I spent a day last week at #unschool13 an unconference called by Simon Gough to “explore learning outside school together”. I qualified both as a parent of two young people who’ve had unconventional school experiences and as a witness to the learning powers of unconferences and gatherings like Everything Unplugged and of course #tuttle.
All were welcome and the right people were the ones who came. It was a really interesting and at times challenging experience. Just when I thought I was used to the uncertainty of the unconference format (after all, even the most wacky groups have a limited range of social interactions and odd ideas) we go and try doing one … with kids! I appreciated it being small enough to remain one conversation for most of the day.
The thing that struck me most was the similarity between the conversations we were having about unschooling families engaging with schools and education authorities; and those we have at other times about self-unemployed people engaging with corporate entities.
In both conversations, the people know that they’re doing something useful and valuable in working in a different way. Both sets of people believe that others would enjoy and prosper from following their way of life if they knew that it was an option.
The conversation went round in a few circles. Substitute the word “school” with “corporate” and you’ll see what I mean: “What should our relationship with schools be ? Should we be going in and using their facilities? What value might schools get from having us visit and work there? How do we do what we know is right and at the same time make enough money to pay our bills? If we don’t engage with schools but form groups of families to learn specialist things together, then aren’t we just becoming a school?”
So it got me thinking about what social aspects of my self-unemployed life map across. I don’t know, you tell me.
#tuttle-like meetups – I think that most home-schoolers do this kind of thing, getting together in a coffee shop and annoying the staff by sitting there all day.
#jelly and co-working – I’m not sure how much this happens, the equivalent would be people working on their own learning but having others nearby to help out, perhaps now and then co-operating on joint-learning projects. I think it would be interesting to create a C4CC-like space for unschoolers, but would that just be like a Summerhill-y kind of school?
unconferences – of course these start to bridge the gap between the employed and the self-unemployed – it would be good to see some young(er) people at unconferences in some other role than prodigy or hack-cannon-fodder. I’d also be interested to see an unconference that just was under-eighteens only.
consulting – the things we’re learning by being outside the system *are* valuable to those inside, but it’s sometimes difficult to quantify that value and to set up a contractual arrangement to exchange value that suits both parties well enough. I think we started to get there, especially with the first round of the Tuttle Consulting work. It’s more about knowledge-sharing perhaps.