Can you believe all these years we have been at it (unschooling/natural parenting, etc) we had never had the opportunity nor the pleasure of attending any type of unschooler’s meet-up. We’ve wanted to. Countless times! But, as I, as well as anyone who has ever read through our previous posts can tell ya . . . the opportunites are slim where we are and with a lack of funds riding against us, traveling to any of the awesome conferences happening elsewhere has never really been an option for us (that is definitely gonna change, I’ll expound later, wink wink). So when the opportunity came knocking we grabbed at it. And here, is the story of what transpired on our first retreat away from home.
About a two hours drive from our town is another little town called Cleveland. There nestled in the woods is a 850 acre property home to the Vanderkamp Center, a quaint little retreat center/summer camp complete with patches of forests , lots of running room and lodges overlooking a lake. And the adorable family who run it are just sweet as can be.
Just a few months ago a group of free spirited outspoken moms in the area (friends of mutual local friends) set up a site on facebook for those of us looking to educate our kids at home with the freedom to do it our way (they call themselves Freedom Schoolers). What evolved or became clear is that most of them were looking toward a way of educating their children that included allowing their children to simply be children, to be themselves with freedom of expression and above all, did not include the structure and pressure and in some cases the toxicity of the public school system. They longed for a different approach and being that most of them are younger moms with smaller children new to the parenting path, I found great inspiration and hope, that this group would culminate in what I have been trying for so long to accomplish in my area. After ten long years of fighting the system on my own, I was about to be joined by a whole slew of mommas in what I envision will finally become the revolution to the unschooling movement in at least, central New York . That group evolved into an actual Unschooling in Central New York facebook page.
I joined the group at a friend’s request and became a sort of go-to gal for unschooling questions and concerns. One of the first things I did was to refer some of those who were curious to learn more to someone who I have long admired and looked to for inspiration; Dayna Martin. When I was new to the whole thing, I admired her bravery to stand up for what she believed in and she often gave me the backbone I needed when I came up against others who just didn’t get it. And all these years despite being alone in what I am doing and all of us feeling at time like we just didn’t belong, she made me feel that I wasn’t alone and through her conviction, my conviction was made stronger. I am so grateful for her presence in my life. Since then, I have been privileged to meet many other mommas (online) who feel as I do and live their lives accordingly. We have always known we are not alone and though that brings solace, it still left us longing to be with others of like mind. We finally got our chance when a friend of mine suggested we try to arrange some sort of meet-up and to invite Dayna Martin to make an appearance. A chance to meet up with other natural parenters AND a chance to meet the woman who has long felt like a friend? You bet!!
Listening to Dayna bravely sharing her story was so inspiring. There were many times in the course of her discussion that I almost felt as if I was listening to myself; all in our family commented on that. I have never had that experience before. It really solidified for me that I am doing the right thing and that we are all on the path to what will one day simply be “the way”. We are among those leading the way. We all felt assured of that and both of the kids left there feeling so appreciative of the freedom, respect and courage they have been instilled with in our choice to live our lives this way. I have no doubt that they too will become advocates one day.
All in all, the entire day was fantastic but the end of the day and into the evening provided for such a relaxing fun time and to be surrounded by the energy of so many like-minds provided such a comfortability, comradery and contentment.
A little chatting amongst the moms while the kiddos played in the sand pit.
It was such a pleasure to see so many young and old enjoying each others’ company. It was so good to finally meet my facebook friends in person and we all made so many wonderful new connections.
Wide open spaces provided for some excellent sword fighting. We had been informed in advance that there was a cos-play group that would be roaming the grounds and Trystan was hoping to get some serious swordplay in. He had to settle with Livy and Dad playing his opponent but it was a still a good time.
The little ones just thought they were the coolest ever! haha
A very satisfying end to a terrific day!
Here’s to all of us who are paving the way to a more united loving community of inhabitants!
And a special thank you to the Sparkling Martins, the Davis Family and Susie for arranging the whole event and paving the way for more adventures in the future.