous. I try not to be jealous, but I am a little jealous of the life.
22:36 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, and I so feel you on that in terms of just, I get a lot of space and I'm very grateful for the spaciousness that I have in my life, which came very much as a direct result of our commitment to raising and being free people through this unschooling practice. I'm really grateful for this spaciousness because the sort of things that I see Marley and Sage do I get to get my education from that. They're absolutely my life guides, my teachers, everyone is. But I get to live with these teachers and there are so many ways I say all the time that I cheat off their paper because that's how it feels. It feels like they're like acing the test of life and I'm just like wait, how did she get that five? Oh, okay, like that's how it feels a lot to me when I see them do stuff, even, for example, anger.
My upbringing, through my upbringing, I developed a real connection with anger. Even to this day, I don't, I'm not afraid of my anger in particular. I understand it, I understand its purpose. I am in relationship, a healthy ish ish relationship at times with my anger, especially if it's not connected to someone in my closest circle, right? So much of the education of how to move through anger. Fear of the free child is a direct result of anger. That was one of my biggest. What am I going to do with these fucking feelings? So when I watch how my children, what happens when they get angry, and how they shift that not ignore it, not dismiss it, not suppress it, but shift it those are the moments when I'm like, oh, my good, so she could. So she actually saw past that initial thing and she's actually checking for the human, not the thing they said just now, and I'm still learning how to do that Right, the examples of that. So I really that's a part of why I do this work out loud, why I'm coaching now incessantly, why in my make it happen family space on Patreon, we're doing all this work around personal leadership. I feel like I don't feel jealous because I feel like I still get to use what I learned from them with other adults, because we're the ones who need that shit. So it's like, oh, I get to sit with my daughters and get the consent for which pieces I can share, you know, struggle with the parts where they're like no, don't share them. Like, but how am I going to? And then we figure it out. That's how I tend to use that feeling of like man I wish I had that and and also my children influence my mother, who we had a very volatile relationship for a lot of years, but because because she's with them and I'm with them, it also impacts how I see her. So there's this like multi generational.
Some of it is healing and then in other ways to. I've released the idea that I'm going to heal from everything as an unschool. I don't need everything to be neatly packaged with a beginning, middle and end. There's some stuff it's like I may never heal from it, but I might have a language for it, which is helpful. It allows me to be able to relate to the people who call me in for coaching I really like the term coaching people who I get to walk with in certain parts of their journey. I draw so much from Marley and Sage's life experiences for those sort of things, so that's kind of where I place that feeling. But I so feel you on that, yeah.
26:12 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think regret is not going to help us.
Yeah, but it's just a human emotion, yeah yeah, but I just think that, yes, our kids especially are a second child. He sometimes say why are you the ones doing a podcast and unschooling, why are you the ones doing that? I don't call it coaching either. Sometimes I just call it being the elder or, you know, walking with other people who are just beginning. You don't even know what it is. I'm unschooled. I know what it is. In many ways he's right. It's a very different life they live. It is.
I think that when I look at it now, one of the goals we had, one of the things I've helped as a very precious gold standard of the life I wanted to give my children with this, is that the whole education BS is not the focal point of childhood, Exactly the thing that happens from the infant you receive when they are born to the young adult you just look at. With all, we have one who's 24. She's totally on her way in life. It's not about how many languages do they speak, how many presidents can they name all these things. What takes up the most space is this whole personal development, being in the world, the naming of the emotions, the understanding of oh man, the social life. How many hours have I spent talking to my kids with my kids, about what happened.
Who said what? What was that eyebrow? Yes, it's not that they're obsessive, it's just really really, really complicated stuff. It takes forever to understand it, forever and you're not done when you're 25, but maybe you don't need a parent. He saw something you didn't understand, Maybe. Maybe sometimes you call your mom.
So, it's just. I think that's one of the biggest shifts that we have to make as unschooling parents to really understand, to let go of the world word schooling, and so we might as well like go of the word, because then we have only on left.
28:47 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Right, which is the thing? Right? Yeah, no, I still hear you, yeah.
Yeah, and there's a I wanted to touch on something that's okay in relation to just that one little sliver. It's because that's one of the reasons why fear of the free child was such a oh my God. It was so many things like an oasis for me, for so many of the people who just like bless the space with their stories and their willingness to struggle out loud like I do. It's because for so many black families, we get that and it feels like our children don't get to avoid the realities of how people are going to view us if we don't know the presidents, if we don't know the multiple languages. It's like the currency of being able to be exceptional, to know the things and to do well is a part of how we keep ourselves and our children safe. And so there's this way that the idea of time to deal with your thoughts and emotions feels like, yes, okay, once you are, you have a good job, you don't have to live in a neighborhood that's unsafe, you don't have to be in the areas where the government isn't sending the resources, then then I can let go and then you can have the time to be with all those other stuff and that's real. So there's this way that, as unschoolers in the diversity, because we all know that unschooling has this kind of whitewash over it, right, right.
So a big part of that unraveling of that and the un in the unschooling is to recognize the diversity of spaces to which, through which, we come to unschooling. And while it feels good to think about what we know now, especially since we've been in it for a while, there's this way that so many families and communities must have the space to deal with why they they get that in here, but in the world of safety and logic and all these other very real things, it feels like, yeah, I couldn't give less of a shit if my kid is. Their feelings are like I want them to be able to learn that other language so they can get into that better school, so they can be safer, so that they can do the things they need to do to conform to whiteness enough to have enough security then to be themselves Right. So that's another layer that feels very important to name when we talk about, kind of the goal, the goals of unschooling.
31:23 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, I think America blew my mind with a story about criminalization of young black boys of just being a boy. How what? I had done some stupid shit when I was 11 12. I would have been a black boy in the States doing that. It would have been looked upon as a criminal offense.
31:47 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
The school would have been.
31:49 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I would have been looked upon as one going directly to become a criminal, and and I'm still processing how, how, why did I have my life is the basic things that you wouldn't even need to really think about.
32:10 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
And it's not just our black boys, it's. You know, there's there all these amazing books out about that, the criminalization, the over sexualization, right, there are all these things that happen to black bodies, boys and girls inside this school system. The school to prison pipeline is real and a lot of well intentioned parents who understand fully all of the issues with school are still saying, yes, but where can we go? They're saying, yes, but where can my kid be safe enough to gather the skills so that they can even begin to, to have the space to make the mistakes, to see who they want to show up as Right? So I'm very glad to hear that you have that awareness, because in a lot of unschooling spaces still to this day because I know this from a lot of the people I work with if you are not white, there's this way that you are so unseen in other unschooling communities because people just have no idea what what you're actually going through. It's like this you know they come by all over you and it's like can you not please?
33:17 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, the privilege is very, very real and the blindness? It is a high risk that we, from our perspective, just don't see it.
33:30 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, it's real, yeah, because it feels like the fix is to think about. It feels like the fix oftentimes is to think about how we're similar, what we have in common, that we're all one love fairy dust.
33:47 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
33:50 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
When really the differences, the differences, the things that we wouldn't understand about each other. That's really where the seeds of belonging live. But that's harder, that's uncomfortable, and we're all groomed and socialized to avoid the discomfort. But really to me, this unschooling work and world gives us so many opportunities to recognize that and to not shy away from it, to say, if I want you to be welcomed in the space, there are some things that I do that I think of, but so much of it lives in my capacity to listen and not understand, to just to listen and to not understand and to be with that. So I don't get it Interesting yeah.
34:39 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
We recently interviewed Blake Bowles, who is wonderful for me. He's a young man he will probably see himself at middle age as well, but he has written just the title of his book. Why Are you Still Sending your Children to?
34:54 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
School. I know his book, yeah, it is that title is so wonderful?
35:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
and, being black in the States, I would just look at that title and say, okay, why am I still sending my children to school to be indoctrinated into this? It is a wide difference, but do you think there is a? I feel sometimes, where am I going with this? I'm going in the direction that I sometimes feel that we become more and more weird because, in terms of not living inside the box and you also talk about you want your children to be able to know the things to go into different schools Do you think you can go too much outside the box to get in it again?
35:47 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
I know that's an interesting question. I imagine that you can. But I know to that question of because I've had these conversations with black and Latinx folks about why am I still sending my kid to school again? Because it's safer. Oftentimes there's socioeconomic components to it that are just real factors. Also, you can be an unschooler with a child in school. Both of my children are, say, just finishing up high school that she opted into, miley's in college that she opted into. This is not about anti-school, it's anti-schoolishness, which that's the language I used, which lives everywhere.
You have to be in a classroom to get it when you have what I call confident autonomy, which is, for us, that's our goal standard of unschooling. If our children are constantly developing their levels of confident autonomy and we are as well, which means we don't require them to prove their confident autonomy to us in order for it to be valid. If we are on that path, then we are unschooling. We are decolonizing the idea of what living and learning means, and you can do that in school. We watch Sage, for example, when she's in high school, choose whether or not she's going to do homework or write a letter to her teacher about why she didn't do the assignment over the break, because it was a break, and she doesn't do her assignments over the break. If he's going to give her a C instead of an A, that's fine. It just looks like different things to different people For me. I'm like, oh my God, why didn't you just do it? Because you had the space, and my schoolish brain is still saying the things. But the point is for them to be able to be confident within the system, not just outside of it. Then, also in the case of blackness. We're talking generally because it's not one thing, but there's also this idea that school can be sometimes the safest place for your kid to be, because, as you said, if the white child is out playing at the park and they accidentally hit another kid, it's like oh my God, billy, are you both? Okay, that must have been.
But if it's a little black kid, we see it even in like unschooling schools, like an agile learning center, where one of the teachers was saying this is a white woman, julia, a friend. She was saying how there were some kids playing and they were wrestling and she recognized that. She immediately saw the little black boy as the aggressor. She recognized that in herself. If they're just at the park, the police are going to come. You might not be able to get your kid back, whereas if they're in school, they're going to call you and then you might be able to appeal to that white teacher to be able to say hey, did they say that? This right? So that question about why you're still sending your kid to school, it depends on who you're asking and it depends on the why. And also it's not correct to assume that somebody in school is more oppressed than someone who is not, because this thing looks like a lot of different things depending on who and when, right and where.
39:02 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
39:04 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's as if it's a complex situation.
39:06 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It is complex, life is damn complex. So to ease the complexities and to bridge into ending the conversation, what are some of the advice you would get people starting on this journey if you would start out with that and then lead over to where people can find you if they want to work with you or listen to more of what you have done?
39:35 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
Yeah, community is such an important part of it. That's a big thing that I learned from Fair of the Free Child. I just intended to do a podcast and that podcast truly turned into community. And I don't use that word frivolously, just like I don't use the word love or friendship frivolously. So having places where you can be messy together and make mistakes together and ask questions that feel stupid and that is so important and it can be so hard to find. So the first thing I would say is to try to de-school your idea of community. For a lot of us, community means we're all together. Maybe we live on a compound and my kids are at this place and we're I don't know, making granola together or whatever the hell. But community can just mean one other person that is available for you and them to just like shoot the breeze twice a week for an hour on Zoom, where you can say and then my kid did this thing and I freaking wish they wouldn't, and I know it's great that they have their autonomy or whatever the hell, but I'm so offended by that Like to just be able to find one other person that you can really talk to about what you're unlearning and what feels not so great. That's a big piece of advice that I have, because you can't do it alone and it's so messy. Everything spills into everything you think it's about your kid and learning and right, it ends up being so much about personal leadership work and community work and all these other things. So that's the first thing Try to not hide while you're doing it, even though, like, I totally get that tendency because it's messy. Things like spaces, like the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, asd. I recommend Podcasts like just get.
For me, before I was able to be in community, I was like cheating off of other people's paper. You know, listening to other podcasts, joining ASD, getting be around other people. Be around other people with this topic. Try not to just read books, right? That's the one thing that I would say. That's huge, because it's going to allow you to recognize how much is holding, how much you're holding and how much needs to be released, because I think so much of unschooling is not necessarily about what to do. It's actually about what to let go of, what to learn to trust differently, how to allow yourself to be shaped by a thing when all you know is that you need to shape a thing. That's what I would say.
Where I am now I'm skolishnesscom is my main website. I have a little thing on there with some of the language that has come to me over the years, things like skolishness, how I define unschooling and de-schooling, what confident autonomy means, the role of personal leadership in this unschooling thing. I have things like my card deck there, which I have in English and in Spanish, that are really tools for individual and communal discussion and gathering around the things that come up when you switch from how will they learn math to oh my God, why am I like this? You're gonna need something to be able to touch on when you see them watching YouTube for the 17th hour and not getting any sleep and only eating pop tarts and you're like, oh my God, I'm a shit parent, and then, but then you actually need to step in and say, oh, what is my relationship to pleasure and ease and slowness and joy? What am I reacting to here? Is this a responsible parent nudge or is it a resentment nudge? What do I do if I'm a grown ass person who has people and I feel resentment? So I have lots of tools and toys for those sort of experiences and the last thing that I'll say is patreoncom forward, slash Akilah. That's kind of like where I hold my church right now as I'm a seminary student. That's where I'm talking about the slowing down so that you have enough spaciousness to call in the type of things that we need as unschoolers, which ain't about math, it's about all these other things. So that's really what I'm trying to do.
I'm really trying to be part of and invite conversation about the vastness of de-schooling.
What happens when you actually begin to get it. Get it or personality wise like me you've been you know it wasn't hard for you to make the transition, but now that you're in it it's like, oh shit, this is even harder Cause now I'm having to face my stuff. Oh, yes, right. So that's where I'm really living and working now, and a lot of that is like grief, work, death, work I say little D death, like the death of an identity or an idea of who my child was gonna be or who I was gonna be as a wonderful parent, like dealing with those little deaths, what grief and trauma look like and how I relate to people intergenerationally, culturally, if I'm in a culture that says you respect your elders at all costs, but my kids are. Like, if you want some bullshit, I don't care who you are or how, and I'm like, oh no right, what do I do with that? Those are the sort of things that I'm really into right now, because I really try to guide from where I actually am, and that's where I am right now.
45:23 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, we will put all of the links.
45:27 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
45:28 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Show notes and thank you for your time.
45:32 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It was wonderful.
45:33 - Akilah S. Richards (Guest)
You're so welcome. Thank you for the invitation. Yeah, I enjoyed this conversation too. Thank you both.
45:39 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you liked them, 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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